BACKLIGHT ELITE 45L
Adventure Photography Backpack Review
Are you a Landscape or Adventure Photographer looking for the perfect Backpack?
The Mindshift Backlight Elite 45Ltr could be the answer you have been looking for.
Released in 2019 this is a relatively recent addition to the world of photography.
I first got my hands on one of these at the UK photography show in the NEC in March 2019. I was using the visit to the exhibition to look for a new bag and wanted it to fill a few specific aspects over my existing bag the FLIPSIDE 400 AW II. The reason I was looking to change was that I had found that I needed more space when doing landscape photography and wanted a bag that could fulfil some key criteria.
My Key Wants were:
GOOD build quality
Capacity designed for photography
Back panel access for security and weather protection
Integrated Rain cover
The show was the ideal opportunity to look at what options were available to view at the show which included all the top suppliers. I was able to go around the show try all the bags and get a real comparison of them.
Mindshift had a pre-release Backlight Elite 45Ltr available to try and immediately I could see that this was head and shoulders above the other bags at the show.
Later in the year when they came available, I made my purchase and have now been using it for several months, so it’s time to give my verdict!
First lets take a look at some online reviews, take a look at the bag and see what othe people think of it
Exterior Dimensions (travel mode*):
13” W x 23.5” H x 8” D (33 x 59.7 x 20.3 cm)
11.4” W x 19.3” H x 6.8” D (29 x 49 x 17.3 cm)
11.2” W x 16.1” H x 1”D (28.5 x 41 x 2.5 cm)
10.6” W x 10.2” H x 0.6” D (27 x 26 x 1.5 cm)
3.9–7.0 lbs. (1.8–3.2 kg)
*Travel mode denotes waist belt and top pocket removed with an empty front pocket except for a laptop
Storm proof construction with YKK® AquaGuard® zippers and waterproof/tearproof Sailcloth
Superior Fit: Robust lumbar padding, hip-hugging waist belt, quick-dry back panel, and foam ridges for increased ventilation
Back and top panel access to all your camera gear, allowing you to work out of your bag without getting your harness dirty or wet
Aluminium internal frame supports the load and keeps it in place
Torso Length: Medium/Large (17.5 – 20.5 inches)
Dedicated compartments fit up to a 17” laptop and a 10” tablet
Meets most international and U.S. carry-on requirements*
Advanced Airflow: Dual-density, honeycomb mesh shoulder straps
Includes tripod/monopod mounting system on front or side
Trekking capacity! Front pockets totalling 17L carry personal gear for a day’s outing: extra layers, a jacket, food, etc.
Hydration reservoir ready (reservoir not included)
2 large water bottle pockets with cinch cord fit 32 oz. water bottles
Snowboard or ski carry with tuck-away, protected edge lash straps
Top lid converts into a belt pack with the removable waist belt
Waterproof, heavy-duty Tarpaulin base
Seam-sealed, brown coloured rain cover blends in with the environment
Removable camera compartment with emergency shoulder straps
Removable waist belt for ease when traveling
Expandable capacity on all five sides with daisy chain, ice axe loops and additional lash points
Compatible with the MindShift Tripod Suspension Kit, Filter Nest/Hive and Switch Case
*Check with your airline for current carry-on requirements. Remove top pocket and waist belt to reduce exterior dimensions
Nikon D3S attached to 70–200mm f/2.8, SB-910 Speedlight, 105mm f/2.8 Macro, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART, 50 f/1.4, Filter Nest Mini, 24–70mm f/2.8, 14–24mm f/2.8
Canon 1DX attached to 70–200mm f/2.8, GoPro Hero 5, DJI Mavic Pro, Mavic Controller, 24–70mm f/2.8, 16–35mm f/2.8, 90mm f/2.8 TS-E
Sony A7R II attached to 24–70mm f/2.8 GM, GoPro Hero 5, DJI Mavic Pro, Mavic Controller, Filter Nest Mini, A7R II attached to 16–35mm f/4, 70–200mm f/2.8 GM, 90mm f/2.8 Macro
Holds a gripped Nikon DSLR and a 600mm f/4 FL ED VR
Canon 1DX attached to 24–70mm f/2.8, GoPro Hero 5, 85mm f/1.8, 90mm f/2.8 TS-E, 1DX attached to 16–35mm f/2.8, 70–200mm f/2.8, 2x Teleconverter
Nikon D3S attached to Sigma 150–600mm f/5-6.3 Sport, SB-910 Speedlight, Filter Nest Mini, GoPro Hero 5, 24–70mm f/2.8, 14–24mm f/2.8
Maximum lens size: 600mm unattached
So, let’s go through “My Key Wants”
and give each category my score out of 10
Build Quality 10/10
Its built like a tank!
The main body is constructed of waterproof/tearproof Sailcloth and feels well made and resistant to damage. The zippers are incredibly easy to use with gloves on and are all weatherproof. The Base of the pack is Waterproof, heavy-duty Tarpaulin base. All of these come together to give a feeling of great design and build quality that was way above any of the other bags on show.
It has a metal frame within the pack to give structure and support and so far, I have not noticed it – as it does not dig in to your back or constrain movement like the other bags I tested
Capacity and design of the space 10/10
Its designed for active photographers not active people who take photographs! This is a rucksack style bag and is ideal for serious wildlife, landscape and alpine photographers
The space is varied highly functional and well designed allowing you to use this bag in a range of ways if you wish to. I will need to break this down and go through zone by zone to do it justice.
