Published on August 23rd, 2015 | by Greg


MindShift FirstLight 30L: A Balanced, Sturdy Camera Backpack

Shoot on the run- that’s one of the lessons that we learned after two decades of photography. It doesn’t really matter what you’re shooting outside of the studio- wedding pictures, graduation candids, concert images- you’ll be well-served by being able to stay moving and still have your gear handy. And whatever your particular setup- brand new Nikon, Canon, or Sony, full-frame DSLR or prosumer camera- you’ll need a solid bag to keep it all together.

And while there are a lot of different styles of bags out there, backpacks are a classic for a reason. They evenly distribute weight, critical as extra lenses and battery packs get heavy quickly. But most photographer packs look a little boring, and few of them have integrated the latest technology that serious hiking bags use. The MindShift FirstLight 30L changes that, for the better- they aren’t idly bragging about the “robust, comfortable, and contoured harness system with 11 adjustment points”. There are extra handles for easy grabbing, and even the zippers are easier to use than most thanks to their nice pull tabs. Compression straps help keep the bag compact, and the main shoulder straps and waist strap are surprisingly comfortable even over longer journeys, partially thanks to panels that keep airflow moving and prevent sweat from building up. And the capacity ratings are perhaps understated here- there is a ton of usable space.

Able to fit up to a 15-inch laptop or 12-inch tablet, the FirstLight actually comes in a few sizes, including smaller 20L and 40L versions. The 30L is the ideal middle-size, built for extended travel, and weighs in at a reasonable 5.4 pounds until it’s loaded. Like many competitors, there is a dedicated hydration pocket on one side, and easy places for tripod/monopod hanging on the other side or front. There’s a rain cover, though all exterior fabric has a durable water-repellant coating. And unlike most any others this size, the FirstLight 30L can hold a DSLR with attached grips as well as 4–6 standard zoom lenses, and even a flash. Everything is well-padded to protect your valuable gear, and the dividers are quite adjustable.

Last year, we checked out another bag from this fairly new, indie manufacturer and liked it’s innovative feature set. That shouldn’t be a surprise since it’s a cousin to our long-time favorite ThinkTank- in fact, they are apparently designed in the same office and built in the same factories. The FirstLight 30L does feel a bit more conventional by comparison, but are a couple of unusual additions that we haven’t mentioned yet- the adjustable torso length via a sliding panel (helpful for taller folks), and an interesting emergency whistle built into the  . And it’s got a perfectly flat bottom which stands firmly when you set it down, and is reinforced too. Now, the 30L won’t fit the largest telephoto lenses- if you use a 600mm f/4 or larger then you’ll want to opt for the larger 40L model. But everyone else can appreciate the smooth charm and awesome extras built into the MindShift FirstLight 30L, one of our favorite new photography bags for travel and outdoors use. Available now, online and in stores, for around $280.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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