We just got a brand new ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive photo backpack and thought I’d do a short review on it. I’ve yet to use it on any long hikes as we just got it this week and I’ve spent the last few days learning where all the pockets, accessories and features are on it, but that extended review will come in time as we log more miles with the pack. I’ve also loaded it and unloaded it multiple times to see how many different ways I can pack the gear and feel confident this bag will get a ton of use.
A Little Intro about the ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive:
Taken from the ThinkTank Website: Mission Statement: “We are a group of designers and professional photographers focused on studying how photographers work, and developing inventive new carrying solutions to meet their needs. By focusing on “speed” and “accessibility,” we prepare photographers to Be Ready “Before The Moment,” allowing them to capture those historic moments that reflect their personal visions and artistic talents. For some companies, it is only about the product. For us, it is more: It is about supporting photographers doing their job. If we can design products that help photographers travel easier, take pictures faster, and organize their gear more efficiently, then we will have accomplished something beyond the bags themselves."
The Streetwalker HardDrive is designed for use in urban and crowded environments, this slim, lightweight backpack also holds a 15” laptop, as well as a Pro-size DSLR and a 70-200 2.8 with hood attached in the shooting position. This bag will also hold one of the big primes like a 300f/2.8 or the 400f/2.8 (with hood reversed), but still allows a pro sized body to be attached.
Why I bought this bag: My wife Cindy and I already own a Tamrac CyberPack 6 which is a large backpack that will hold almost all our gear while traveling or hiking and still allow us to bring a laptop if we need that option. Its carry-on legal and has treated us well over the last few years.
I like that backpack a lot, but there are tons of things I don’t like about it so I wanted to try one of ThinkTank’s products to compare. I’ve read rave reviews from working professional photographers, and when you read the companies Mission Statement, it says a lot about the beliefs we look for and like to support when buying new products.
I had also asked for suggestions on one of the photography forums I frequent on which bag to buy to lug the 400mm lens around. Numerous people replied back with the ThinkTank GlassTaxi but when looking over their website, I noticed they were advertising a brand new bag they’d just released that had all the features the GlassTaxi did plus a host more.
The main reason we purchased this bag was to carry the new Canon 400f/2.8 lens we recently bought. That lens comes with its own aluminum carrying case, but that’s useless to actually hike with the hefty 11lb lens, so we started looking for carrying options that make it more comfortable to bring along on hikes.
We wanted something that would allow us to carry the lens with a body attached figuring one of us would be wearing the backpack while hiking, and if we needed quick access to the camera/lens combo, all we would need to do is walk up to the back of whom ever is wearing the backpack, unzip and be ready to shoot. We figure the more accessible the camera/lens combo is, and the more comfortable it is to bring along, the more we’ll use it.
I would have loved to have a bag that would allow the hood to be in the shooting position, but once we started thinking about it, that would make the pack so long, we thought it would be uncomfortable to hike with.
Best part about this bag was its price. To find a product from such a well respected company and have the cost be under the $200 mark was like finding money in an old jacket pocket. The bag retails for $179 and compared to similar long lens bags, we’re talking a few hundred dollars in savings. The Streetwalker HardDrive also has more pockets and accessories than many of the competing long lens bags and will allow me to carry one of our laptops if we are traveling overnight or just need it along for that days photo shoot.
Another reason we chose this ThinkTank bag besides being able to carry the big 400mm was if we were leaving that lens at home, the bag can be restructured unlimited ways to carry almost any or all of our camera gear.
Last reason we chose the ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive (As if you cant already tell it’s a great bag) is it doesn’t look like a camera bag. If you don’t have the tripod carrying attachment out with a tripod on the outside of the backpack, most people would think I’m just some guy with a standard bag on my back. The solid black color and streamlined design will go unnoticed anywhere except a camera show. Most photographers would see the ThinkTank logo and know right away I’m loaded down with camera gear.
The Bag Itself: Waiting for the bag to arrive was agonizing and when I saw the UPS truck pull up, the guy probably thought I was a tad crazy when I ran out the door to meet him in the driveway.
I was surprised by the sturdiness and solid feel of the bag as soon as I pulled it out of the box. The Streetwalker HardDrive looks like it’s built to last and the construction of the backpack is some of the best I’ve ever seen.