Back Panel access zone:
This is a vast space that is highly configurable allowing you to use it in a multitude of ways. The most I have put into this space so far is
Nikon D850 with a 20-70mm attached
Nikon 70-200mm Lens
Nikon 16-35mm Lens
Nikon 300mm lens
Nikon 12-24mm lens
Irix 11mm lens
Lee big stopper in Lee tin
Lee little stopper in Lee tin
3nd grad in Lee tin
Lee filter holder in pouch
That is a lot of camera kit!
You could also by moving the Velcro panels convert some of the space for clothes if you needed to and still have significant camera space.
Here comes the twist for this storage zone as it can be fully removed and once removed is the size of a carry-on flight bag. It can be sealed and has shoulder straps. Its not the most robust or comfortable but is enough to allow you to but the bag in the hold and allow you to take you valuable camera kit on the flight. You could even start you trip with two bags, this inner bag with your camera kit and the Backlight rucksack “skin” packed with all your clothes. The inner bag goes on the plane with you and the skin of the Backlight goes in the hold. When you get to your destination unpack the clothes put the inner back into the skin and off you go.
Front Front Pocket
This is accessed by a vertical zip that runs down the left-hand side of the front. This is deceptive and holds more that you would think but don’t assume its small. I have put hat, gloves and cagoul type jacket in it. Its easy to access and a good place to put layers or hats and gloves
Main front Pocket
This opens via a double zip system that goes top to bottom around the side of the front to reveal another vast space. This has a mesh and a nylon pocket and is designed for hydration bags, laptop or iPad but can be used for anything you want.
Waist belt pocket
As it says located on the left site of the belt. Well located and quite large I tend to use it for my remote trigger but is also ideal for keys, money or phone.
Top Pocket of main body
This is a great pocket and I use this for all my bits and pieces such as memory card and batteries etc. Again, this holds plenty, but the key aspect is how much weather protection it has as it is covered by the removable top pocket
Removable Top Pocket
This is removable and fixes over the top of the bag ( sounds a little strange – but makes sense when you use it) This I find is a nice size for any food for the day and being on top it doesn’t get squashed.
You can remove this pocket to make the bag a little smaller and it works fine but does not look quite as nice. The other key aspect of this pocket is that once removed you can then remove the waist belt from the main bag and fix this to the removed top pocket which means that when you put the waist bel on you have the waist belt pocket and the top pocket which will act as a small waist pack on the rear. The effect of this is that you can create a small day pack if you are going somewhere were you don’t want to take the main bag -ideal solution
Side Pockets X2
These are the usual drinks holder but also double as tripod holders if you place the tripod on the side of the bag. The are more substantial in their construction than these types of pockets are on most bags.
You can mount a tripod on the left or the right side of the bag where it will be secure and easily accessed. You can also mount a tripod down the back of the bag which will aid the balance of the bag
In summary the available space from this bag compared to the Flipside is significantly greater, it is also very well arranged to the point where you will probably have one pocket that you don’t use when on a shoot. The great thing for me is that when landscape shooting, I can take all the lenses and filters I want to take and as the day goes on and it warms up, I can shed layers and easily store them. The negative aspect to this is you need to be careful that you don’t take all the kit you own just because you can!
Back panel access for security 10/10
This is a yes, no requirement and simple to achieve however there are a couple of aspects that contribute to this. The tarpaulin style base means that nothing get wet and it offers lots of protection. It does feel a little industrial but hey it’s the bottom panel. The bag itself is often quite happy to stand upright and if you do need to lie it down the build quality keeps everything dry secure and stops this getting squashed.
Weather Protection 6/10
The bag comes with a great cover that is in its own small pouch however it would have been a higher score had this been integrated then you can’t leave it out and its faster to deploy.
Comfortable Fit. 9/10
First the back panel.
This initially feels quite ridged however when the bag is on it offers good support and protection in all the right place and is amazingly comfortable. This slight rigidity in the panel construction aids air flow and keep your back well ventilated.
Shoulder straps and belt
These offer great adjustment and as a result make the bag very comfortable to carry. I feel the design of the bag means that it naturally sits quite high on the back and quite snug which results in a good balance and even though I have carried more weight I have never been uncomfortable.
Add on Features
Mindshift Hive filter bag
I use Lee and Kase filters and find this a great way of managing my plate and screw on filters. The reason I have added this to the review is because its designed the fasten onto the waste belt. This makes it supper handy and part of the bag, it works great. A negative I have found is that it makes the waste belt flap about and difficult to manage when transporting the bag. Its well made looks good, is easy to use and protects my filters.
Mindshift Pixel Pocket Rocket card holder
This is a great way of managing you memory cards and is not specific to this bag but does work very well with it and it can be secured to the bag but the line is not too short so you can easily access the wallet. The wallet itself is well made and designed and one thing I do like is that I can put two cards in one pocket so an Sd and a CF card which means I know I have an unused formatted pair of cards that I can get quickly and easily. Because you can see the card, I pack clean cards face out and used cards face in so its easy to manage them.
If you are one of the following
- Serious landscape photographer
- Apline ski photographer
- Serious wildlife photographer
Then this is a great bag for you.
I have found it great to use but you do need to be discipline and “not take too much kit”
Amount of space
Mindshift add on components
You can put too much in
May be a bit too big for some
Its not a cheap bag but you get what you pay