Review: WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel (It Hauls a Ton of Stuff)

The WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel holds a ton of stuff for photographers on the go.

There are lots of options on the market when it comes to hauling our photography gear around. Small messenger bags are great if I’m just getting around town and traveling light with only a single camera body paired with a lens or two. If I need to bring more gear with me, like a laptop, a few more lenses, possibly a strobe or two, and maybe even a tripod, then I’ll usually default to a camera backpack. If I’m heading to a commercial job and have to bring my own gear rather than having a rental house send all the gear I’ll need over to the studio or location (which can sometimes happen due to budgetary restriction), then my go-to setup is usually a Pelican case or two, depending on the amount of gear I’ll need. Storage space is at a premium if I have to travel anywhere that involves flying, but my camera gear always comes onto the flight with me in a camera backpack while everything else goes into a weekend bag or a suit case, depending on the length of the trip. To say that a duffel is the last thing on my mind when it comes to transporting my gear is an understatement. I don’t know about you, but the idea of my cameras and lenses tossing around and bumping into each other inside a duffel is enough to give me nightmares. The WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel promises to change all that, with 45 liters worth of capacity to hold plenty of photography equipment with room to spare for a weekend’s worth of clothes.

As of press time, the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel is available in black, in three different options; on its own, or bundled with one or two of their medium camera cubes. The review unit that WANDRD sent us came with one of the medium camera cubes.

 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Probably the most comfortable backpack straps I’ve ever used
  • Weatherproof construction keeps your clothes and gear dry during inclement weather
  • Easily tucks into overhead compartments (or under seats if you’ve got the leg room) for photographers who fly often
  • Highly customizable, especially when configured with WANDRD’s own camera cubes
  • The clam shell design of the duffel allows the top and bottom halves to lay flat when opened, making packing less of a chore

Cons

  • Price may be too high for some (the duffel alone is US $259, and the medium camera cubes run US $49 a pop)
  • The zipper joining the two halves of the duffel together was pretty hard to zip up around the corners when the duffel isn’t fully packed
  • Can get really heavy and unwieldy if you pack the duffel to the brim
  • WANDRD’s divider system genuinely need a revamp to improve their stability.

 

Gear Used

We tested the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel with the following gear (basically everything that I was able to cram into the duffel);

  • Sony A7RIII
  • Irix 15mm f2.4 Firefly with Metabones Canon EF to Sony E Mount adapter (Mark V)
  • Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f2.8
  • Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm f1.8
  • Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master
  • Fujifilm X-T3
  • Fujinon XF 16mm f1.4
  • Fujinon XF 18-55mm f2.8-f4
  • Fujinon XF 23mm f1.4
  • Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4
  • Flashpoint eVOLV 200
  • Apple MacBook Pro 13″
  • Logitech MX Anywhere 2S Wireless Mice
  • A long weekend’s worth of clothes
  • An pair of shoes
  • A dopp kit full of toiletries
  • Misc charging cables

 

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel were taken from the official product page.

  • Materials: Waterproof Tarpaulin and 1680D Ballistic Nylon with WR Army Coating. Weather Resistant Zippers.
  • Dimensions: 9H” X 14W” X 22L
  • Volume: 45L
  • Weight: 1.8 kg (3.9 lbs)
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Weatherproof zippers
  • Removable backpack straps
  • Side camera access
  • Weather resistant materials
  • RFID secure passport pocket
  • Removable camera protection

 

Ergonomics

While you will find various WANDRD branding around the exterior of the bag, it’s very subtle and doesn’t detract from the overall minimalist design of the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel. On the front or bottom of the bag, depending on if you’ve got the bag configured as a duffel or backpack, is where you’ll find the most prominent (yet subtle) branding in the form of the WANDRD logo and logotype. Unless light is hitting logo and text from the right angle, you may not even notice that the branding is there.

