Probably most of the audience out there have never heard of or seen the brand Clik Elite. This camera accessories company that mostly produces backpacks is located right here in my home town of St. George, Utah. With the testing grounds of Zion National Park and the other rugged environments of the region, Clik Elite has come up with some seriously awesome bags that should be on everyone's potential buy list.
I was introduced to them a few years back as I began diving into the world of photography. One of their sponsored photographers in Springdale, Utah has a small Clik Elite shop in his gallery and I began trying on backpacks and became very interested. For another five months I then traveled to all the camera shops in the area and began looking at other bags and looking for more Clik Elite bags as well. I had a few specifications that I was really looking for that I was not finding in the other camera bag companies.
First is that the camera bag had to be big enough to go do long day hikes. This means that it needed to have room for more than camera gear. Second, it needed to be rugged, because sandstone grinds away everything. I know this because I go through a pair of shoes about every eight months. Third, it needed waist straps. I have seen so many camera bags that just use a lame single strap that would cause more damage to my hips and not even remove the weight off my shoulders. Fourth, it needed to hold water bottles in a reasonable fashion. It is amazing how water is essential for surviving yet many photography backpacks actually have very limited space for water. This is a big deal to me because every year at least 1 or 2 people die in my state due to the lack of water.
The Contrejour 40 name implies the size, aka it is a 40 liter (L) bag. With 40L of packing space there is plenty of room for gear and accessories to aid on your photography adventure. The backpack is broken up into three compartments. First is the top pocket which is a small zip open flap that contains a hand full of useful compartments. There are two SD card holding slips that can easily hold four to six cards for your convenience. Two more mesh zippable pockets can also be seen, but I rarely use them. There is also another pocket within this compartment that allows for additional stuffing space. This is where the majority of my little accessories go.
The camera compartment is located at the base of the backpack. It can be accessed from two main locations, from the back or the side. If you want full access to your gear you can lay your pack down on the ground and unzip the entire draw bridge style flap located on the back of the backpack that will reveal you gear. The other access point which is located on the left side (that is if you are wearing it) gives you quick access to your camera and any lenses that you packed up front. I use this feature 99% of the time.
The camera packing space is built with three separate packing compartments in mind. The center compartment holds your camera and the lens that it is attached too. The side compartments can be adjusted based on your need. There are removable inserts that are rounded so that they hold your lenses snugly. The camera wall linings can also be removed and adjusted based upon your needs. The side compartments also extend a bit so that they seal off the side compartments so that what ever you are holding in there does not fall out.
Additional Packing Space
The other main packing compartment stretches the entire length of the backpack and can be accessed from two convenient locations, the top and the side. This is the actual reason why I got this. In this compartment I can stuff rain gear, food, water filter, and other large items with ease and I can access it very easily. The side opening for this compartment is probably the best feature of this backpack when it comes accessing gear. Since the backpack is so tall, gear often settles on the bottom far away from the top opening. The side opening often becomes the best way to access non camera gear.
Before I go to far forward, let me bring up tripod attachment. There are two straps that stretch across the back of the pack that buckle and tighten. These straps make for a great point to attach your tripod, big or small. These are ok in my opinion. They are made up of a soft fabric that is quite smooth, so my tripod often slides down as I walk and has a tendency to sag and needs occasional tightening.
Real World Use
Now that I have spoken about the general design, lets get into how it actually works in the real world. Without a doubt this backpack will suite your needs if you are an adventure photographer, landscape photographer or nature photographer. It is not suited for wedding or other activities where walking among crowds is common. It is large and in charge and will draw attention to you especially as you move around public areas. I often get strange looks from individuals when I have to walk into more civilized arenas for photography purposes. It is also difficult to navigate through crowds because it hangs off your back quite considerably. In sum, great for nature, bad for civilization.
Where this bag shines is day trips, long hikes and dealing with adverse weather conditions. When I go on long hikes, this backpack works wonderfully well. I can easily throw a liter water bottle into the water bottle compartment, one more bottle into the main compartment and still have room for everything else I need. Because of all the gear that can be crammed into this backpack it also comes with large durable waist straps to take the weight off your shoulders on those long hikes and transfer the weight to your hips.
In adverse weather this pack has a built in rain fly that covers the entire pack. This became really useful when I am photographing waterfalls in Zion which only show up during heavy rain storms. It has also turned into impromptu rain/wind jacked for my wife and I when we are out and a storm blows up on us quickly. Another nice thing about this rain fly is that I can pull it out and wrap up my backpack when I am photographing in locations like the Subway in Zion which are very wet. I can place my gear on the ground without worrying about water soaking my pack.
Here is a real world story as well to illustrate how well this bag protects gear. I was hiking in a slot canyon behind Zion National Park. The slot canyon had multiple up climbs that required me to throw, yes throw, my camera backpack with all my camera gear in side. Safe to say I walked away with great shots and a camera that was totally OK. In other words. You can throw this bag with camera gear inside and it should turn out alright as long as it is a small toss. (Please don't go throwing your camera bags unless you have to!)
Nature conditions where this bag fails include slot canyons… That's about it. Since the bag is so large, I have done considerable damage to it trying to drag it through small narrow canyons. I recently put a permanent scrape across the camera bag door, and tore a hole in the water bottle pouch doing just that. Since the internal core structures are also made with a soft fabric designed to protect the gear, it also means that this backpack cannot go swimming with you. One way to negate this is to remove all the camera structure and stuff a dry bag within, but I have not tried that out yet.
Lets sum up everything with a few bullet points that might sway you to purchasing or avoid purchasing this backpack.
Things I Don't Like:
- Tripod attachment: Too loose and often makes sags after hiking for a bit. This causes the tripod to dangle around my legs and to swing side to side. Newer versions may have fixed this.
- How large the camera gear compartment is. I am a minimalist in general with gear because I don't have money for any. This just has too much space. This is more of a personal gripe. If I were a full time professional landscape photographer I would probably love this space.
- Super awkward walking around in public or fancy locations. It is conspicuous and easily noticed.
- Side door: It has a tendency to look closed when it actually isn't and I have had my camera fall out because I thought it was sealed.
Things I Love
- Size: This thing is huge. Great for holding more than camera gear.
- Side opening: Easy access to gear.
- Durability: It has driven down 100+ miles of dusty roads and the zippers work still. It has survived 13+ slot canyons, rain storms, one season as a ski photographer, countless day hikes, and a few big falls. It has lasted longer than four pairs of shoes, three pairs of field pants and half a dozen sun glasses.
- Additional handles on side and back of pack that make for easy manipulation in a variety of conditions.
- Durable base.
- How well it protects my gear.
Check out Jim's review while you are at it. We share a lot of similar opinions.
Comment below if you have any questions about the company or the bag. I might be able to answer some and if not I have been in communication with Clik Elite and I can ask them directly.