Yeah, I know that the title states “Photography”, and the bag I’ll be reviewing today certainly has the proper fittings to hold more photographic equipment than I will likely ever own, but it would be unwise to simply pigeon-hole the Crumpler as a mere camera tote. It is a well planned laptop bag, it is a comfortable backpack, and yes – it is a camera bag suitable for carrying an SLR and many of its accessories.
Crumpler sells three different photography backpacks: the Keystone which can handle an SLR, its accessories, and a 12″ laptop; the Karachi Outpost made to carry an SLR, its accessories, and a 17″ laptop; and the mid-size Whickey and Cox, which can also carry an SLR, its accessories, and a 15″ laptop.
Available in dark brown with oatmeal and light oatmeal color blocks, or in the gunmetal and gray that I was sent, the W&C has a very slick and streamlined appearance. The backpack’s exterior measures approximately 20″ tall x 15′ wide (at the base) x 10″ deep (again, measuring at the base). Because of the turtle shell design, the bag doesn’t appear lumpy or cumbersome; it almost looks aerodynamic.
Ready to jump right on in? I thought so…
The exterior is composed of water resistant 1000D Nylon, and as you can see in this photo, there are two slightly hidden slash pockets worked into the bag’s hips. Each pocket measures approximately 6″ wide x 11″ tall, and it will expand to about 2″ deep nearer to its bottom. Each pocket is kept securely shut by a 6″ long zipper with Crumpler’s fabulous 1.5″ long x 0.5″ wide metal pulls. For better protection from the elements, there is a 1″ nylon fabric overhang; for better protection from thieves, it is not very easy to get a hand inside these pockets’ tops. I have a slimmer hand, and I still found the pockets’ openings to be extremely tight.
There are two bands going across the middle of the backpack’s spine: the bottom band is approximately 6″ wide and the top band is approximately 8″ wide when the adjustable nylon strap is let out as far as possible. This feature is for carrying oddly shaped equipment such as tripods, monopods, and the like.
You’ll notice that there is no zipper on the outside of the backpack to allow access to the potentially thousands of dollars in equipment carried inside. There are a couple of reasons for this which we will explore shortly, but first we’ll continue our tour of the bag’s exterior.
There are two 3″ wide x 0.5″ deeply padded shoulder straps built to flow directly from the back of the bag; they can also be pushed behind the back and out of the way as needed. There is a 0.5″ diameter padded nylon handle on the bag’s top for quick-grabs and easing the shoulders while waiting in line. Each shoulder strap has plastic D-rings for attaching accessories, and there is a cross-stabilization strap for securing the backpack across the wearer’s chest.
Here is a shot of the thickly padded portion of the bag that rests against the wearer’s back. It will not only protect the wearer, it will also add additional stabilization and protection to the bag’s contents. Snaking its way around the padding is an approximately 47″ inch double ended zipper. Because the zipper is placed here instead of on the outer shell of the backpack, Crumpler points out that the contents are more secure, since “access to main compartments only if bag is off-shoulders.” They also tout the benefit that when opened, the “bag is placed ‘front’ down,” meaning that “the harness and back pad stay cleaner so you do too.” This totally makes sense and I do see the value in it, but this configuration will make accessing the interior of the bag extremely difficult in a tight space, such as an economy airline seat. Those of you that always get to ride in first class won’t notice this problem.
Here is a picture from the side, which helps illustrate the turtle shell design, as well as the bag’s clean lines.
Ready to peek inside?
Unzipping the main compartment reveals a wonderland of different storage areas. The entire interior is user configurable, allowing the Whickey and Cox to transform from a photography bag, to a photography & computer bag, to a computer & cargo bag, to a cargo only bag. How you might ask? Well here we go…
The main walls of the interior are composed of 420D Ripstop Nylon. Because of strategically placed Velcro patches, the fuzzy nylon padded bowl that frames the configurable camera and equipment compartment can either be inserted or removed as the user sees fit. When the entire camera compartment is removed, there is a huge approximately 17″ tall x 13″ wide x 7″ deep cargo area. The removable camera compartment measures slightly smaller, and it is all contained underneath a heavy mesh cover which is completely secured by another set of heavy duty Crumpler zippers with pulls.
You’ll notice that the padded laptop sleeve looks slightly larger than the curved edge of the bag’s open flap: that’s because it is. We’ll talk about that shortly.
Like the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home Photography Bag I reviewed previously, the W&C has a customizable camera compartment which is configured by placing the included padded inserts wherever they are needed. According to Crumpler, the Whickey and Cox can hold “D-SLR kits with one body, tele zoom attached, wide zoom lens, an external flash & accessories or medium sized video kits and compact tripod,” in addition to a 15″ laptop.
I don’t have access to quite as much photography equipment as many who take it far more seriously, but I am proud of what I do have. It is important to me that my 5D, two lenses, and flash are as carefully stowed as is humanly possibly when they are being transported; the Whickey and Cox easily manages this task. The beauty of the removable camera compartment is that I can zip the mesh top over everything contained, and then completely remove the compartment from the bag’s interior – while keeping my gear in place and intact; this is sheer genius.
If I could leave you with one phrase to represent the bag’s interior, it would have to be “incredibly well-padded and well thought out,” because it is. I have no fear for my equipment’s safety in this bag, because every exterior and interior wall is extremely well padded when the camera compartment is installed; I have no doubt that this bag could and will protect its contents from a short drop or an unexpected tumble.
This is a closeup of the removable laptop sleeve, which measures approximately 16″ tall x 12.5″ wide x 2″ deep. It has an organizer panel sewn into its front which includes two pen pockets, a velcro-tabbed mobile phone pocket, a velcro-secured gusseted 4.5″ wide x 4′ tall pocket, and a 8″ wide x 5″ tall zippered pocket. Although the nicely padded laptop sleeve seems like it could hold a larger computer, anything larger than a 15.4″ screen will be hard to get zipped inside the main compartment. Remember how I mentioned the rounded top of the compartment in relation to the squared laptop sleeve’s top? You can really see it here…
The laptop sleeve is secured to the inside flap by a cleverly concealed fabric loop through which a velcro’d strap wraps; and it is of course completely removable. According to Crumpler, the sleeve can be used to “insulate your lap whilst working, from a hot laptop.”
I’ve really got to hand it to Crumpler on this one. Far from making a strictly photography-only backpack, they have created a carrier that can be configured exactly as the user sees fit on any given day. The ability to swap the interior around to accommodate my needs makes this one of the best photography bags I have ever reviewed. The ability to transform from a photography bag, to a photography & computer bag, to a computer & cargo bag, to a cargo only bag gives this bag more value for the money spent.
The Crumpler is available from the manufacturer and other retailers.
What I Like: Extremely well made of quality materials; very well padded interior camera compartment; comfortable to wear; can transform from a photography bag, to a photography & computer bag, to a computer & cargo bag, to a cargo only bag; judicious use of Velcro – it isn’t ever overwhelming; designed to keep contents safe from prying fingers when the bag is being worn
What Needs Improvement: It is hard to open in tight spaces to access items inside; the front two zippered pockets are very tight and hard to reach inside