User Review: Mountainsmith Parallax Pro Camera Pack
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $85
A large and versatile daypack primarily designed for carrying and organizing camera gear. This is a great pack, but heavy, and not designed for "backpacking". For an extended trip you'll need a real backpack.
- Comfortable with weight
- Adjustable padding
- Secure and organized
The Mountainsmith Paralax is the largest in the family of photography specific bags that Mountainsmith produces. I have owned this model for probably 4 years, at least, and can honestly say it looks and performs like a new one.
It is important to understand from the beginning this is NOT a backpack for extended "backpacking" trips. There is no room for overnight gear, hauling a tent, sleeping bag, food, clothing and cookware in this would probably be a bad idea and defeat the purpose the bag was designed for. If you are looking for a solution to the problems serious photographers face when doing extensive hiking and backpacking, check the numerous articles on line that address this specifically. If your need is for a pack to carry a lot of photo equipment safely and comfortably when working within a days walk from a vehicle or base camp, this is it.
Mountainsmith has been producing backpacks for years and that experience is evident with their camera bag line. The zippers, straps and pulls all appear to be bomb proof, and the actual carry system of hip belt, sternum strap and shoulder straps is effective and comfortable. With all the equipment I carry for a serious day out, I'm carrying 35 lbs of camera gear. Add to that a lunch, some snacks, water, maybe rain gear or jacket and I've got a serious load.
For the sake of your back, shoulders and legs, you don't want to carry this load in a bag from a company without real trail credibility. For the sake of your expensive equipment, you don't want to carry this load in bag that is not significantly padded inside, and stiff enough to protect gear when it takes the inevitable slide off a boulder to the trail. I can vouch for this bag on both counts.
The bag comes with a waterproof cover stored in an unobtrusive pocket. I like this idea as the raincoat is always there and I don't have to wonder if I've brought it or forgotten it. There are two large mesh side pockets for water bottles, folded up survival blankets, a multi-tool, or whatever you think you'd like to be able to get to quickly.
There is a large "laptop" pocket behind the main equipment area, but I've never used it for that. Since it is the full length and width of the pack there is room here for rain gear, extra jackets, maybe a folded up reflector, or any bulkier item you might want to bring along for the day. This area also seems like the logical place for a hydration bladder if you'd like try that, but I've never used one.
There is also a somewhat smaller and independent pocket on the face of the bag for what ever else you can think of. For me this is where trail bars, maybe a sandwich, and extra memory cards all end up here.
Of course there is a tripod carrying system on the face of the bag which is adjustable for the particular tripod your carrying and which tightens down and keeps the tripod from flopping around.
For me one of the biggest benefits to a bag like this is almost all my photo gear can stay in this bag and when I'm about to go on a trip, either a day trip or an extended trip, backpacking or driving, I can grab the bag (and separate smaller bag my main camera stays in) and I know I've got what I need for anything that comes up.
As I said at the beginning, if you're backpacking you're going to have to pick and choose what you'll carry and what stays in your truck in the Paralax bag, but you'll know you haven't forgotten anything at home and having it organized makes picking and choosing easy.