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Review: The Urban Quiver Camera Bag

by Chris Gampat on 10/15/2011

The Urban Quiver is a camera bag by the folks over at Blackstone, and is also perhaps one of the more unusual camera bags I’ve tested. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of backpacks because I feel that they slow me down when shooting. Because of this, I opt for bags like the Think Tank Retrospective 30 and Domke F2; both the Think Tank and Domke received positive reviews from us. When this bag was first announced, not only did my inner nerd cry out, but it piqued the interest of many across the internet.

Features

  • Inner dimensions: 21″ long x 6″ wide x 5″ tall
  • Two side accessory pockets & phone pocket on the chest strap
  • Buckle on chest strap allows for rapid clip-on & removal of bag
  • Three movable internal dividers allow any arrangement of lenses and cameras
  • Internal compartment has 360º padding
  • Optional tripod loops (coming soon) adjust to carry any size tripod on the outside of the bag
  • Underside of the padded strap is lined with a soft, breathable material which feels great even on bare shoulders
  • Shoulder sling creates an extremely streamlined fit against your body, preventing any unbalance (which even makes it great for cyclists)
  • Main compartment opening peels entirely back, giving complete, unhindered access to the inside
  • Carry-on approved for the majority of global airlines
  • Designed, developed and manufactured in Portland, OR

Design

The Urban Quiver is a camera bag with a ton of pockets. As a single strap camera bag, it would only make sense for them to put a pocket on the strap. The pocket here is actually quite big and can hold much more than your average stack of business cards.

The bag’s main compartment is opened by a dual zipper system that makes it much more practical—more on that later on. This area is well cushioned, but it doesn’t seem to overdo it. It’s similar to the Think Tank style: less cushioning than Crumpler but more than Domke.

The shoulder strap also has a buckle for quicker release if needed.

The bag also has two pockets that run along the entire length of the bag. Though these pockets are thin, I’ve been able to store checks, hand sanitizer, ID cards, business cards, batteries, memory cards, and other things in there.

My only complaint is that I wish there were mini-pockets inside of this giant one to help separate the things you cram into here.

The top and bottom of the bag feature straps that you can use to hang the Quiver up on a hook or to hold the bag in a different way. Due to the overall design of the bag, one would think that there would be a zipper pocket on the top for easier access to your arrows vital gear that you may keep up top. But there isn’t.

Along the body of the bag are also other straps. These can store other things. You can put a key ring around these, stick rods for a lighting softbox in there, or put anything else in there.

Then there’s the inside of the bag. In the photo above, I have (from left to right)

- My Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS

- Olympus EPM1

- Canon 85mm f1.8 with 50mm f1.4

- Canon 5D Mk II

- Canon 580 EX II and 430 EX II

At other times, I’ve had my EP2 with 12mm f1.6 Noktor in here as well as my 7D and my 35mm f1.4 L. Plus, you can also store components for a lighting system in here. Somehow or another, I’ve managed to fit lots of the critical parts of my Photogenic and Smith & Victor lighting kit into here too.

Durability

This bag is extremely durable, as are the zippers. I’ve overpacked the bag many times without the zippers suffering from ripping and I’ve also brought it along with me in the rain and to gigs. It survived much of the normal urban lifestyle abuses and the padding inside kept my gear clicking.

Portability

Here’s where the review starts to get a bit hairy. Human beings are used to carrying backpacks and messenger bags. Heck, if you’re an art student, you’re even used to carrying those big giant tube things that closely resemble the Urban Quiver. When you strap the Quiver on across your chest, it’s like you’re carrying a big giant rectangular cube on your back that may double as a giant rocket launcher you’d find in a video game.

It really is a bit weird when it comes to being portable: especially on the NYC subway system and when the trains are packed. Having the Quiver on my back and turning around to see the current train stop was like being a freshman back in high school again: turning around meant whacking the cute girl next to you in the face with your big giant bookbag.

Plus, in order to sit down, I needed to take it off. When taking it off, it needed to go in between my legs. Holding something in between your legs that only comes up to your knees when you sit down is quite difficult to do. In fact, I often needed to hold onto the hand straps instead.

Lastly, security is always an issue. At the time of writing and publishing this article, there are ruthless pickpockets in NYC that will slyly cut your pocket and take things from you. A bag like this on your back is an open invitation to those thieves since it’s out of your line of sight.

Practicality

For my type of photography, I need something with quick access to my gear. For the most part, the Urban Quiver allowed me quick access by just sliding it around, opening the zipper a bit, closing it, and then getting back to work. And for that reason, I like it. However, I couldn’t seem to get it to perfectly fit around my body type. I’m around 5 foot 7 inches and the only place that I’ve got fat is on my gut. Even with adjustment of the shoulder strap, it seemed uncomfortable to use at times and I yearned for my messenger bags with my gear safely at my hip if needed.

Conclusions

Is the Urban Quiver useful as a camera bag? Yes, in fact, I actually praise the creators for creating something so completely out of the norm and pushing the innovation in this product category. However, I’m not exactly sure that it’s right for me or most New Yorkers while traveling. Once you’re on the job and working, the compromise between security and accessibility is excellent and perhaps the best I’ve seen in a backpack type of camera bag.

Once again though, I still prefer Think Tank’s offerings. However, if Blackstone were to make the requested adjustments stated earlier on in this article, I may consider it more seriously. At the moment, I like this more than my Domke F2; but the Domke can hold much more than the Urban Quiver can. Indeed, I think that the company could produce something that could rival Think Tank, Lowepro, and others.

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