Traveler’s Gear Box: Mindshift Gear’s Rotation 180°Panorama

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Testing the Rotation 180° Panorama pack along Pinnacles Trail in Big Bend National Park./Rebecca Latson

I think I may have found the perfect camera bag for a day hike…well, in my opinion, anyway. I wasn’t sure, though, in the beginning; it took a couple of hikes and packing less gear to finalize my opinion.

I have a Facebook fan named Holly who is crazy over a particular camera backpack series created by Mindshift Gear called the Rotation 180°. She sent me pictures and went on to describe the bags in great detail. My initial thought after looking at the pictures was….yeah, sure. I admit I was a little dismissive and told her I liked what I currently used but was always happy to test other bags, thinking that would be the end of it. Holly is tenacious when it comes to camera gear she really likes, so she immediately contacted Mindshift Gear’s owner Brian Erwin, who in turn got in touch with the Traveler’s Founder and Editor-In-Chief Kurt Repanshek. Before I knew it, I was loading up a Tahoe Blue-color Rotation 180° Panorama camera backpack to take with me on my April Big Bend National Park trip.

Mindshift Gear was founded by the creators of Think Tank Photo. When I first started my photographic travels, Think Tank’s Airport series of bags were all I ever used because they were the first bag I found with a streamlined build perfect for fitting into a plane’s overhead bin or underneath the seat. My only complaint about these bags was that their hip and shoulder straps were flimsy and too narrow; a day hike with one of those bags became torturous (I still use the bags, but not for traipsing around the countryside). I liked them for plane travel but not so much for anything else. As such, I moved on to other packs and brands. The bags I utilize now, though, are not set up to accept much more than camera gear and accessories. Unless I wear my photo vest during my hikes, packing snacks, water, or extra clothing can be problematic. Along came this Rotation 180° Panorama and the situation changed - for the better.

The premise behind Mindshift’s Rotation 180° series is clever. The main pack body houses a roomy top compartment and smaller pocket that work well for storing camera gear, snacks, guidebook or map, and rain jacket, or other small clothing item. The main body also acts as a "repository" for the hip bag, which is accessed by disengaging the waist straps from the main pack via a little magnetic lock and then pulling the waist straps to your left or right, through the main body, and rotating the hip bag to your front, where you can store your camera (or second body and extra lens). All of this can be done with the pack still on your back.

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Disengaging the hip bag from the main pack body./Rebecca Latson

The hip pack is tethered to the main compartment with a narrow strap so you won’t ever totally separate (and potentially drop) the hip pack from the rest of the bag.

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The hip bag disengaged from the main body./Rebecca Latson

It took a bit of practice for me to smoothly rotate the hip bag back into its storage space and then reconnect the magnetic lock to the pack’s main body. Of course….this might also have had something to do with the fact that I overpacked (as per usual) during my first hike so that the hip bag was bulging a little and tight at the seams.

The Panorama pack also comes with a small hydration compartment into which I fit my Traveler water bottle. The actual hydration reservoir is sold separately, as is a rain cover. You can also carry a tripod on the pack, but I never attach my tripod to *any* of my camera packs because my tripod pulls double duty as a walking staff.

There are caveats with this Panorama bag – for me, anyway. I would like the wide, padded portion of the hip straps to be just a little bit longer, like they are on the other two non-Mindshift bags I continually use for travel. The hip straps of the Panorama are on the short side, but perhaps the straps need to be short in order to affect easy rotation of the hip bag portion when disengaged from the main body. I’d be curious to see if there is a difference between the Rotation 180° Panorama bag and the Rotation 180° Professional bag regarding the straps.

I wish the shoulder straps were a little wider; narrow straps tend to slip off of my narrow, sloping shoulders. I also noticed my lower back hurt a little when using this bag, and I think that had to do with the shorter hip straps plus the fact that I overpacked during my first hike. Attempting to remedy this issue, I packed along only one camera (which I kept around my neck most of the time) during my second hike and while I had less of a lower back problem, it was still there. Unlike the youthful, lean, photographers you see in the magazines modeling *all* camera packs, I have a short waist and wide hips, so it’s entirely possible that my body build makes finding a perfect fit in a camera pack challenging for me.

The Panorama bag is limited regarding the size of camera/lens combination one can lug around. The bottom hip pack portion fit my Canon 5D Mk III (with L-bracket) and 24-70 or 16-35mm lens well (i.e. I could zip up the pack and rotate it back into position), but I had issues with a rented Nikon D800 and 24-70mm lens (although I finally managed to get that combo into the hip pack as well). My Canon 1DX body (with L-bracket) and either lens absolutely would *not* fit into the hip bag portion, but the top compartment of the backpack accommodated that camera and lens with ease. Perhaps the hip pack portion of their larger Rotation 180° Professional version solves that issue.

While this Rotation 180° Panorama bag would not be ideal for carrying any large camera/lens combination (no, you cannot pack a 500mm prime into this bag), it still is a light, ideal day pack which makes me pause and *think* about what I want to take, rather than just throwing in the photographic equivalent of the kitchen sink. This pack will now be my first choice for a day hike and I definitely give this series by Mindshift Gear a thumbs up!

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At the top of the trail./Rebecca Latson