I’ll be the first to admit I have a problem when it comes to accumulating camera bags. Over the years, I have accumulated a dozen or so camera bags that take up space in my garage. There are only about 4 or 5 bags that I use regularly. When it comes to bigger bags, the Mindshift Backlight 36L has been a favorite of mine since it joined my collection several years ago.
If you are like me, your first exposure to Mindshift Gear was the rotating waist belt of their uber-popular Rotation 180. The Backlight 36L doesn’t have anything unique like that: It is just a big, sturdy bag with a lot of room to store all your gear.
With the Backlight, you access your camera and lenses through the back of the bag, which is easy to open due to the big, smooth zipper. While the zipper is really nice, it wasn’t quite as smooth as I am used to with my ThinkTank bags, but I think that is in large part due to the shape and rigidity of the bag. it takes a bit of a pull around the edges to open, but you can tell it is high quality and the zipper is still easy to use.
Using the Backpack
The Backlight 36L is a super easy backpack to use. As you would expect, the bag has a large main compartment. I really like being able to access the main compartment through the back of the bag due to the thick waist strap, which makes it is easy to swing the bag around your body to access the gear you need without removing the bag from your waist.
Mindshift went the extra mile to try and make it really easy to use your bag like this, but it might have been a bit of over-engineering in my mind. They put what I thought was a strange elastic cord on the inside of the back panel. The cord kept getting in the way and annoying me and I almost removed it, but then I decided to actually figure out why Mindshift decided to put this cord in the bag.
Once I figured it out, the cord actually makes a lot sense. It is designed to fit around your neck and hold the cover open so you have both hands free to get equipment out, swap out a lens or do whatever else you need without having to put the backpack down. I still find it a little annoying when it gets in the way while I am unzipping the bag, but it will be nice to have when it is really needed. Hopefully, they will figure out a more convenient way to incorporate it in the next edition of the backpack.
Apart from everything else you usually get with the main compartment of a camera bag, there is another feature in the main compartment that I have really come to appreciate. Mindshift has named it the cord attic. It is located at the top of the main compartment in a little pull down divider that is perfect for storing your chargers, cords, remotes and other odd-shaped things that don’t make sense to pack into the normal camera dividers.
The Laptop Pocket
I never travel without my laptop so a good laptop pocket is essential. THe Mindshift Backlight backpack includes a laptop sleeve inside a much biger “daypack” pocket. The laptop sleeve easily fits a fifteen inch laptop, which was really important to me before I bought a smaller laptop. I always had trouble fitting my old laptop in laptop pockets in my camera bags, but it was never an issue getting the laptop in and out of the Backlight 36L.
The daypack pocket also has a lot of extra space for things besides your laptop. There is another separate tablet pocket and then a big area with extra room for a bit more gear, extra clothes, a jacket, lunch or whatever you may need. I appreciate having this open space, especially when traveling and I can store things like diapers, kids jackets and so forth so we don’t have to take a separate bag.
In addition to the two big compartments, the Mindshift Backlight 36L has several smaller pockets. Like every other backpack, it has a smaller front zippered pocket that is useful for smaller items that you can get to easily.
There is also a very small pocket on the top of the bag where you can fit a small item like your phone or headphones, but I use it most often for my extra batteries and cable release.
The side pouches are great on the Backlight. There are pockets on both sides of the bag, which I really like because sometimes I like to have my tripod on the side of the backpack and don’t like to lose my only water bottle pocket. I also like that Mindshift made these pockets nice and big so I can fit a big water bottle since I do most of my hiking in the desert these days.
The final pockets are on the inside of the back flap. These pockets have their own zippers and offer greater protection, if not a little extra inconvenience to access. These are great for smaller items you don’t need to access quickly. I use them for extra memory cards and extra back-up batteries on a longer trip.
The Fabric and Make of the Backpack
The quality of materials for the Backlight are really good. I especially appreciate the fabric the bag is made of. The exterior fabric has a water-repellent coating that is ideal for an outdoor backpack. I have used the backpack many times during inclement weather and it does a great job keeping my gear dry and protected. If you get caught in some really nasty weather, the bag does come with a nice rain cover.
The Size of the Backpack
At 36L, this is a pretty big backpack. The place where the size is most inconvenient for me is flying. Because it can’t fit under an airplane seat, you can’t usually count it as a personal item. This is only a big deal when you are flying on a budget airline where you have to pay for carry-on luggage. On other airlines, the bag is carry-on compliant so that isn’t an issue. The backpack is big enough that you do have to be careful about strapping too much on the outside. This backpack easily fits a big tripod and lots of additional things you may want to carry thanks to the outside straps.
I touched on tripod spots above, but in addition to being able to fit a tripod on either side, the backpack also has dedicated tripod straps on the front of the backpack so you can configure your tripod in whatever manner works best for you at the time.
With how big the backpack is, it obviously fits a lot of gear, including large professional gear. The Backlight can fit two gripped bodies with 4-6 extra lenses. Indeed, the backpack can be a bit of overkill for my mirrorless system, but it still works really well and gives me lots of extra room for travelling.
The Comfort Level
The comfort of the Mindshift Gear Backlight 36L is a definite plus. The bag is comfortable enough for even long hikes. There is a lot of padding everywhere you need it. The waist strap is thick and padded which makes it very comfortable.
The waist strap also tightens and loosens super easily, which is great for carrying a heavy backpack so you can take the weight off your shoulders. It also has a normal sternum strap that is adjustable.
The Mindshift Gear Backlight 36L is a really solid bag and one of the best you can get for this size. This backpack is just high-quality, reliable and convenient. It is comfortable enough for hiking and traveling and has lots of space for all your gear.
If you want a smaller backpack, there are other sizes of the Backlight that are great as well. In fact, you can check out our review of the Backlight 18L.