Mindshift FirstLight 30L Backpack Review
In writing this Mindshift FirstLight review I started to wonder: is having too much of a good thing really a problem? I suppose that would depend on the context. Money? No way! Sugar? Definitely! But storage space? Maybe.
There are many bags out there that boast a large storage capacity, but I always think about how much of it can actually be utilised efficiently.
To me, it all depends on the way the interior is laid out, how well the access points are designed, or whether it is even durable enough to be fully loaded and not tear at the seams.
So I ask you, how much is too much storage when it comes to deciding on camera bags? 20L? 30L? 40L?
I guess you could say it depends on a few factors. Such as how much can you physically carry, how much you think you need, and how well will it hold everything.
One brand who appear to feel as though that is a decision best left for you to decide is Mindshift Gear by ThinkTank. Their range of bags usually come in a variety of sizes for those of us who appreciate having the choice.
What you see here is the Mindshift First Light Backpack Series. It is available in the three above-mentioned sizes – 20L, 30L, and 40L.
It’s a line up of camera backpacks for those who like a large open space they can customise as desired, and for whatever use they may require.
The simplistic uncomplicated utilitarian style, large amount of padding, and the open full access main compartment were other factors which lead me to decide on this range.
I chose the 30L version for my Mindshift FirstLight review, as it was the middle of the three. I figured it would be a good way for you to gauge what size you may need, whether it be more or less.
I had pictured that I would use this bag for a weekend away from home, where I could load it up with a change of clothes, my Sony A7iii, laptop, Mavic Pro, and all the other bits and pieces that go with those.
But what I discovered is that I could fit a lot more than just that. Instead, I could pretty much carry everything camera related that I owned – and also attach my tripods on the outside in 3 different ways!
Table of Contents
Mindshift First Light 30L | Specs
Exterior Dimensions (W x H x D): 30.5 x 48.3 x 22 cm (12” x 19” x 8.7” in)
Interior Dimensions (W x H x D): 28.5 x 46 x 18 cm (11.2” x 18.1” x 7.1” in)
Front Pocket: Fits up to 15” laptop
Weight: 2.4kg (5.4lb)
Volume: 30 Litres
For superior water resistance, all exterior fabric has a durable water-repellent coating; the underside of the fabric has a polyurethane coating.
It also has the highest quality abrasion-resistant YKK® RC-Fuse zippers, 420D velocity nylon, 420D high-density nylon, 1680D ballistic nylon, 210D nylon, 320G DuraStretch mesh, nylon webbing, 350G air-mesh, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
210D silver-toned nylon lining, high-density closed-cell foam, PE board reinforcement, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
Build & Appearance
From a first glance, this thing looks large, bulky, and heavy. My initial impression when it arrived was that it’s basically just a big box with straps and handles.
But hey, that is true, but it is a rather tidy looking box with handles!
It’s modern, clean, and simple in its design. No gaudy patterns or materials found on this bag, no unnecessary glitz and glam. Just a tidy combination of greys, with crispy little green details.
In essence, it’s a rather utilitarian and purposeful bag. But that doesn’t mean it has to look boring.
I honestly think it’s quite a nice and clean looking bag.
The sturdy rectangular shape of the Mindshift FirstLight Camera Backpack is quite beneficial, especially when you need to place it down upright or on its side, wherever you may be.
I wouldn’t expect it to ever fall over, empty or full! Although, if you place a weighty laptop in the front pocket, it can get rather front heavy. So just be aware of that.
The build quality and materials from initial inspection feel tough, thick, and sturdy. Exactly what you’d want in a bag of this kind.
It’s one that can be taken and carried wherever you may roam, put through its paces, and loaded up time and time again. It does not give the impression that it would ever fail on you while fully loaded on an adventure!
In saying all of this though, the physical size of the Mindshift FirstLight makes it look rather big on my smaller frame. Not just from how tall the bag is, but also how thick the bag is.
I feel like a turtle.
Being of utilitarian nature, the Mindshift FirstLight is covered with built-in handy features! These include a wide variety of buckles, handles, pockets, and neat little hidden compartments.
When the main back straps are buckled together they act as a harness, and also contain 11 different points of adjustment.
A major feature of the straps is that they can be height adjusted and lengthened to fit the size of your frame. To adjust the height you reach in through the gap between the bag and padding, there you’ll separate the velcro and lift them higher or push them down lower. It’s that simple!
