NOTE AUG. 2011 – This bag is still one of my go-to-bag for any travel. Any time I travel overseas I take this bag with me. I love it like I would my own child. I thought it would be good to note that lately I’ve actually ben stripping all the side walls out and using it to carry speedlites, stands, and modifiers. I can fit 3 light stands (one on the outside), 1 tripod, three speed lites, 3 umbrellas, and a heck of a lot of cords into this bag and still have a ton of room left over. While travelling between The States and China I still use it like I would as described in this review. One note is that I’ve added the ThinkTank Airport Airstream to my lineup to carry much heavier stuff on any assignment, thus using the Streetwalker HardDrive as for more peripherals while not travelling internationally. To be quite honest, I’m not sure I’m ever going to replace the Streetwalker HardDrive – it’s still an amazing bag.
Two years ago I was in Atlanta shooting with my good buddy Stephen Hunton. At the time I was was using… well, I have no clue what bag I was using because using the ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive has wiped my memory of all all previous backpack style camera bags. As far as I know I might as well have been using a burlap sack to carry my gear around. Stephen showed me the bag and how it worked – after seeing him use it in the field for two days I decided I needed to give it a try. Fast forward two years…
ABOUT THE BAG
STRAIGHT FROM THINKTANK
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.Top Features:
- Carry monopods and tripods in the bottom front pocket.
- Additional tripod cup for larger tripods.
- Pro Speed Belt (sold separately) can be attached.
- Contoured harness for men and women with air channel.
- Holds Pro Size DSLR with 70-200 2.8 attached and hood in position ready to shoot.
- Two side pockets and two stretch pockets.
- All photographers, from pros to serious enthusiasts.
- ID: 11” W x 18” H x 6–7” D (28 x 46 x 15–18 cm)
ED: 11.5” W x 19” H x 8.5” D (29 x 49 x 22 cm)
- 3.8–4.6 lbs (1.7–2.1 kg)
- Lifetime Warranty
THE LOOK - First of all, Streetwalker HardDrive was designed to be all business so I wouldn’t describe it as a fabulous “designer” bag. Who is looking for that anyways, right? Here’s the deal – It’s a black bag that does it’s job. It doesn’t look bad by any means, but it doesn’t stick out. I’ve found the fact that it’s so nondescript to be a beneficial. Most people are surprised to discover that I was carrying several thousand dollars worth of camera gear + a $2k laptop in the bag. Carrying so much expensive gear, it’s my opinion that a bag shouldn’t scream “Come steal me!” It is what it is – a black, all business, tough looking camera bag.
CONVENIENCE - I’ll start by saying that the Streetwalker HardDrive is very convenient. I’ve found that the pocket system and sidewalls are up to par with other similar bags that I’ve used – it keeps stuff where you put it and that’s about all you can ask for. It’s easy to quickly reconfigure the compartments in the bag to how you want it. In the two years I’ve been using the Streetwalker HardDrive I’ve never felt frustrated by pulling partitions out and reconfiguring them. I’ve had some other bags that just aren’t that way, shockingly enough. Moving on…
The Streetwalker HardDrive isn’t pocket-intensive, but instead has a place for everything. If you are like me, too many pockets means that you are going to be searching through your bag looking for something more than you’d like. I like pockets, but too many pockets is a recipe for misplacing things in my experience. All in all there are about 4 external pockets – more than enough. Furthermore, the top flap compartments are completely transparent which allows you to take a quick survey of what you have and quickly equip yourself with what you need. I love that about this bag. I rarely have a hard time finding things and that’s truly the strength of this bag.
Did I mention it holds a 15″ laptop perfectly (Even with an extra Incase sleeve on it). It’s extremely easy to go through any airpot security line because of the dedicated pocket. Very well thought out and much like hte other features of the bag, it does what it’s designed to do… keep your laptop safe. Perfect, moving on…
I even use this bag when Im not travelling for photographic purposes. Why? Well, unzipping the entire bag quickly and then doing a quick visual survey to make sure everything is with you and where you put it is absolutely priceless. I probably can’t harp on that point enough. It’s just extremely easy to find stuff in this bag – scratch that – it’s easy for dumb people like me who can’t keep track of the clothes on their back to find things in this bag. To be quite honest it’s probably saved me from losing gear. Lastly, I’ve never been stopped in any airport security line with this bag which in my book is a major plus.
THE LITTLE THINGS - With all good products, the longer you use them the more you appreciate the thought that the bag designers put into it. The Streetwalker HardDrive is no different and over the years I’ve had several “Oh, that’s what that’s for! That’s really useful!” moments with this bag. First, the tripod pocket and straps (see here) has become one of my favorite features on this bag. It holds the tripod (or light stand) where you put it, which undoubtedly plays into the comfort of this bag. Another feature that has seen more use than I expected is the elastic sides. I often times quickly throw a shoot through umbrella or even my sunglasses into the side while in a hurry – it’s just dang useful. I’ve also found myself using the laptop compartment for chords and straps when I’m not carry a laptop with me – though it certainly wasn’t designed for that. Furthermore, the business card holder that is on the top of the bag is a lifesaver when I don’t want to dig down into my bag to hand out a business card – it also doubles as a train, plane, and cab ticket stub holder. The side pockets have also become a perfect home for a set of shoot through umbrellas. The bottom line is that as I’ve grown and my gear list has grown the bag has grown with me a truly become more useful.
