Review of Mountainsmith Parallax

The Parallax in use at the Grand Canyon

Internal Dimensions: 17.25'' x 10'' x 14.25''
External Dimensions: 18'' x 11'' x 15''
Weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz.
Volume: 1952 cu. in.
Material: 100% recycled PET 
Price: $189.95 MSRP 

Our Thoughts:
Traveling with camera gear can really be a hassle, especially when your gear includes more than just a camera and lens.  We love our mix of travel, adventure, and food photography but it comes at the expense of several unique pieces of equipment.  On our trip to New Zealand we had our Nikon D90 body, spare battery, 4 lenses, SB-600 speedlight, eight AA batteries, memory card holder, and tripod all inside of or strapped onto the camera bag I cobbled together from an old Kelty lumbar pack.  Needless to say, it didn't leave much room for anything else and it wasn't very organized.  We were constantly moving things around to gain access to the items we wanted.  We needed a better solution as our lenses have been getting better and our gear list keeps expanding.

Enter in the Parallax Pro Daypack by Mountainsmith. Their website says it is a 'daypack designed to hold a true pro-sumer's kit worth of photo/video/audio gear'*, and this pack really is designed with the pro-sumer in mind. When we first unboxed the Parallax, we immediately noticed the large size of this pack. We were able to take everything out of our lumbar pack, place it in the Parallax, and still have gobs of room left over. The main compartment opens from the back, a feature we really like, and can be done so without completely taking off the bag.

Opening the main compartment reveals a somewhat standard array of felt and poly covered camera/lens organizers. There are nine compartments, allowing us to securely store our Nikon D90, three lenses, three speedlights, flash triggers, AA batteries, battery chargers, filters, computer mouse, computer AC adapter, and there is still loads of room for additional gear. The flap, which rests against your back when wearing, provides two clear organizers with zipper closures. These are handy for the batteries and users manuals.

The front of the pack provides two compartments, the inner is intended to store a laptop and other miscellaneous gear; we carry along our Lenovo G560 laptop and trip paperwork. While the padded pouch easily holds the laptop, the hook and loop strap used to secure it in place is not long enough to wrap around. This leaves the laptop to slide around in the compartment, something a smaller laptop may not run into.

The outer compartment is able to hold a couple of pens, additional paperwork, and any little odds and ends you may need to toss in. The small zipper pouch inside this compartment has been handy for business cards and we are able to keep our 'FOODIE' and 'VINO' stickers in here as well.

Descent AT Chest Pack attach
The outside of the pack provides two mesh water bottle holders, plenty of straps for lashing longer bits down, a rain cover, and an attachment system for Mountainsmith's Descent AT Chest Pack. I think it would be great if these attachments could be modified to connect to a clip-in camera strap for long hikes. I wouldn't want another pack hanging from me, but I would like to be able to click in my camera and not have it hang around my neck.

At the very back, you will find a convenient tripod shoe with dedicated straps for holding your tripod while hiking. This fits our Vanguard Alta Pro 264AT tripod wonderfully but a word of warning about the tripod shoe, it sits lower than the bag and if you are not careful you might deploy the tripod foot into sensitive area when opening the main compartment too quickly. Thankfully, I was aware of the potential and loosened the waist strap to lower the bag slightly when I slid the bag around.

This pack has traveled with us to Overland Expo 2012, a handful of trips to Yellowstone and Montana, and several trips here in Idaho and it has worked brilliantly the entire time.  While its size offers the ability to organize a great deal of gear, it is the little features that add up and make this bag stand out.  The pack organizes all of our gear exceptionally well, has a spot for everything we take on a trip, and we are certain that our gear is protected wherever we venture.  The only downside is, when you load the pack for a trip, it does get rather heavy.  One would want to properly load the bag with the heaviest items on the bottom and lighter items on top, as you would pack for a backpacking trip, if you were planning on an extended hike.  We would recommend the Parallax for anybody traveling and needing to take a great deal of gear with them.  While it works well for transporting all of our gear on an international flight or a road trip, I don't think I could handle the weight on a long hiking trip.  The pack's design pushes the weight away from the back, thus putting strain on the shoulders.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Parallax for free from Mountainsmith