Impressions : Tamrac Adventure 9 Backpack

I have been using the Tamrac Adventure 9 backpack for nearly two years, mainly when I’m shooting at sport events like marathon or triathlon competitions where I have to be mobile and on my feet for several hours. Additionally I used it on cycling trips and for hiking, I even went skiing in the Alps with it once. Only recently I replaced it by a different backpack, I’ll elaborate on the reasons for the switch later on.

Using a backpack for transporting camera gear has some inherent problems: the space is limited and accessing the gear requires taking the backpack off and usually placing it on the ground. On the other hand it can be carried much more easily than a shoulder bag and allows greater mobility and agility.

The Outside

This backpack looks like a camera backpack, it’s large, very stiff and features a Tamrac logo on the top. It has a big, padded handle on the top that allows you to carry it comfortably around like a bag or a suitcase. The shoulder straps are big and very well padded and very comfortable to wear. The backside of the backpack is absolutely flat and thickly padded, it rests comfortably on one’s back and even warms you in winter – which is really a problem in summer. This thing can get way to warm, there’s just no way that air can flow between your back and the backpack.

The compartments are accessible only from the rear, giving potentially easy access for thieves. This also leads to another problem: if you put the backpack on the ground to access your gear, you might get the backside dirty, and thereby yourself once you put it on again. So putting it down in wet grass or even dirt isn’t an option.

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Attaching a tripod isn’t easy as well – you can attach one horizontally below the bag with additional straps, but then you can’t put the bag on the ground. Though it’s not intended, there is a good way to attach a tripod vertically: just put two of the legs into one of the side mesh pockets and fix the upper part of the tripod with a carbine to the upper carrying handle of the backpack. It’s not ideal since the tripods weight isn’t centered on your back, but you can access the tripod much faster than from the horizontal position.

Whether this thing is weather proof I do not know, I never had to put it to the test, but I’d suspect it can handle light rain. It does not have a dedicated rain cover as some good trekking backpacks have.

The gear compartment

So how much can one fit in there? The image below shows my setup of the gear compartment, easily swallowing a Nikon D200 with the battery grip and a Nikon 24-70 F2.8 (hood reversed) attached (middle), a Sigma 70-200 F2.8 (right), a Sigma 105 F2.8 (lower left), a Sigma 12-24 (upper left) and an air blower.

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What didn’t fit was the Sigma 70-200 with it’s tripod collar attached, and I’m sorry to say that the Nikon 70-200 F2.8 is simply too long to fit in there. You could get more space by moving the separator to the daypack compartment upwards, but then you still won’t be able to get the lens in and out comfortably. You can fit in quite much, but once you upgrade to professional lenses space will be too small. Not only would I like to be able to carry the Nikon 70-200 F2.8, I’d also prefer not having to reverse the 24-70’s lens hood every time I put it back into the backpack.

As you can see, the separators are very thick and rather stiff, but therefore very protective. You don’t really have to worry about the safety of your gear, it’s all very well padded.

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The small parts pockets may be the worst part of this backpack. As you can see, the filter pocket does it’s job very well. But the lower small pocket… well, originally intended for storing CF cards, I wouldn’t trust any of my cards to a pocket that can’t be closed. And even worse, if you flap open the gear compartment in a rush, you might accelerate those card right out of these pockets. They do take batteries though, but you have to be careful not to lose them as well.

The daypack compartment

The daypack compartment isn’t extremely large, but sufficiently so. It can’t however be accessed as easily as one would expect, once you have it filled to it’s limits it can be tricky to get stuff out there without emptying the whole compartment. And what’s that zip off pocket for that sits on the ground of the compartment? Once you have stuff in there, you can’t reach that pocket…

The laptop compartment is quite large, my 12” fits in there with very much space left, I’d guess it might even be enough for a 17” laptop. Somewhat weird, the laptop compartment is the only one with a weather proof zipper, the other compartments only have a cover that doesn’t do it’s job too well.

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Conclusion

This is of course not an objective review, it’s more a collection of my very own, subjective observations and impressions.

This backpack did a good job for about two years, and it is so well made that it hardly shows any signs of use! In fact I’d say that it is as good as new, even though I used it extensively.

But it just doesn’t do the trick or me any more, and that’s mainly for two reasons: I upgraded my lenses, my two pro lenses (Nikon 24-70, Nikon 70-200) just barely (well, not really at all) fit in the gear compartment. Secondly, I need a backpack that I can take with me when I’m road cycling, I like to have my camera with me on cycling tours. With the lack of ventilation on the unergonomic back side this backpack isn’t exactly ideal for use while being sportive.

It’s not a bad product, it does the job it is made for fairly well (with the exception of the small parts pockets), but it’s far from perfect regarding functionality and design. And it does not stand up to my personal requirements any more.

The Good
  • Great protection for the camera gear
  • Excellent build quality
  • Strong enough for light persons to sit on
  • Laptop pocket has a weather protected zipper
  • Very well padded shoulder straps, easy to wear
  • Takes a camera body with vertical grip and a large lens attached

 

The Bad
  • Limited space, both gear and daypack compartment tend to be too small
  • Overly thick and stiff padding elements and very few Velcro attachment points limit the flexibility to arrange the gear compartment as needed
  • No small outer pockets except the mesh pockets on each side
  • Accessibility of the daypack compartment is somewhat limited
  • Attaching a tripod vertically isn’t supported
  • Looks like a photo bag, not like a usual backpack

 

The Ugly
  • A flat, heavily padded back side without ventilation
  • Memory and battery pockets tend to lose their contents easily

4 Responses to “Impressions : Tamrac Adventure 9 Backpack”

  1. detail24 says:

    Haha, genau DEN hab ich auch ;) Ich find den soweit ok, aber mittlerweile is das gute Stück für das komplette Equipment auch bissl zu klein geworden. Hab den damals nur aufgrund des günstigen Preises gekauft. Hatte keine Lust gefühlte 800,- für nen Fotorucksack auszugeben den ich im Jahr effektiv und gerade ma 5 Mal verwende.

  2. JCH says:

    I am curious if you found a better backpack to use while cycling. I was considering buying the Adventure 9 for this purpose, but if you found it to be that uncomfortable for longer distances, then I will probably reconsider and buy something else.

    • I did in fact. I actually wanted to review that better backpack as well but never found the time. Its the Jack Wolfskin ACS Photopack. Once you remove its inner protecting case you’ve got lot’s of space for the camera (and still enough protection) combined with a great cycling backpack.

  3. Ash Wells says:

    Thanks for the detailed review. I am currently searching for backpacks for my cameras and lenses as my hobby seems to have the potential to develop into something more. Having a backpack that is both sturdy and comfortable will be of great help. I will check out the Wolfson…

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