Historically, photography backpacks have been aimed at people going on safaris and the packs have looked like they’re built to withstand tramplings by elephants and baggage handlers. WANDRD, a Utah-based company, seeks to make useful packs that look good, too.
I’ve been using the DUO Daypack for some time and can attest that it’s a well-made tool that is surprisingly functional without looking like military surplus.
From the outside, the DUO looks quite slim and compact. I thought, “Sure, that’d be fine for my compact Lumix setup,” but I doubted any DSLR user would be interested. It just looks too compact for a full-frame camera.
But I was wrong. Both small systems and large full-frame systems fit equally well. Sure, I can fit more micro four-thirds gear in it, but not usefully so. A Canon 5D Mark IV, a 70-200mm lens, 24-70mm lens and a 16-35mm lens, plus a speedlight and accessories all fit without issue. Yes, I could put a few more lenses from my Lumix kit in it, too, but now we’re entering the safari bag territory, and this pack isn’t for that. It’s for carrying the stuff you’re going to use today — not everything in your closet.
A 15″ MacBook Pro and tablet plus other small stuff also fits. There are little pockets everywhere and ingenuity sewn into every corner.
The DUO is also built really well. The material is all rubberized, waterproof nylon. The zippers are weather-resistant YKK zippers, so this bag is ready for a rainy day without a rain cover. The nylon is also durable and wear-resistant. You can see that my pack is a bit dirty, but those scuffs wipe off easily and you don’t have to worry about what you might have set it in on the floor at the coffee shop.
The seems are all taped for durability and the straps are also well-made. The grab handles are soft seatbelt-style webbing with foam inserts so the handles are comfortable in your hand.
If you are the kind of person who walks in and drops your bag on the floor, this may not be the bag for you. It is made to carry and use gear, but it won’t protect your stuff from airline baggage handlers. Everything is padded, and it has thin, rigid pads to keep lenses separate, not the thick flimsy kind from older packs. It is more than enough to keep your gear safe as long as you treat it like expensive gear and not a soccer ball.
A pack like this can’t be big enough and tough enough unless it has innovative features. The entire pack opens flat, which makes it easy to organize. The side flaps have useful storage, and the elastic cords at the tops are perfect for keeping your cords organized. The zippers have pulls at the top and at the bottom. This way, you can open it like a traditional backpack or like a sling pack, opening from the bottom to access the sides.
The side opens to reveal the Pop Camera Cube. It folds flat if you don’t want it, but it pops up to separate the main compartment with a padded camera area. This cube fits a full-frame camera, like a Canon 5D Mark IV with a 70-200mm lens attached. I’ve carried it a lot with the 70-200mm in the cube. Combined with the side-opening zippers, it’s a convenient way to carry and use your camera.
The DUO also has a hidden pocket for your passport and cash. It’s got a pass-though that goes over a luggage handle. There are anchor points for accessory straps (sold separately) on the outside and bottom. The lens pockets inside all have elastic expansion so they are flat when not used.
Without all these innovative features, the DUO Daypack wouldn’t be able to manage all the camera tools you use all the time.
There are just two things I would like to see improved on this pack. First, it’s got an adjustable sternum strap, which I love to have. It keeps the shoulder straps from sliding off. Other packs I’ve owned have lost the adjustable sternum strap when it falls off its rail. This strap is designed so that won’t happen: It has a barbed anchor that fits in sewn slots. This design is really cool and secure. But, it’s sewn just a little too tightly — I can’t get the barbs out to move the strap to a different position. Maybe it’ll break it, but I think the slots need an extra millimeter.
My only other gripe is that the removable hip belt is not included. When I carry gear, I usually end up carrying it a lot, and a hip belt relieves the weight from my shoulders. It’s cool that it’s removable so that it’s not dangling when you’re just going to the cafe, but I personally use it a lot. Having said that, the DUO is remarkably comfortable to carry without a hip belt. It rides high on my back and the straps are formed to fit and carry without digging into my shoulders.
Enough for you?
WANDRD is based in Utah and manufactured in Vietnam. They have a terrific video on their site showing the factory and the people who work there. I like that they are unashamed of where their packs are manufactured.
WANDRD also tries to be of service to the community. For instance, last week they donated 100% of their profits to foundations for social change. I’ve been using the DUO Daypack for a couple of months. I’ve found only two small things I don’t like about it.
Is this pack for you? Well, do you carry a camera and a laptop? Do you need to use a pack while shooting and have easy access to change lenses? Do you travel with your tools? Do you sometimes find yourself standing in the rain? Do you like a pack that does its job without extra weight and bulk?
I think most photographers would enjoy this pack. It’s big enough to carry everything you need and it’s tough enough to keep it protected during all your travels. Its smart features make it work well without the bulk of other packs and it looks like something made for the 21st century.