Review: MindShift Gear Rotation 180 Backpacking Load Out

A few weeks ago I blogged about the wonders of the MindShift Gear Rotation 180 Backpack. If you haven't read that post, you should start there, then come back. Link -->  http://tinyurl.com/m7psllo

My previous blog tossed out the idea that this bag could possibly support a solo overnight backpacking trip; you'd certainly have to pack conservatively, but I thought it might be possible.

I pulled out all the appropriate equipment and laid it out on the floor. The entire packing list can be seen below:

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The contents were determined based on a mock backpacking trip that would take place during the spring/fall when some light cold weather gear might be required. I also assumed I'd be wearing my boots and not carrying them on my back. Here's what I packed:

  • 2 person backpacking tent (a minimalist tent would be better suited for this)
  • Sleeping bag in compression sack (rated to 20*F)
  • Inflatable sleeping pad
  • Rain gear (pants & jacket)
  • Lightweight parka
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Extra clothes
  • Hygiene kit (contained in same bag as clothes)
  • Socks
  • Map
  • Towel
  • Small shovel (for digging a privy) 
  • Compass
  • Multi-tool
  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Matches
  • Water filter system
  • Camelback hydration bladder
  • Camp stove & pot (modular kit)
  • Combo knife/spoon/fork
  • Food: Instant noodles, rice, can of chicken (pictured is clams, but same size!), some energy bars, bag of nuts.
  • Camera equipment: Nikon D800 (with extra battery pack), Nikon 24-70mm lens, Nikon 14-24mm lens, polarizer, cleaning cloth, binoculars, cleaning cloth, extra memory cards.

The challenging with this bag is that the interior compartment isn't tall enough to house most of this equipment internally, so I knew I'd be strapping lots of stuff to my side. As an extra challenge, however, is the "door" where the you access the waist belt; if I covered that access point with my equipment then I'd be unable to access the contents of the camera bag. 

As you can see in the video, I was able to get everything that I'd laid out into the bag -w which honestly shocked the heck out of me. I thought there wasn't a chance in hell! Of course, it's not packed as efficiently as I might like for this kind of setup, but the sheer volume of junk I loaded into the bag is astounding.

I do think this bag could work for a backpacking trip, particularly with some tweaks. REI and other outdoor companies sell straps that I could probably use to rig the tent to my left side (where I ended up stashing the sleeping pad. This would put the heaviest item closest to my back and make me less turtle like. Of course, I didn't have anything like that at the time of this video, but I know it could be done and will look into it before I plan any overnight trips. Other folks might not have this issue - my tent just happened to be big enough to not fit inside those straps (but damn it was close). A smaller tent might fit with no issues at all, rendering this conversation point moot.

If I move the tent over to the left side, then the sleeping pad can be mounted either under the bag (against my butt) or to the right side (where it risks blocking access to the waist belt). I would actually much prefer this layout, so I'll work on testing an assembly like that in the near future.

Another challenge with using this bag for an overnight trip is that the rain cover is rendered obsolete based on the fact that you're strapping all this stuff to the side of the bag. I'd need to carry a large trash bag to rig up in the event it started pouring. While this is a bummer, I'm not sure else I could expect as a consumer... this bag wasn't designed for overnight camping trips so it's hard to critique something like that. I might as well complain that it doesn't have wheels!

Juno is the official mascot of Scenic Traverse Photography. She tried very hard to help with this camping project!

Juno is the official mascot of Scenic Traverse Photography. She tried very hard to help with this camping project!

Fully loaded (including water), the bag weighted 41lbs. As a matter of curiosity, I'll need to start weighing my bag after I load it with camera stuff, because I bet it's close! This type of overnight setup causes you to be smart with space and only carry the equipment you really need, but I know I am as guilty as the next photographer for occasionally packing random junk in the camera bag just because you have the space for it!

Remember that the pretext of this video was that I was going solo on a camping trip, but in reality, that never happens. I'm always hiking with some friends or my husband, meaning I could distribute some of that equipment with him. If I didn't have to carry the tent, for instance, the whole thing becomes REALLY easy to mange!

Final verdict: It can be done, and with some modifications to the setup, it could be done better. For me, I'll need to research different methods of packing down my tent to see if I can get it into those straps (unlikely) or using a 3rd party strap to mount the tent. Someone with a smaller tent probably will have an easier go of this. In my particular case, I'll probably have my husband carrying some of the equipment like the tent in his bag, making this all the more feasible. 

I think it's a true testament to MindShift Gear that it's even possible for us to have this conversation. I thought there was no chance for this to fit when I started the film, but was shocked at how much stuff I just kept shoving into the bag.