For the many of you that have interacted with me over the past couple years, it is no secret that I have two favorite bags. One of those bags is the Think Tank Streetwalker Harddrive. I have been using version one of that bag for almost two years and it has become my favorite general use bag and travel backpack. Think Tank just recently released a version two of this great bag and I was very excited to see that they made some adjustments, including one that corrected my biggest complaint about the bag, while leaving all the things I love. Given the simple, yet significant changes to the design, I decided it was worth the upgrade to me as it reached a few steps closer toward that mythical perfect camera bag we all yearn to find.
I have been using this bag for a couple months now and, given my extensive experience with version one of the bag, I feel like I am prepared to provide a thorough review of the backpack despite not having used it as much I normally do with items I review. Given that I am looking at a new version of the bag, this review will be a bit different than usual. First, I want to address the changes in this bag that I have noticed. Second, I will address the things they left the same that I like. Finally, I will address the complaints I have remaining.
- By far, my favorite change to this bag was made to the tripod support straps. For the most part, the tripod
attachment works the same. There is an expandable drop-down pocket to hold larger tripods and two straps, one in the middle and one in the top of the bag. They hold the tripod in the center of the bag and make it very secure, without being lopsided or having a normal size tripod sticking up above the top of the bag. The big change that made this bag better for me is the top straps were moved from above the zipper to just below it. This change allows you to access the zipper to open the main compartment of the bag and get your camera and other gear without the need to detach your tripod. This was the only feature of the old version of the bag that really drove me nuts. Now, it is fixed.
- The second big change is one I am still undecided on. On version two, the laptop compartment remains in the back of the bag between the gear compartment and your back. The main difference is the size of the compartment shrunk a little and the access moved from the side of the bag to the top. The laptop compartment in this bag is still big enough to fit a 15.6 inch laptop without any hassle, but the compartment was a little bigger on version one as it was designed to fit a 17 inch laptop. The laptop compartment has been a concern with me in many other bags that are designed for smaller laptops and make it very inconvenient to impossible to carry my bigger laptop. I know I should just buy a lighter and smaller laptop for travel, but I prefer to do all my editing on my laptop (in front of the TV) so I like having the bigger screen. As to moving the zipper from the side to the top, I guess it has not made a big enough difference for me to have a strong feeling either way.
OLD FEATURES I STILL LIKE
- The size of this bag remained the same (or at least close enough to not notice a change). This was mostly a great thing to me. The bag is deep enough to hold professional equipment without being needlessly deep like some bags. The real advantage here is the height of the bag. It is a few inches taller than most camera backpacks (other than dedicated hiking bags). Being a little taller (6'2″), I really enjoy the extra height and find it to be a very comfortable fit.
- The overall build quality of this bag, as in all those I have used from Think Tank, is great. The materials and workmanship of version 2 appear identical to my previous version and I put that bag through some harsh conditions, including many airplane trips, mountain hikes, the streets of Europe and day-to-day use. Yet, my old version of the bag still looks practically brand new. I have bags that have been put through less use and look twice as old. I would never fear build quality when getting a bag from Think Tank.
- The bag has a nice large rain cover that can easily cover the bag and attached tripod. This is such a simple feature, but I have used multiple bags where the rain cover barely fits over the bag so you risk letting water in and have to unhook anything connected to the outside of the bag. That is not something you have to worry about with this bag.
- As I have said many times, Think Tank uses the best zippers in the market. They are heavy duty and smooth as butter. I do not know any other way to say it, but you will love the zippers on this bag.
- Version two of this bag retained the big padded shoulder straps and padded back of the bag, making it very comfortable to carry. While this bag isn't particularly designed for long hikes, I found it to perform very well and be very comfortable for many hikes, including fairly long distances in hot and humid weather. If you want an all-around bag that is great for travel and still good for hiking, this bag will be great for you.
- The interior of the main compartment has great clear, zippered pockets. There is a number of reasons I love these pockets. I like being able to see through the clear material to know exactly what is in the pocket so I instantly know which pocket has my extra batteries or remote trigger without digging through things. I also feel like the thick material offers more protection than normal pockets, which is nice when I am throwing memory cards and other less rugged items in those pockets. Finally, I like the zippers to keep all the little things staying in the right place and not getting mixed up.
THINGS I WOULD HAVE LIKED
- Just like version one, the new version of this bag does not have any padding on the waist strap. When I have a loaded bag, I like to be able to cinch the waist strap tight and take the weight off my shoulders. Having a padded waist strap makes that easier and more comfortable to do. I still do like that the waist strap hits a little lower due to the height of the bag and is comfortable for not having padding. I have also found it can be nicer not to have that extra padding when hiking in the heat.
- There were no changes to the size of the side pockets. They are great pockets, but I wish they were a little larger to fit some bigger items. This is a small complaint because I really did not feel like it inconvenienced me 95% of the time.
- I feel like I am cheating by putting the size as something I did not like because I included it as something I like as well. Here is the conundrum: I love the extra height of the bag everywhere I use it except when flying. I prefer to have my camera bag qualify as my personal item when I fly for a couple reasons. If I am traveling with my family or for any length of time, I like to have a separate carry on bag for clothes and personal items. Second, I sometimes fly budget airlines where carry on bags can be expensive and only the personal item is free. On those cheaper airlines or in smaller planes, this bag is simply too tall to classify as a personal item. This has prevented me from traveling with it on a few occasions as I have opted for a smaller bag I knew would not cause any problems on the flight. Again, you can't have it both ways when it comes to the size so it depends which is more important to you.
As I said, I really liked version one of this bag. Just changing the tripod straps in the way they did elevated this bag from a 7 to a 9 for me, if a 10 is the dream bag that hasn't been created yet and a 5 is a bag that is good enough to make me happy with it. I really like this bag as a great all-around backpack that is going to do everything well and a few things really well. Given the build quality, size and comfort, I love this bag for everyday use and traveling, where it is going to get tossed around your car, thrown on the ground and shoved in airplane compartments, all while maintaining structural quality and not getting worn out. It is also going to be comfortable to carry even when you load it down and carry it through multiple airports or on a hike. While this may not be the perfect bag for everyone, I honestly think it is the best bag I have used for someone like me that wants to invest in one bag they can use day-to-day, traveling and hiking.