Peak Design Everyday Backpack (20L) Review
I'm excited about a bag...
The first product I tried from Peak Design was their Slide strap and it solved almost all my strap related headaches. It was compact, sleek, functional, comfortable, strong and last but not least, stylish. I always considered their messenger bag but I already had a 6 million dollar home from Crumpler which was not a terrible bag and I tended to prefer the comfort of backpacks anyway. With that, however, there came loads of headaches yet again. Lack of quick and easy access, size, capacity, the number of pockets or lack there of, the functionality of said pockets, and style (I know, I know... this should not be incredibly important). Everything I tried, no matter how great for one purpose, serious lacked for another. I have awesome backpacks which can hold enough gear for a lifetime, and I have bags which are very easy to access but are relatively limited in what they can hold. I even have in between bags which were so close but yet so far.
In came the Everyday Backpack from Peak Design on Kickstarter. It was all the juicy goodness of their messenger back, rethought and redesigned and put into backpack form. Not only that, but 2 sizes, AND a new messenger back to top it off (other smaller accessories too). I was never the type to jump at these sort of things but I had no hesitation to pull the trigger on this and my only regret is that I had to wait for the bag to arrive.
When I first opened it, I was overwhelmed how something so packed with features could be so apparently simple. It was essentially a hollow bag that opened on both sides with a few dividers holding up the shape of the bag. The more I dug into it however, the more I discovered the serious thought that went into it.
To say something like "the velcro feels so nice and high quality" sounds like a crazy person, but it really does. The cloth and other materials used feel even better and seem to have been chosen very deliberately for everything from a stylish yet tough and water resistant exterior, to the insanely soft material used for the pockets inside the side flaps to avoid scratching or damaging LCD screens and other gear. Even the zippers tuck away into their own little covers to help stop them from banging against your cameras and lenses. And don't get me started on all the hidden straps and hooks and clips this thing has hidden around its outside.
Before I get ahead of myself, let's take a tour around all the ins and outs of this bag.
The outside is surprisingly simple.
There are no zippered pockets except on the top where the laptop/tablet section is. Inside there you will find 3 sections though, for a laptop (a 13" should fit comfortably in the 20L, 15" in the 30L), a tablet (or something similarly sized) and some small odds and ends. I will say that I wouldn't put all of this in there at the same time though, especially if the main compartment is full. I'll get more into that later.
There are pockets on either side which can hold a relatively large water bottle, a couple legs of a small tripod or anything else you can think to shove in there. They expand with elastics but pull very flat against the side when empty and are held in place with a magnet so they don't get in the way. It's one of many things on this bag that is incredibly simple yet wonderfully and creatively easy to use and non obtrusive. On that note, reach into the pockets and you'll find a thin adjustable strap on either side which can be wrapped around in different ways to hook onto access points around the bag and hold tripods and other things in place. They're extremely easy to remove if you want to, but as they take up almost no space inside the pocket when hidden away, I see no need. There's also an additional strap inside one pocket which is wrapped around the side handle of the bag and has a Peak Design quick release clip on it for keys, grey cards or other small things like that. This can also be easily removed if you feel the need. One last thing you'll find in there (on both sides) is a strap that can be pulled out from a small opening in the bottom to wrap around as a waist support belt. It's a kind of seatbelt material similar to their Slide Strap and hooks together easily (not a clip like most waist straps). This is one of the more annoying features of the bag as it's semi difficult to get them in and out of the pocket and since I tend to not use a waist strap anyway, I removed mine. The bright side is just that, you can remove them as well. While these (waist) straps could have been designed slightly better, the fact that
There's one last "pocket" on the front of the bag which is actually accessed from the bottom and held closed with a magnet. You could slip some documents or other light, small and flat things in there but the main purpose is to hold the straps which can be pulled out and hooked to various loops on the outside of the bag to hold things like tripods, yoga mats or even a drone. It's easy to get them out and put them back in and when you're not using them you won't even notice they or the pocket is there.
