I thought the whole Rotation180 thing was a gimmick, and avoided the packs by Mindshift Gear because who needs a new gimmick, right? I wanted a useful pack and had it in the that joined me trekking in Nepal more than once. That pack is amazing and fits all kinds of stuff for my longer trips in the backcountry.
The best way I can describe the Mindshift rotation180° Professional pack is that it’s more amazing. The Satori EXP is an amazing pack and can take a beating, but I found the rotation180° Pro better suited to my style and shooting needs. But, it’s not for everyone. Instead of a boring, exhaustive review, let me point out the highlights that sealed the deal for me.
The Rotation Gimmick That is Actually Awesome
One of the biggest obstacles I find when I am out hiking with my camera is stopping to get it out my pack each time I want to use it. Not only that, but living in Washington half the time means hiking in inclement weather, which means leaving my camera on the outside is not much of an option. The same goes for trekking in the Himalayas; having a heavy camera around my neck or shoulder just doesn’t work for me.
The r180° Pro attempts to solve this problem by making the lower part of the bag into a huge waist pack that swings around when needed. It works quite well.
The rotation feature requires that your hip belt is attached first, otherwise, it won’t really work. The belt is nicely padded all the way around and is as comfortable as I’d expect in a long distance pack. The clips in front are normal size, I found the adjustment straps a little more complex than they need to be, but they work.
On the right side of the pack is a quick release buckle.
The more I study it, the more I am impressed because the buckle can only be removed by sliding it down, yet it can be attached by simply placing both pieces close together and letting the magnetic, one-way buckle attach. This makes it remarkably easy to attach by touch but still secure enough to keep things in place. It is very well thought out.
With the buckle detached, the entire waist pack section is free to rotate. There is a handle loop on the right side of the pack, as well as huge loops on the front of the belt to aid in rotation.
You can see in the image above that a full-size DSLR (Canon 7D with battery grip, in this case) will fit, even with a 28-300mm or 70-200mm lens attached. The compartment comes standard with those dividers you find in all the packs these days, and can easily accommodate a smaller DSLR or mirrorless camera, an extra lens and a flash.
Inside the compartment, there is ample storage for small things. Filters and cards have side and top pockets including one with a zipper and mesh to make finding articles easy.
The waist belt also comes with its own rain cover and pockets for spare batteries and cards on the belt, interior pockets for filters, and other items.
But Does it Work?
At its core, the rotation180° is all about the quick action of slipping the waist belt around to access your gear. So how well does it work? I tested the pack over the course of two months, on ten different hikes, covering over 52 miles, as well as seven airline flights.
To those ends, the pack works very well for the right audience. It’s not as easy to take through airports as a smaller bag or a roller bag as I am accustomed to using. But on the trail, it is hands down the best pack for mixed use.
By that I mean, when your goal is to cover some ground and also take some photos, especially in inclement weather. I found this pack extremely useful for taking photos while keeping up with other non-photographers in the group. Because the action of sliding the belt around, extracting my big old camera, taking a shot and returning it all in place is so easy, I take more pictures and fall behind less than when I have to remove my whole pack.
This action alone is what has made the rotation180° Pro my replacement pack for the f-stop Satori EXP.
A Technical Pack
Beyond the waist belt, the pack is a technical pack, meaning those who love options and comfort in their pack will be happy. There are dozens of attachment points for hiking, skiing, and photography gear. It comes with a rain cover and tripod attachment straps.
The shoulder straps allow for a full range of adjustment for someone up to about 6’6″. Ice axe/trekking pole loops on the bottom match up with daisy chain loops on the back for the most adventurous. An outside stuff flap allows wet or oversized gear to remain away from precious camera gear.
There are daisy chain loops on the bottom for affixing things like sleeping bags or pads. Compressions straps are also available to help hold the pack to your back.
The space in this pack! Inside the main compartment is a removable organizing bag. This is accessed from the part of the pack that goes against your back, which helps increase security while traveling. With this bag removed, as I often used the pack, there is ample room for a full day hike worth of food, clothes, first aid, etc.
