Hiking gear problems have long been an obsession for me. Aching shoulders? Add some padding. Extra weight banging on the back of my pack? Get a bigger one and put everything inside. Everything soaked after a day of hiking in the rain? Carry a hiking umbrella. But one problem I hadn’t been able to solve was how to safely and comfortably carry my DSLR.

In my basement, I have a box of rejected camera bags. I have a sling bag that holds the camera gear, but little else. I have a small, over the shoulder bag that holds only the camera, but can be worn with a backpack on. It generally results in an aching neck after a day out hiking. I have tried hiking with this bag stuffed in a rucksack or backpack, but it is impossible to take it out for a quick shot. I kept imagining a bag that would ride comfortably on my back, with room for extra gear and somehow be easy to access, and thought I would never find one. Enter the Mindshift Panorama 180.

Panorama 180 with tripod

The Panorama 180 can carry plenty of camera equipment, as well as an adequate amount of hiking gear for a day hike. It is comfortable, and has a remarkable way to access my camera. It accomplishes this through a brilliant, if simple, feat of engineering. The hipbelt of the backpack is attached to the camera bag, which, when not in use, stays safely within the base of the pack. It is secured by a magnetic clip that can quickly and easily be undone so that the camera pouch can swivel around to the front for easy access. The backpack remains on my back, and I can easily bring the camera around while on the move. After snapping a picture, I return the camera to its pouch, swivel it back, and it is once again safely and comfortably part of a backpack, and my hands are free for climbing.  If I have a large backpack for an overnight trip, I can take only the camera compartment and carry it around my waist.

Panorama 180 photo insert

The camera compartment holds a DSLR, with room for an extra lens and filters. The upper part of the pack has three zipper pockets, one in the top flap, one in the side, and the main interior chamber, in addition to a water bottle holder on the side. There is a special pull – out holster on the back of the pack for putting the legs of a tripod in, so that a tripod can be safely, and easily strapped to the back. If extra camera gear is carried in the main compartment, there will still be room for a lunch and outer garment, but the pockets are not expandable, and this will relegate the backpack to being useful only for day hiking.

Panorama 180 3

The Panorama 180 is exceedingly comfortable. It has a well- padded back with an internal frame so that it keeps its shape, and it holds up well for long hikes. With the camera secure in the bottom of the pack, the overall comfort of carrying a large camera is greatly increased. I have not had any problems with durability in the course of its use. I did attempt to take it on an extended backpacking trip, strapping the upper portion of the backpack onto my overnight pack for use on day hikes out of camp. Since this is a stiff pack, it was not easy to carry along in my larger pack, and was not worth the extra weight. Instead, I would recommend only carrying the waist pack with the camera in it for overnight trips.

This isn’t just a pack for photographers. Hikers without DSLRs will find the easily accessible pouch useful for grabbing things out of the pack while on the go. However, the pack is obviously aimed at photographers who will get the most out of its many features, and who will be less likely to balk at its $200 price tag.

Panorama 180 2

Accessories

  • I had the opportunity to try out two accessories for the Panorama 180: The first was an optional rain cover, which I found to be quite effective, though fitting the entire ensemble together with rain covers both on the pack and on the camera pouch is somewhat tricky and can be time consuming on the trail. When stopping to rest on a soggy hike, it helps to be able to keep the bag under its rain cover. I hiked for several hours on a drizzly day, and my equipment stayed dry. I also left it out overnight in the rain, and the bag remained dry inside.
  • I also used the photo insert, which allows you to transform the interior of the pack into another camera bag so that you can take along extra lenses. I would recommend the photo insert for anyone planning to use the pack with more than one or two lenses, flashes, or other specialized gear. The caveat is that this insert, if filled with photo-gear, would leave little room for anything other than photo-gear. The rain cover is priced slightly high at $20, as is the photo insert at $50, but I found the rain cover to be invaluable. I would recommend the photo insert for the serious photographer who carries plenty of equipment.
  • Other accessories I did not test include a tripod suspension system and a lens switch case that clips onto the hip belt.

Panorama 180 stock

Bottom Line

I have often wondered if it was worth carrying a DSLR, when I pass a lightly loaded hiker snapping photos on a cell phone as I lug twenty pounds of camera around my neck up the trail. But I love photography as an art and a science, and can’t imagine being without my camera. In fact, it is at the top of my “ten essentials” list.  Now I don’t notice the extra weight, and don’t need to envy cell phone users. This is one bag that won’t end up in a box in my basement.

Tech Specs

  • Backpack exterior: 9.8” W x 19.7” H x 8.3” L
  • Beltpack interior: 9.4” W x 7.5” H x 4.7” L
  • Beltpack exterior: 9.8” W x 8.2” H x 5.1” L

Weight

  • Backpack: 2 lbs
  • Beltpack: 0.9 lbs
  • Total: 2.9 lbs

Volume

  • Backpack: 16.6 L
  • Beltpack: 5.4 L
  • Total: 22 L

Price: $200

Materials:

YKK zippers, 420D velocity nylon, 420D high density nylon, 210D velocity nylon, ultra-stretch fabric, 350G air-mesh, 3-ply bonded nylon thread. Water repellant coating on outside of fabric, polyurethane coating on interior. Interior is lined with 200D polyester, belly-o mesh pockets, closed-cell antilon foam, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

Panorama 180 Backpack

Panorama 180 Backpack
9

Comfort

9/10

    Versatility

    10/10

      Capacity

      8/10

        Durability

        9/10

          Style

          9/10

            Pros

            • Versatile
            • Lightweight
            • Comfortable
            • Easy To Use
            • Durable

            Cons

            • Somewhat pricey
            • Limited Space
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