Some bags in the market could get my attention and even my interest. However some critical points that I find essential for me made the list of winners to become really short. First, the bag has to be solid, well made, “looking good” and weatherproof by itself (means with no need of cover or any additional accessory). Second, it has to be lightweight when empty. This point is really important if you plan to carry the bag for a long period during the day or if you need to travel by airplanes considering the weight restriction on most of the airlines companies. Third, the bag should allow you an easy access to what is inside without compromising the security. Fourth point, certainly the most difficult to explain, is the size. It should have the smallest size possible to carry what you need but it should also have some flexibility to allow you carry extra unexpected things if necessary. I know that this is not an easy one. However, and it’s certainly the point which made me most to like the bags made by Billingham, whatever the model that I tried until now, I always had the possibility to check mark all the points listed above included the last one, certainly the more tricky.
For more details on the two previous models that I own and have tested, you can read in first the Billingham Hadley Pro review from beginning of 2016, then from earlier this year the one for the Billingham Hadley One. You will be able to see that their flexibility and adaptability is real and efficient.
So, what about the Billingham Rucksack 35? It’s more than a month now that I was able to use it in all type of conditions. You can read here my “First impression review” which can give you already several details on this bag. Let’s see if it was able to convince me, or not, and let’s check if it completes the most important points that I listed above.
As said in the first impression review, The Rucksack 35 is made with premium elements. Top quality leather, brass and Fibrenyte, the weatherproof three layer fabric made by Billingham. The combination of all these materials provides a good looking, strong and weatherproof bag which could be with you under any type of condition, as you will be able to discover during this review.
We went with my friend Martial Dekker for a landscape session. I took with me the usual set:
- Canon 6D with 35mm f/2IS and 135mm f/2L.
- Lee Filters pouch with inside the foundation kit, a 105 mm polarizer, two ND grad filters (soft and hard) and the Little Stopper.
- Lee Filters lens ring adaptors.
- Cleaning kit for lenses and filters.
- Canon remote control TC-80N3.
- Head Light.
- Storm jacket to protect the camera and lens from the rain while on the tripod.
- Extra batteries for everything which need power and SD cards.
- Wallet, Smartphone, notebook, pen and keys.
Everything fits perfectly into the bag and in the outside pocket. The best organization was with the Lee Filters pouch and the 135mm f/2L into the removable insert and the camera, with the 35mm mounted on it, in the free space above. Like this, I was able to take out the camera from the bag easily anytime I need it. The rest of the accessories take their place in between the small pocket organizer inside and the outside pocket. One of the advantages to have a protective but still flexible pocket with no pre-organization inside is that you can put in what you want, the way you want it.
Also, I fixed a little bottle of water under the outside pocket with the 5/8″ straps that I order with the bag. Easy to take it out, I do not need to open the bag when I’m thirsty and it is no risk of water leaking inside it.
You can see from the image above that everything fits perfectly into the bag, without creating any extra bulk. The total weight, including the water bottle, was less than 5kg. Not necessary to say that I could walk hours without any pain on the shoulder with this rucksack on me. The shoulder straps are really comfortable and I never felt the necessity for an extra padding or any waist straps.
My friend Martial took this photo while I decided to stay under a sudden and heavy rain to test how the Rucksack 35 will survive. For sure, I have already the experience with my others Billingham bags so I was not afraid for my camera gear inside. The protective flap above the zipper works perfectly. When I opened the bag after the rain, it was totally dry inside. This is due also to the fantastic three layer fabric made by Billingham, the Fibrenyte.
In landscape photography we have often the need for a tripod. So where did I place it? Actually, I hold it in my hand. It weights 1.7kg in total with the head. If you climb on a mountain you certainly need to attach the tripod to your bag but for a 2 or 3 hours hike it is no issue to have it in your hand. It is also easier when you walk and that you find a nice spot to make an image to set it up.
During the photo session, I was able to attach the buckle which is on top of the bag to the hook under the tripod head. This is really practical because, even the Rucksack 35 will survive into the mud, have the possibility to keep it clean is a real plus.
This configuration is great as I can easily access anything I could need during the shooting session.
Me and my wife got the opportunity to have a great weekend in the Westin resort of St Maarten and for sure the Rucksack 35 was with us. Yes I say “us” as my wife likes this bag also like you will be able to see below.
Classy and small, discreet and comfortable, the Rucksack 35 was the perfect bag for this magical two days to carry the camera, two lenses and the daily necessary.
By the beach…
By the pool…
At the restaurant…
On July 14th, the National Day for France, we went in Marigot to participate to the events and see the fireworks. I walked into the crowd without fear of touching people with the bag, this one being not as wide as me. Also, I was feeling safe as the bag is really protected against any unwanted access thanks to the zippers and the clog ball which lock the flap above the outside pocket. Sadly, we didn’t take any photo of the bag on my back. The purpose of this evening was to get fun so I just enjoy the time and didn’t even realize the bag that I was wearing. Well, this is pretty good actually. Anyway, I decided to share with you some images showing the crowd and the atmosphere.
As you can see, I live on an island in the Caribbean. So we have the chance to go by the beach with my family as often as possible. The Rucksack 35 thanks to his design, zippers and fabric is really perfect for that. When it gets wet, it can dry under the sun really fast. When the wind becomes strong, thanks to the zippers, the sand cannot get inside. Also the Fibrenyte can be cleaned easily and so you do not have to pay attention too much on where you put the bag on the ground.
If you want to walk on the shore…
Or through the bush…
You have always a beautiful beach at the end of the trail!
Now that I used it since a while under a lot of type of circumstances from daily work, hikes, landscape photography, leisure weekend, bus trip (yes this also!) and city walk, I can say that the Billingham Rucksack 35 is just amazing.
Looking good, solid, weatherproof, protective and secure for what is inside, lightweight, comfortable and practical with its removable insert, the list is really long on what this bag could offer on a daily basis. It definitely check mark all the points that I listed at the beginning of this review.
Last, but not least, I would like to highlight this great possibility to remove the internal insert. This allow you to carry almost anything like a jacket, extra documents, a lunch box, or whatever you want or need if you have just a small camera to carry or even none at all.
In final, how does it compare to the others bags that I own already, the Billingham Hadley Pro and the Hadley One?
Even it is still lightweight and not bulky, the Billingham Hadley One is definitely a bigger bag. Its dedicated laptop compartment and the flexibility that offer the different type of insert that we can use into it, made this bag my workhorse for my daily work or when I’m on assignment. If filled with my regular work set and camera gear, it is really comfortable. But, if I got an unexpected meeting and that I need to pick up my laptop with some A4 folders, no problem. It will fit easily, being more heavy for sure but still painless for my shoulder.
The Billingham Hadley Pro and the Rucksack 35 have pretty much the same size but one is a shoulder bag with an horizontal organization and the other one is a backpack with a vertical organization. If I need a quick access to my stuff or have to change the lens regularly during an event, the Hadley Pro is the one that I will take. On the other hand, if I know that I will walk the entire day, if I go to the beach and if I can live with a slower access on what is inside the bag, then I will pick up the Rucksack 35. Otherwise, both can take an iPad, some A4 documents, are comfortable, secure and practical. Both have a removable insert. They have both pretty much the same volume, but with a different style, a different way to use it. In real, I love both.
For my future travel I plan to take the Billingham Rucksack 35, with either the Hadley One or the Hadley Pro, which will be a great stylish combination for a maximum of comfort, security and flexibility to carry my camera gear along with my laptop, iPad, books and all the things that I could need during my trip.
I hope that sharing my experience with the Billingham Rucksack 35 will help you to know and understand better this fantastic bag.