While knocking around town I carry a few books, iPad, chocolate and other odds and ends in this space. There is also a large pouch on the back of the pack that fits flipflops or a larger map (pictured below on the right). Along the sides are large tube sleeves, one of which typically holds the rain cover. On the left side the tube can hold a large water bottle or bladder (there is also a hydration hole to allow a bladder to remain inside the main compartment).
This pack is not the best for carrying a home office, as I am often apt to do. There are zippered pockets on the outer top flap, inner top compartment, and inside the opening against your back. There are five pockets in all, that are perfect for filters, remote controls, card wallets, and recharging cords. But it doesn’t have anything for pens or business cards or protection for a laptop/tablet.
That being said, the rotation180° Pro Is not designed for the mobile worker. It does an excellent job of keeping your photo gear separated (the waist belt has pockets for cards, filters, and other small items as well). I’m quite happy with its ability in that case. It’s not the bag for you if you need a mobile office bag.
Thoughtfulness in Design
It’s the little things I keep finding, and appreciating on this bag, even two months later:
- The back open sleeve is entirely removable.
- There are straps to help balance the load of a tripod specifically.
- There is a whistle in the sternum strap.
- The big thumb loops to help rotate the waist belt (and to just hook your thumbs in while on long hikes).
- Rubberized zipper covers to keep out the elements.
- A hidden compression strap for even more gear on the back, or your tripod.
- Loops on the waist belt, to attach water bottle holders or lens bags.
- Velcro attachment on the rain covers so they don’t blow off, but can be removed to dry out.
- Custom designed outer rain cover that works with the waist belt system flawlessly.
- The waist belt magnetic clip.
- It fits in overhead compartments of major airliners.
- The waist belt is easy enough to remove when the pack is not on your back, but is harder than any other bag I’ve used.
All the zipper pulls have decent sized loops, and there are two zippers to make opening the main compartment easy. Inside there is enough room for a full size DSLR and longer lens (pictured is a Canon 7D with battery pack and 28-300mm lens, equivalent in size to a 70-200mm lens). The unit also comes with dividers for those with smaller cameras and multiple accessories.
No pack is worth its weight if it is not comfortable to lug around. While the pack is not super light because of its substantial build quality, materials and stitching, the weight is carried well thanks to extra padding against your back and shoulders.
I would estimate that the pack has ridden on my back for about 60 hours. This includes city walks, forest hikes, snowshoeing, airports and just standing around waiting for transit. I have tested other packs for much shorter periods and that is because they didn’t feel right. I would not hesitate to take this pack on multi-week treks in the Himalayas, as I have done with the f-stop Satroi EXP.
What Doesn’t Work
The pack is not perfect, but it’s close. It really is not the right size pack to be schlepping through airports. While I have been doing it (so I can use the bag at my regular locations) I prefer the f-stop Guru instead, or the ThinkTank Aviator roller bag.
Removing your camera when the pack is not on your back is not that hard but can make things dirtier than normal when on the trail, because you now have two pieces in the elements.
This may seem like a small thing, but I found that dog hair loves this pack and sticks quite easily. I know this is not normal review criteria, but this bag is more magnetic to dog hair (and probably llama, cat and zebra hair as well) than any pack I’ve used.
The Mindshift Gear rotation180° Pro is one heck of a great bag. It is also not cheap and retails for $389.99 USD. Thankfully that cost translates into care in design and a solid build (nothing on this bag feels cheap). A month after using the bag I was still finding helpful attachment loops and straps.
This bag is designed for the active photographer with any size camera while noting it works well for large lenses. Mindshift also has smaller versions of this bag if you don’t need to carry so much gear.
Finally, if you have a family who has a mind of their own and tends to walk away even after you have muttered, “Hold on a sec, I need to get a photo of that!” for the 60th time during a trip, this bag is for you. I love the ability to quickly get my shot and return my camera to both a comfortable carrying position, and a safe spot out of the elements.
Disclaimer: Mindshift Gear furnished the author with a pack in order to review this product.