Benro Ranger 200 Backpack Review

Anyone who follows my photography should know that I am not really a backpack kind of guy. The reason I shoot with Olympus Micro Four Thirds equipment is because I want to travel as light as possible and whenever possible remove the need for a backpack. Instead of a backpack I use the Cosyspeed Camslinger system. This is great when I’m not going far from the car and I can carry my tripod in my hand, but what about when hiking?

Benro Ranger 200 with tripod
My quest for a backpack started squarely with the ability to carry my tripod with the weight evenly distributed

I have to be honest, my search for a backpack started from the premise of wanting to be able to easily carry my tripod on my back and I searched around for some kind of dedicated tripod holder that simply held the tripod and distributed the weight evenly across my shoulders. I could find nothing online and after a fruitless day searching at The Photography Show last March I found myself chatting once again to Mark Hoskins on the Benro stand. Now, it’s no secret that I use and love the Benro Travel Angel tripod (see review) so I asked Mark if they did anything that matched my requirements. “I’m afraid not”, he said. “Well”, I replied, “I’d be happy to go for a small bag, as long as it’s light and the tripod is carried in the centre and not on the side!”. Why do bag manufacturers do that? Are they trying to cause the user back problems? Do Manfrotto and Lowepro own shares in a global chiropractors? To me it’s simple, the weight of a backpack should be distributed evenly and it can’t be if they force you to shove a 2kg lump of carbon fibre on one side!

Mark listened to my rantings and then gently led me to their new backpack range display where he handed me the Ranger 200. That was 6 months ago and I have been using the backpack regularly ever since, so what’s my verdict?

Benro Ranger 200 Backpack
The Ranger 200’s airflow system does a pretty good job of keeping the sweat off your back whilst the cross straps keep it securely on there.

Qauality

Before we get into the nitty gritty of whether the bag is actually any good or not let’s address the quality. At ÂŁ129 it’s not the cheapest backpack on the market but then it’s not the most expensive either and the quality certainly lives up to the price tag. It is manufactured from water-repellent nylon with soft lined internal compartments. The dividers inside are adjustable and Benro describe the zips as “durable” which I have found over 6 months use to be true. I have mistreated the bag quite badly since I received it and apart from being a little grubby it is still as it was the day I bought it. In short, the quality is superb.

Fitting It All In

The Ranger 200 is small and lightweight but really packs a punch in it’s carrying capacity. Weighing just 1.4kg it’s exterior dimensions are 27 x 46 x 32 (W x H x D) cm. This gives a really good carrying capacity, even for DSLR users, and as can be seen below I have managed to pack a lot in, including a spare Olympus E-M1 body with lens attached, spare lenses and my Mavic Pro with 2 spare batteries. There are 2 interior zip-close storage compartments for all those little things such as batteries, cables, etc that just don’t fit anywhere else.

Benro Ranger 200 Inside With Olympus E-M1 and Mavic Pro
Despite being a pretty compact and lightweight backpack the Ranger 200 can still hold a spare body and lenses as well as a Mavic Pro drone and spare batteries, plus much more.

The dividers, which attach to the walls of the interior with Velcro, are of various shapes and sizes and can be configured to suit your individual requirements.

There is also a padded front pocket for a small laptop or iPad. My iPad fits in it beautifully but my 15″ Macbook Pro won’t. This isn’t an issue for me because Lightroom Mobile is now so good that I pretty much do all of my post processing on the iPad and never take my Macbook out of the house. I reckon a 13″ Macbook would probably fit in.

Benro Ranger 200 Carrying iPad
As I do just about all my post processing on my iPad these days the ability to slip that in a pocket on the Ranger 200 is an added bonus.

Externally the tripod is carried (fanfare please) centrally and sits securely in a little pouch that can be tucked away when a tripod is not being carried. An adjustable strap secures the tripod at the top and I can even tuck my drone landing pad in the tripod with no problems.

 

In Use

The first thing to say about using the bag is that when fully loaded and on your back the weight is distributed extremely evenly. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but this is really important. It’s incredibly bad for your back and shoulders to have unevenly distributed weight. Not only that but your backpack will become less comfortable much more quickly if it is pulling to one side.

