I’m always on the lookout for better ways to carry my camera gear while riding. Over the last few years I’ve accumulated a number of camera packs, but have yet to find that perfect one pack solution. At this point, I’m convinced there is none; instead I’ve narrowed it down to two or three. My current go-to pack for my every day carry is the new Venture 30 from Clik Elite.
Many packs are designed to carry a ton of gear with enough slots to merchandise a small camera store. While some of them do that very well, (my F-Stop Tilopa and Dakine Sequence do a very good job of this and are great for traveling with a laptop) good luck carrying non-camera related gear and supplies you’ll need to make it through the day without an assistant and a second bag. There’s also the issue of fatigue, and back issues that can develop over time. Although it isn’t always something talked about, it is a very real consideration as a photographer. These days I carry a camera with me daily, and total weight of the gear is a major consideration to how I pack my bag and what I carry.
This is especially true now I’ve joined that group of folks with back issues- thanks to a car accident last year, I now make regular visits to a chiropractor. It turns out she treats a lot of photographers and I’m not alone in this. To minimize further aggravation, my pack-light philosophy is even more on my mind when it comes to carrying camera gear, and I carry as little as possible to get the job done. (if I needed to carry more I’d look into a hardcase with rollers or hire an assistant)
Last year I invested in the Clik Elite Compact Sport pack as the solution to carrying a camera out on the trail. (you can read my review of it here) Overall I thought it was a well constructed pack, but lacked cycling specific features, and outside of trail riding doesn’t hold enough to use on a regular basis.
Needing a bit more cargo capacity, I added a Lowepro PhotoSport to the collection next. The PhotoSport is lightweight, and has a surprising amount of cargo capacity while being a great solution to carrying an minimal setup. It was rotated into my everyday carry immediately, and I was enamored with its minimal heft. It has plenty of lash points for helmets, pads, tripods or light stands, and seemed to be the perfect pack for when a minimal amount of camera gear was required. However, that was until I stuck a hydration bladder in it and decided to bring it with me on a trail ride. With the additional weight of the water, a spare tube, a few tools and the camera, the lightweight construction no longer mattered, as it wasn’t a factor any more. In addition, the side load of the camera made it carry the weight poorly. The hip belt didn’t do a adequate job transferring the weight to my legs and hips, and I couldn’t get the weight of the camera low enough. The weight instead went to my middle back and the day ended with me lying on the floor resting my back at home. (damn I’m getting old)
The Venture 30
When Clik Elite reached out and asked if I was interested in trying out their new Venture 30 camera pack, my response was a resounding “hell yes.”
This is a rather large intro into why the Venture 30 is now my preferred pack, but if you have similar issues, these are real issues to consider when choosing the right equipment to carry the load.
I knew from my previous experience that Clik Elite had nailed it when it came to making a pack that carried weight well. My main complaints with the Compact Sport was a lack of capacity. I also thought the padded camera area was a bit of a pain to access in a hurry- especially on the side of a trail when you just want to snap off a quick shot. The Venture 30 has all the positive aspects I liked with the Compact Sport, with additional features, and none of the drawbacks.
The centered access on the Venture 30 makes accessing gear quick and the zippers open and close easily. Because the gear is accessed from the middle there are side pockets that can be evenly loaded to balance things out. You can carry water bottles, a u-lock, tripods or light stands in the side pockets easily and use the compression straps to cinch it all down. The main compartment can accommodate an SLR (including pro bodies) with a lens mounted, a speed light, a pair of pocket wizards, (which I carry regularly) plus a spare lens. (see the 24-70L in the photo above) I carried this pack all over Sea Otter a few weeks ago, and ended up carrying a 70-200 lens in the top compartment to shoot the DH, using a lens wrap from Clik Elite to protect it. Unlike my Dakine pack or F-Stop, it never felt like a huge pack.
