Mindshift Backlight Review

Mindshift Backlight 26L

As an adventure photographer who’s often out in the wilderness, I’ve never really found the perfect camera backpack. In fact, I’m often disappointed in the bags I’ve tried out so far. If I had to guess, I’d say that most don’t really seem designed by hikers.

Enter the Mindshift Gear Backlight 26L Outdoor Adventure Camera Backpack. It’s not particularly light, but it is built to be a hiking backpack.

From the materials to the ergonomics and pocket design, everything on the Backlight has been clearly designed with the serious back-country photographer in mind.

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I’ve had it for about a month now and I can say that it’s quickly become my new favorite hiking backpack for medium-length hikes.

Is it the right pack for you? Let’s take a look at the nitty gritty and find out.

Mindshift Backlight 26L Specs

  • Interior Dimensions:
    10.2” W x 19.3” H x 5.9” D (26 x 49 x 15 cm)
  • Exterior Dimensions:
    11.4” W x 20.3” H x 7.9” D (29 x 51.5 x 20 cm)
  • Laptop:
    10” W x 15.3” H x 1”D (25.5 x 38.8 x 2.5 cm)
  • Tablet:
    9.3” W x 10.2” H x 0.6” D (23.5 x 26 x 1.5 cm)
  • Weight:
    3.9lb (1.8kg)
  • Volume:
    26 Liters

Build & Appearance

Mindshift Backlight 26L Build and Appearence

The Mindshift Backlight 26L is a medium-sized backpack – neither particularly big nor particularly small. On the left you see it on someone 5’10”. On the right, on someone 5’4″.

The Mindshift Backlight 26L is incredibly well-built. Every bit of it feels solid. From the zipper pulls to the interior pockets, everything feels pretty much bombproof.

In fact, everything is so sturdy it’s amazing this bag weighs in at less than 4 pounds. That’s still pretty heavy, but I have no doubt this bag will take a beating.

The zipper pulls are large and easy to work with one-handed, the side pockets are deep enough and stretchy enough to hold a Nalgene water bottle, the strap buckles each have a locking mechanism – there’s clearly been a lot of attention to detail on this bag.

As far as looks go, this is probably one of my favorite hiking bags. Not being much of an urban person, I’m partial to hiking backpacks and this one looks great both in build and in color. It’s actually my favorite hiking backpack to date.

The two color options work really well for forest hikes. If you’re hiking in the forest both blend in well and don’t distract people behind me from the view.

For those who want to use it for traveling, the Mindshift Backlight 26L is compact enough to fit under airline seats, yet still carries quite a bit of gear.

Exterior Features

Mindshift Backlight backpadding

The Mindshift Backlight 26L features a rear-access panel that allows you to access your gear without taking the pack off. It also has substantial back and hip padding and feels great on the back regardless of whether the load is light or heavy.

The exterior features on this bag are pretty standard, but all quite well-made. One of the first things I noticed when I put it on, is that the padding in the lumbar area is particularly comfortable.

It didn’t matter how heavy the bag was or how long the hiking, the bag was always comfortable. In fact, everyone I had try it on in the photos above also remarked on this bag’s comfort (once it was fitted right).

As someone is so often disappointed with the lack of attention given to hip belts on most hiking camera backpacks, the Mindshift Backlight is truly a breath of fresh air. The hip belt is solid and really holds the weight well. No skimping there.

The zippers are large with pulls that even gloved hands can manage. This is important in the various climes I hike in.

The fabric is both sturdy and water-resistant, with a double layer of water-repellent coating on the outside and a polyurethane coating on the underside. That’s more than enough to deal with any kind of drizzle or mist.

A rain cover is also included for those of us likely to go out in a rainstorm.

Superior zippers

The zippers are made of high-quality abrasion-resistant materials.

There are two different ways to carry a travel tripod on the Mindshift Backlight 26L.

For center-carry, there’s a pouch that comes out of a pocket on the bottom of the bag and straps that come out of a zippered pouch on top.

Tripod center carry

The Mindshift Backlight 26L has a centered tripod carry system on the front that consists of a pocket at the bottom (that lives hidden away when not in use) and a strap system at the top. My travel tripod, though, seemed a bit short for reaching the top straps. I had to reverse the legs and expand the stem to get it to reach.

While I like the weight distribution of the center-carry method, I couldn’t really get the tripod to be fully secure on this pack.

I also didn’t like the fact that I had to partially open my travel tripod to get it to be tall enough to reach the upper straps.

Tripod carry pocket

The tripod carry pocket lives in a little zippered pocket at the bottom of the pack.

As a result, I went to the side-carry method as shown below. The side pockets are particularly deep and stretchy and my tripod fits easily into them. It’s also easier to fully secure.

Tripod side carry

My travel tripod seems to carry better on the side of this bag rather than the center.

The outside of the pack comes with plenty of straps and gear loops for securing ice axes, trekking poles, and other hiking gear.