Built in to each side of the MindshiftFirst Light are easy to find grab handles that are both chunky and well padded.
You’ll also find a thin handle on the base of the bag too, making it far easier to move the bag when loaded up or stowed away on any angle.
This made it an easier task to lift the bag out of the boot of my car when I had it loaded up. I didn’t do my back any favours though, it was rather heavy.
There is also a handy top pocket for quick access to items such as keys, passport, mobile phone, etc.
I found, though, that storing small items such as coins or memory cards in this pocket can be a problem. They don’t tend to keep to one spot and like to spread into hard-to-find places.
You won’t fit much in the way of large items in there though. I didn’t trust using it as storage for sunglasses!
If you’re a hiker or tend to need plenty of fluids on the move, you can fit a water bladder (sold separately) into the discrete designated pouch on the side of the FirstLight.
They’ve also included a small hole for the hose to slip through and stay secure for your hydration needs.
Surprisingly I did find an unexpected and random feature, one that I’ve never found on a bag before. An emergency whistle!
Most people would accept it as an emergency whistle for garnering attention in dire situations, but I found it to be wonderful musical instrument.
I will say though, my wife did not appreciate my musical talent as much as I had hoped. I guess it’s a tool best used for the situation Mindshift probably intended.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are three different ways to attach a tripod to the outside of the Mindshift First Light.
Depending on the size or style of tripod, one may suit you better than another. But it’s great you have the choice! I’ll lay them out for you below:
- Either side of the bag: By using one of the bottle pouches and by combining them with the buckles on the side, you can attach your tripod to the side of the bag. The buckles can be lengthened or shortened as you need, so you can also use this technique to carry anything else that you may need quick access to on the move – like stocks for hiking, a very tall bottle of wine for motivation, or a baseball bat if your spots are defence inclined.
- On the front of the bag: You can do this by removing a buckle hidden at the top of the bag in a small pouch and by removing another small pouch and buckle from the base of the bag. Place a leg of the tripod in the pouch, connect both buckles and voila! Be mindful that depending on the weight of the tripod, this can offset the balance of the rest of your bag and pull more on your shoulders.
- Tripod Suspension Kit: This is a package sold separately by ThinkTank. I do not have this accessory so I haven’t got any photos of it. But you can view the package on their website.
If you ever needed to carry a cave or a house on your back, that’s what this bag pretty much is.
It’s tall and cavernous, but can be arranged into nice little rooms. Once you open the Mindshift FirstLight up for the first time you realise how much space is readily available for everything you own.
The one thing I am not overly fond of is the lid opening towards me when the bag is laid flat, but that’s a problem solved with simply rotating it.
Included inside the bag are a large array of dividers available to readily readjust and prepare the bag in any way you want to. There are four noticeably different types of dividers available, including a padded lens rest for those of the larger variety.
As you’ll notice in the photographs, it is a rather deep compartment. It’ll fit a large DSLR camera with a battery grip attached.
There are three different sized mesh pockets on the inside of the lid for organising smaller accessories.
Whether you want to store lens filters, booklets, pens, or propellers… the space is there! This is your bag, you choose.
I have found, however, depending on what you load up in here and if you have a laptop also inside the lid, it can become rather difficult to zip up the lid.
As you’re aware, the bag comes in three sizes: 20L, 30L, and 40L. Depending on how you arrange the dividers you can fit a wide variety of different items for different occasions.
I managed to fit pretty much everything camera related that I owned into this bag.
My Mavic Pro and controller, DJI Osmo Pocket, GoPro and water accessories, Canon 5D MK3 with 24-70 f/2.8 attached, an extra lens, external flash, multiple remotes, batteries, my 15″ gaming laptop, computer mouse, 2 torches, a variety of lens filters, and all of the related cables and chargers for each of those main items.
Using the outside of the bag you could also carry a drink bottle and two tripods.
Say you’re heading for a weekend away to send your drone wildly through the sky, you’ll easily fit a change of clothes, toiletries, a Mavic Pro, spare batteries, numerous accessories, and a full-size DSLR camera with another lens.
I used the small Mindshift Gear Pouch Bundle to store my charger and cables with two spare batteries.
The depth of the 30L Mindshift FirstLight allows you to fit what you need for a weekend with a comfortable amount of space to spare!
Having the Mindshift Gear Pouch Bundle is super handy for keeping all the small bits and pieces which come with different photography gear in place. Especially if you have a GoPro or two with numerous accessories!
