This bag is simply called Udee, and the simplicity carries through the entire design and delivers a fine bag that will be very good for many photographers.
It Looks Good
The outer appearance of the Udee is pretty good. It’s minimal and the fabric is very nice. Everyone who sees it asks me if it’s a Peak Design bag: it has a similar kind of fabric and the slim design is reminiscent. The bottom of the bag is a little blunt, but overall it’s a good looking bag. The gray fabric is highlighted with the orange grab handle and one orange zipper.
A bag must carry and protect its cargo, and this one does a surprisingly good job. The fabric has a durable water repellant finish, and the main compartment has a waterproof YKK zipper. Strangely, the laptop compartment zipper is not waterproof, so it’s kind of wasted to have one on the main compartment since you still can’t use it in weather or have protection from spills on the bus. All the exterior zippers are YKK, which is the best name in zippers. However, I find them a little undersized for the main zippers on a backpack–it looks like they’ve used size 5, but size 8 would be a little better. A bigger zipper would move more smoothly over the curves, but it’s not a big ding against the bag by any means.
The outer fabric is tough and has a nice stiff body, and the bag stands up really well without leaning against anything. There’s adequate padding in the lower compartment, and the laptop section is well protected. The grab handle is covered with orange neoprene and is very comfortable to carry when the bag is heavily loaded. The seams are all taped, which makes them stronger, and the straps are secured with bar tacks and other patterns that carry weight well.
There are slots for a large laptop–15″ machines fit easily, and I suspect a 17″ might even fit–as well as another tablet, plus a sleeve for other folios. The only improvement I’d like here is to have the laptop pocket suspended off the base of the bag an inch or two to protect it when setting the bag down, but it’s a standard design as is.
My favorite aspect of this bag is that it rides so comfortably on my back. The padding on the back is placed well and very thick so that air can flow. The padding in the shoulder straps is memory foam and it is remarkably effective. This pack lacks a hip belt, which was a big strike against it when I first picked it up. A hip belt is typically essential for taking the load off shoulders, and I always use it. On the Udee, though, I haven’t missed it one bit. between the back pads and the memory foam shoulder straps, this is the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever worn, and it makes carrying a camera, laptop and stuff very easy. The comfort alone allows me to recommend this pack.
I’ve owned many backpacks and most are laid out with similar pockets and slots. Udee has a few things different. One thing is a padded divider in the main section that is made to wrap around something. I’ve been putting my camera in it, but I’d be interested to know what the designer had in mind. As it happens, it’s a cozy way to carry a DJI Mavic Pro drone. The side pockets are perfect for extra batteries and propellers, and it doesn’t look like a drone-specific backpack, which I like. I did try to fit aDJI Phantom 4 and a Phantom 3 inside, but they are a little too tall with the landing skids.
At first, I thought the main compartment and the laptop section zippers were too close together. If you park them next to each other it’s kinda hard to get into the correct compartment. However, this close proximity allows them to be secured with the integrated combination lock and cable. If you’ve ever been in a busy urban market, like Times Square or Hong Kong, the police advise everyone to wear their backpacks on their front so it’s harder for thieves to get into them. This integrated lock helps with this, too, and the cable is long enough to lock the bag to something stationary. I wouldn’t leave it for a long time somewhere, but it’s probably enough to allow you a bathroom break at the coffee shop without taking your bag with you. For that matter, it’s a good idea to lock your bag to a table or chair even when you’re sitting with your bag at the coffee shop.
There are two small pockets that sit against your back that should also be very safe and are sized well for a wallet or passport. There’s also a slot to sit atop the handle of your rolling luggage, which is a big plus for me. Curiously, there’s a USB-A port that connects from the inside of the bag to the outside. I suppose it’s so you can leave a battery pack (sold separately) in the bag and run a cord to your device from the outside of the bag. If I was a commuter or using this bag at coffee shops, that might be a useful feature.
The last cool feature is the integrated LED lights in the shoulder straps. A fiber optic cover allows red light to glow all the way up and down the straps, and it’s got two blinking patterns or constantly on. It really makes you more visible to traffic at nighttime, and the reflective stripes on the back should help with visibility from the rear. I expect I’ll be using it in light painting pictures, too.
The only real gripe I have about this bag is that the bottom compartment is hard to access. It’s the ideal size for carrying a camera–even a large DSLR and a few lenses would fit comfortably, and my mirrorless kit fits with a bunch of lenses and a flash, and it has the traditional customizable section dividers. But the straight zipper doesn’t open wide enough to grant easy access. It feels like you’re stuffing the camera in every time. It opens wider without a laptop keeping the back of the bag stiff, but it’s still not as easy as most bags to get the camera in and out. The divider between the main upper compartment and the lower can be opened, and that would allow access, but I don’t want to dig under other stuff to get to my camera. Maybe this a security feature, too–deterring theft by making it too hard to get stuff out 😉 It’s not horrible, but it’s different from most camera bags this way.
It would be ideal if the camera dividers could be placed in the upper half, leaving the lower half for stuffable things, like jackets and scarves, or even an outfit for an overnight trip–it’s really quite spacious. As it is, this bag isn’t ideal for walking and shooting out of, though it does transport gear well.
Should You Buy Udee?
I’m surprised to say it, but I think this is a good bag and a good buy. It lacks a hip belt, and the camera compartment is hard to access, but it rides so well on my back and looks good enough that I’m happy to overlook those dings. I think anyone carrying a laptop around would like this bag, and it may be a good solution for drone pilots. It’s ideal for students, and photographers will be pleased with it, too. I like it well enough that I’ll continue using it daily, even with my camera in the inconvenient pouch.
Udee is funding on Indigogo right now and will be shipping shortly. For $119, I’d buy the model with the LED’s in the straps and I think it’s a good deal, though it won’t last long because their date is almost up. Here’s the promo video from Indigogo:
Levi is honored to be an ambassador for Vanguard tripods and bags and Spider Holster carry systems.