The Ranger 200 features a ventilated padded harness system with plenty of adjustment and cross straps to ensure that the harness straps stay securely on your shoulders. I have to say that it all works extremely well and I have found the fully loaded bag to be incredibly comfortable for long periods. Although the Ranger 200 is water-resistent Benro have also included a rain cover.

At the bottom of the bag is a water-resistent pad that it sits upright on meaning you don’t need to lay it in the mud every time you take it off. On the right-hand side is a quick access opening to allow you to grab your camera. There are a couple of little pockets inside the flap for SD cards. On the left-hand side there is an open elasticated pocket that will hold a small water bottle or similar.

Benro Ranger 200 Inside Pockets
There are plenty of pockets for storing those bits and bobs that just don’t belong anywhere else

Verdict

All in all the Ranger 200 is a well made, well thought out backpack that I am extremely happy with. I have been very careful to make sure I have really used this backpack and properly put it through it’s paces before reviewing it and now having used it for over 6 months I can definitely say that in my opinion it is well worth the money. It fulfils my criteria but I realise that everyone is different. Is it the right backpack for you? I can’t say but what I can say is it’s definitely worth serious consideration.

Benro Ranger 200 Side Opening
Despite carrying my main body round my waist rather than in my backpack I am surprised how often I have accessed my spare through the handy side opening.
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Cosyspeed Camslinger 160 Review

Update: 10% off code below video. Scroll down 🙂

There are two things I dislike about landscape photography. Firstly, tripods. These are the bane of my life, a necessary evil that cannot be carried or stored in any satisfactory way. The sooner someone invents a self-levitating camera the better. My second pet hate is backpacks. I have yet to find a backpack that does anything more than hang on my back, feeling uncomfortable, making me sweat, and being a complete pain in the arse every time I have the audacity to actually use my camera gear. You cannot work with a backpack, you fight against it. You hike for miles with it weighing you down and then you finally see the shot that you want. At this point you begin the laborious task of contorting yourself into various bizarre shapes to extricate it from your back, laying it on the wet and muddy ground, and then rifling through endless pointless pockets and compartments to remove the required body, lens, filters, etc that you require to take the shot. By this time the gorgeous light that bathed the valley ahead has gone behind the mother of all clouds so you decide to pack it all away again and press on. After another 5 minutes of faffing you pick the backpack up, clean off as much of mother nature’s feculence as you can and swing it over your shoulder ready to begin the muscle tearing process of getting it onto your back. It’s at this point you hear a sickening thud. “What was that?”. Your blood runs cold. “Not a lens, please don’t be a lens”. With trepidation you slowly turn to take a look. “Bollocks!!!!”. It was a lens. In your haste to actually get on with the rest of your life you have left one of those myriad of compartments open and your prized glass has flown out and hit the only rock with 25 miles.

This for me is the reality of using a backpack. A backpack doesn’t aid my photography in any way, quite the opposite, it hinders it. And don’t even get me started on the prospects of being able to shoot spontaneously whilst hiking as this entails either having a strap around your neck or simply holding the camera in your hand, neither of which sit very well with long hikes, scrambling over rocks, crossing slippery stones, or any other treacherous undertaking you might perform whilst out and about. In my opinion backpacks were sent by Beelzebub himself to hinder photography and make photographers sweat and ache. I have not found a well designed one yet.

It was with all this in mind that I found myself wandering amongst the stands at the photography show back in March, searching for some kind of alternative, when I happened upon a stand manned by a friendly chap named Thomas. It turned out that Thomas was the founder of Cosyspeed and he proceeded to enthusiastically demonstrate their Camslinger system to me. I could immediately see the potential for street photographers, after all they have a Thomas Leuthard signature model and you don’t get a better street photography related endorsement than that. But I am predominantly a landscape photographer, I have to carry more gear, could it really be any good for me? There was only one way to find out and that was to acquire one. So, about a month later I received a parcel containing the following:

1 X Camslinger 160
1 X Camstrap 10
1 X Camslinger Lensbag 80
1 X Camslinger Stuffbag 30

So, 2 months on, what’s it like?

Well, it’s great, it really is. I think the most flattering thing I can say about it is it helps me do photography rather than hindering me. It not only acts as a carrying aid but also as a work bench. No more putting a backpack on the floor and working from that, it just stays around my waist the whole time. When I’m walking, when I’m cycling, and when I’m actually shooting. Every thing is there within easy reach.