They’re fantastic storage solutions paired up with the copious amounts of included dividers.
ThinkTank advertise that you can fit a large DSLR camera with a battery pack attached around 4-6 lenses and a flash.
Lengthwise you can fit up to a 400mm f/2.8 attached to a body.
The largest lens that can fit is a 500mm f/2.8 (de-attached). Also included is a padded lens rest to stop it from dipping down.
Now allow me to introduce you to a new unit of measurement when it comes to discovering how much a bag can hold. It is approximately 1 cat per 15L.
Ease of Use/Comfort
The Mindshift FirstLight is a very comfortable bag to wear; the padding is thick and soft both on the back, shoulder, and large waist straps.
Once you connect the waist buckle together the weight is distributed incredibly well – it’s a great weight off of your shoulders (pun intended)!
Everything about this bag is designed to make life with your camera gear more comfortable and convenient, from how simple the large and heavy-duty zippers are to find and operate, to how padded all the touchpoints on the bag are.
Mindshift have fitted it with easy release latches on many of the buckles, so it’s quite quick and simple to readjust the lengths. This makes it handy to use or pack away those small support buckles. The load-bearing buckles don’t come included with those latches.
And to reiterate what I’ve said multiple times already, the amount of padding on this bag is wonderful.
It really is very comfortable to wear! Just look how thick that padding is:
But there are a few finicky things I’ve discovered about the Mindshift FirstLight in my short time using it:
The laptop pouch is easy to access right on the front of the bag. The advertised size says that it’ll fit a 15” laptop, but in the case of mine it was a rather tight fit.
You’d probably have a better experience with a 15” MacBook instead.
Once my laptop was in the pocket, I found the bag more difficult to close up while also storing items in the included inner mesh pockets.
It also made the lid rather weighty so you have to be mindful and not just fling it open!
Adjusting the height of the rear straps can be rather difficult too, as the velcro holding them in place is very grippy and tends to catch super easily. But I would also say this is a functional reason too, as you’d really want it to be strong and hold firm!
Value for Money
In complete transparency, the Mindshift FirstLight 30L is not a cheap bag.
Personally I feel it’s a mid-range price compared to what else you could buy if you really hunted around.
However, I have found that when it comes to bags, you often get what you pay for. If you consider the quality of the materials, capabilities, and build quality I feel that the Mindshift FirstLight 30L backpack is worth the asking price.
It’s also a well-known brand, a premium line-up, and it is a rather large size.
Other major competitors such as Lowepro tend to ask for higher for bags of similar size and capabilities. The Peak Design Travel Backpack is just under twice the price!
If you need something that is a large size and durable enough to take on an adventure, this should definitely be on your radar.
Mindshift First Light Review | Conclusion
The Mindshift FirstLight camera backpack, in its rather simple utilitarian style, is as functional as intended, as sturdy as you’d expect, and as trustworthy as you’d hope from such a reputable brand.
At no point did I ever feel as though the build quality was lacking.
But given that I have not owned this bag for that long, or put it through any taxing adventures yet, I cannot say that for sure.
I should also mention that they’ve included a fitted rain cover which can also be used as a ground cloth if the surface is damp or dirty.
My only main gripe with the bag is the sheer size of it on me, and the empty bag weight being as much as 2.4kg. Which, given its size and all the included extras, really isn’t that heavy – but if being used as carry-on luggage for air travel, that may work against you.
Once you add a camera, chargers, and the other necessities it may be too much to be allowed on without extra charge.
An added benefit that I didn’t mention earlier is how you can reverse the straps and clip them together, locking them away snugly and tightening up the overall packed size of the bag.
ThinkTank advertise that it’s been sized up for international carry-on dimensions, but also mention that you should confirm the limitations with your individual carrier before bringing it with you.
Here’s the TL;DR version:
- The large capacity and cavernous interior.
- The build quality and materials give the impression it’d never fail on you.
- Plenty of padding for comfort and support while loaded.
- Suits a weekend away with a capacity for both gear and clothing.
- Doubles as a cat bed.
- The physical size of it on me. I feel as though I look like a turtle.
- It’s still heavy when empty and rather chunky.
- If being used for carry-on, take into consideration the 2.4kg empty weight.
- Can be difficult to close if packing a larger-than-Macbook sized 15″ Laptop.
- The inside material is a sucker for cat fur.
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.