Review: Timbuk2 Espionage Camera Backpack

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Timbuk2 is a brand better known for making messenger bags, particularly ones that are tailored around cyclists. In recent years, however, they have begun to apply their bag-making-knowledge into new designs and starting to explore options for carrying camera equipment. One of their newest options is the Espionage Backpack, and they have been so kind as to supply me with one to check out and share my thoughts with you all. The following is my review of the Timbuk2 Espionage Camera Backpack.

Tech Specs

Taken from Adorama’s Product Page

  • Bottom Width – 11.4″ (29cm)
  • Height – 22.4″ (56.9cm)
  • Depth – 5.7″ (14.5cm)
  • Weight – 3.4 lbs (1.5kg)
  • Volume – 793 cubic inches (13.0 L)

• Separate compartments for both camera and personal gear

• Main compartment has flap closure for quick access, but also provides inclement weather protection

• Can easily carry 1 camera with 3-4 medium sized lenses in camera compartment

• External zip pockets and internal mesh pockets for essentials

• Adjustable strap for carrying a tripod

• External stretch pocket for water bottle, but can also fit a U-lock (for my fellow cyclists)

• Removable waterproof rain cover included

• Internal padded sleeve for a notebook (fits up to a 17” notebook about the size of a Macbook Pro)

Ergonomics

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Exterior is very unassuming in my opinion, and I like the roll top closure a lot more than I thought I would.

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The main compartment has a sturdy buckle to keep things nice and tight, in addition to a strong strip of velcro so nothing comes flapping open by surprise.

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Underneath the main flap is a small lined zipper pocket which I found to be perfect for holding my phone.

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Inside the main compartment you can actually fit quite a bit inside. I managed to get two-days’ worth of clothes (and toiletries) inside of here for a weekend trip and still have room for my camera gear and my laptop. (Note: the bag was a bit heavy at this point.)

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Zippers are sturdy and close up tightly to aid in weather protection.

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On the side of the bag you can strap a tripod for traveling, though I’ve not done this myself yet.

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The shoulder straps are decently padded and flexible (not overstuffed like some bags) and I found the bag to be very comfortable on my back and it didn’t ride too high on my 6’3” frame. There’s also a metal bottle opener built into the strap. Yes, a bottle opener :D.

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On the bottom of the bag is a velcro compartment which houses the waterproof rain fly when it’s not in use. It’s nice that they included this with the bag. (I’m glad more companies are taking a page from Think Tank’s book.)

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Camera compartment zippers snap together so they don’t ever accidentally pull open while you’re mobile. This is a simple, but great addition.

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The business-end of the bag. You can easily fit a good amount of gear in here. I’m still messing around with the insert layout, but what you see here is basically the extent of my travel kit. It all fits no problem, WIN!

Build Quality

I know that Timbuk2 has been around for a long time as a brand (in fact, they got started in 1989 out of a garage in San Francisco), and companies don’t stick around for long if they’re making crappy products. When I first got my hands on the bag I was really pleased with the construction. It felt pretty well made and all of the visible construction was nice and tight (no loose threads!). In my time with the Espionage backpack I have dragged it around on multiple shoots – where it has been through dirt, sand , aggressive foliage and quite near the ocean – and there isn’t even the slightest bit of damage anywhere on the bag, it just cleans right off. I am very happy with it overall; additionally, Timbuk2 backs their bags with a lifetime warranty because they completely stand by their products. I think that is a wonderful thing when a company fully believes in the products they release.

Ease of Use

Well, it’s a backpack so I would hope that it’s not complicated to use because that would make it a complete failure. Thankfully, this is not the case. The compartments are all easily accessible and it was very easy to pack my gear the way I wanted to. I have loaded it up for both still photography and video shoots and it always remains comfortable (though when fully loaded it is quite heavy on your back). The main compartment for the camera gear is quick and easy to load up and everything stays put very securely. Because the bag opens from the bottom it is best if you take it off your back before opening up the compartment, otherwise you have to do this crazy balancing act standing on one leg to prop the bag up on your knee. I can’t really consider that a knock against it because practically every camera-backpack is like this. Overall the bag never once frustrated me which, to me, is a very good thing.

Conclusions

When Timbuk2 approached us and asked if we wanted to check out their new line of camera bags, I was eager to see what they had come up with. Admittedly, I often prefer shoulder bags to backpacks (with the exception of when I’m out hiking / backpacking with camera gear) but I thought this could be a great bag for travel purposes and daily use. I found it to be quite comfortable on my back even when loaded with a moderate amount of equipment. It’s a nice feature to also be able to carry a laptop (or tablet) which makes it even more suitable for travel use. The included rain-fly is a nice touch if you live in an area that actually has seasons (a foreign concept to us Southern Californians) and need to protect your equipment while you’re out in inclement weather. At $199 it isn’t the cheapest bag, but you pay for quality and I am perfectly ok with that. Overall I think Timbuk2 has a real winner on their hands for traveling / mobile photographers. The Espionage backpack holds a good amount of gear – just the right amount if you ask me – and makes a great travel bag with its ability to carry your essentials along with your camera equipment. I look forward to seeing what else they come up with in the future.

 

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