Traveling Cross-Country with the Peak Design Everyday Backpack

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Last January, I found out I would be heading to CES as part of the B&H team reporting from the show, and since a new travel backpack had been on my wish list for a few months, I figured that would be the time to jump on one. Through much deliberation, I finally settled on the Peak Design Everyday Backpack. The next decision was color and size. I went with the relatively new black option and the smaller 20L, since I figured that would be better to take on airplanes. Another factor in my decision was that I simply needed something for—you guessed it—everyday use.

A key selling point for this bag is that it can compress and expand easily, so you can stuff as much or as little as you want and the overall size and shape of the bag will adjust accordingly. This means that when I’m packing for a week in ’Vegas, I have something large enough and, then, when I’m walking around New York City, it can be quite slim. This is what I love about the MagLatch system, where you quickly and easily expand and close the bag, based on the day’s load. I use this feature heavily and it has never let me down. It also feels very secure, though I will say that, when packed to the brim, the sides of the bag may be slightly exposed to the elements. A huge benefit with all the air travel was that the 20L version does fit under the seat in front of you.

Photographs © Shawn C. Steiner

Speaking of the elements, the bag is made from a Kodra fabric with weatherproof coating. In my experience with a couple of spring downpours through the city, I would say this claim holds up. Occasionally, during the worst of the storms, the bag would display some dampness at the very top, inside around the zippers in the laptop pocket. It was nowhere near deep enough to reach my 15" MacBook Pro, but it is a little concerning if you plan to spend time outdoors.

Many photographers have been drawn to this bag because of the FlexFold system. Basically, you can organize your bag quickly, with dividers, which can be flipped up or down to accommodate various sized gear. Also, the bag is laid out with side-access zippers so you can get to your equipment immediately without needing to completely remove the bag from your back. This system works remarkably well if you don’t store anything in the middle compartment.

Generally, with this system I will place an a7R III with lens attached into the bottom compartment and, depending on the lenses, I can sometimes squeeze a second one in there. Then, depending on what I need for the day, toss extra lenses and accessories like my Zoom F1 in the compartment above it, usually partitioned to hold each set of items. The dividers are very sturdy, so much so that I never worry about things falling through. Above this would be the main expandable compartment, where I toss all my miscellaneous items or clothing that I might need for the day.

My favorite pocket is the one in the laptop compartment. This has turned out to be the perfect place to toss any loose cards or tickets, as well as various cables that I might need while I travel. It is also perfect for sliding a phone into and being on the top of the pack means it grants quick access. My least favorite pockets are the ones on the sides, both inside and outside the bag. Internally, these pockets are only suited to thinner items and, though they are somewhat expandable, I only ever keep a couple of batteries, business cards, and pens in them. On the outside, these pockets are quite tight, enough so that inserting a regular water bottle requires a bit of effort. In addition, if you want to use it for a tripod or light stand, it doesn’t feel super secure and the straps tend to loosen up a bit if you are moving about.

There are a few other complaints I have about the pack. Among the top is that there aren’t any zipper pockets on the outside of the bag for storing things like notebooks or pens. Seems like a fairly obvious feature for a bag. The other is that the straps aren’t quite as comfortable as I would like. They are a bit rigid and, even after a few months of near-daily use, they still haven’t broken in to a satisfactory point. The pack is quite rigid, which makes sense because it keeps my cameras and lenses well protected, but takes a bit away from its “everyday” label; it seems purpose-built for protection.

In the end, I do have to give it to Peak Design for the Everyday Backpack. Even with my personal issues with the bag, it is the best one I have used by far, especially for carrying camera equipment and normal stuff together.

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