The MindShift Gear SidePath
$99.99 | MindShiftGear.com
MindShift Gear makes a lot of cool bags; I’ve used several over the years and have been impressed with their durability. The most recent bag to join the MindShift Gear family is the SidePath. It caught my attention because it features a near identical design to one of my all time favorite camera backpacks, the Lowepro Hatchback. These ‘hatchback’ style bags consists of two main compartments: an upper area to store personal stuff and a lower area, accessible via the back of the bag, for storing one’s camera gear.
I’ve found this style of bag to be exceptional for everyday use. I almost always have a camera on me (usually a Nikon D750 and 35mm F2), but often need additional room in my bag for carrying my hard drives, extra clothes and a snack. With the SidePath, I have plenty of room to do this. I was also able to keep my camera and hard drives separate from my cloths and food. Also convenient: the bag has a trapdoor to open up the two compartments into one. This makes it a good grocery-getter as well.
The SidePath is available in one size only, and offers a total volume of 14 liters (by comparison, Lowepro has a 16L and 22L version of the Hatchback).
- Exterior Dimensions 10.6″ W x 19″ H x 5.9″ D (26 x 47 x 15 cm)
- Camera Compartment: 9.1″ W x 6.7″ H x 5.5″ D (24 x 15 x 14 cm)
- Tablet Slot: 8.3″ W x 9.8″ H x 0.6″ D (22 x 25 x 2 cm)
- Weight: 1.6 lbs (0.7 kg) (includes rain cover)
Design and Construction
I live in Seattle and spend a lot of time walking and biking between my apartment, the office and concert venues. I had previously been using the Lowepro Hatchback before swapping it out for the SidePath and found I sacrificed very little in the switch (I have the 16L Hatchback, so I did lose some volume.) After three weeks using the SidePath, including a weekend trip to Santa Cruz California, and I have mostly positive things to say.
What I like most about the design of this bag is how ordinary it looks; it doesn’t scream ‘I’m a camera bag!’ Moreover, I love how well-protected my camera gear is in the hidden lower compartment. Now, I’m not suggesting you sneak your camera somewhere it doesn’t belong, but the lower gear pocket makes doing just that VERY easy. And because the lower compartment is padded, it also doubles as a cooler-like area. Once again, I’m not suggesting you fill the compartment with brews, but it does perfectly fit a six pack of cold beverages.
The exterior of the bag has a water repellent coating while the inside is coated in polyurethane. This helps to keep your stuff dry when not using the dedicated rain cover. More on that later.
The side pockets are impressively stretchy. As you can see from the photo, I was easily able to stuff a water bottle in one and a Manfrotto BeFree tripod in the other. The two bungee cords located on the upper left and right of the bag can be used to further secure any oversized gear, like a tripod or flash stand.
I’m 5’10” and have found the SidePath comfortable to wear, even for an extended period of time. It is also perfectly sized for every day out-and-about use (the next slide will give you a better idea of just how much you can lug). The back is well-padded, though the shoulder straps could benefit from some additional padding.
Another benefit of the hatchback-style design is that most hefty items, like your camera and lenses, will be located in the lower portion of the bag, right up against your back. This makes hauling heavy equipment less painful. There is also a chest strap and buckle on the over-the-shoulder straps for added support.
You can seriously fit a lot of stuff in this bag, including: a full frame DSLR body (Nikon D700), 2 lenses (Tokina 17-35mm F4, Nikon 85mm F1.8), two film cameras (a Polaroid 300 and Olympus Stylus Epic), a flash, card wallet, rain cover, 11-inch Macbook Air (you could probably squeeze a 13-inch in there instead), laptop charger, water bottle, tripod, US map, sunglasses, extra socks (it rains a lot in Seattle) and various personal items.
The SidePath has only one interior zippered pocket, which I found disappointing. The more places I can organize and secure my stuff the better. It’s located up against the front inside of the bag. There is also a pocket against the back of the bag that MindShift is advertising can fit a 10” tablet or 1.5L hydration reservoir. I didn’t attempt to fit either of those in the pocket, but did find it a useful space for stowing my notebook, memory card wallet and extra Instax film. I only wish it had some way of securing itself closed, whether it be Velcro or a zipper.
An 11″ laptop can easily slide down into the front portion of the bag. I also used that area to store my iPad while flying to Santa Cruz. There is also quite a lot of space in the open portion of the top area, which I was able to fill up with my flash, laptop charger and Polaroid camera.
Whether you’re hauling sodas or camera gear, the lower area is well-padded and well-secured. The bag ships with three padded velcro pieces that can be reconfigured to your liking.
One feature the Lowepro Hatchback offers that is missing on the SidePath is the ability to remove the lower gear portion of the bag completely. Still, it is nice that the divider between the upper and lower area can be dropped down to combine the two area into one.
The ability to haul lightstands or a tripod securely is invaluable. The previously mentioned bungees chords located on either side of the bag are an excellent feature. And one not offered by the competition.
The SidePath ships with a rain cover. Good thing because I tested the bag during the month of October, which just so happened to be the wettest October in Seattle history. Thankfully, never once did I find myself with wet gear. I’m also quite fond of the clips on the rain cover: they really help secure it to the bag and ensure no moisture is getting in.
Areas for improvement
There are aspects of the bag’s design I feel could be improved upon. The zipper track for the upper compartment allows the bag to open up dangerously wide. On several occasions over the course of this review, I unzipped the bag only to have it flop open and spill the contents of the upper compartment everywhere. If the zipper started and ended an inch or two higher than the bottom of the compartment, I think this would go a long way to rectify this issue. Or maybe I just need to get use to not opening the zippers all the way.
I mentioned it before, but the back pocket could also really benefit from a zipper or velcro to secure itself closed. Because seriously, only one zipper pocket on a camera backpack is not enough, ever.
The bottom line
The MindShift SidePath is not a carbon copy of the Lowepro Hatchback, but the two are strikingly similar in design. There are aspects of each I like better, for instance I love the SidePath’s bungee cords for securing light stands or tripods, and I love the Hatchback’s removal lower compartment.
On its own, the SidePath is an excellent day pack or travel pack. It can haul an impressive amount of gear, all in secure fashion and is well-versed to deal with inclement weather. At $100 MSRP it is pricier than the Lowepro Hatchback 16L (and a bit smaller), but it easily gives my favorite camera bag of all time a run for its money.
What we like:
- Spacious design with an impressive amount of room
- Two compartments, one for personal items, one for gear
- Camera gear compartment is secured against one’s back when wearing the bag
- Trapdoor allows the two compartments to be one
- Exterior of the bag is treated with a water repellent and it ships with a rain cover
- Side pockets can easily fit a small tripod or light stand
- Bungee cords allow for tripods or light stands to be easily secured to the bag
What we don’t:
- Only one interior zipper pocket
- Camera compartment can not be removed
- Upper compartment opens too wide, this sometimes lead to its contents spilling out
- Shoulder straps could use a little more padding