Reminder: these are not professional reviews. If you want those, with video and all the other bells and whistles, the web is full of them. The following are my biased opinions—some from trying a bag for two days, some from using one for months. This is not purchasing advice, and if you make an investment decision based on what I wrote, you are on your own 🙂
Intro and Links
I think Peak Design contributed to changing what camera backpacks are more profoundly than most other brands. This is not something I can prove in any way; just a hunch.
Their Kickstarter campaigns for the Everyday Messenger and, later, Everyday Backpack were the first bag Kickstarters to become ultra-popular.
They represented the best promise and, to me, the biggest disappointment.
I'll focus primarily on a few of their backpacks here, but know that I also owned their Everyday Messenger 15" v1, the Everyday Messenger 13" v2, and their Sling 10l.
- Peak Design Everyday Backpack (20l & 30l)
- Peak Design Travel Backpack 30l
- Peak Design Travel Backpack 45l
This is completely unrelated, but I also own their tripod, which is incredibly nice to carry and use. I am only mentioning this to explain that I really like this brand and its products and that everything negative, I'll say, comes out of love for the unfulfilled potential.
What I liked
First and frontmost is the quality of these products.
From the choice of fabrics to the absence of plastic, from the comfort of the articulated straps to the magnetic latches, everything feels thought through with attention and care.
The internal dividers are leagues ahead of other brands' classic velcro pads.
The zippers are great, at least on the v2 versions and the recent new additions.
The Everyday Backpacks have a laptop sleeve that can be adjusted in depth to the size of your laptop, so that big ones fit well, but small ones don't fall at the bottom.
The Travel Backpack is compatible with a set of internal "cubes" to organize cameras and gear or clothes, depending on the needs.
More importantly, Peak Design introduced the lateral access principle, allowing you to get stuff from the bags without removing them completely from your shoulders.
They have handles on the top and sides to grab them easily, and the shoulder strap can get out of the way when carrying them with your hands.
Finally, they exist in 20l and 30l (Everyday) or 30l and 45l (Travel)
Why I don't use them anymore
The team at Peak Design got many great ideas over the years, but unfortunately, no bag offers all the best solutions, and sadly as a consequence, they all fall short for me.
Let's start with the Everyday Backpacks.
The lateral access is a great invention. From the standard position, with the bag on your back, you only need to remove one shoulder strap, then pivot the bag on the other one so that it ends horizontally in front of you.
You can then unzip the side and access anything in your bag. Same thing on the other side. The problem is what happens when you are not carrying your bag. The dividers are like shelves open towards the sides of the bag for lateral access.
Lenses tend to be round.
So whenever your bag stands on its bottom, if you open the sides, lenses fall to the floor. You have access from the top, but as the dividers separate the bag horizontally into multiple compartments, the top flap only gives you access to the top section.
One solution is to never open the sides unless the bag is horizontal, but while that works well with it hanging from one shoulder, it's not practical when you want to open it while on the ground. First, the sides also have external pockets for water bottles or tripods, which you may not want to scratch on the floor. Second, only the bottom of the bag has thicker protection for uneven or dirty surfaces; you'd ruin your bag quite fast by putting it down on the sides frequently.
The Everyday backpack divider system is great, in theory, but the gear is not snug enough and moves around way too much.
What about the Travel Bags?
The 45l version solves the problem by offering lateral access to an organizing cube where your gear is very well protected.
Frankly, the Travel Backpack 45l only has one problem: it's huge!
It's not the backpack you bring on the plane in addition to your carry-on. It is your carry-on. But it's a backpack, so you can't have a second smaller one. It's a great solution if you carry a lot of gear at all times or if you only need the bag to travel and don't need to carry anything with you each day once at your destination.
I loved it. It would have been perfect if only it had been a bit smaller. This leads us directly to the 30l version of the Travel Backpack. A much more practical size, but they dropped the lateral access on this one. The way it's organized, it's impossible to grab a camera on the go; one has to open the bag completely from the back.
And the messengers?
They are really lovely, and the v2 solves all the little quirks the first iteration had. Obviously, Peak Design listens to customers. The thing is, Messenger bags are not great for intensive usage unless you love back pain.
Peak knows that, which is, I am sure, the reason why the v2 dropped the larger model and only kept the small one. It's a great bag if you have a small laptop, but I work on a 16" MacBook Pro, so that's not for me.
The overall quality is the same as the backpacks, very high. This is a bag I could use if I didn't have to carry the laptop.
I am waiting for the next iteration!
A Travel Backpack 30l with lateral access?
An Everyday Backpack 20l or 30l with a different internal organization system?
I don't know, but if Peak makes a backpack between 20l and 30l that offers lateral access but where stuff doesn't fall out when it's standing on the ground, I'll buy it instantly.
For now, I sold mine, and I keep looking.