5 lb 5 oz
Travel, landscape, outdoor, and adventure photography
I am a photographer and avid outdoors woman. So when I saw that Mountainsmith had partnered with Chris Burkard in developing the new Tanuck 40L camera backpack, I was immediately interested. Most people in the outdoor industry or people who just live an outdoorsy lifestyle, almost certainly recognize the remarkable photographer’s name, and at the very least have probably seen some of the incredible photos he creates. On the other hand you have Mountainsmith. They are somewhat of a Colorado OG in the outdoor gear business. Based out of Golden, the Mountainsmith brand is another iconic name in the pack’s equation. This alone was enough to gain my intrigue.
As a photographer, I can only imagine how cool it would be to design your own camera bag; exactly what you need and nothing you don’t. Just another reason I was gawking at it online. After some time with it, the TAN pack, short for “Tough As Nails”, certainly lives up to the moniker.
I’d like to note that I am contributing feedback on the bag from a woman’s perspective as well as a female, outdoor photographer.
My package arrived with the Tanuck 40L bag as well as the TAN large kit cube. The initial, most obvious thing I noticed about the bag was its size. It’s huge. For a smaller woman like me, I’m convinced I could curl up inside it, though I haven’t tried yet.
First off, this bag ain’t messing around. It’s customizable, it’s versatile, it’s durable, and exceptionally functional. You can convert this thing in so many different ways. It’s been weeks of testing and I’m still discovering new useful options.
I was excited about all of the bells and whistles it came with. Straps, flaps, padded pockets, secret pockets, waterproof pockets, all the pockets. The rainfly, the hydration bladder sleeve, the laptop sleeve, the weather-resistant base panel that lets the bag stand up. (That is literally my favorite part of this bag.) I can drop it anywhere. In dirt, snow, mud, wet grass, hardscrabble, you name it, and not wince every time because the bag will get filthy or because it will topple over and my gear will spill everywhere (a sadly common occurrence with other bags).
The TAN pack is certainly a professional grade bag for a photographer who travels a lot, for someone who is just looking to carry all of their gear safely to the site, or who needs a bag that will keep them organized. While the pack probably holds up to certain styles of photographers’ standards, to me it seemed definitely more geared toward the outdoorist, the adventurer, the traveler, the weekend warrior who also happens to be a photographer.
The TAN pack compliments the photographers who dream big and sacrifice sweat and oftentimes tears to get the shot. The people who traverse rugged terrain, and endure miserable conditions for the shot. The ones who wake up at 3 AM to hike to location for sunrise, who spend all day gauging the clouds for golden hour, and for those who wait patiently past sunset in the cold for blue. This pack is definitely for you.
Testing in the Field
The bag has quickly become somewhat of a mobile gear closet for me. I’ve traveled with it on planes, to beaches, in the snow, and just around town to shoots. It’s such a relief to know that when I’m going from place to place all of my things are in there. Nothing is falling out, everything is perfectly placed and protected. It gives me great peace of mind. It takes some time to develop your own system, but once you use it more and more frequently, it lets you function like a well oiled machine.
In a travel scenario, going through airports, hopping in cabs, trains, whatever transportation you are taking to your destination, the bag keeps everything where it needs to be. Going through security at the airport is a breeze, especially through ones like DIA that make you remove external hard drives and laptops, and sometimes even the camera itself. All of those tasks are easy with this pack.
It’s designed like a haul bag, with a wide mouth, same lip lining as the bottom, with a waterproof material top collar that expands. You can tie it tight or open it up for some space depending on what you need to pack. There’s also are an attachment lock on the top that allows you to strap in extra gear like snowshoes, ropes, poles, tripods, a sleeping bag, whatever it is, you can probably pack it there.
The bag unzips in the front to access your camera gear nestled inside. This is an amazing functional feature. If you lay the bag down front side up and simply unzip it and the kit cube inside, you have waterproof pockets on the inside of the flap right there, and the bag then functions almost as if your gear were laid out on a table in front of you. This makes keeping inventory easy. While the lenses and camera bodies remain in their protected places, you can access memory cards, filters, batteries, remotes, whatever gadgets you need right there. Added bonus is the included and attached lens cloth inside one of the pockets that makes cleaning that dust or dirt off your lens super fast and easy.
The external front pocket acts just like a compression pocket on a day pack; it expands and contracts. It is also waterproof. You can tighten or loosen it. Inside the pocket are an array of organizers; a padded pocket for sunglasses a place for pens, notebooks, journals, wallet, all the important things. You could also use this front pocket in a variety of outdoor scenarios. Its outside of the bag for a reason. It serves as a place to strap wet shoes, or wet clothes, towels, blankets, anything that you wouldn’t want to come close to your camera gear. The bag can keep those things on the outside while you trek back to the car or to camp.
MOLLE attachments are everywhere on the bag so there are a lot of options for you to strap extra gear where it works best for you. Also, there are pockets on both sides of the bag, one waterproof material, another mesh, so you can pack water bottles, coffee mugs, flasks, however you like to roll.
The top flap of the bag is also removable and interchangeable. It can serve normally like the top flap of a backpack, or the D rings its attached by can move to the front of the bag, creating a chest pouch that hangs in front of you for quick and easy access to another lens or piece of equipment. That pouch is also waterproof and provides more zipper pockets.
I had no problem trekking with the bag out on sand, which is saying a lot. Sand gets everywhere, and for photographers, the last thing we want is sand in the camera. I hiked with this pack 4 miles into national forest in the snow and didn’t think twice about it. I dropped it in the snow to access my gear with no hesitation because I knew I could rely on that waterproof bottom as well as it standing up.
The TAN has great hip straps that have a considerable amount of padding and support. Since the bag is rather bulky and heavy for a smaller woman like me, this helps out a lot. It sits well on my hips so I can handle the extra weight it brings. I know that the weight comes from the durability of it, and I’m okay with that. When I’m taking my precious gear out into the wild, I want to know its protected. The TAN definitely provides a sense of security.
Now, this might not be ideal for a casual day hike, or a walk to the park, I guess it all depends on what you need in a bag. It also might not be suited for all types of photographers, again, it depends on what you need. But is it durable? Yes. Is it functional? Most certainly. Is it great for wedding photographers or sports photographers? Maybe not. But if you are like me and plan on getting your hands, or boots dirty for that perfect shot, this bag will get you all the way there and back.
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