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Crumpler Zoomiverse XL Backpack Review

The following review of the Crumpler Zoomiverse XL backpack is by one of our forum moderators – Sime who also blogs at Absolute Ramblings and shares his images at Simon Pollock Imaging.

I need a backpack for a trip I have coming up, it’s to Peru and should be fairly trying on the old camera gear [not to mention the old legs!]… I needed a pack that would take all the camera gear I wanted to take, as well as a couple of daily odds and ends, a water bottle, my passport and all of that stuff… I am looking at two and thought that I’d review one of them for you, dear reader…

The Crumpler ZOOMIVERSE (XL)I honestly don’t know what I had in mind, I mean it’s all in the name really… XL …extra large!.. Yeah, I thought ‘it will be big” and that was OK, that’s what I was after, A large camera bag with a little bit of room for “other stuff” Well, the day came and it arrived in a box the size of your regular family piano – LARGE

I always unpack any new gear with anticipation, I love the smell of new stuff! Books, bags, cameras – it all has that “new smell”. Unpacked out of the large piano sized box, the bag wasn’t much smaller, in fact, it is positively huge… I could fit a small human in it, easy…

As usual, the build quality was clearly stunning! all hand built and loved up… The 1000D chickentex is tougher than tough, really high quality build on all of my other Crumplers makes me expect each one will have an as good or better build and the zoomiverse certainly didn’t disappoint… well finished zips, nicely stitched corners… ten out of ten for build quality… I’d happily back it in a fight with B.A. Baracus!

The problems began when I started to transfer my camera gear out of my Daily XL. The camera section of the Zoomiverse is sort of like a little boat, it’s got itself a nice curved bottom so, the middle section is deep, deep like Loch Ness, and sure, my Canon 30D with its battery grip and the EF 100-400 f4.5 canon lens sat in there really nicely, and I’m sure you’d fit another one in there facing the other way, maybe with a 50mm lens on or something like that, but, the sides, the wings if you will, where the other “seven” lenses that Crumpler claim will fit in while you “run from the law” ..i’d avoid doing that at all costs. The velcro wasn’t all that crash hot at staying in place, so my precious glass was rattling around.. I tried sooo many different combinations, laying down, standing up, in each case the lenses seemed to find a way to slip out and wander off around the football pitch sized pack – fail.

This bag seems to be aimed at the more professional end of the market, with its sheer size. That said, the idea of sticking your tripod, in my case a Manfrotto 190xProB, in the “tripod holder” horizontally is a little crazy… I tried it and took all of the items off of the top of my cupboard, nearly beheaded Michelle and got stuck in a door. I think more thought needs to go into this. I have a Lowepro CompuRover AW, I think the tripod holding arrangement on the Lowepro is about right.

The other major design floor stuck its head up when I opened the bag, took out a body and lens, clicked them together and then went for my memory card… now, the zoomiverse doesn’t have a little memory card holder or anything along those lines in the main camera compartment, it has a little accessories pouch, but who wants memory cards floating around with tripod bases and cleaning fluid? no, not me… so, the only spot for memory cards is in the front pouch. The front pouch is well equipped, lots of nooks and crannies for all sorts of things… I had a phone, my iPod, 5 memory cards, spare tripod plate, cleaning kit, filters, pens and paper all in there… so, in a hurry, I lift my bag up to get a memory card out without shutting the main camera bit and all of my gear falls out onto my bed [luckily I was shooting my daily threesixtyfive in my bedroom rather than out on some rocks by the ocean!] ….This is BAD, very bad…

Crumpler have built a good array of strappage into the zoomiverse, it has your regular shoulder straps, well padded and strong enough to tow a car [no, I didn’t test this] and then it has the waist strap that holds all of the gear up off of your shoulders when hiking / walking, or indeed running from the law… The waist strap has a built in passport hidey hole that you can only access if you remove the pack, lay it on the ground and partially remove the strap all together, secure – you can be sure that nobody is going to be able to flog your precious passport and sell it in the black market, but, don’t rush up to the customs officer expecting to “quickly whip it out” it won’t happen… The strap provides a good level of comfort for when you have a pack full of stuff, it is securely held up off your shoulders most of the time and as well as this it is held securely across your chest with an adjustable chest strap… Now, I wasn’t due to go on any treks for a few weeks, so, I thought i’d test this in a more “consumer friendly” environment… “House cleaning” I packed the bag up with all I had, a 15″ MacBook Pro my Canon 30D with his battery grip, 6 spare batteries, my lenses (50mm, 10-22mm, 17-85mm,100mm macro, 100-400mm and a 24-70 f2.8) along with all the cleaning bit and pieces, a couple of magazines and power supplies and cables and a small external drive) – Yep, it held it all easily. Well, I strapped it on and went about my chores – I mopped, I swept, I vacuumed, I washed the shower and even moved some stuff out from under the bed! It took about 2 hours all up, with the zoomiverse firmly attached the whole time. During the course of this little exercise I managed to get my pack completely drenched while cleaning the shower – totally dry inside.

After all the cleaning and wandering about, up and down the stairs of my block, to the shops the bag was still comfortable on my back.

To conclude, would I buy this bag? In this case, no… I don’t think that the bag has been thought through well enough. The “parts pocket” in the front pouch is great, but not while you’re trying to access it quickly. The main space for camera gear is huge, sure, but I wouldn’t feel safe having it “half full” – I’m sure that if it was packed to the hilt like a crammed tube train on a monday morning that all your precious glass would stay in place.

I did try to get hold of Mr. Crumpler to have a quick word – he was unavailable for questioning (after all those slabs of beer we brought you in the volvo back in Brunswick street!!) maybe next time…

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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