As a landscape photographer, my bag is an essential piece of equipment and having one that can hold all of my gear is very important. I’ve had the chance to test and review the new Manfrotto ProLight Bumblebee 230-PL backpack, so I decided to go on a woodland hike to put it through it’s paces.
Brantingham Dale in East Yorkshire was my chosen location as it has some great woodland and hilly terrain, so would make for a great place to test this bag and in particular, the load lifters that help take some of the weight off your back.
The day before, I cleaned all of my gear and sorted it into the Bumblebee backpack. I was extremely happy with the amount of space available as it allows me to have my DSLR with four lenses, filters and accessories, plus it can also carry my 35mm film camera with three lenses. The laptop section is useful for when I’m away for more than a couple of days and I need to process images on the go and it means that I don’t have to take another bag with me as the power adapter and external hard drive will also fit in the bag.
I arrived at my location around 5am and set off as soon as I got there. The first part of my hike was an uphill walk for about 30 minutes followed by walking back down the same hill. This was purely to get the blood pumping and to see just how well the weight of the bag was distributed between the shoulder straps, the waist strap and the load lifters and I can safely say that it was really comfortable. Once you get the straps tight and the bag pulled close to your back, it becomes very easy to carry this rather large bag and its contents.
I picked up a section of the Wold Way, an 80 mile walking route through the Yorkshire Dales and headed towards the village of Welton through an area of woodland and stopped along the way to capture some images. The light wasn’t very pleasing and I struggled to find any interesting compositions, so I took some shots of the bag and managed to capture a couple of images in the woods.
One of the things that impressed me about this bag, is that it stands upright very well. The bottom of the bag is flat and rigid, so it will sit very well on flat ground. My other bag (Manfrotto 3N1-36L) struggles to stand upright fully loaded. The Bumblebee even managed to stand on a tree stump and stay there while I shot some images of it.
The Tuck-away tripod connection allows you to quickly and easily attach a tripod to the side of the bag. The lower pocket opens up and the legs go in and a strap at the bottom plus a strap that comes out of the top pocket hold the tripod securely to the bag. While this is a perfectly good system for carrying a tripod, I personally prefer not to have my tripod on the bag and usually carry it in my hand wherever I go, so I was very happy to find a handy little strap on the waist belt that allows the tripod to hang securely and allows me quicker access to it.
On the other side of the waist belt is another feature that will come in very handy. A lens pouch has been added for those times when you don’t want to be taking the bag off your back to change lenses. I will usually switch between my wind angle and standard zoom lenses while out shooting landscape scenes and having a lens by my waist side, it will be much easier.
One thing that I didn’t get to test was the water repellency of the material, but if it’s as good as or better than my other Manfrotto bag, I’m sure it will be more than acceptable, plus it comes with rain and UV protection covers that fold up small enough to throw in the bag.
As with all Manfrotto bags, the Camera Protection System and the interchangeable dividers make the bag very versatile and allow the user the customize it to their requirements and I also like the removable pouch that hold a few lenses. This can be taken out to make room for other items or put into a smaller bag should you have the requirement to do so. The specification suggests that this bag meets the standard for cabin luggage, but always check with your airline if you are planning on travelling. I’m heading out to Iceland in September and the dimension are almost exactly what my airline allow.
Coming back towards the area where I started I stepped off the track and back into the woods to shoot a brick built feature that I believe was a freshwater spring and then made my way back to the car.
My hike finished on about 12 km of up and down hill and I can honestly say that it didn’t feel like I was carrying the weight that I was and the suspended mesh panel on the back helps avoid that inevitable sweat patch that come with most bags on long walks.
The new Bumblebee 230-PL is comfortable, lightweight, versatile and it protects my gear extremely well and will now be my main bag for all of my photography adventures.