I had version one of the Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive for a number of years and absolutely loved it. It was one of my favorite camera backpacks, but fell short on a few major things that kept it from being my favorite. Then Think Tank released version two of the bag and I was pleased to see they changed pretty much everything I didn’t care for in version one of the bag. I can now comfortably say the Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive v.2 is my favorite camera backpack.
I have been using this new version two of this backpack basically since it was released and I maintain it is my favorite backpack because it is so versatile, functional and high quality. It is fine to use for everyday random outings, comfortable enough for hiking and outdoor adventures, and perfect for travel. The only time I haven’t enjoyed using this bag is when it has been too tall for certain things like counting as a personal item on a plane or being permitted into the Pantheon in Paris. I’ll talk more about that issue below because it is one of those love-hate things.
The New Tripod Attachment
By far, my favorite change to this bag was made to the tripod support straps. Tripod attachment is a big deal for me as it is essential to almost all my backpacking and all my travel because I almost always have a tripod on me in either of those occasions. Honestly, the tripod attachment on version one was the main thing that kept it from being my top recommendation.
For the most part, the tripod attachment works the same. I know that sounds weird since I made such a big deal about the change, but I will explain. The design for the tripod attachment is an expandable drop-down pocket to hold larger tripods and two straps, one in the middle and one in the top of the bag. They hold the tripod in the center of the bag and make it very secure, without being lopsided or having a normal size tripod sticking up above the top of the bag. While I usually prefer a backpack also have the option of carrying a tripod on the side just in case, this method of carrying is very comfortable and mostly convenient.
The big change that made this bag better for me is the top straps that go around the tripod were moved from above the main zipper to just below it. This change allows you to access the zipper to open the main compartment of the bag and get your camera and other gear without the need to detach your tripod.
When the tripod straps were above the main zipper, you could not open the main compartment of the bag because the tripod attachment would keep the bag shut. This meant you had to either detach your tripod or try to squeeze your hand into the bag and fish around for whatever you need and try and pull it out of the small opening you can manage. This was seriously frustrating for me on many occasions. With the straps moved below the zipper, it is no longer an issue. The downside is all the tripod weight now pulls on the flap. While this can be a touch annoying, it is a HUGE improvement.
The New Laptop Pocket
The second big change that came with is one I am still undecided on. On version two, the laptop compartment remains in the back of the bag between the gear compartment and your back. I am fine with that because I feel like it gives the laptop a little extra protections, which is nice for travelling with an expensive computer.
The main difference is the size of the compartment shrunk a little and the access moved from the side of the bag to the top. The laptop compartment in this bag is still big enough to fit a 15.6 inch laptop without any hassle, but the compartment was a little bigger on version one as it was designed to fit a 17 inch laptop. The laptop compartment has been a concern with me in many other bags that are designed for smaller laptops and make it very inconvenient to impossible to carry my bigger laptop. I know this doesn’t matter for most people that have moved on to smaller laptops by now, but for those of us that like a bigger computer, it is a big deal. The bigger pocket was nice to easily fit the computer cord and mouse in with the computer, but it also felt like a bit of wasted space so it isn’t a big deal to have a slightly smaller pocket on the new version. As to moving the zipper from the side to the top, I guess it has not made a big enough difference for me to have a strong feeling either way.
This Bag is Taller than Most Backpacks
The size of this bag remained the same from version one to version two (or at least close enough to not notice a change). The size of the bag is mostly a great thing to me. The bag is deep enough to hold professional equipment without being needlessly deep like some of the other bigger bags I have used. The real advantage, in most situations, is the height of the bag. It is a few inches taller than most camera backpacks (other than large capacity hiking bags). Being a little taller (6’2″), I really enjoy the extra height and find it to be a very comfortable fit. Those few extra inches actually add quite a bit of space to the bag and I find the waist and sternum straps fit a little more comfortably.
The extra height of the bag can have some real downside too though. On a lot of smaller flights, we opt for the budget airlines to save money. Most of these budget airlines charge for a carry-on bag so I usually try to get away with just using my backpack as a personal items and not bringing another bag. The extra height of the HardDrive disqualifies it as a personal item on most of the budget airlines. That can be a real bummer, leading me to travel sometimes with a smaller, less-preferable backpack. The height of the bag has also caused me trouble in one other location. We were turned away at the Pantheon in Paris because my backpack was too tall. Because they didn’t have lockers or anywhere to store the backpack, we had to leave without going inside.