Take a look at the back of the bag and you'll see another simple yet feature packed design. I'll just say first off, it's not as padded or comfortable as some hiking bags I've tried but it's more than comfortable enough. The straps have various points to attach things like the Peak Design Clip (not included) and a cleverly designed chest strap. The strap has hooks on either side and can be hooked into one of # slots on each strap then pulled tight with one hand. When not in use it can be totally removed or stored in one of two positions on either strap. It's really easy to use and works just fine, although it would be easier to accidentally unhook and drop than other permanently attached chest straps. If it comes loose while wearing it, the hook could wiggle out and even in the stored position it could get knocked out of place while moving around or putting the bag on and taking it off. I'd just advise to check that it's pulled tight and hooked in place securely while using it (and even when you're not). The straps are also attached at the top in a way that allows them to rotate slightly so you can comfortably swing the bag around in front of you and access the inside of the bag from the flap on either side. It seems to work just as well as I expected (hoped) it would. The length adjustment for the shoulder straps themselves is also very easy and smooth to use. There's not so much excess that you have straps flying in the wind when it's pulled tight and there's just something that feels very easy about making quick adjustments to the length that's very much appreciated.
Reach under (yes under) the padding on the back of the bag and there's a passthrough for placing the bag on top of a suitcase which is held in place by a piece of velcro when you're not using it.
Revisiting the zippered compartment on the top of the bag once more, the zipper (as all zippers on the inside and out) is very high quality, smooth and tucks away under a little cover at the end. when you open the compartment, it's surprisingly easy to pull it wide open and clearly see inside. The pocket borrows space from the inside of the bag and in the smaller top section you can fit things like lens caps, batteries and small accessories. The second section is around the size of a tablet and finally the full size of the compartment could be used for a laptop. I have the 20L version and while a 15" MacBook pro does fit in the back pocket, it's too tight when the main compartment is packed and I wouldn't feel safe carrying it around like that. A 13" may be better but again, it's the thickness, not the size that has me concerned. A tablet should be fine and I've heard that the new (infamous) MacBook Pro fits much more comfortably.
In front of that top zipper you'll see a flap which covers the top opening of the bag and is held in place by Peak Design's mag latch system. It's a two step process to open it, pulling out to detach the magnet and down to unhook the hook. It's really easy to do but the 2 step process makes it less intuitive to those who don't know the bag. That combined with the physical effort it takes to open the bag would mean you'll more than likely notice if someone is trying to open your bag before they successfully do so. The zippers on the side flaps can also be snapped around a loop which doesn't completely lock them but means a lot more time and effort would be required to open them. Closing it is as simple as pulling the hook down as far as you need for the amount of stuff you have inside (there are 4 levels you can close the bag down to, allowing for expandable storage in the top). One complaint I had here was that while the bag is advertised as being weather resistant, the top opening has no zipper or pull cord to tighten or close the opening. When the bag isn't packed to the max, the opening folds down sufficiently to be covered by the top flap but when you're using more space in the top and can't close the flap down to one of the lower hooks, the corners of the opening stick out beyond the top flap and would be an easy entrance point for even a small amount of rain or snow. A simple zipper or pull string on the top flap would be an easy way to fix this and still not get in the way when you don't need it.
Last but not least, you'll notice there are actually 3 carrying handles; one on the top and one on each side. They're strong and easy to hold but once again, unobtrusive when you're not using them. Even when the side flap is open, if you pick it up by the side handle the bag doesn't flip forward letting your gear fall out, which is a nice touch (not sure if it was intentional or not). The side handles are also really useful to pull the bag around and access the side flaps while wearing the bag.
See what I mean? For a bag that looks so simple at first glance, there is a lot to it. Just wait until you see the inside.
Choices, choices, choices... where to open first? Yep, you can access the inside of this bag from 3* different points!
*Depending on how you have it set up, each opening may only give you access to one "area" of the bag.
Since the side access points are one of the main selling points of this bag, let's start there.
