Every so often I come across a photography related product that really intrigues me. This was exactly the case when I came across a line of photography bags from Pacsafe, a manufacturer by two Australians who were looking for a solution to travelling around the globe while keeping their belongings safe.
This particular bag, the Camsafe Z25, is an iF Design Award 2015 winner, and packs in a lot of safety measures in a compact form for maximum peace-of-mind. This review is based on the Charcoal Camsafe Z25 that was kindly provided to me for the purpose of this review. But don’t let that fool you—I’ve been using this for the past few months now to really get a feel for its advantages and disadvantages so that I can get you all the details for this post. The bag does have some scuff marks and dirt stains, but that’s all from my outings, and isn’t part of the bag itself!
First Impressions of the Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe
When I first got the bag, I was surprised at how compact it was. I wasn’t expecting a bag so small to be able to carry all of gear that it said it was able to carry: dSLR with attached lens, 3 additional lenses, and a laptop, amongst other accessories!
However, once I put in the gear that I normally take for my shoots, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it fit in snugly, with some room to spare in other compartments. The bag itself is lightweight at just 1.7kg, is made of rugged 600D Poly canvas on the outside making it feel tough, Ripstop Nylon and Polyester Fleece on the inside for great protection of your gear.
You can see from above that I have the following in there: 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, and 70-200 f/2.8, along with my D800, seat-belt strap, accessories, and even an older model 15″ Macbook Pro (not shown)!
The bag itself has several compartments and pockets to help you organize all of your smaller accessories. The cover of the main compartment has a large zippered storage area on the inside, a smaller meshed compartment for your memory cards, and a large pocket on the outside that also houses an RFIDsafe pocket that prevents scanners from retrieving sensitive data on your credit cards, e-passports, and other RFID enabled cards.
The top compartment opens up to reveal even more storage space for your gear, in addition to it being the access point for your laptop compartment.
On the side of the bag is an expandable fly-away pocket that is stretchable to hold water bottles and other deep items.
The main compartment opens on the side allowing for quick access to your dSLR as well. There are two clips that you can use to prevent the zipper from opening up any further than the side opening—although more often than not, these clips got in the way from me being able to open the main compartment with ease. Because of the curvature of the zippers of this main compartment, I find it sometimes difficult to fully open with one hand, like I am so used to doing with my ThinkTank bag. It’s a minor setback, but I sometimes struggle with opening and closing the bag and wish I had the ease of use of my ThinkTank in this case.
The compartment itself is fully customizable with the velcro paddings that you can rearrange to your liking.
The back of the bag is made of quilted fabric that is completely flat. While it is very comfortable to wear even on long treks, I find a little bit of air circulation would help alleviate the heat on very hot days on the job.
Pacsafe has also added two handles for this bag, one on its side, and one on the top. You may think this is excessive but there have been a number of times when I have appreciated the fact that you can easily just grab the bag and go. It’s a nice added touch in my opinion.
They have also added adjustable straps to help carry a tripod on the side of the bag. But if you are carrying something in the side pocket, this will no doubt get in the way of the tripod, making you choose between the two.
Having taking this bag out in a rainstorm, I can attest to the fact that it did a good job repelling water and keeping my gear inside dry, although with an even heavier downpour, I can see the bag itself may get soaked through eventually.
Perhaps the most unique thing about this bag would be the added security features it has added to fully protect travellers from pick pockets, thieves, and other troublemakers that you may run across on your trip. These added security features are well thought out and give you that peace of mind that your belongings are protected from people trying to open your bag while you wear it on your back.
The bag itself is made with their eXomesh Slashguard, which prevents thieves from easily slashing through common areas of a bag (front, bottom, side).
The strap may look normal from the outside, but it’s what’s inside that really makes a difference: stainless steel wires integrated within the strap to prevent people from easily cutting through it. Despite the wires being inside, the straps are very flexible, soft, and comfortable throughout.
One of the straps adds another level of security by allowing you to unhook it from the bag so you can wrap it around a solid object and hook it back to your bag.
Zippers can be an easy target for thieves so I really do like what Pacsafe was trying to do here with their zippers. The back pocket is protected as the zipper puller loops into a concealed clip that hides neatly within a tab. This makes it really hard for anybody to even try and open that pocket.
The top and main compartments are protected by an extra measure that is unique to Pacsafe as well. The two zipper pullers interlock with each other allowing you to loop them into what is called a Roobar, which locks with a twist. Add a padlock to this Roobar for maximum protection of your gear, preventing anyone from opening these two compartments.
The uniqueness of these zippers can be its main advantage, but also one of its main disadvantages. Since these zippers are proprietary, if they were to break at one point, you will be left with no choice but to go back to the manufacturer and hope that they can fix this. Each of their bags come with a 5 year warranty which is great, but after the 5 years, what will happen? I wondered about this because at times I felt the zippers may be its weakest link. With its thin loops at its end, and its intricate designs that allow for interconnectivity, there may be a chance for it to break off out of sheer use, which happened with one of my older bags from Crumpler.
Another point to note about the zippers is the fact that they are not flat. This may not seem like a big deal, but the triangular shape of these zippers actually made it slightly difficult for me at times to grab and zip on the go. There were times when I had a hard time grabbing the zippers and zipping up the compartment with ease.
Camsafe Z25 in the Field
I’m including some photos of the Pacsafe Camsafe Z25 bag out in the field, while I was in the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta. I found it to be a very good companion to my gear, although the canvas material did get scuffed up with dirt and mud, fairly easily.
You can see the size of the Pacsafe Camsafe Z25 in comparison to my full-sized Gitzo Explorer tripod.
The bag sits comfortably on your shoulders despite all the heavy gear inside of it.
When I’m shooting on the go, I sometime hang the backpack on one shoulder like in the photo above. The compact size of the bag makes this feel comfortable. With the main compartment half open, I easily have access to my gear in this position as well. Just don’t forget to close the compartment once you flip the bag back on to your shoulders!
The bag did a good job keeping my gear dry in rain, although the canvas material did get wet in some areas, which took some time to fully dry up. The bag did not come with a rain cover like some others do, but this is not a make-or-break deal in my opinion—more of a wish-list item. Overall though, I have to say there are many great features of this bag that I like. The compact footprint is a big plus for me, as it still allows for lots of storage. The security features are a great peace-of-mind when travelling as well. The laptop compartment is neatly hidden in the top compartment, although at times I wished I could easily access my laptop with one quick unzip. While the zipper design may be my one concern with this bag, I wouldn’t let this be your deciding factor.
This Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe is a refreshing bag from all the ones I’ve used in the past, and one that I could recommend to those who worry about protecting their gear while travelling. This is the first Pacsafe bag that I’ve had my hands on, but now that I’ve seen this one, I’m more curious to see what other goodies they have in their lineup. Be sure to include a Pacsafe bag in your lineup if you’re looking to buy a new camera backpack.
You can find more details on Pacsafe on their website: http://www.pacsafe.com.