Think Tank Bags Always have Excellent Build Quality
I have owned a half dozen bags from Think Tank over the years and have never been disappointed in the build quality. This bag was no exception. The materials and workmanship of version two appear identical to the previous version and I put that bag, as well as this bag, through some harsh conditions, including many airplane trips, mountain hikes, rain storms in the jungle, the streets of Europe and day-to-day use. Despite the beating I have put on both versions of the bag, they both still look pretty much brand new. I have bags that have been put through less use and look twice as old. I would never fear build quality when getting a bag from Think Tank.
The Backpack has a Good Raincover
Okay, I know. I really am going to discuss a rain cover in this review. Most bags include a rain cover, but I still want to briefly touch on it here. The bag has a nice large rain cover that can easily cover the bag and attached tripod. This is such a simple feature, but I have used multiple bags where the rain cover barely fits over the bag so you risk letting water in and have to unhook anything connected to the outside of the bag, such as a tripod. That is not something you have to worry about with this bag.
As I have said many times, Think Tank uses the best zippers in the market. They are heavy duty and smooth as butter. I do not know any other way to say it, but you will love the zippers on this bag.
This is a Comfortable Backpack
Luckily, version two of this bag retained the big padded shoulder straps and padded back of the bag, making it very comfortable to carry. While this bag isn’t particularly designed for long hikes, I found it to perform very well and to be very comfortable for many hikes, including fairly long distances in hot and humid weather, and hikes with adverse weather conditions. If you want an all-around bag that is great for travel and still good for hiking, this bag will be great for you. As you see below, my wife opted to carry this bag around Europe because she found it more comfortable than her smaller, lighter backpack.
I like the Interior Pockets
The interior of the main compartment has great clear, zippered pockets. There is a number of reasons I love these pockets. I like being able to see through the clear material to know exactly what is in the pocket so I instantly know which pocket has my extra batteries or remote trigger without digging through things. I also feel like the thick material offers more protection than normal pockets, which is nice when I am throwing memory cards and other less rugged items in those pockets. Finally, I like the zippers to keep all the little things staying in the right place and not getting mixed up.
I Wish there was Some Padding on the Waist Strap
Just like version one, the new version of this bag does not have any padding on the waist strap. The waist strap on this bag is more comfortable than others I have used that lack padding, but when I have a fully-loaded backpack, I like to be able to cinch the waist strap tight and take the weight off my shoulders. Having a padded waist strap makes that easier and more comfortable to do.
I still do like that the waist strap hits a little lower due to the height of the bag, which makes it still pretty comfortable for not having padding. The lack of padding can also be beneficial at times as I have also found it can be nicer not to have that extra padding when hiking in the heat. The lack of padding also makes it nicer for shoving the bag under an airplane seat.
The Side Pockets are too Small
Unfortunately, there were no changes to the size of the side pockets. They are great pockets to have as not all bags do, but I wish they were a little larger to fit some bigger items. While they can fit a small 16.9 ounce bottle, they cannot fit a large water bottle like I usually take hiking.
Version one of the Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive was one of my favorite photography backpacks, but version two is my favorite photography backpack.
Just changing the tripod straps in the way they did elevated this bag from a 7 to a 9 for me, if a 10 is the dream bag that hasn’t been created yet and a 5 is a bag that is good enough to make me happy most of the time.
I really like the HardDrive as a great all-around backpack that is going to do everything well and a few things really well. Given the build quality, size and comfort, I love this bag for everyday use and traveling, where it is going to get tossed around your car, thrown on the ground and shoved in airplane compartments, all while maintaining structural quality and not getting worn out. It is also going to be comfortable to carry even when you load it down and carry it through multiple airports or on a decent hike.
While this may not be the perfect bag for everyone, I honestly think it is the best bag I have used for someone like me that wants to invest in one bag they can use for everyday outings, traveling and hiking.
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