Shortly after I posted my Hot Gifts for Photography Nerds on the Dead Man’s Chest website, my new Pelican backpack arrived. It’s number one on the list — largely because of the huge price discount on Amazon right now ($39.95 instead of $190)– but I wanted to come back and give it a quick review.
The pack is certainly interesting. It either looks like something you’d wear into a space battle, or like you strapped luggage to your back. It’s no fashion accessory, but it’s really built for functionality more than looks.
One of my concerns was that, despite its rather large size, it wouldn’t be able to haul all the gear I wanted to carry around. I’m no longer concerned! Right after unboxing it, I stuffed it with a 10″ Asus Transformer, a 14″ HP Elitebook, three cameras (X100t, Hi-Matic S7ii, and Minolta SLR with 50mm lens), my Instax printer, and all of the associated cords and accessories. Even with all of that gear stowed inside, there’s plenty of room left.
The lumbar region is modestly padded, so that’s where I’m keeping the cameras. It could easily hold a DSLR and a couple of lenses, or two mirrorless bodies with lenses.
The main compartment fits my hefty 14″ laptop with room to spare. I could still fit a change of clothes and a couple of books.
The tablet case (the rigid part on the top) held the 10″ Asus Transformer T100TAM with keyboard perfectly, of course.
So, after effectively loading the bag to capacity with somewhat heavy gear, I expected it to be unwieldy. Not so! I will honestly say that this is the most comfortable backpack that I’ve ever owned — and I’ve had numerous from Maxpedition, Osprey, Blackhawk!, and 5.11. I would assume the secret is the awesome pads on the back, combined with the rigid case which works almost like a frame. (If you didn’t know, backpacks with frames are usually more comfortable because they shift the load from the top and put it on your hips.) Yes, it’s a heavy backpack to begin with, but even after loading it with 30lbs worth of gear, I could barely tell I was wearing it.
It looks to be top notch, which I was counting on. You don’t want to skimp on quality when you’re hanging a few thousand dollars worth of electronics from your back. The stitching and materials pass muster, and the pack’s straps are made from a type of seat belt webbing — which is fantastic. You can pretty much run over the pack with a truck and then dunk it in 3 feet of water and your tablet should be fine. The same can’t be said of the rest of the pack’s contents. While there is a hard plate of “skid armor” on the front, it’s not going to make the soft parts of the pack crush-proof, and only the hard case is waterproof (the rest is water resistant however.)
The good news is that the lumbar compartment is padded, so it makes it a good place for stowing camera gear. It doesn’t have dividers, so you’ll have to provide your own if you don’t want the contents banging around against each other.
As I said, I’ve owned a LOT of packs, and this is my new favorite. While it won’t win any style awards, it’s the most functional and well thought out backpack I’ve yet come across. The best part is the sale price, although I’m not sure how long that will continue. If you want to grab one of these awesome packs for less than $40, I suggest you grab it on Amazon right now!