Since its inception, the folks at San Francisco-based Peak Design have had a singular focus on making camera carrying gear with great design and exceptional usability. The company is one of the excellent crowd-funded success stories that has taken advantage of Kickstarter.com’s ability to connect entrepreneurs directly to consumers and they have a series of well-regarded products to show for it. The company wanted to take their approach and apply it to a versatile backpack and you can read all about it in my Peak Design Everyday Backpack Review that follows.
Note: the Everyday Backpack comes in two sizes, a 20 liter and 30 liter option, which are identical except for the added size at the upper portion of the bag. This is a review of the 30L Everyday Backpack.
Like most photographers and gear heads, I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with finding the perfect bags. There are a number of companies that consistently put out impressive options and I have tended to stick to one of those, Think Tank Photo, for most of my needs. Think Tank has a (pretty smart) philosophy of designing their bags to not call a lot of attention to themselves to avoid enticing thieves to take thousands of dollars of camera gear from you in one swipe. Because of this, one of the only areas they fall behind is the subjective element of style. Peak Design thinks style and functionality both have their place in camera bag design and it shows with the Everyday Backpack, a great-looking bag that can be configured to hold various combinations of camera gear, computers, and other daily needs. Let’s start by talking about that style.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack Review: It’s got that Style and Grace…
In short, the Everyday Backpack is straight up about as cool-looking as a bag can get as long as you aren’t going for the vintage look, which has its own appeal. The lines are modern without being too futuristic. Everything from the zipper pulls to the straps exude a premium feel that ties the design together. Fabric selection had a lot of thought put into it and the result is a durable and slick looking fabric available in two great colors depending on your taste. I reviewed the darker Charcoal color and I love how it has a bit of a denim pattern to it. The beauty of this color to me is that it is equally appropriate at the office, in the field, travelling, or on a hike. Even my girlfriend, who generally rolls her eyes at all the bags I review, mentioned how good-looking the Peak Design Everyday Backpack is.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack Review: Surprisingly comfortable load carrying
Camera backpacks have a tradition of being fairly uncomfortable to wear because of camera bag manufacturers’ limited expertise in load support. Many camera backpacks compromise the back panel because it also serves as an access point and thankfully the Peak Design Everyday Backpack avoids this by using side access panels. The shoulder straps are ergonomically shaped and offer a good amount of soft yet supportive padding and also have swivels at the top for better fit. The length is very easy to adjust and they slide wonderfully on their seatbelt style webbing straps.
A very cool sternum strap is available that you can attach with only one hand and can also store conveniently on one side so it isn’t hanging when not in use. For added load distribution, Peak Design included a hideaway hip belt that is comfortable enough but lacks any padding. At my height of 6’1″, I had trouble really getting a lot of the weight to sit on my hips but it’s a tradeoff for a bag that I’d be annoyed with a permanent thick hipbelt. On the backpanel is a dual pad strip that goes down the middle and two small pads offer lower back support. Overall, I found the Everyday Backpack to be more comfortable than similarly sized camera packs I’ve tested.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack Review: Versatile Camera Carrier
Peak Design created an enhanced version of the standard velcro dividers that make up most camera bags because they wanted more versatility. FlexFold dividers allow 3 different configurations which include a pocket, a pass-through, and a shelf, which allows you to get fairly creative with storage options. Like most camera bags, I was at first overwhelmed at the prospect of configuring the dividers to work for my needs but thankfully, the included information hangtag gave me some good ideas. The bag uses a combination of dual-side and top access to maximize space and accessibility.
I wanted to see how the Everyday Backpack would handle a typical load for a location portrait shoot so I went about arranging it to take the following equipment:
- Fuji X-T2 mirrorless camera body
- Fuji X-T2 mirrorless camera body with Vertical Booster Grip
- Fuji 10-24mm f4 lens
- Fuji 23mm f2 lens
- Fuji 56mm f1.2 lens
- Profoto B2 strobe flash head and battery pack
- Mesh bag with spare batteries and small accessories
- Memory card wallet
- 15″ Macbook Pro laptop
- Bose QC35i wireless noise-cancelling headphones
First thing I had to accept was the concept that you won’t be able to access all your gear from one panel and instead need to divvy up items to make the most of the space. I used a combination of shelf, pocket, and pass-through orientations of the FlexFold dividers to fit everything the way I wanted and was amazed at how easily it actually accepted the kit. I was particularly surprised at the ability to slide the Profoto B2’s big battery pack into the bottom slot.
One thing that I also realized is that the top access section of the bag is a place to put bulkier items that don’t need to be cradled in the same way as cameras and small lenses because it’s really just a big open space. The awesome MagLatch system that secures the top panel is great because it allows you to shrink or expand this area quickly for an additional 8 liters of space and this let me stuff the flash head, accessories bag, and headphone case into the top easily.
