I've been a pretty avid photographer for quite a few years now, and have for the most part found regular daypacks and my standard Lowepro camera bag sufficient for the tasks I've set out on. However, I've found that I needed something better when out slaying dragons.
Both of the aforementioned methods of carry have specific issues in this setting.
Whilst the Lowepro and your other cookiecutter camera bags offers sufficient protection, it is neither tacticool nor very practicool.
The daypack option is more than sufficiently tacticool but you can throw as much clothing and padding in there as you'd like, short of using the pack to carry a proper camera bag you're running the risk of damaging both camera and optics as soon as you carry anything except the camera in there.
And this, is where the Hazard4 Evac Recon Sling comes into the picture.Hazard4
has made it their mission to develop load carrying equipment for operators, photographers and journalists on the front lines.
Their product line currently features go-bag style camera bags, messenger bags, MOLLE pouches, misc. utilities, apparel. Watches are also supposed to be coming soon.
Originally I was looking at the Evac Rocket Sling, but found that I was likely to wear it over a BA or plate carrier and an internal hydration compartment would be unnecessary bulk, and that modularity would serve me a lot better than larger fixed pockets.
Thus, I landed on the Evac Recon Sling.
It features three external pockets, two of which feature organizers for small doo-dads along with writing materials.
On the front it has one larger general purpose pocket with two horizontal velcro strips on the face of the pack to accomodate a pistol holster, or in my case a Maxpedition doo-dad holder. On the inside of the flap it has an organizational space, partly in mesh, and partly in plain fabric.
In addition, further up the front it has a smaller GP-pocket with velcro on the front. There is also velcro on the upper two PALS rows on the large pocket.
The right side of the pack features three columns of PALS webbing throughout 80% of it's length, along with a small pocket that amongst other things fits a water bottle pretty well, or alternately it seems to be a good fit for a JIB as well if the weather demands you have quick access to one. In addition it has two long compression straps that are just perfect for carrying around your tripod with you. Most compression straps on this pack comes with a velcro strap attached at the end so you can get rid of those annoying loose ends hanging around.
The shoulder strap on the Evac Recon Sling is broad, and more than sufficiently padded to ensure comfort during long term use. Originally it comes set up to carry it over your right shoulder, but it took me less than two minutes to set it up for a right shoulder carry due to the inherent ambidextrious design of the pack. The back is padded to increase airflow and keep you cool whilst carrying it without a BA/Plate Carrier in between, but not as stiffly padded as to create discomfort when cinching the pack tight.
The strap itself has an adjustment strap to cinch the top of the pack closer to your body, along with the rubberized Hazard4 logo patch, a few rows of PALS webbing and a large quick-release buckle.
Three nifty additional points to the strap system are the plastic clips fitted to the main shoulder strap below the quick release buckle that allows you to route straps, headphone cables or similar up along the strap, the wide D-Ring near the bottom of the strap, and the secondary strap that goes around your body and hooks into a D-ring on the main strap to increase stability.
Now, to the left side, where all the action is.
Again, most of the pack's side is covered in three colums of PALS webbing, with just one zippered compartment that opens up directly into the main compartment of the pack.
The main compartment has ample space, and as most go-bags take up the entire main body of the pack. It comes with four velcro dividers that can be put into the pack in pretty much any desireable combination to fit whatever you are carrying at the time. In addition, I have found that canteen pouch NVG inserts are great for larger zoom optics.
The pack in this configuration carries the following camera equipment:
- Canon EOS 7D
- Olympus E-500
- 15-85mm lens
- 40-150mm lens
- 14-45mm lens
- 14-42mm lens
- 25mm lens
- Lens shade
- Flash unit
This is allready a good deal of equipment, but with some optimization I think you could stuff even more in there without any problems at all.
The top of the pack features a heavy duty rubberized carryhandle with a side release-buckle on one side, with the addition of a D-ring i.e. to hang it up in a vehicle or such.
Once you open the quick release buckle, you gain entry to the top lid. In addition to letting you into the main compartment, ideal for quick access to your prefered camera, it has a pocket with internal organizers, both mesh and fabric.
All in all, what I've seen from this bag thus far is purely amazing. The build quality is great, the padding is very thick and might even protect your equipment decently from the cold in winter time (though as with most things and cold, to a certain degree).
The ambidextrious design is great, swapping it around can be done in the field in a manner of minutes and even seems possible to do with gloves on. For the most part, the layout of the pockets is well thought out, and the velcro on the front of the pack for patches is a nice touch.
My main gripe with this pack has been the padded internal dividers it comes with. The velcro is very strong, and the fabric inside the pack attaches easily and has quite some give to it initially, so sectioning it up is a proper pain until you get the hang of it. This isn't an operation you'd be taking on often though, so the pros far outweigh the cons.
Available in both black and coyote, along with addons, pouches and accessories available from Hazard4, MOLLE compatability and a few really nifty solutions I can't see any reason not to recommend this to any photographer looking for a good tacticool and
practicool way to carry his primary equipment.
All in all, this is a great product, and I'll be sure to update this review with further observations as I use it over time.