For my everyday carry (EDC), work, entertainment, event, street, family walk and more, I like to use a shoulder bag to carry my stuff. You can see my Billingham Hadley Pro and Billingham Hadley One reviews to understand better why.
Sometimes a backpack make sense and could even be necessary. I have a backpack from another famous brand who is specialized in camera bag, which is good when I go “into the wild” for hiking or for a landscape photography session. This bag is really “shock proof”. Unfortunately, it never satisfied me totally for several reasons. First, a cover has to be used to ensure a real weatherproofing. Not a deal breaker but it could become awkward. The other concern is that even it’s a small bag, it weighs already 2 kg when it is empty. With my camera set and some others stuff it could become heavy and unpractical in a tight environment, into the crowd or when on my back for a too long period. Like a lot of things, whatever compromise we do, it as to be acceptable and relevant. With the rucksack series of Billingham, I got the opportunity to try something else and maybe find an answer to my concerns..
Effectively, last year, Billingham launched his rucksack series with an updated version of their former model, the Rucksack 25, and also a brand new model, the Rucksack 35. Following my logical on reducing size and weight, I decided to go with the smaller model, the Rucksack 35. With only 1.17 kg empty, it allow me to save already 0.83 kg which is an almost 50% of weight reduction.
Made in FibreNyte, the three layer waterproof fabric made by Billingham, the bag can survive under any type of condition or weather. I answer here my second concern: avoid the use of any additional inconvenient cover.
Last point: the size. It’s a smaller bag than my actual one. However, Billingham accustomed me to design their bag on such a way that they are looking simple, straight forward, but which shows in final an easy, logical and efficient way when in use.
So I received the bag which arrived in the usual brown cardboard box used by Billingham for their shipment. Perfectly packed I found the bag with the accessory which was ordered at the same time (let’s discuss this point a bit later…) as also a removable padded insert, their last catalog and a drawstring bag which can be used to protect the bag against the dust when it is not in use.
Strong canvas, perfect stitching, splendid full grain leather and brass fixing parts. Everything which made a Billingham bag beautiful and durable is present here.
Billingham offer a wide range of color combination. I decided to stay with my preferred one, the sage color with chocolate leather, which I find classy but discrete and which does not tend to get dirty easily.
My first impression for real when I saw the bag was: OMG this bag is small! And for real, it is small. Now the challenge is to identify if it is too small or, if at contrary, it is the right size for my use. Too often we need to reassure our-self, getting things over sized, over designed. With my past experience I learn that the simplest is the best. Let see if this formula works here.
It is time to go now into some details.
As said, this is a rucksack. So the shoulders straps are really important. The design is simple with the straps strongly stitched into the top, in between the fabric and a band of canvas. The padding is not thick but looks flexible and comfortable with spacer fabric for breath ability. On the other end, a beautiful piece of leather with brass loop allow to easily adjust the strap which is made in canvas. It’s efficient and comfortable, so far for the short period that I wear the bag.
The bottom corners of the bag are protected by a strong and large pieces of leather. This part allow two things according to my finding. In first, it’s a strong protection against eventual shock coming from the bottom or from the side. Second, it allows to strongly and firmly attach the strap, helped with a solid brass mounting part.
A double zips allows to access the main compartment. It is protected by a flap, finished by a band of leather, which seems to be efficient in case of rain. The experience will talk on this point, really important for me here in the Caribbean.
The main compartment is an open space with just a pocket on the front side where an iPad or any document can easily slide. The padding is sufficient to securely carry it. On the back side we can see two press stud which allow to fasten the insert inside the bag to keep it in place.
The insert is delivered with two long vertical dividers and one short which can be used to eventually stack equipment. The overall design of the insert is the same than for the ones of the Hadley series, also with a flap on top to protect the equipment inside. Regarding the form, the bottom is wider and longer than the top which is shorter and narrower. This design can surprise at the beginning but it is understandable according to the overall form of the bag. I used one vertical divider to create two areas, one for my Canon eos 6D with whatever lens mounted on it (facing down), and the other one for the other lens with some space free for little stuff. The 6D do not really create a bulk in front of the insert. However a bigger dslr certainly will (ex. Canon 5Dmkx series or Nikon equivalent) and this could create an issue especially if you want to carry an iPad into the slide pocket… A mirrorless camera will feel at home for sure but I do not complain. The Canon 6D with the Canon ef 35mm f/2IS and the Canon ef 135mm f/2L, both with their lens hood, fit perfectly and securely in the insert. Note that I can easily take out or enter the camera and the lenses without any problem. This is a great point for me. Above the insert it remains some space which allow to bring more stuff if needed. But do not forget. The insert is removable, which means that you can have the entire space inside the bag to carry whatever you want.
The Billingham Rucksack 35 insert (right) next to the one of the Hadley pro (left). The one of the rucksack is taller but not as long.
Last, but not least, the Billingham Rucksack 35 has a generous outside pocket, which is closed also by two zips. It is also protected against the weather but also an eventual unwanted access by a flap closed by a clogball system like on the bags of the Hadley series. This last point is really important especially if you want to walk securely in the street.
Here also, like for the main compartment, it is just an empty space. No accessories or pen holder. It looks strange at the age where most bag companies are preparing, pre-designing, the way you will organize your space. But here the philosophy is different. Freedom! You can put what you want, the way you want. Will detailed you this part more in my full review but believe me, it works.
Below, the outside pocket loaded with extra battery and SD cards, a 2TB external hardrive, a 16Gb USB stick, a Lowepro Deluxe Media Case 30 containing chargers and cables, a notebook “Rhodia” with pen and pencil, a wallet, a Leatherman Skeletool CX and a lens cap…
… And it’s still some space for a cleaning cloth, my keys and my smartphone. Awesome!
Under the outside pocket you can find two brass buckles which allow to add eventual extensions. Billingham plan to have a bottle holder in the future but it is not available yet. So the accessory I say at the beginning that I will discuss later is the 5/8 leather tripod straps. My tripod is definitely too long and heavy to be hang here but I plan to find a bottle which will be certainly useful during my hikes.
So this is my first impression on this small beautiful bag. For now, I find it comfortable, easy to access, allowing me to carry “almost” everything I need on a daily basis. My main daily work bag still remain the Billingham Hadley One which allow me to carry also my Microsoft surface and some folders. But this little Rucksack 35 is a real serious contender in term of portability and comfort.
I will use it intensively, in all type of condition, during this coming month and will then write a full review which hopefully will allow you to decide if the Billingham Rucksack 35 could be a bag for you or not.
So stay tuned!!!