Review: Vanguard Quovio 44 Backpack

Vanguard Quovio 44
Vanguard Quovio 44

Vanguard Quovio 44

I’ve always been fascinated by turtles, carrying their entire home on their back in such a small package. With the Quovio 44 you’ll feel like certain unnamed superhero turtles, only your weapon of choice is a camera.

The Quovio 44 backpack from Vanguard is a large versatile backpack. They claim it’s like having 3 bags in one, but I found at least 5 different ways to configure this bag for different situations. The bag itself doesn’t look or feel big, but they seem to have thought of everything when designing it, so you can likely fit everything you need into it. Where I usually feel like a bag or case is particularly suited for a certain type of photographer, the Quovio 44 seems to have a configuration to suit just about anyone.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Versatile, supports multiple configurations
  • Supports iPad or tablet device
  • Side access for camera

Cons

  • No laptop compartment
  • Tripod support not for large tripods
  • Side compartment difficult to use

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Adorama product listing

Exterior Fabric 1000D x 1000D Polyester + 70 x 200D Nylon + Jersey
Interior Fabric 150D Polyester + Velvet
Capacity Backpack mode: 1 pro DSLR with grip and lens attached (up to 70-200 f/2.8), 3-5 extra lenses, 2 flash units, accessories (memory cards, cables, battery and charger), tablet like iPad, tripod
Dimensions (L x W x H) Inside: 9.5″ x 7.88″ x 16.38″ / 241.3 x 200.15 x 416.05 mm
Outside: 11.75″ x 10.63″ x 18.25″ / 298.45 x 270.002 x 463.55 mm
Weight 3.95 lbs / 1.79 kg

Ergonomics

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The Quovio 44 is one of the best made bags I’ve laid my hands on. All the materials are top notch and every little detail has been thought of and cared for. Most of the latches are metal; there are covers for the zippers; and nearly everything on the bag can be configured to your liking. The bottom is rubberized so you can set it on a wet surface and the bag sits upright on its own. Straps are removable and storable for travel and the tripod holder folds away as well. Padding is thick and sturdy. Nothing on this bag seems cheap. This is a pro bag in every way.

Quovio 44 inside

Quovio 44 inside

One of the best things about this bag is its ability to store a full body or a midsize body with grip attached. Most of the bags I have or have tested require me to take the grip off when not in use. If you use a fullsize body or always use a grip, you will really appreciate this feature.

It’s also nice to have a dedicated place for your iPad or other tablet. Although for a full size bag like this, I was a bit surprised that there is nowhere to put a laptop. The more likely you are to be using a fullsize body generally means you’ll need a laptop as well. It’s not a dealbreaker for me, but I can fit my iPad in a laptop pocket but the other way around doesn’t work, so I count this as the single drawback to the bag.

In Use

I first tried the bag out in the default configuration it came with. I had a portrait shoot so I loaded it with my camera, spare lens, Sekonic light meter, pocket wizards, and the Impact LiteTrek portable light kit (reviewed here, here and here). The reflector barely fit in the top, but it did fit, allowing me to have an entire portable studio kit on my back. This was quite impressive. I tried to put the umbrella and light stand into the tripod holder but they flopped around too much and I was afraid of knocking someone on the subway, so I carried those. That said, I was really impressed that I was able to get so much gear in this backpack while not feeling like I had a huge kit with me. Especially because I was taking the subway, I really appreciated not lugging around a kit on wheels.

Quovio 44 packed

Quovio 44 packed

Next I tried the side access configuration. The entire inside comes out easily and you just rotate it 90° and stick it back in. That’s it – make sure you turn it so that the camera sits on the left so that you can access it by the zipper. The thick padding that goes above the camera in the standard configuration can be completely removed now, making the open storage area about three inches deeper (this might have been useful for the LiteTrek, but I didn’t think about it then).

Quovio 44 side access

Quovio 44 side access

I found the side access to be a bit less friendly than others I have tried, but it does work. It was difficult to get the camera out with the grip attached, but it was easier when the grip was not attached. This is ok since the main use of side access is for street photography where photographers are less likely to be using a grip. Generally speaking, I rate the side access as ok. It’s not great but it’s nice that it’s available.

Quovio 44 side access

Quovio 44 side access

Next I tried the tripod holder. The only tripod I had around was my Gitzo studio tripod. The holder is definitely not designed for a tripod this large and heavy so I had the same issue as I earlier had with the light stand/umbrella combination, but for a normal tripod this seems like it will work really well. It’s sturdy just like the rest of the bag, but it’s just not designed for a tripod as large and heavy as mine.

Quovio 44 Tripod

Quovio 44 Tripod

The backpack straps and ventilation are perfect, with extra padding, and optional chest and waist straps for security. You could definitely hike rough terrain with this backpack and feel like you had a lot less weight on you than you actually have. I found the sling configuration – where you store one strap and connect the other one diagonally to be awkward, but I don’t generally like sling style bags, so that could just be a personal taste issue. If you do like slings, then this combined with the side camera access this might be perfect for you. You can’t tell, but aside from hiding the waist strap in the bottom, there is also a hidden velcro pouch at the bottom which reveals the rain cover for extra bad weather days. I’ll also note here that the handle on the top, which as you can see sometimes gets in the way a little, can either be removed or converted into a side strap. This is truly a “use it how you like it” bag.

Quovio 44 back

Quovio 44 back

Quovio 44 sling

Quovio 44 sling

The final configuration available is that you can remove all the inserts and not use it as a camera bag at all but simply as a normal daypack. I really appreciate this because this dual purpose makes for one less bag in the closet. When you take out the camera inserts it becomes a backpack large enough for several days worth of clothes and other items, book for school, even a laptop.

Quovio daypack

Quovio daypack

Conclusions

This is one of the most versatile bags I have ever seen. I tried to cover all the different things you can do with this bag but I’m sure I still missed things. This really feels like they thought of everything and figured out how to put them all in one bag. I think this bag is especially useful for people that do different types of work on different days and don’t want to have a closet full of bags. It is also the best bag I’ve seen that is deep enough to carry a full DSLR body and all the accessories. If you absolutely must have a laptop with you when you shoot then this bag may not work for you. For everyone else the Quovio 44 is an ideal bag for backpack lovers. As a fullsize DSLR toting backpack lover myself, I am definitely a fan.

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