Gear Review: Mindshift FirstLight Photo Backpack

Photo Backpacks Designed for the Outdoors

The MindShift Gear FirstLight photo backpacks are designed for hiking and outdoor use.
The MindShift Gear FirstLight photo backpacks are designed for hiking and outdoor use.

I recently received an evaluation copy of a new series of photo backpack from MindShift Gear. MindShift Gear is a sister company to ThinkTank Photo, whose bags I have been using for years.

The FirstLight series of backpacks come in three sizes: 20L, 30L, and 40L. The number indicates the bag capacity in liters. I was able to get a production copy of the FirstLight 40L to evaluate.

Build and Exterior

Construction of the bag is solid, with a water-resistant rip-stop nylon exterior and beefy zippers. The zippers have conveniently large pull-cords on them, too. Externally, the bag has several outer pockets. The side pocket is designed to hold a hydration pouch; there’s a port for the drinking tube at the top. There are also expandable mesh side pockets. The two pockets in the main lid can hold accessories, and the larger pocket is deep and wide enough to hold a 15″ laptop, but this pocket is not padded.

The bag also has tuck-away slots for a tripod harness. The FirstLight 40L dimensions are listed at 13.8″x  21.7″ x 9″, which should be carry-on legal for domestic US airlines. Don’t expect this bag to fit in the overhead compartment of a regional jet, however.

Designed for Hiking

What makes this bag different from my other photo backpacks is that the FirstLight series are really designed to fit as hiking backpacks. The shoulder harness has a torso height adjustment, and the hip belt is wide but not over-padded. There are deep vents in the back padding to promote airflow while hiking. The bag also includes a waterproof rain cover which can double as a ground cloth. I tested this feature out first-hand over the summer in a brief downpour in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and I can say that the bag and my gear remained bone-dry.

Inside the Bag

Inside, the FirstLight 40L is huge. It easily holds my Nikon 500mm f/4 AFS G VR lens attached to a D4 body. You could conceivably fit a 600mm f/4 or 400mm f/2.8 lens in this bag, too. I was able to simultaneously fit my D810, 24-70 f/2.8, 16-35 f/4 and 70-200 f/4 lenses and still have room to spare (although I might tip over if I tried hiking with all that stuff. As expected, the bag includes a lot of extra dividers. Some of the dividers have a center Velcro strip, which allows you to further sub-divide compartments in the bag. There are also zippered mesh pockets inside the lid that are perfect for small accessories like remote cords, filters, or extra memory cards.

FirstLight Interior
The FirstLight 40L easily holds a 500mm f/4 attached to a pro body, with room to spare! The rain cover doubles as a waterproof ground cloth.

Overall, if you’re looking for a backpack that’s designed for hiking, the FirstLight series from MindShift delivers. I was impressed by its durability and construction, and it really holds a ton of gear!

The MindShift Gear FirstLight 40L is available here

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