Gear access on the Mindshift Backlight 26L is designed so that you never have to take the pack off. Simply loosen the hip belt, take off the sidesteps, and slide the whole pack around.

This makes it easy to not only access your gear, but also provides a secure shelf for changing lenses or filters.

Changing lenses

You don’t have to take the Mindshift Backlight off to reach your gear of change lenses.

All in all, the exterior features are all one could wanting a hiking backpack – easy gear access, a super comfortable build, abrasion/dirt resistance, water-proofing, large side pockets, a tripod carry system, and plenty of attachment points.

Interior Features

Mesh pockets

The interior features on the Mindshift Backlight 26L are also pretty standard: mesh pockets on the front flap, a zippered pocket that holds a 15″ laptop, a tablet, and numerous other odds and ends.

Laptop and tablet sleeves

Storage Capacity

Mindshift Backlight 26L carrying capacity

Despite being a modest 26L, the Backlight can store a surprising amount of camera gear.

Many hiking camera backpacks will give enough room to carry 2-3 camera bodies and a laptop, but next to no room for food, extra layers, or other hiking essentials.

With the Mindshift Backlight 26L, the front pockets are large enough to carry basic day-hike gear – snacks, a light rain jacket, compass, maps, chargers, etc.

All-in-all, there’s basically 9L worth of personal gear space. For me that’s one of the most important reasons to get this bag.

As far as camera gear goes, I don’t carry my laptop on hikes and I’m usually looking to go light (i.e. not carry multiple camera bodies on an ascent up a mountain).

Still, if you’re someone who needs all that gear on an outing, the Backlight can more than accommodate.

In the photo above I over-packed (for me) and there’s still room to spare. In it you’ll find:

For me though, I wish the front pockets were more expandable. just putting a fleece pullover in there stretches it tight. In rainy or snowy weather I might need to take more than one layer with me.

Also, if the front pockets were more elastic (like in the Lowepro Whistler), I could fit my hydration pack in it.

As it is, my main disappointment with this pack is that it’s not hydration compatible. That’s a real bummer for me, as it means that I can’t carry enough water with me on a 10- or 15-mile hike. Instead I’d have to bring a water filter with me (assuming I was crossing creeks).

I also wish that I could access hiking gear pockets while the Mindshift Backlight was still on me without having to turn it around. As it is, since the camera gear area has a lot of extra room for me, that’s where I put the snacks I want to be accessible without taking off the pack.

Still, there’s plenty of room for gear needed on an average hike and the carrying capacity, build quality and functionality of the pack will be more than enough for most hikers.

Ease of Use/Comfort

Mindshift Backlight 26L appearance

It looks a little big on someone who’s 5’4″ with a small frame, but rides comfortably nonetheless.

Using the Mindshift Backlight 26L in the field was a joy. The padded back support and the straps around your waist and chest make trekking with this backpack a no-stress experience.

It fits like a good hiking backpack and the weight distribution is good.

In fact, everyone who tried hiking with it (those of whom are photographed above) was immediately impressed by how good it felt.

Unlike many hiking camera backpacks, Mindshift didn’t skimp on the waist belt. It’s sturdy, comfortable, and easily balances the weight on your hips.

You have to loosen the hip belt considerably to get the pack to swing around to the front and this takes some getting used – at least to do it quickly – but this is a minor issue.

Overall this is one of the most comfortable camera backpacks I’ve taken out in the field.

Value for Money

I think the Mindshift Backlight 26L is a fairly well-priced bag. At around $250 (latest price here) it’s not cheap, but not over-priced either.

The build quality makes it clear that this bag will last a good long while with even the most strenuous of hikers.

ThinkTank/Mindshift have been making high quality, durable bags for many years now and have a great reputation in the industry for products that stand the test of time, and this is no different with the Backlight.

Mindshift BackLight 26 L Review | Conclusion

I’ve come to really like this bag. In fact, if it were hydration compatible it would be my main day-hike bag. As it is, I can only take it on shorter hikes where a water bottle is all I’ll need.

Other than that, this is a stellar camera backpack and well worth a look for anyone who goes off into the back-country.

In fact, I might even make it my primary travel bag as well, as it carries just the right amount of gear.

Likes

  • Extremely Comfortable
  • Plenty of room for non-camera gear
  • Well-built and well-designed
  • Great design
  • Attractive for those who like hiking backpacks

Dislikes

  • Not hydration compatible
  • It’s a bit heavy
shk-fs-table__imageHighly RecommendedAward-winning hiking backpack that's spacious, rugged, and ready for adventure.Get Price

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.

Teryani Riggs is an adventure, travel, and wilderness photographer who loves all things wild and free. Teryani can often be found in the midst of a social/eco-justice campaign, hiking through wild backcountry, or hitchhiking around the world listening to other people’s stories.

Features9
Looks10
Build Quality10
Ease of Use8
Price/Value8
Usefulness9

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