Good camera bags are hard to find. Most bags are uncomfortable, don’t fit all your gear, or are hard to open. Atlas Packs has done a stellar job at hitting all those camera bag requirements with their Athlete Pack.
The Many Benefits of the Atlas Athlete Camera Backpack
There are a lot of pros and nice features to the Atlas Athlete pack. It’s nicely designed and works well.
Expands from 20 litres to 40 litres
The top-loading backpack shell easily expands from 20 litres to 40 litres. Atlas describes it as #EveryDayCarry mode and #GetOutOfTown mode. When the compression straps on the side and lid are all pulled tight, the gear area and camera core store about 20 litres with about 10 in the camera core. The camera core is permanently built into the back panel but can change sizes depending on what you are doing. More on that in the next point. Tons of daisy chains on the top and back can hold a bunch more gear if it doesn’t fit inside. The hip belt is removable as well if you are just cruising around town and don’t need the support. If you want to get out of town, loosen all compression straps and the lid and the Athlete can hold about 40 litres of stuff with about in the camera core. With the bag loaded down, you’ll likely want the hip belt on.The lid above the top-loading opening holds about 5 litres of gear and works well for quick access items.
Origami Camera Core: Easy Configuration
The camera core is permanently built into the back panel of the pack. It’s easy to lay the pack down on the water-resistant front and open the back panel between the backpack straps to get camera gear. The clam-shell lid opens large to easily get at all your stuff. There are a couple of stuff pockets in the camera core lid for smaller items like cards or hard drives.Photographers continually struggle with bags and the amount of gear they need to take. If I’m travelling, I’ll take most of my kit with me so I have it all, but if I’m going fast and light, I’ll take a camera body and one, maybe two, lenses. Sometimes I take a GoPro or 2. I don’t have a drone yet but that will come one some trips and not others. Configurability is the name of the game.The top row in the camera core has 2 configurations. Pushed in means there’s more space for camera gear, 3 small lenses or 1 large one. Pull on the little handle and it flips out reducing the camera gear space by about 2 litres and giving more space on the other side in the backpack for other gear. A nice, simple solution for more or less space without using multiple removable camera modules.
Sticky velcro on dividers
Some camera bags use velcro dividers but the velcro doesn’t stick well. The velcro used in the Athlete is super sticky and easily holds everything in place. It’s so sticky it’s almost hard to place the dividers. Longer dividers with a bend in them and elastics to hold the tops together for even more configuration would be nice.
Space for a laptop
Inside the centre of the pack, just behind the camera core, is space for a 15″ laptop. It easily slides inside with no hangups. It would be nice to be able to put a water bladder in this spot as well so the weight is centred. It would just need a hanger loop and a hole in the shell to route the hose.
Space for gear
Small camera bags only have space for the camera gear. They can’t carry anything else unless it fits in one of the tiny pockets. With 30 more litres to store extra gear, the Atlas Athlete can carry lightweight overnight gear or enough for long day trips. I’ll use multiple layers of clothing, food and emergency equipment on a day hiking or travelling so it’s nice to have space for everything.
Well-padded shoulder straps
The shoulder straps and and hip belt carries 35+ pounds well. The pack is built durable like a hiking backpack just with camera features as well so I wouldn’t hesitate to take this one on longer hikes. I’d love to see a version with slightly more gear space for a few more days on the trail with just one pack.
Removable waist belt
The hip belt is removable. For just cruising around town in the #EveryDayCarry mode, it’s nice to pop out the hip belt. There are also 3 different sizes of hip belt you can get so it will fit almost every kind of body type.
Pop-out quick draw pockets
The small hip belt pockets can hold a bar or small cameras. If you want more space for a lens or more stuff, just pull out the quick draw pockets. They easily hold medium sized lenses right on your hips with no extra attachments. I haven’t seen this feature on any other packs. If you need a larger GPS or other lenses at the ready, these big pockets are perfect.
Pack size and hip belt size are configurable so they’ll fit almost every body size.The frame size comes in Short and Tall. Short is great for 5’0″ up to 5’9″. The Tall frame works well for 5’10” up to 6’6″.Once you pick your frame size, pick the hip belt size for your waist. Medium works for 28 to 32 inch waists. Large works for 32 to 36 inch waists. X-Large works for 36 to 42 inch waists.
What Needs Work
There isn’t much I didn’t like on the Atlas Athlete. There’s just one thing that could use work but is very minor.
Hydration bladder pocket on the side
Having a hydration bladder on the side of the pack means it can be off-balance with that much weight on the side. As long as you pack with this in mind with a tripod or heavier items on the other side, it feels fine. I’d prefer to have the water in the middle with a little hook and hose hole near the laptop pocket. I rarely carry both at the same time. I’m either shooting out on the trail and have a hydration bladder, or are travelling/editing and having a laptop with me. This is a small issue though and is easy to work around.
Conclusion on the Atlas Athlete camera pack
The Atlas Athlete pack is a fantastic travel and hiking camera bag. Its origami camera core and loads of extra space for gear make it a very versatile pack that will handle many situations outside. If you’re looking for a camera back that can carry extra gear, make sure you check out the Atlas Athlete. Atlas only have the Athlete and Adventure packs so far. The Adventure is the same size but has a slightly different configuration. I’ll be following Atlas closely to see what they come out with next. I’m expecting big things from them when their first camera bags are this good.
What camera bag do you use?
What are your requirements for a camera bag? If you have an Atlas Athlete what’s your review of it? Throw a quick review in the comments below. Atlas provided a sample backpack for this review.