Flipping the bag over to the other side is where you’ll find the zippered top opening of the duffel, which also happens to be padded as it’s where the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel makes contact with your back if you’ve got it configured in backpack mode. The flap unzips to the side giving you a large opening to toss things into the bag when you’ve got it in duffel mode. The detachable hybrid tote/backpack straps are some of the most comfortable straps I’ve ever used on a camera backpack, and you can connect the straps together with an adjustable sternum strap to help offload some of the weight of the bag. The indent in the straps happens to coincide with where the straps would normally go around your armpits if you’re wearing it as a backpack, and is also where your hand would pick up the bag if you’re using the bag in duffel form, so that you’re not grabbing onto an obnoxiously wide shoulder strap. That’s some well thought out design. I wouldn’t mind if WANDRD added additional padding to a future revision of the duffel though, and perhaps integrate a zipper so that you can connect the straps together.

As previously mentioned, the hybrid tote/backpack straps are detachable. Here’s a closer look at the attachment points for the top of the straps. The attachment hardware is made out of high quality plastic with a spring loaded locking mechanism.

And here’s how the bottom of the straps are attached to the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel. The attachment hardware is made of the same quality plastics and feature a swivel mechanism to help the straps conform to your body. I’m not sure how well the attachment hardware will hold up with extended use, but they’ve held up so far during the last few months of regular use.

Handles can be found attached to each of the four sides of WARDRD HEXAD Access Duffel, and boy are they some of the most generously padded handles I’ve ever seen on a camera bag. They’re pretty comfortable to hold unless you’ve got the bag packed to the brim.

A pair of side-access openings can be found on one of the long sides of the WANDRD HEXAD Duffel, giving you quick access to the contents of the “bottom” compartments of the bag without having to open it up completely. Our test unit came with one of WANDRD’s medium camera cubes, which we fitted into one of the “bottom” compartments of the bag. There’s a divider inside the “bottom” compartment that can be put up using velcro if you want to keep the contents of both compartments separate. I stored my dopp kit and the Flashpoint Evolv 200 flash, along with some other travel necessities into this other compartment. There are mesh organization pockets throughout the interior of the “bottom” compartment to help keep smaller items from getting tossed around the bag while you’re out and about.

Here’s a closer look at the lower compartment where we fitted the medium camera cube. I can get to my camera easily by unbuckling the detachable side straps and unzipping the side-access opening. The camera cube can work independent of the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel, or you can configure it like I did by slipping the side access flap of the cube into the side-access opening so that you don’t have to unzip two separate flaps. There’s also an interior facing zippered pocket on the side-access flap where you can store small items such as the memory card holder seen in the above photo.

On the opposite side of the bag, you’ll find a fleece lined phone pocket, RFID protected passport pocket, and the tripod straps. For security reasons, I always keep my phone and passport on me while I’m traveling, but those pockets are there if you need them. The tripod straps are pretty standard, and my tripod never came loose while I was testing the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel.

On one of the short sides, if you’ve got the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel configured as a backpack, the top is a windowed slip pocket for you to put your contact info or business card so that there’s a way for people to reach you in the event that you forget the bag somewhere by accident and a good Samaritan finds it. You can also attach carabiners or key chains to the webbing next to the padded handle, which are similar to MOLLE webbing commonly found on modern plate carriers used by the military.

Here’s the opposite end of the bag, or the bottom if you’re using it as a backpack. You’ll find a vinyl patch with WANDRD’s logo and logotype, along with another padded handle and additional webbing attachment points.

Unzipping the zippers in the middle of the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel will open up the bag in a clam shell fashion, as seen in the photo above. The zippers keeping the two halves together were pretty hard to zip and unzip around the corners of the bag, however, but hopefully this will lessen over time.

To access the contents of the “top” compartment of the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel while you have it configured as a duffel, I found it easiest to detach the bottom of the hybrid tote/backpack straps, and then unzipping the large flap. You can easily fit a long weekend’s worth of clothes in this compartment, and there’s also a separate pouch accessible from the side of the bag where you can store your dirty laundry, keeping them away from your clean clothes. I had initially thought that the pouch was for your shoes, but I had a hard time keeping my size 11.5 boots in there.

