When I started looking for a backpack to replace the two I already had, I had a simple objective; find a backpack that can carry lots of gear in the most compact, especially narrow, bag available. My experience has taught me, the biggest factor to making a bag compact is largely depth. In the end this search brought me to ThinkTank Photo’s StreetWalker Pro backpack. In fact, the StreetWalker Pro has become my go to daily use bag.
The StreetWalker Pro is a well thought out package, though it has its faults. However, it’s well made and integrates well with ThinkTank’s other bags and accessories which is a huge plus. The key feature for me, however, is that the StreetWalker Pro is deep enough to carry serious gear in a backpack form without being very wide which keeps me cool.
Why use a backpack instead of some other bag?
I find the backpacks have a huge advantage when it comes to comfort. I can put almost as much in my StreetWalker Pro as I can in a Domke F2. For me, that works out to something like 30 plus pounds. However, unlike the F2, the StreetWalker Pro lets that weight to be carried by both shoulders and hips rather than just one shoulder. Sure there are tradeoffs in terms of access, but this is where circumstance and the StreetWalker Pro’s solid integration with ThinkTank’s belt system factors in.
Lots of gear in a smallish backpack, how can that be?
The key to the StreetWalker Pro is depth. The StreetWalker Pro is almost as deep as most good shoulder bags. More importantly, it is significantly deeper than most similarly sized “small” photo backpacks.
More depth, however, isn’t always better. Make the bag too deep and it becomes cumbersome, impractical and wastes space. Get the depth just right, as the StreetWalker Pro does, and you end up with a lot of capacity in a compact package. In practice, I’ve found the ideal depth is around 7-8 inches. The StreetWalker Pro’s interior space is 7” deep. Less than that and many lenses and accessories have to be laid on their sides and smaller lenses can’t be stacked, both wastes of valuable space. More than about 8 inches, and the bag is too deep to fully utilize.
Thanks to nailing an almost ideal depth, the StreetWalker pro is able to be narrower without compromising carrying capacity.
That brings us to my second major criteria, width. Width controls not only how much the bag can hold, but also how cool it is when worn. A narrower backpack means a cooler backpack, because more fresh “cool” air can reach your back. In warm weather climates, like South Florida, I find this to be absolutely critical.
So it’s deep and it’s narrow, and you say it holds a lot, so what can it hold?
ThinkTank says the StreetWalker pro can hold a pro-sized SLR with a 70-200 f/2.8 with the hood in place and several lenses, or a pro-sized SLR with a 400/2.8 and the hood reversed. Though not officially listed, it’s big enough for a 500 f/4 with the hood reversed and no camera attached as well.
Sounds good, but how does it work out in practice?
I frequently stuff a 1D with my 100-400 attached and the hood reversed in the main camera spot. Below that, under a padded divider, a 40D with no lens attached. Along the left side of the bag; an EF 24-70 f/2.8L, an EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5, and a pair of 580Ex II flashes fit nicely. In addition, there’s a smaller divider near that top that makes a spot with enough room for an EF 1.4x II teleconverter and a PocketWizard MiniTT1 trigger.
That’s all in the main compartment. There’s still room in the lid and exterior pockets for a spare battery or two, a pair of PocketWizard FlexTT5s, a cable release, the lens hood for the ultra-wide, a better beamer, flashcard holder, a circular polarizer, and more.
On the flip side, if one shoots primes and doesn’t carry a 70-200 f/2.8, there are 2 dividers include for the right side of the bag so you can divide that down into useable storage. Further, the depth means that you can usually stack two smaller primes in any of the lens slots.
You said it integrates with other ThinkTank products, which and how well?
Let’s start with waist belts. This is a twofold solution. First, the StreetWalker pro comes with a removable waist belt. Personally, I think this is one of the poorer features; it’s too flexible and tends to slip so it doesn’t take up much of the load. In fact, the first thing I did was remove it and toss it in a drawer.
The solution is to look at ThinkTank’s belt system. This is a twofold advantage. First the Pro Speed Belt, which snaps into a Velcro secured flap, provides a much more comfortable belt than the stock one. It’s padded, stiff enough, and has a much better adjustable buckle that it works much better than the included belt.
Second, ThinkTank’s belt system, a completely modular camera carrying solution that’s worth a look on its own, alleviates many of the access problems that come with backpacks. On top alleviating some of the access problems backpacks have, the belt system adds some extra capacity when the backpack just isn’t enough.
Other major integration point is ThinkTank’s camera strap system. We all know that carrying a heavy SLR can make one’s neck sore quite quickly. The typical solution is to get a wider padded strap. However, these straps tend not to be as flexible as their thinner counterparts and get in the way when you’re working. ThinkTank’s solution is different, they’ve kept the thin “photojournalist” profile straps but added metal rings to them. Those rings allow the Camera Support Straps to clip in. The Camera Support Straps in turn attach to your backpack shoulder straps.
The StreetWalker Pro’s shoulder straps are designed with this use in mind and have 3 positions where the Camera Support Straps can be attached. In the end with the ThinkTank strap and Camera Support Straps, the weight of your camera is carried by your shoulders though the padded shoulder straps.
Faults everything has them, what are they?
First is the color, the StreetWalker Pro only comes in Photographer Black, the one true color for all photography gear. Black is good for some things, as it keeps those things from showing up in reflections. What it it’s not is a great color for when you’re out in the bright sunny world. In fact, if I spend a lot of time in the sun, the bag gets very hot and so does everything inside of it. I’ve pulled lenses and flashes out of the StreetWalker Pro that are as hot as if they’d been lying out in the sun all day. I’d really like to see a version of the StreetWalker Pro in a lighter color. In fact, if they released a StreetWalker Pro in tan or “foliage” I’d probably replace mine immediately.
Second is the tripod mount. Sure it’s nice to have one. In fact as far as tripod mounts go, this one is one of the better ones. The best part is you can remove the straps so they don’t get caught on anything. The problem is it’s on the back. With a fully loaded bag the tripod puts a lot of pressure on the contents. On top of that, with the depth of the bag, a tripod sticks out behind you. A side mounted tripod system may have worked much better.
The only other fault I have with the bag is that the shoulder straps could have a bit more material at the top so that the pouches and what not are more useable for me.
Summing it up.
The StreetWalker Pro is just about everything I look for in a camera bag. It’s small enough that I can toss a camera and lens, even a big one, in it and go on a hot day and not end up wishing I brought something smaller. It’s also big enough that I can carry enough gear to shoot just about anything on vacation or assignment. Moreover, the way it integrates with ThinkTank’s belt packs when I need added storage or faster access than a backpack can provide.