IMG_0617.JPG
The Camslinger system puts your camera within easy reach for quick access.

My Setup

As mentioned above I have the Camslinger 160 and 2 smaller companion bags. As well as this I have a Lee Filter Pouch that also attaches to the belt. I have the Camslinger 160 on my right hip, the Lee pouch on my left hip and the other 2 bags behind me. “So what about your tripod?”, I hear you cry. Well, that is the one thing that this system obviously can’t accommodate, so I’ve had to start using a shoulder bag and whilst this isn’t ideal I have found it is a worthwhile compromise.

What’s in the bags?

Well, in the Camslinger 160 I have:

  • 1 X Olympus OMD E-M1
  • 1 X 12-40 f2.8 Pro lens
  • 1 X 75mm f1.8 lens
  • 1 X 45mm f1.8 lens
  • 1 X 9-18mm f4-5.6 lens
IMG_0613.JPG
The 160 takes 4 lenses and a body…..just. It is width adjustable.

In the Camslinger Stuffbag 30 I have:

  • 3 X spare batteries
IMG_0619.JPG
Stuff Bag 30 with 3 batteries.

In the Camslinger Lensbag 80 I have:

  • 1 X remote cable release
  • 1 X iPad lightning SD card reader
  • 1 X Cleaning cloth
  • Several SD cards
IMG_0614.JPG
Lensbag 80

In the Lee filter pouch:

  • 3 X soft edge graduated ND filters
  • 3 X hard edge graduated ND filters
  • 1 X circular polariser
  • 1 X circular variable ND filter
  • 1 X Hi-tech 10 stop filter
  • 1 X Lee Foundation kit holder
  • 4 X step up rings

Is it comfortable?

Well, after extensive testing the answer for me is a resounding, yes. It does take some getting used to as it seems extremely counter intuitive at first but once you get used to that you don’t really notice it even on a fairly long walk. You can simply swing everything behind you or keep the Camslinger to your side for quick and easy access. Even hiking between locations you should never miss a shot as you can go from bag to shooting in a matter of seconds.

IMG_0618.JPG
It’s easy to swing everything round behind you for walking / cycling

On a bike it’s great. I’ve never felt comfortable with a backpack, I find it makes me sweat too much. I’ve tried handlebar bags but that just makes the bike handle badly. In my opinion you certainly notice it much less than a backpack but if you are undertaking a self-supported tour and need to carry clothes, etc than it leaves you the option of a backpack as well to carry that stuff rather than your photography gear.

What is it like to use?

Brilliant! This is where the Camslinger system comes into it’s own. It’s like having a photographic work bench around your waist. Everything is at hand and easy to access, no more turning round, bending down and rifling through a backpack on the floor just to change a filter or lens, it’s all there, ready to go. It’s difficult to put into words how good it is so I have made this video in the hope that will get it across.

Note: It turns out that Cosyspeed like this video so much they have given me a discount code. So if anyone feels inspired to get themselves a Camslinger just use street316 at http://www.cosyspeedshop.de to get 10% off.

The quality and construction appears to be second to none and the double fastening system gives you confidence that you won’t lose your gear. It also comes with a waterproof cover that hangs off the bottom and can be put on in seconds as well as a pretty clever system that allows you to adjust the size. You can see more on this at http://www.cosyspeed.com

Any drawbacks?

After using the system for 2 months I have only found a couple of small problems and these really only apply to me. Firstly it’s just a little too small for the gear I carry. This is not the fault of the bag of course, indeed it is testament to it that I can carry so much, but for me it would be great if it was just a few mm taller so that it could take the E-M1 fitted with a 12-40 Pro lens just a little easier. The only other thing is that the Velcro on the lens bag seems a little weak. I can fit the 75mm f1.8 lens in but it has a habit of forcing the top open. It is fine with the stuff I have in it though.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a viable alternative to a backpack for landscape photography then I would thoroughly recommend giving the Camslinger a go. At under 40 euros it is great value and if you’re a street or casual photographer I’d say it’s a no brainer. Just remember, it’s for mirrorless users only 🙂

More at http://www.cosyspeed.com