Let’s get one thing clear from the start: There is no such thing as the Perfect Photographer’s Backpack. Ask any photographer and chances are they’ll tell you how much they love their current bag “..BUT” meaning there are things that could be better. Searching for a perfect photo backpack is like the search for the Holy Grail. It’s never ending.
After being frustrated for a long time trying to score a used FStop Gear backpack with no success I went ahead and pulled the trigger on a ClikElite Pro Express backpack about a year ago and recently added a ClikElite Telephoto chest pack. The fit and finish on both bags is excellent. The zippers have solid easy to grab pulls and function properly. The shoulder harness is adjustable and has an appropriate number of tabs and loops for attaching more gear. The mesh pockets on the sides of the Pro Express are great for water bottles or to strap a tripod on the side of the bag. Generally speaking it’s a great bag for me…not to large, which forces me to pare down my gear and not get loaded up with stuff I’ll never use. The chest pack is deep enough to more than adequately fit my 40D with a 70-200mm attached. Now for the real story:
What I like: The pack is just the right size for me. It’s big enough to hold all m gear without a lot of unnecessary junk that just adds weight. The hip belt is large and sturdy. And I really like the “lens cradle” inserts that ClikElite supplies. I would suggest that everyone take a look at maybe replacing your flat inserts with these. I also like that the chest pack buckles directly into clips on the Pro Express but it also comes with a really solid harness if you want to carry it by itself.
What I don’t like: The top pocket on the Pro Express has the zipper at a very odd angle and no tabs to hold onto making it tough to zip closed or open. Mostly, though, when the chest pack is attached I can’t see my feet. Most of the time this isn’t a problem but on uneven or rocky trails I like to see where I’m putting my feet since I’m the King of rolled ankles. I can loosen the straps and push it a little out of my line of sight but it’s a bit of a pain. The biggest issue was that the buckles on the chest pack seemed to be incompatible with the buckles on the Pro Express. A quick e-mail to ClikElite informed me that they changed buckles in 2011 and my older backpack had different buckles than the brand new chest pack. They do have a retrofit kit for the chest pack allowing me to use the chest pack with my Pro Express and they shipped me the kit at no charge. Excellent customer service.
All in all, while there is no perfect photo backpack, this one works well for me. The jury is still out on the chest pack but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to adapt to that one too. I’d recommend this pack to anyone.