While a good photo backpack is an absolute necessity for me, I have been getting more and more use out of a messenger bag. Most of my photography used to be done while hiking, but my life has changed a lot since I had kids and so has my photography. Now I find my camera accompanying me on a lot of car rides, family outings, walks around the city, and general travel. The messenger bag is great for these uses. It takes up a lot less room in the car and provides easier access than a backpack while it sits on the passenger seat. It is also easier to carry a messenger bag during family outings and when traveling on an airplane. Another bonus is that a messenger bag is great for work so I can carry my computer and camera with me on work trips.
My first messenger bag was the uber popular Everyday Messenger bag from Peak Design. While that messenger bag is pretty sweet, it didn't work for me because it didn't fully fit my laptop. I next went with the Spectral 15 from Think Tank. I really liked that bag so my interest was piqued when Think Tank's sister company, Mindshift Gear, released a similar messenger bag, the Exposure, designed more for adventure and outdoor photography.
Despite being a little flashier than the Spectral, the Exposure is still a pretty inconspicuous bag and could be mistaken for a normal laptop bag or casual briefcase. This is great for those that want to be able to use the bag for work in addition to its use as a camera bag. It will also be appreciated for those that don't like to telegraph that they are carrying an expensive camera in their bag.
The Exposure 15 has been a great bag for me. It is very similar to the Spectral 15, but has a few added features that put the Exposure 15 just a touch ahead for me, making the Exposure 15 my new favorite messenger bag. The biggest difference, as you will see, is that the Exposure is designed to be much more useful to the outdoor photographer who is likely to expose the bag to rain, dirt and other conditions.
The Exposure bag is built with waterproof sailcloth panels, strategically placed storm flaps, water-repellent DWR fabric, and a sturdy Tarpaulin bottom. I am confident this messenger bag will provide more weather protection than any other messenger bag on the market as I have never seen another messenger bag actually designed for use in adverse weather conditions. While I don't get any opportunity to test it here in Vegas, I have plenty of experience in the Pacific Northwest and I would use this bag comfortably without a rain cover on the rainy days there. However, it does come with a rain cover so you are covered if you need a little extra protection.
Just like the Spectral bag and every other Think Tank or Mindshift Gear bag I have ever used, the zippers on this bag are excellent. While zippers seem like such a small thing, a cheap zipper ruins a bag. I have used bags where the handle comes off or the zipper tread simply comes apart. That has never been an issue with any Mindshift Gear bag I have used.
The shoulder strap on this bag is nice. It is not too bulky, but does come with a nice shoulder pad with plenty of padding. The adjustment mechanism is smooth and easy to use such that adjusting is really simple. This bag also has a separate cross-body stabilizer strap to make the bag a little more comfortable. If I am honest, I am not going to use this bag hiking, but if it is all I have for a smaller hike on vacation, the cross-body strap is nice.
The front flap connects with a normal buckle that is easy to use, and also easy to adjust. The flap also has a quick-access pocket on the outside that is really convenient. It is perfect for keeping batteries, memory cards, remotes, cloths and other things you will want quick access to without having to open the bag.
One of the my favorite aspects for the Exposure bag, which was also on the Spectral bag is that you can easily carry a tripod with it. The tripod attachment straps fit on the bottom of the bag and are awesome for carrying a tripod. Other than when I set my bag on its base, I never even noticed I was carrying the tripod on the bag. This is not a common feature on most messenger bags I have seen. However, if a messenger bag is designed to be an outdoor bag, a way to carry a tripod is an absolute must. The tripod attachment on these bags are little straps that attach to the base of the bag, allowing you to tightly secure your tripod. Obviously, you will not have room to comfortably carry a large tripod, but it is perfect for a smaller travel tripod like I enjoy carrying. The straps are easily removable, leaving almost no trace so you do not have to worry about unsightly or cumbersome straps dangling off the bag. The attachments are also compact so they will easily tuck into the bag when you aren't using them without displacing any of your other gear.
The Exposure bags come in two sizes: the 13 and 15. I tested the Exposure 15 because I use a 15 inch laptop computer. I always appreciate finding a 15 inch messenger bag because a lot of companies only go up to 13 inches now. Even on bags that do carry a 15 inch laptop, I often find my laptop is a very tight fit. That was not the case with the Exposure. My computer easily slides into the laptop pocket, even when the bag is fully loaded. This is a huge selling point to me because I travel a lot via airplane, and it can be a huge pain to get a laptop put back in a stuffed bag after going through security.
This bag has a surprising amount of space. In the main compartment, I easily fit my Fuji body with four lenses, a ballhead, a filter set and a few other random things. There is also a laptop pocket in the main compartment, which, as mentioned above, is more than adequate to fit a 15.6 inch laptop.
In front of the main compartment, there is a zipper pocket that is fairly large. This zippered pocket is great for carrying anything you want access to, but also want secure. I have used mine for my Platypod, filters, keys, phone, battery charger, and other random items.
In front of the zippered pocket, there are two more pockets that do not have zippers. They are stacked on top of each other so you get quite a bit of additional space. I have used these for my rain cover, paperback books, my Grip N Shoot, my cell phone, a hat, socks, snacks and much more. because the buckle for the flap is easily expandable, you can turn this into a pretty big bag if you need to stuff it full.
Finally, in addition to the pocket on the flap, there is also a pouch on the side of the bag. This is great for carrying a water bottle or similar sized item. I love these on a messenger bag and am surprised every bag does not have a similar pouch. On the other side of the bag is a small band, which is perfectly designed for a Peak Design Capture Clip or something similar so you can carry your camera easily on the outside of the bag if you prefer.
Overall, I am really pleased with the Exposure 15 I have been using. Just today, I used it doing a short waterfall hike with my family in Utah and it was great. I didn't worry about the comfort for a short hike or setting it in the dirt or letting it get splashed by the spray from the waterfall.