February 26, 2020
Finding a replacement bag for your gear is both exciting and frustrating. There are countless boxes to be checked and high hopes of finding a product that will meet every one.
I recently underwent the journey myself, and emerged on the other side of countless hours and in-depth searches with the WANDRD PRVKE 21L. Perhaps I can save you some time.
The main competition in the current photo-bag industry was the Peak Design Everyday Backpack. I have used some of their other products to much success, and had nearly pulled the trigger on that product, until I was swayed towards WANDRD. Below I’ll outline the things I LIKE most about the bag, things I DISLIKE, and the reason I went with the PRVKE (with photographer bundle, on sale for $220 at the holidays) in the end. The video above goes into greater depth on all parts, but here’s the bulleted reasoning.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE WANDRD PRVKE 21L
Perhaps this goes without saying, but this pack can hold alot. In the video I tell of a recent trip to New York for work, where I put the pack through a fair test of serious travel by plane and train. I fit my laptop, external drive, charger, 2 camera bodies, 5 lenses, some adapters and writing utensils, with plenty of room to spare. At the end of the day, this should be able to hold what you need it to - but get the 31L size if you will be storing larger camera bodies or DSLRs. I currently use Fuji X mirrorless bodies, so the 21L was just right.
Prior to this pack, I was using the InCase DSLR Pro Pack. It was a wonderful bag that I used for almost 10 years, but it was becoming warn, was too loose for smaller mirrorless gear, and in terms of comfort, a full bag was painful. The WANDRD is noticeable different. It has very ergonimic straps, an optional detachable hip support, thick back padding, and a taut material that keeps everything small and close to your back.
I walked New York for a couple days with almost 20lbs on my back, and came away in much better shape than I would have with my old pack. I’ll also emphasize now: THIS IS WHY I DIDN’T GET THE PEAK DESIGN. I had read and watched many reviews, and continiued to see a glaring flaw with a large number of them: the bag wasn’t comfortable when worn for extended periods of time. I like the Peak Design ethos, their attention to detail, and many of their design choices. However, an uncomfortable pack would render all of these qualities useless in my own usage.
I’ll touch only minority on something so subjective - but I thing this bag is pretty sharp looking. It avoids the “turtle” look of a lot of camera bags. The black color I got is relatively unassuming and could easily pass as something other than a gear bag - which might very well be the case. The inner divider system makes this possible. See below!
This is perhaps the biggest reason to get this pack over the others - it’s a bit like a chameleon. It can hold a lot of gear in the camera cube system, it can add or gain hip support, has an expandable side pocket, and the roll top can easily hold an additions 5-10 liters of stuff if needed. Or you can have none of those things, and walk away with a simple, well-designed, everyday backpack with uses far beyond photography.
I saw this as a major advantage to the peak design options as well. Those bags might very well operate better for pure photography purposes, but I was looking for something more malleable. If that’s not you - that’s great! We have many amazing companies making wonderfully different products to meet many different needs!
Lastly, the build of the WANDRD PRVKE is substantial. There is heavy use of thick nylon and durable plastic fabric. Every zipper is well gusseted and has a protective top end to keep liquid out at the closure. This pack on its own is more that weather resistant (I walked for some time in the usual blizzard here in MN - everything was dry inside). And if the basic weather - resistant additions aren’t enough, there’s a bottom storage for a rain cover (comes with the photographer bundle). I’m not worried whatsoever about this pack holding up to the everyday beating that photographers can give their gear (of course, mileage may vary).
WHAT I DISLIKED ABOUT THE WANRED PRVKE 21L
While I like the option to carry the bag this way, I find the combination of the tote handles with the roll top presents some difficulty. As you might imagine, if you fill the roll-top portion at all, it becomes very difficult for the top handles to clasp (via the also relatively weak magnets), leaving you with two handles hanging down. One is an aesthetic eyesore on the back, and one is a physical annoyance as it hangs on your neck. I don’t fill the roll-top full all that often, so this hasn’t been much of an issue, but I think it could use a redesign to address it.
CAMERA ACCESS PANEL
Having side access to a camera was a large reason for getting a new bag. While my X-Pro2 fit with relative ease, anything larger would fit a little too snug. I believe there is space to expand that entry point, as well as perhaps add one to the other side. There not a super easy way to access lenses without a second side access point. I know this would complicate the side expandable pocket, but it’s worth considering.
CAMERA CUBE PADDING
I’m spoiled by Pelican. If you’ve used any of their new cases, they have a new iteration of customizable padding that allows for protection, as well as extremely efficient use of space. The padding in the PRVKE 21L is not that. In fact, I would say that as far as padding goes, this padding is fairly inefficient. Again, it functions well-enough, but knowing there are better options out there, I’m a little disappointed in the padding WANDRD chooses to use. Perhaps in the future I’ll find a different padding to use in place of what’s currently there.
So - all said and done, I’m very pleased with the WANDRD PRVKE pack. While it has few pitfalls, what it offers is far more beneficial, and helps it to stand out amongst the competition. If you are looking for a versatile pack that is comfortable and unassuming. If you’re looking for a bag solely dedicated to photography gear, take a look at some of the offerings form Peak Designs - perhaps you’ll find something better suited to your needs.