Gear Review: Aviator Timbuk2 Travel Backpack

Chile_73741

My Aviator Travel Backpack high atop Chile’s Toco Mountain – 19,423’ Licancabur in the distance. I used the Aviator as a day pack for excursions throughout a 6-week series of assignments in South America from April – May 2014.

I’ve flung dozens of bags over my shoulders through the years in an effort to find the perfect balance between form, function and, though maybe I shouldn’t admit it, style. I’m a journalist and photographer, but the last thing I want to do is draw attention to the camera pack on my back. Yet I still need to be able to haul my gear from one corner of the world to the next, with space for a change of clothes and my toothbrush – what to do, what to do?

Let me step back a bit. Finding a camera bag isn’t much of a problem; there are thousands on the market, many of which make a fine home for your camera. What I’ve been on the lookout for is a bag that will allow me to carry everything I need for a long spell in the field, but also handle well when it’s not loaded down on daily excursions.

I picked the Aviator Travel Backpack because it’s not a camera backpack; the large open space allows me to configure it exactly as I want, and remains flexible while on the road. I ordered the Medium Snoop Insert, a padded messenger bag insert that fills up most of the interior of the Aviator when full – and I pack it full. I took this combo out into the field on a 6-week assignment in South America.

Here’s what I packed into the Snoop:

Nikon D800

Nikon AW1 w/ lens

14mm f/2.8 lens

24-70mm f/2.8 lens

80-200mm f/2.8 lens

50mm f/1.8 lens

85mm f/1.4 lens

SB800 flash

3 1TB My Passport hard drives

wall charges for both cameras

headphones

USB Cables

laptop cords

memory cards

mini air blower

lens pen cleaning brush

The Snoop holds EVERYTHING listed above, and slots comfortably into the main compartment of the Aviator. I still have space to fit my GoPro case, HoldFast Money Maker and HoldFast Ruckstrap straps in alongside the Snoop, and extra room for a pair of pants and a shirt. My travel laptop fits into the padded rear compartment, while the top pouch of the Aviator holds my keys, a book, my passport, travel documents, phone, my Saddleback wallets, and more. I didn’t have to fill my pockets with little bits of equipment, or hold onto any of my electronics; they’re all safely tucked away. I buckled my Manfrotto BeFree tripod to the outside, and was set to go. Is my camera gear easy to get to in this configuration? No, not really. But that’s the point; while in transit, I don’t want anyone to have quick access to my gear. I also don’t want to drag a huge wheelie case, or have to ship everything in padded plastic containers – so this is a fantastic solution for hauling my travel photography kit.

When I arrive at each destination I pull most of the gear out of the bag, and use the Aviator as a day pack; I hiked all over the Atacama in Chile with this bag, and when it’s not loaded too heavy, it’s quite comfortable. I wish there were a slot for a water bottle on the outside, and it’d be nice if the top section were a little easier to access – pulling the zipper all the way around after unbuckling the central section can get tiresome – but otherwise, I really enjoyed traveling with this bag. (NOTE: I solved the waterbottle issue by fixing a carabineer to the top outermost strap, and securing the bottle via the bottom strap). Styling is fantastic – it actually may look nicer than my regular carry-on luggage – and it seems like a rather durable piece of kit. Overall, a fantastic option for hauling my gear from one place to the next, and an excellent choice as a weekend bag if I were going to go without the camera equipment and pack traditionally. Not that this is a likely scenario, mind you, but for the sake of argument, let’s roll with it.

– flash 

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