To fit everything securely, I had to set things up in a way that meant I couldn’t access every piece of glass without taking something out first. This is largely a result of using the relatively tiny mirrorless lenses and it isn’t as much of an issue with larger DSLR cameras and lenses that fill out the dividers better. At first I wasn’t convinced it would be able to work with both types of camera systems but I was very happily surprised. Accessing a camera bag from 3 different places takes some getting used to but once I remembered where things were, I found it to be a very smart alternative to traditional back or front panel access. Additionally, you can swing the bag in front of you and get at gear you’d have to remove a bag for normally.
Also, the side and top access design of the Everyday Backpack opens up a lot of versatility in compartmentalizing various items. I brought the pack out to a mountain bike photo shoot that required a short hike in to the location and it worked pretty great for getting the job done. My only complaint would be that when I had the bag on the ground with one side facing up, I had to close that panel, flip the bag and open the other panel to get what I needed. This slows things down and some photographers might find this to be annoying. Personally, it’s a tradeoff I could generally live with and I’ll be using this bag for shoots that don’t require a massive amount of gear that would go into my bigger camera bags.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack Review: Daily Use
The real appeal of the Everyday Backpack is its versatility as a bag for daily life. Over the course of a week, I took the bag to a fundraising event I attended as a guest, a location photo shoot, and a few trips to the local coffee shop to get some work done. Here are some of my thoughts throughout this time:
- The FlexFold dividers come in handy for things you wouldn’t expect like slipping a pair of my girlfriend’s shoes into one of the sections for changing into later in the night
- A dedicated laptop access point easily takes my Macbook Pro and iPad and divides them into two sleeves that can be reached without opening the rest of the bag
- Having waterproof fabric and zippers made me feel secure in a short rain shower. An important note is that when the top panel is expanded, the fabric on the opening can bunch out of the sides if you don’t tuck it in and you really need to check this to avoid water going into the top when it’s fully loaded
- Three long grab handles are awesome for picking up the bag from any position and are comfortable to hold
- All of the hardware is slick and very well-made
- Various hideaway straps are really handy when you want to strap a jacket/fleece to the outside and when you want to secure something tall like a tripod to the side
- The side pockets are expandable and hold water bottles securely but because of the design, it is a bit of a pain to get larger bottles into them one handed
- The bag includes one of Peak Design’s proprietary Anchor Link attachments on the outside which is perfect for your keys, although it would also make sense to have this available inside one of the side panels
- Organization pockets in the side panel doors offer a range of storage for small items but I would have strongly preferred mesh pockets that I could see the contents and also some zippered pockets for securing small items
At the end of my Peak Design Everyday Backpack review period, I came away accepting that the product’s namesake is quite accurate for anyone with at least a casual interest in photography and keeping some sort of camera kit with them. I really enjoyed the little features and functionality that I discovered during use and was happy every time I reached for the bag to take it with me.
More Miscellaneous Notes about the Peak Design Everyday Backpack:
- When traveling with a rolling suitcase, you can slip the handle through a convenient pass-through on the backpanel
- A nice pocket with a magnet closure sits under the upper part of the front panel and is great for a passport or other small documents
- The only place where the design isn’t perfect is at the top of the side panel zipper where I found that the fabric can bunch a bit and make it less than smooth to open and close the zipper there. To alleviate this, I simply used the anti theft zipper pulls to ‘lock’ the top and only opened from the bottom side zipper
- I would have liked one more FlexFold divider included with the 30 liter version of the bag for added customization. Currently, you can only order additional dividers for Peak Design’s other bags but I’m sure they will offer them for the Everyday Backpack sometime soon
- The design simply can not take quite as much camera gear as my Think Tank Airport Commuter backpack which uses a traditional front panel access layout. This is because that bag is basically a soft-sided box designed to hold the maximum amount of gear in something that will just barely fit under an airline seat.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack Review Summary
Overall, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack is an excellent option to consider when looking at camera backpacks. It’s great looks, smart features, attention to detail, and configurability make it a real contender for top of the crowded pack. While there are better options for pure camera bags or pure daypacks, the versatility of the Everyday Backpack is its standout feature to me. Whether you want to load it with camera gear or carry one camera, one lens, and a bunch of daily essentials, this could very well be the bag for you. If you prefer a smaller bag with similar camera carrying ability but less extra space, check out the 20 liter version. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack is available for preorder from a variety of retailers and the company itself for $259.95 (20L) or $289.95 (30L). This bag is definitely an investment but it is backed by a lifetime warranty and offers features that other options do not.