The zippers on these side panels can be a little clunky around the corners because this bag is rather rigid unlike a lot of other bags I've come across. It's not a negative in my opinion though and once you get used to it they're easy and smooth to open. They don't get caught on fabric or anything along those lines at least. When you open either side of the bag you'll get a view straight into the main compartment with 3 dividers that can be rearranged depending on your needs. Not only can these be rearranged in their position but also in their shape. Each is a 3 panel divider that can be bent to "curve" one way or the other, quickly making a larger or smaller space. The edges on either side (close to each of the side flaps) can be further folded down into the bag to create an L shaped shelf/sub divider. This is all done very easily and quickly and the dividers are stiff (yet padded) so they hold their shape well once bent into whatever configuration works for what you're carrying. Getting this set up at first can be a bit finicky because you'll have to go from side to side making adjustments and checking where things fit, but once you get it set up you can make quick little changes without actually removing any dividers and fighting with velcro to shove them back in. If you need to make significant changes then you may want to remove or adjust an entire divider but the velcro on these is much easier to work with than most bags. It's very strong but it's somehow not as annoying. Part of this could be due to the fact that the velcro section is attached perpendicularly to the divider instead of on one side of a folded "tab" at the edge of the divider. One note is that the shelf style flaps will only fold down in one direction, depending on which way the 3 panel divider is bent. I realize that physically speaking it's probably impossible to allow them to bend down in both directions (the "inside" of the curve and "outside) but hey, with a bag this awesome one can dream right? I'll show a few different configurations below.
On the inside of each flap there's a zipper that will open to reveal an array of pockets. Both the pockets themselves and the material that zips open inside the flap is extremely soft and slightly elastic. This allows a good amount of storage in a space that stays flat when not in use. They're not the largest pockets but there are a few different sizes to fit different accessories. The top of each pocket is a slightly tighter elastic so whatever you put in them won't easily fall out. The entire section which zips open can even be used to store larger things since it does zip closed but you won't want to put anything too bulky in here because it will be right up against whatever you have inside the bag when you close the side panel. There's enough space for things like camera batteries, tripod plates and filters though.
My favorite part about this bag is that it keeps an extremely slim form factor which has 2 benefits. One is the obvious ease of carrying this around even in relatively tight places. The other is that it keeps it close to your back, lightening the load of whatever you have packed inside. Despite that, it can hold a full frame DSLR's width and I was able to arrange the bag to fit two 5D mark IV's with lenses attached (one medium sized prime and one slightly longer prime or medium sized zoom), as well as a mirrorless body with a lens attached or an extra lens and a large amount of accessories on top like a shotgun mic, blower, lens cloths, a small ball head, cables, zoom recorder etc. With all this packed in there I could easily fit 2 extra batteries, a few small tripod plates, ....... in the side pockets. All my lens caps and grey cards are usually in the top pocket of the top zipper and my iPad in the larger section. I keep my gorillapod in one side pocket and have the other pocket available for a drink or something else I may need depending on the situation.
While this sounds like a lot, it's a surprisingly compact carry and doesn't feel very heavy even without the waist strap or chest strap for extra support. Every time I swing the bag around to access one of the side panels I'm still surprised just how easy it is and how great the bag feels.
There are a few small points that I'd love to see improved in the next version of this bag (i.e. a SLIGHTLY deeper laptop area, more easily accessible waist straps, a way to tighten or close the opening at the top before closing the flap) but overall they really knocked it out of the park with this bag. It may not be for people who need to carry a larger amount of gear or who go on long all day hikes, or even anyone who wants access to all their gear at once (you have to switch from side to side to top). But, with a name like the "Everyday Backpack," I don't imagine anyone is expecting that.
If you think this bag is for you, it probably is. I couldn't recommend it higher and I hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions please feel free to leave them below or check out my youtube video on this bag for another look at its design.
Check out the Everyday Backpack and others from Peak Design below! They're affiliate links so if you decide to make a purchase through one of these links I will receive a percentage of the sale, but it won’t cost you anything extra.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L: http://amzn.to/2kAGBED
Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L: http://amzn.to/2jYOGnf
Peak Design Everyday Messenger: http://amzn.to/2jYO1SM