Besides the side pockets that can accomodate tripods or lightstands, (and umbrellas) there are options for a short and long tripod carry in the center. (see photo above) The downside is that you’ll need to pull everything out to access the main compartment. However, I’m able to pull the stand or tripod out quickly and don’t find it as annoying as I thought I would. With the side pockets, I’m not locked into using the middle slot, and it is nice to have the load centered on your back.
Carrying the load
The weight of the camera is set at the bottom, and because of this, the pack carries weight very well. Although the pack looks very tall compared to the others, it hasn’t proved to be an issue, as I rarely pack it completely full. I like to carry a sketchbook or magazine with me, and while the edges of the magazine get a bit squished due to the rounded top, it will fit in the compartment. If you need to carry a laptop, you’re looking at the wrong pack— there’s no way it would fit. The top compartment isn’t quite deep enough, and while there is a slot for a hydration bladder, (I’ve been carrying a fold up softbox in the slot) the entire pack is a bit narrower than most all in one packs. Because it this, it feels a lot better to me while riding and does feel smaller. I don’t like the feel of the pack with a full bladder, (I’ve been running a water bottle on my bike to disperse the weight and take it off my back) but I like that it’s an option.
Like the Compact Sport, the waist belt transfers the weight of the pack to your hips well, and with everything cinched down tightly, the pack carries the load without sloshing around. Having learned from past lessons, I carry as little as possible, and with a minimal amount of stuff in the top compartment, the Venture 30 doesn’t feel that much bigger than the Compact Sport.
My biggest complaints with the Compact Sport was the asymmetrical design, lack of straps for carrying MTB related stuff like knee pads, and almost useless side pockets. The Venture 30 doesn’t have the the issues I had with the smaller pack. Although it isn’t purposely designed for shooting mountain biking, the centered photo compartment and the addition of the three compression straps, make it a lot more useful for shooting trail riding and riding there. (There are plenty of useful pockets on the bag for carrying smaller items like batteries, memory cards, business cards and the like.)
In the end though, what I like the most about this pack is the size- it is a bit larger than a minimal trail riding camera pack, so I have a bit of space to bring stuff if needed. With additional lens wraps (provided by Clik Elite for this review) you can carry additional lenses and speed lights in the top compartment, as well as spare clothing or whatever else you’ll need during the course of the day. You can also remove the interior divider to customize the inside of the bag further if needed, although most of the time I use it to carry memory cards, sunglasses, a sketchbook and lunch. (Although the hydration bag slot is designed to avoid having your water leak onto your camera, the main compartment is not, and the downside to carrying any type of food is it could potentially leak down to your gear.) With the compression straps completely cinched, it feels like a much smaller pack.
For road trips I still cart around a lot of stuff. A pack like my F-Stop Tilopa is the default pack for carrying my laptop, chargers, flashes, cords, light modifiers and the other miscellaneous gear needed to process and publish photos on the road. It gets packed deep in the car and comes out during the down time, while my walk around setup is in the Venture 30. Although I sometimes wish it featured a roll top for a just a bit more capacity, (I also am a fan of that particular aesthetic) this is a straight up functional bag that gets the job done, is durable, and is a great choice for anyone with similar needs in a camera pack.
- Padded camera bay with adjustable Cradle Lens Dividers holds pro-body camera and multiple lenses
- Tip-out tripod sling carries any size tripod centered on pack
- Side pockets carry water bottles or tripod under side compression strap
- Hydration compartment fits a 3 liter (100oz.) bladder (or fold up softbox nicely)
- Taylor Fit adjustable harness system fine-tunes pack fit with variable height, width and angle of shoulder straps for a perfect fit
- Contour waist belt with bi-directional buckle comfortably cradles hips
- Durable construction
- Stretch-mesh front stash pocket for quick access items (easily accommodates my G-form Pads and a wind breaker)
- Zippered top pocket organizes camera accessories and personal items
- Side pockets for water bottles and other items, will also side-carry light stands or a tripod when used with side compression strap
- Tuck-away rain fly (haven’t had to use it yet, but if it works like my Compact Sport it’ll do the job just fine)
The Venture 30 lists for $245.00. Check it out: Clik Elite Venture 30