BAGSMART Xpedition Modular Backpack Review
March 6th, 2019
The current trend among photography backpack makers seems to be the idea of a modular backpack that can be reconfigured for different purposes – travel, business, photography, or some blend of the two. I can understand the logic. I own 8 different camera bags/backpacks at the moment, because different situations demand a different carrying solution. But what if you could have one backpack that could be reconfigured with different modules to accommodate those different scenarios? That’s where the Xpedition model from BAGSMART comes in. You can buy it in a specific configuration (Business, Photography, or Travel) to save money, but the greater value (to me) is to buy the bag in what I call the “kitchen sink” configuration where you receive all three modules with the ability to mix and match them as you please. It isn’t cheap (none of these modular bags are), but the ability to configure the Xpedition backpack to the best configuration for your current needs is a compelling idea.
The best way to get the info on the BAGSMART Xpedition backpack is to watch the interactive video below where I demonstrate the bag and review it.
Xpedition Exterior Overview
Let’s talk about the backpack design. The modular design allows for much better weight distribution. One of the typical issues with many packpacks is that the weight settles to the bottom of the backpack, creating a situation where the center of gravity is very low. This pulls down on your shoulders and create fatigue. The Xpedition employs what BAGSMART calls the “X-Frame”, a rigid interior plate that the various modules can slip into.
This allows the heavier weight to be situated high on your back where it is much easier to carry without getting fatigued. The various modules are really designed so that the large modules are clipped into the top portion. The modules attach through a system BAGSMART calls a “Fidlock Snap”.
This a male/female clip system that utilized magnetic polarity to lock into place. Sliding the module upwards allows it to unlock and come free. This system allows even the heavier modules to stay locked in up high so that your weight is nicely distributed.
The exterior of the Xpedition is made of waterproof, durable nylon materials that eliminate the need for a separate rain hood.
The bag itself is medium-sized, with a 20 liter interior volume. I’m slim and tall (6’1″ and 170lbs), and you can see that the backpack is only moderately large on my frame.
On the bottom of the bag there are straps for attaching a tripod. I personally prefer to carry a compact travel tripod when traveling, and I can put my Oben CT-3535 carbon fiber travel tripod underneath the bag without it sticking out on either side or disrupting the balance of the bag at all – a real treat.
What I like less about this arrangement is the straps don’t have clips to release the straps so that I can quickly disconnect them, put the tripod there, and then latch the straps around the tripod. I have an old (now-discontinued) LowePro bag with that arrangement, and I could pull out the tripod without even taking the backpack off. That’s not the case here, unfortunately. I have to slide the tripod in from the side, and even my compact tripod requires the straps to be completely loosened to slide the tripod in.
There are various outer pockets that can be accessed, including a nicely padded area to store a laptop, a hidden, zippered compartment where you could put things like a passport, a small tablet like an iPad mini, or perhaps an e-Reader. BAGSMART’s longtime specialty has been in designing organizers, and that’s apparent here, as all of these compartments are cleverly designed to allow you to put things into their proper place rather than randomly in large areas. The zippers are reinforced and have soft-touch materials over them to both protect your gear from scratching and also for a pleasant ergonomic experience.
The Xpedition has straps along the side that can be loosened to allow the bag to expand (like the zippered expansion sections on suitcases) if you need to really stuff the bag, and can be tightened down if you have less in the bag and want to maintain a sleek profile (and keep things from shifting around inside).
There is also a little sling bag attached to the front of the backpack via Fidlocks that you can pull off and use for carrying smaller items. It has straps and can be used independently of the main backpack, or you can use it as an additional storage area on the bag itself. The sling bag is included with all configurations of the bag, as we’ll examine in a moment.
The interior of the bag is accessed by a sliding magnetic Fidlock. This is an excellent security feature, as even though I’ve reviewed a lot of bags, I had to spend a few minutes learning how it worked (you have to pull the two sections in opposite directions to break the magnetic seal). It’s doubtful that a thief would be able to figure this out while the backpack is riding on your back, and there is no easy way to access the interior space without you knowing.
This allows the outer flap to be laid back, exposing the modules within. These can be accessed by unzipping a zipper on either side (zippers that are hidden when the outer flap is on). The inner portion of the front flap has a large zipped mesh area that can be utilized in a number of ways.
Interior and Modules
The Xpedition is designed around utilizing two modules (a large and a small) at the same time. The large module goes at the top, with the smaller at the bottom. In the case of the photography module, that allows you to open that module to access your gear.
One nice thing about all the modules is that they are designed for independent use. The two main photography modules have handles, for example, to carry them independently and have similar durable build materials as the outside of the bag. They both have a variety of dividers inside so that you can easily configure the interior space. Between the two modules there is room for multiple cameras and 5-6 additional lenses (depending on the size of the lenses, of course).
The modules clip into the X-frame inside the bag. This helps keep everything in a rigid, fixed position, with very good protection for your gear. If you have multiple module configurations, you can mix and match. Here’s a look at what comes with bare photography setup (priced at $265 USD).
You can also opt for the travel configuration, that comes with a nice clothes module (meshed on the side to allow everything to breathe) along with a very clever toiletry bag with a lot of smart organizer areas (straps and pouches to help keep everything where you want it.) This would be great for an overnight trip, though obviously there are limits to how much clothes you can pack in a 20L backpack! The travel configuration is the cheapest, at $235 USD.
The business configuration (priced at $245 USD) comes with a large folio case for transporting documents in a way that will keep them from becoming bent or damaged. Attaching to that is a power organizer, with a lot of clever ways to hold various power accessories, memory cards, and more. There is considerable space left in the bag if you want to add more in there with this configuration. You could definitely add some loose clothes, for example. If you have all the modules, you could easily clip in the toiletry bag instead of (or in addition to) the power bag. You could even fit in the large photography section with the folio case, though you could only clip one, not both in.
As noted at the beginning of this review, the best value here (though the most expensive) is to get all the modules ($355 USD), which really unlocks the full versatility of the Xpedition. It’s a lot of money, but it’s a well-made, cleverly designed bag.
Carrying and Conclusion
In conclusion, here’s the real question: how does it carry? Fortunately, it carries very well. The portion that goes against your back is well padded with breathable materials and ergonomic sections designed to assure the proper pressure points. The straps are also nicely padded and have a breathable mesh underside to help them from getting sweaty. The chest strap has a nice range where it can move up and down to make sure that the tension across your chest is in the right position. The straps have loops for hanging things off of, and (something I love!) there is nylon tension straps at the bottom of the padded straps with loops that you can easily grab and add the proper tension to the straps.
It’s easy to get the Xpedition in a good carry position and it remains comfortable over long distances. The even weight distribution makes a big difference. Whatever your purpose, having your gear riding easy with you is a treat.
In conclusion, the price on modular travel backpacks like these are not for the faint of heart. The BAGSMART Xpedition a premium product at a premium price and is definitely not an impulse purchase. That being said, having a well-made, highly useful backpack is the kind of thing that can everyday life better, and that just may be worth it for some of you. At the time of this review, the Xpedition is not yet available to the public but you can get your preorder in on their Indigogo crowd-funding campaign and be among the first to get the bag shipped to you. Visit here for more details.BAGSMART.com | Amazon | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK
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