The top flap is also where you’ll find the padded laptop sleeve, big enough to hold a 15″ MacBook Pro. Since the top compartment of the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel is shaped similar to a half cylinder, the flap tends to bulge out if you’ve got the top compartment packed to the gills, and results in a few usability issues. Since this flap is where the bag makes contact with your back when you have it configured as a backpack, having it take on a cylindrical shape while the bag is packed and at its heaviest makes it pretty uncomfortable to wear. Compounded by the fact that the flap is also where the laptop sleeve is located means that the flap also becomes rather rigid, so you essentially have a metal tray pushing up against your back. Not only does this make the bag uncomfortable to wear as a backpack, but it also puts a lot of stress on the laptop as well, and I worry about the amount of pressure it’ll exert on less sturdy laptop screens out there. I hope WANDRD will move the laptop sleeve to a different location in the next iteration of this bag, and consider reshaping the top compartment to be more rectangular.

Mesh panels keeps the contents of the two halves of the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel from getting tossed around while you’re out and about.

Unzipping them gives you access to the contents of your bag while you’ve got the bag laid open. This made packing a breeze, especially for a bag of this capacity.

As you can see, I managed to pack quite a lot of stuff into the bag, and there’s still room to spare if I really needed to haul more gear or clothes around.

 

Build Quality

The WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel is made out of weather resistant materials with weather resistant zippers. I flew back to JFK while using this bag right around the time Hurricane Florence was bombarding the East Coast of the US, and it kept everything I had inside the bag safe from the elements while I was waiting for my driver to arrive. I wish I could say the same about the clothes I was wearing at the time. The carry handles on all four sides of the bag are very nicely padded and comfortable to hold, and the unique design of the hybrid tote/backpack straps are my favorite on any backpack I’ve tested to date. There are certainly improvements that can be made to the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel, of which I had already addressed under the Ergonomics section of this review, but it’s a very solid back overall and should stand up to considerable amounts of abuse.

 

Ease of Use

You can use the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel as just another duffel if you’re looking for a bag to toss all of your stuff into, but you’ll probably be better off getting WANDRD’s slightly cheaper Carryall Duffel instead, or any other duffel for that matter. To utilize all of the organizational feature of the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel, I highly suggest you combine it with at least one of WANDRD’s medium sized camera cubes. (You can fit up to two of the medium camera cubes into the bag, sold separately.) I absolutely love how the straps feel when the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel is configured as a backpack.

My one gripe with the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel is that if you pack the bag to the brim like I did, it can get really heavy and unwieldy. This became immediately apparent to me as I was trekking from one end of JFK’s Terminal 4 to the other end where my flight was taxied. With each gate I passed, my wish that the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel had wheels built in grew ever stronger. Sure, I could’ve worn it as a backpack, but once the duffel is packed, the top half where the backpack straps are attached to basically turns into a half cylinder, making it pretty uncomfortable to wear on your back. Having my MacBook Pro inside the laptop sleeve that’s built into the flap only exacerbated the situation.

A note about WANDRD’s camera cubes; their internal dividers can be arranged to suit whatever camera body and lenses you happen to be carrying with you, but the padding in the dividers are on the thinner side, and as such are not terribly rigid. You should be fine if you’re only tossing the duffel into the trunk of your car, or if you’re bringing the duffel with you onto a flight as carry on luggage. I definitely wouldn’t use the bag for my check in luggage though, unless you’re cool with baggage handlers playing hot potato with it. None of the gear I transported with the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel suffered any damage throughout my testing.

 

Conclusions

If you were to ask me if I would ever consider using a duffel to haul my photography gear around before I tested the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel, my answer would have been an outright negative. Having put the bag through its paces for the last couple of months, however, it’s now one of my go to bags when I’m getting around town with my gear. It’s pretty comfortable to use for the most part as a duffel as well as a backpack, provided that you’re not trying to pack an entire studio’s worth of equipment into it. WANDRD has a winner on their hands with the HEXAD Access Duffel, and if they can address some of the issues I had mentioned in this review in a future revision, I can definitely see it becoming a daily driver for a lot of photographers.

We give the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel four and a half out of five stars. Want to purchase one for yourself? You can find it on Amazon (replace with affiliate link).