You can tell ThinkTank bags are designed by photographers because of all the little hidden features I keep finding when looking over the bag for the first time. Cindy was teasing me because I kept getting more and more excited every time I’d find a new feature or hidden pocket.
We own bags from Canon, Lowepro and Tamrac and all have a few cool features that make them unique. The ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive has every feature the competing brands have plus about 10 more.
I love the fold up rain cover incase you get caught in an unexpected downpour on a hike. The clear Business Card holder at the top will keep your bag personal and let others know whose bag it is at a glance. Plus it stretches a bit so I can throw 20 cards in there to have them available and within reach without having to dig through the bag.
I haven’t had a chance to use the bag other than loading it up and adjusting it on my body, but the heavily padded shoulder straps, cushioned back with lumbar pad along with the air channel all make this backpack feel like you could wear this sucker all day long and not get fatigued with a heavy load.
The shoulder harnesses have D-Rings to add camera straps and pockets to keep extra compact flash cards handy or keep the cell phone close without needing an extra holder to add weight to the pack. The lockable zippers look like they’ll outlast the entire bag and pull smoothly throughout their length.
The waist belt nicely tucks away for those times you’re using the backpack as carry-on luggage and dont want to have straps or buckles being caught in overhead bins or taxi doors. ThinkTank also makes a belt system that has unlimited quickdraw pouches to keep lenses and accessories accessible at a moments notice. The back lumbar pad flips open to allow their belt system to fit perfectly with the backpack.
The tripod holder folds away nicely for those times you’re not lugging the extra support around with you and is probably one of the coolest of all the features. But that’s hard to judge because they’re all so neat and well thought out.
Little items like this are what makes the ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive such an Exceptional Backpack
It’s a toss up on which is my favorite feature? The tripod holder, the air channel on the back or the adjustable sternum strap so men like me with a wimpy chest can have it adjusted to fit properly, or women with well developed dairy pillows can adjust the strap to their liking.
In Use: Setting the Streetwalker HardDrive up could take hours if you’re like me and like to try various options. I counted 11 dividers not including the two large main dividers that run the length of the pack. This bag is truly a work of art and all the useful features and extremely good build quality truly makes this bag a joy to use.
I’m thinking the bag can hold so much of my gear, that I could easily overload it and make it uncomfortable to carry for long periods. I’ll have to remember that and not bring everything just because I can.
It is good to know that if we’re going on a trip that we do need to bring everything including the laptop, we could load up the Streetwalker HardDrive and at least use it to transport all the gear till we reach our destination. Once there, we could just unload what isn’t needed per day and know we have the option to bring it all with us.
For us, we shoot 90% of the time from the truck. This bag will be perfect to keep loaded up with the 400mm, a few accessories and be ready to go at a moments notice. We’ve missed a few shots already having to unpack the lens from the Canon aluminum case and get it set up. Knowing its in the bag, ready to shoot and all we need to do is grab the ThinkTank and go, it’s like having insurance knowing you wont miss those once in a lifetime shots.
I’ll have more to report after we take this backpack on a few long hikes and I finally figure out how I want it set up. I’ve already packed and repacked it numerous times to the point Cindy is starting to wonder if I’ve got some OCD with packing camera gear in a bag.
Conclusion: I’m really kicking myself for not finding ThinkTank and their amazingly designed products earlier. I’ve already added a few more of their products to the wish list and know I’ll be using them more in the future.
I cant wait to try the Streetwalker HardDrive on a long hike to see how it compares to our other backpacks. I know the Tamrac is great to carry the gear to and from a shoot, but spending the day with it on your back makes for a rough night sleeping.
Just wearing the ThinkTank around fitting it feels like a world of difference. If you’re in the market for a new backpack, and want one that can bring it all with you, the Streetwalker should be on the top of your list. ThinkTank also makes 3 different sizes of the Streetwalker depending how much gear you have or think you’ll be carrying with you.
I promise to report back after I’ve used the bag for a few months to see if I’m still glowing as much as I am now. Also, if you're in the market for a new camera bag, click this link and enter Promo Code = AP-329 If you purchase any products over $50, they'll throw in a free camera bag.