I know I've said that the Peak Design Everyday Sling was everything I needed BUT I said it was everything I needed when I was going out; I meant particularly when taking natural light lifestyle photos. But of course, there are those times when I need lighting or my 15" MacBook Pro and that bag wasn't made for that. A sling that fit something that big would hinder the utility and design drastically, so enter the Everyday Backpack 20L.
Now as a disclaimer, Peak Design reached out to me and let me know how happy they were to hear how much I love their Everyday Sling, and they've sent me this Backpack to review. There were no strings attached to this bag, except for the the shoulder straps and maybe a few others? There might be a stray strand from manufacturing but I doubt it with their quality control. I'm in Hawaii so maybe they wanted someone to check if it was shark proof, but unfortunately, I'm allergic to shark teeth. So Peter and everyone else at Peak Design, sorry but you're not getting this thing field tested the way you might've wanted.
Now let me start by saying this, reviewing this backpack is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to review. Reviewing a camera is simple, does it take good pictures, is it easy to use, is it a joy to use? But a backpack is so much more. Does it fit the amount of gear I want, does it organize my gear, can I carry things other than camera gear, can I hide a Chihuahua in it because tonight’s hotel doesn’t allow pets, will the Chihuahua bark because she hates it in there? The scenarios are endless. So here’s how I’m going to break down this review. There are features of this bag that are quite unique and they deserve to be mentioned because it’s what sets this bag apart from others, so that comes first. Secondly, it’s called the Everyday Backpack so I want to share the ways I’ve used it and how well it worked. Finally, should you or shouldn’t you buy it? Now let’s dive in!
Did Art Create a Piece of Art?
Yes, he did. Art is the head designer at Peak Design and he over-engineered the crap out of this bag. But unlike the Corvette Z06 that suffers from overheating, the attention to detail makes the bag better and easier to use.
Flex-fold dividers aren’t new to Peak Design but this is the bag where they finally see their true potential. They reclaim the lost vertical space and introduce organization to the entire bag. Sure, most bags are divided into a few compartments but items still have to go to the bottom of the bag. With this bag, you’re able to keep items divided vertically; camera on the bottom, lenses a bit higher up, hard drives even higher. It’s impossible to lose things at the bottom of the bag. The dividers can shift up and down without ripping the velcro free and moving it, so you're able to make a section taller or shorter with the flick of the wrist, adopting a compartment from EOS 1DX to Fujifilm X-Pro2. What’s even more amazing is that they’ve added colored stitching to the inside of the bag so if you constantly rearrange your Flex-Fold dividers, you have reference points on where they belong.
Compression straps, there when you need them, gone when you don’t. Compartments magnetically close to hide the straps when you don’t need them and it’s amazing how nice it is to have straps that are built into the bag rather than add-ons that need to be stowed away somewhere or constantly dangling when not in use. That goes for the sternum and belt straps as well, easy to put on and easy to completely hide away when not needed.
Maybe the best part of the bag is it's stiff. Stiffer than the side effects of the little blue pill. This means that it stands up on it’s own, empty or packed. Even better, when it’s laying on it’s side it stays upright and that makes changing lenses so much easier because you’re not trying to use an leg or arm to balance the bag from spilling out all your gear. Initially it was a concern as I pulled it out of the the shipping package but that worry went away the moment I put it on my back. Empty, light load, or fully loaded this bag doesn't dig into your shoulders or feel like plywood against your back. Rest assured you can wear this thing all day long.
Can I use the Everyday Backpack Everyday?
For the most part, yes. Let me briefly say the scenarios that I’ve used it. On-location photoshoot, Editing/Netflix at Starbucks, Hiking, Gym, Archery. Yes, archery. This thing could fit a full Olympic archer’s setup. Flip up all of the Flex-Fold dividers, riser on one side, limbs on the other, little bits and pieces in the center and I was good to go. I was able to compress stabilizers on one side of the bag and an arrow tube on the other while the compression straps on the back held a rolled up regulation size target (really really huge). This thing is Katniss Everdeen and Hawkeye approved.
There is one scenario where this bag doesn’t work, and that’s textbooks. The bag is really meant to be divided into smaller compartments and with the laptop area being too thin for a 1600 page pharmacology textbook, you would have to remove all Flex-Fold dividers. But let’s be real, it’s 2016 and no one uses paper textbooks, it’s all in PDF format on your iPad.
Do I wants it, needs it, gots to have it?
Yes, it's the first bag that I can use for every single scenario I've been able to throw at it. Seriously, it fit an Olympic archery bow and that was only possible because of the Flex-Fold dividers endless configuration possibilities that let me pack lots of small things or a few tall things. It’s stylish, it doesn’t scream “steal the very expensive camera inside of this bag”, but above all it’s extremely functional.
I had one gripe with the bag. If the bag is standing, it wouldn't be wise to open the side pockets with a lot of lenses as they will be falling out in dramatic slow motion. To be safe and secure I had to lie the bag on its side to access those zippers. But to be fair, it's nothing specific to this bag, it's a quirk with all bags that open from the sides.
Now this is marketed as an everyday backpack, not just a bag for photographers. As a bag that they claim can be used every single day, the approach is completely different and you need to embrace a new way of thinking. It’s sort of a bag for the future when we won’t need to pack binders and folders full of paper and we’ll be able to organize small items into distinct areas rather than throw them on top of each other or fill that bag will tons of smaller bags. But unlike the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, that future is actually now. Give this bag one week to embrace the idea of absolute organization and I’m sure it’s a bag you could use every day.