COMFORT - I often times have more than 30 lbs of gear in my backpack – the Streetwalker HardDrive can become heavy but even with my heaviest loads it remains comfortable. Comfortable enough to not think about climbing a 16,000 foot mountain in the Himalayas with it on my back, even while fully loaded (see for yourself here, please no Sasquatch jokes). The shoulder straps are very well padded and I’ve enver felt like they were digging into my shoulders. The back padding also helps quite a bit when you have awkward or pointy gear in the bag that would normal cause discomfort in your back. The beltstap has also proved helpful for taking some of the weigh off of my shoulders, but I use it much less than I should – I honestly hardly ever think about the belt strap, but there have been a few times that I needed it and I was glad it was there. It’s an extremely comfortable bag – I really can’t say much more beyond that.
DURABILITY – I’ve had it for two years as my main travel bag without one zipper fail, fabric tear, or failure of any kind. I don’t even think about the thing breaking. I’ve beat the crap out of it like I do all my gear and I can honestly say that , other than obvious signs of use, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I often times leave it on the dusty ground and the high quality, high-density, build material (feels like armor, it’s tough) allows me to just brush it off – it also wicks water away from your bag. It does everything but cook breakfast. Besides, if you do manage to destroy the thing (which you wont, I promise), it comes with this nifty lifetime warranty.
HOW I PACK IT – I pack quite a bit into the bag and w/ the following setup I generally have room to slide an iPad into the main compartment, which is nice. If you are joining us on our Lhasa to Kathmandu trip, you will see me packing the Streetwalker HardDrive much like this. I’ve packed it several different ways but finally landed on two that I like – one has a D700 w/ a 50mm lens on it and the other is the D700 w/ the 70-200mm attached. It usually depends on which one I need access to the most. Just for reference, here’s what’s in the bag:
- D90 w/ grip
- D700 w/ grip
- Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8
- Sigma 17-55mm f2.8 (brilliant lens, give it a shot)
- Nikkor 50mm f2.8
- Nikkor 24-50mm f3.3 (old one)
- Nikon SB-24 hotshoe flash
- 4 Extra camera batteries
- 1/8t” grid spot
- 15″ MacbookPro (picture is a 13 inch Powerbook) – MBP fits perfectly
- Black Rapid Strap(s)
- 42″ ShootThrough Umbrella (Usually Two) w/ multiclamps
- Manfrotto Portable stand
- Two Paul C. Buff remotes + trigger
- Lens pen, Pen(s), blower, etc
- Memory Cards
- Extra Cell phone, external USB powered battery, card reader, iPod, charger(s)
- Extra AA batteries, sunglasses, 3 moleskin notebooks, Biz cards
- Reading Material
- Black Diamond Head lamp
- ThinkTanks provided rain cover
SOME THOUGHTS – There are a few things I’d change about the Streetwalker HardDrive. First, I often forget to zip the transparent inside pockets when I’m quickly yanking something out of the back. When I flip the top off to see everything in the bag, often times my stuff will shoots out of those pockets, sometimes w/o me knowing it. It’s a simple fix for me – Stop doing that, right? Nonetheless, it would be nice if there was a little bit more of a lip on the top part of the zippers which would probably catch most of the stuff that presently goes shooting out. If you are like me just be aware of this phenomenon. If you are a normal, responsible person, don’t worry.
Beyond that, there are just little things that aren’t necessarily bad things about the bag, but things that I just don’t use. First, the front side pocket w/ the pen holders and such is more than I use and don’t really foresee using them that much. Sure, I cram my pens and stuff in there, but there are some parts that are just to wide to hold what I need it to hold snugly. There are some pockets in there I just dont use in a consistant manner. See this picture to see what I mean. Second, I know this is silly, but I wish the key hold strap was in a different place – I more often than not accidentally try to zip it into the inner pocket (again, see here). Finally, it’s an easy bag to overpack despite it’s streamline shape. It’s almost like a clown car, it just lets you keep packing and packing until you suddenly realize that it’s over 400lbs. Again, normal people will not have a problem with this.
The ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive is hands down my favorite backpack-style camera bag of all time. If loving an inanimate object were possible, I’d call it love. For the bag-aholic out there, I promise it’s possible to land on a bag, at least for a few years. If this sounds like the bag you are looking for but want something a bit bigger, check out the other ThinkTank backpacks as well as their rolling bags.
*If you are interested in purchasing the ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive, please use the links you see provided in this review to get some free stuff with ThinkTank with your purchase, or just click here