The well ventilated and padded back panel on the MindShift Gear Rotation180 Horizon 34L rivaled that of high-quality backpacking packs.
GEAR INSTITUTE RATINGS
Rotation180 system makes gear access quick
Lightest photo pack in the test
Legitimate suspension system carried well
No computer sleeve
Total capacity limited to one-day outings
Needs rain cover to be waterproof
The MindShift Gear Rotation180 Horizon 34L standout feature is the Rotation180 system which allowed access to camera gear without taking the pack off, making it ideal for outdoor adventure oriented photography. The suspension system carries well for aggressive hiking, and the low overall weight is a bonus.
The MindShift Gear Rotation180 Horizon 34L was the most comfortable photo backpack of the test. The suspension system rivals those of high-quality day packs of a similar volume. A plastic frame sheet with aluminum stay provided effective load transfer away from the shoulders and on to the hips, but still allowed ample mobility for high energy hiking. The back panel, shoulder straps with load lifters, and hip belt with load adjusters are well padded, and channels and mesh covering ensured ventilation when the temperatures were high. The “rotation180” system concentrates camera gear down low, in a section of the pack that is directly attached to the hip belt, which increased the comfort by concentrating the densest part of the load at the hips. The pack is only available in one size, but it fit my six-foot-tall frame well.
The legitimate backpack style suspension system of the MindShift Gear Rotation180 Horizon 34L also serves stability well. Fully loaded with up to 30 pounds, the pack was stable and confidence-inspiring for Class IV maneuvers to gain high angle shooting locations. The low location of the photo gear along with a large low back pad and hip belt contributed much of this stability, harnessing a large proportion of the load for a rock solid and low center of gravity.
The MindShift Gear Rotation180 34L Horizon has two distinctive storage areas. The bottom section of the pack houses the unique Rotation180 camera storage system. The hip belt is continuous with a padded camera case that resides in the bottom of the pack body. This belt pack can be rotated to the front to provide convenient access to the camera, changing lenses, etc. This rotation is done by loosening the hip belt, opening a magnetic latch on the side of the pack, then grabbing a handle on the camera case and rotating it around to the front. After accessing the required gear, the process is reversed, placing the belt pack back into the bottom of the pack. Opening and closing the latch and pulling the belt pack around were both single-handed, no-look operations. This system eliminates the need to remove the entire pack to access gear or anything else placed into the belt pack. The padded belt pack, at a claimed seven liters, accommodated a mirrorless body with mid zoom attached, wide zoom and long zoom. There is a flat, mesh Velcro pocket on the underside of the top zipped lid that is suitable for smaller items like memory cards, lens cloths, and camera batteries. The back side of the belt pack has a padded sleeve, which fit a ten-inch tablet. The padded belt pack separates from the rest of the pack for standalone use.
The top-loading upper portion of the pack is a claimed 27 liters, and was enough for several layers, two liters of water and lunch, and has a flat mesh pocket against the back panel. The non-extendable lid has a zipped main pocket. There is a side pocket large enough for a liter-sized soft sided water bottle, and each side of the pack has a compression strap. The front of the main body has a flat zipped pocket and two rows of vertical daisy chains. A hideaway system carries smaller tripods vertically on the front of the main pack body. A dedicated, side-accessed hydration bladder pocket, capable of storing a three-liter bladder, prevents a failure from soaking gear in the remainder of the pack. (A tripod suspension system is available for carrying larger tripods, and a fitted insert is available to carry more photo gear in the upper portion of the pack.)
The pack lacks a computer sleeve, but a 15-inch notebook computer in a protective sleeve did fit in the upper portion of the pack.
The main fabrics in the MindShift Gear Rotation180 Horizon 34L are a mix of 420d and 210d nylons (with a 200d polyester interior lining), bridging the gap between lightweight and durable and helps achieve the lightest weight of the test. The bottom of the pack is padded, lined and poly coated, lending added protection to the area of the pack that housed the camera gear. The pack was almost always in abrasive environments accessing shooting locations for climbing gear testing. Other than surface dirt, there were no signs of wear. All webbing and hardware remained fully functional. Although the pack isn’t waterproof, there is an available seam-sealed rain cover system that functioned with the 180Rotation system.
The MindShift Gear Rotation180 Horizon 34L has several extras other than the Rotation180 system itself; the tripod carrying system (a tripod suspension system is available for large tripods), dedicated hydration bladder pocket and ability to house more gear in the upper portion via a fitted photo insert expands carrying capacity. The large looped zipper pulls were appreciated when wearing gloves.
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HOW WE TESTED
We used the packs for both professional assignments and personal use. Most testing occurred during full days in the field while working various editorial duties in both the outdoor and motorsports industries, as well as use during photography school projects. Testing of the five packs took over a year and encompassed travel across the United States and into both Baja and mainland Mexico. The packs endured everything from winter alpine conditions to warm beaches in all four seasons.
Seiji Ishii works as a trainer to professional supercross/motocross riders, adventure riding test editor at Dirt Rider Magazine and an AMGA certified rock climbing guide/instructor for White Star Mountain Guides/Austin Rock Gym. He lives in Wimberley, TX with wife Shay, 3 year old daughter Sequoia, 3 dogs and a cat. His personal time is spent rock climbing, any form of dirt biking, cycling, and training for the next mountaineering adventure.