Years ago I reviewed the first generation of the revolutionary Mindshift 180 bag, it was my favorite bag yet. At the time I could not have imagined how they would improve this bag, how wrong I was. Mindshift has outdone themselves with their new series of camera bags. Mindshift sent me the rotation180° Horizon 34L and the rotation180° Trail 16L to test out, I have put them through their paces and ready to make my recommendations. I keep my recommendations unbiased despite getting free bags, if they are crap, I will tell you!
rotation180° Horizon 34L Review
In short, this is the best camera bag I have ever used, by a long shot. I have used the f-stop Loka in the past along with Tamrac Expedition bags, the f-stop was the only bag that comes close to this. I will start by saying this is not the pack to carry all of your gear, just what you need. I generally carry my camera with lens attached, along with 2 additional lenses, lee filter holder, filters, shutter release cable, and extra batteries. This all fits into the belt pack which rotates around. I have a smaller Fuji mirrorless camera and there is extra space, if you have a DSLR it will fit the body with a standard lens attached, like a 24-70, along with one other standard size lens. With a Sony a-series you may be able to fit 3 lenses.
If you want to carry extra gear or a larger lens like a 70-200, you can purchase the padded insert separately. I do not use this as I try to minimize the amount of gear I carry to not be weighed downed by all the extra ‘stuff’, keeping my kit simple has really helped to extend my creative vision. I carry a first aid kit, coat, gloves in the upper compartment instead.
The idea behind this backpack is truly elegant, your necessary gear is kept in the belt pouch which spins around your waist and out of the pack itself, so you never have to take off your pack to access your gear. It is not only conveineint, but downright necessary at times when you cannot put your pack down. For example in the Zion Narrows (that’s me in action below, image credit to Jennifer Renwick of Above the Timberline Photography there are times you cannot lay your pack down, or you have to go out of the way to find a dry spot. This was fantastic to have while shooting waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, and water covered salt flats in Death Valley.
The quality of this pack is fantastic, I have been abusing it for 4 months now and I see no signs of wear. I am confident that this will hold up for a long time. There are tons of pockets for additional storage, like a map pouch on the side, a pocket on the front where I carry the Rain Cover, which can be purchased separately. There are also loops to lash on extra gear, and a tripod holder on the back of the pack. If you want your tripod to be accessible without taking the pack off, the Tripod Suspension Kit can be added to this pack. These are straps that attach to the shoulder straps, these clip on to a strap around the tripod, and the legs of the tripod slip into a elastic band on the side of the pack, this is a great feature.
Nowhere to put your pack down here!
Comparison to the rotation180° Professional 38L
After using the rotation180° Professional 38L for years I found a couple problems that bothered me. First, the fit was not exceptional as you would get with a real hiking backpack. It was okay, but I could not get it adjusted properly to get all the weight on my hips, the shoulder straps were not contoured to follow your body and the weight tended to go back and pull on your shoulders. With the new Horizon 34L I feel like I am wearing a high end hiking pack, the comfort is exceptional. You have all the adjusters that you would find on a hiking pack. The other annoyance with the Professional 38L was the swing around hip belt/fanny pack, The materials it was made of were…floppy. There was no stiffness to the side walls, so it was easily compressed, this was a problem when swinging the hip pack back into place in the pack, it would get smashed when pushing it in, you can see how I struggled with this a little in the original review video. The Horizon 34L has been completely redesigned with stiffer materials for the side walls, along with new materials on the exterior that slide smoothly against each other.
The best part is the price, the Horizon is much more affordable than the Pro, which was a big barrier for most photographers.
The only con I can think of is the side pouch for holding your water bottle. Because it uses the same slick material, and has no cinch or elastic at the top, your water bottle can easily fall out when you take your pack off and place it on the ground. I found this out the hard way when I was atop a massive cliff, I took off the pack to get my tripod, and as soon as I set it down my water slid right out and went flying down the cliff getting mashed by rocks. It now lives in the wilderness.
rotation180° Trail 16L Review
I have been using the Trail off and on for about a year, I failed to do a review on it because I could not find a good use for it personally. I thought it would be the perfect backpack for my Fuji mirrorless system, unfortunately it failed to meet expectations because of the tiny size. My camera with a lens will just barely squeeze into the belt pack, try adding additional lenses and you are out of luck. Also, there is nowhere to hold a tripod, major deal breaker for me. This backpack is really meant for trail runners who want to carry a small camera with only one lens along with their coat, food, etc. After taking up fly fishing this summer, I finally found a good use for this bag. I now carry my Fuji X-E1 with a prime and my limited selection of fly fishing gear in the hip belt, and carry my Tenkara Rod in the outside pocket. All my gear can easily be accessed while in the river, it works quite well for this.
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