Review: VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK (The Worst Bag We’ve Ever Used)

No photographer should reach for the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK.

Every now and again, I search online for what I think could be the perfect camera bag, and the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK seemed to be just that thing. It’s small, lightweight, well built and stylish (at least in the photographs). When it came to experiencing and using the bag in real life, I was super disappointed. I wasn’t sure why there were so few product images online, but I eventually learned. This bag is honestly the worst thing I’ve ever used. And my review is to let everyone know that the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK is a bag to steer far away from.

Editor’s Note: There are too many overly positive reviews out there of camera bags. And while some publications just won’t review something they don’t like, we take the opposite stance. We’ll review something, and if we hate it we’ll say so.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Stylish, if you have no style
  • Really affordable
  • Weatherproof in NYC snow
  • Side access is very good
  • Can hold a tablet
  • Comfortable as long as you don’t pack it heavily

Cons

  • The most let down I’ve been by a camera bag
  • Divider system is super odd
  • Divider cube moves around and can’t be held in place
  • No outside pockets
  • Undoing the top flap is annoying to get into the contents of the bag
  • Not stylish and the photos online make it look like it’s all canvas. It’s canvas and nylon, but it’s not evident what parts are nylon when you read about it online
  • If they just made this bag all canvas and a bit wider with more rigid dividers, it’d be perfect
  • It won’t hold things in place, so stuff will move around
  • It can’t hold a laptop and a thermos at the same time (not even a small thermos)
  • Once a laptop is in there, it’s tough to get your gear out of the side pocket

Gear Used

We tested the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK with a variety of cameras, a MacBook Pro 13 inch, and a few random things that one might carry.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Adorama listing

  • Min. for Max. -all you need in a compact backpack
  • Always protected -well-padded insert and dividers
  • Double Security -quick closing with pull-cord and secure closing with buckle flap
  • Day-in day-out -transforms into an everyday backpack
  • Comfortable carrying -adjustable harness shoulder straps
  • Digitally oriented -holds a tablet
  • Incognito -no one needs to know this is a camera bag
  • Classically Stylish -functionality infused with design
  • Available in two sophisticated color combinations: Black & Khaki, Blue & Khaki

Ergonomics

When the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK is looked at squarely from the front, it appears to be a very handsome bag. It has all the trademarks of what a photographer could want: low profile, canvas, leather, and some Nylon. In fact it’s mostly Nylon. Only the top flap is canvas.

What you mostly care about on the front is this leather strap that lets you close down the top of the bag. Then there is the nylon area that isn’t designed to be flush or uniform; it’s really weird. But on the bottom, there is a flap that doesn’t come off or doesn’t really serve any function; it’s basically useless.

The strap has a buckle. If you’re used to wearing a watch, this strap will feel like an odd ode to a watch strap. But it will also feel like a lazy camera bag strap.

The back of the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK has the straps and that’s about it.

The side of this backpack has a pocket that serves to be a very odd duck. Honestly, it’s frustrating.

Open up the pocket and you’ll be able to access the contents inside. At least, that’s the intention. But it’s not really going to happen.

The top of the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK has a drawstring closure under the flap. It’s standard, but again pretty annoying.

When you look into the bag, you’ll see this weird pocket for small things. When you put your laptop in there and the camera/lens in the cube it gets cramped really fast.

Here’s a closer look at the top of the cube. It also has a drawstring.

Build Quality

Is the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK built well? Yes. Is it built smart? Hell no. While the bag is reliable, the person who designed it doesn’t know even the first thing about photographers. Let’s start with the side access port: the zipper is an odd duck. It opens up and then barely allows you to have any room to access your camera inside. Providing that you placed your camera inside of the cube it comes with, your camera is going to be difficult to get out. If you placed something else on top of the cube, that’s also going to be tough to acquire. The only exception is if it’s a scarf. For that reason, you often need to go into the top of the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK.

While the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK is able to shrug off the rain and snow, don’t expect it to be as good as waxed canvas. Expect it to be wet on the outside with all the stuff on the inside dry. That translates into you having a wet bag next to you when you stroll into a cafe for a meeting.

Ease of Use

This bag isn’t easy to use at all. While the concept of the side and top pockets are rudimentary, their implementation is deplorable. You have these two points of access. The awkwardly designed leather buckle had this weird curve to it. This curve doesn’t make undoing the leather buckle all that simple. One could say that it’s a security feature, but it doesn’t feel like one. It just feels like poor design.

Moving beyond the buckle, there is the side access port. The zipper opens up easily–which is great for a photographer who wants to access their gear. And while the intention is great, the amount of area for that zipper to open up and allow a photographer access to the bag’s contents is too small. In fact, I’d say the side pocket is pretty useless.

Conclusions

Likes

  • *sigh*

Dislikes

  • I wasted money on a product like this. Holistically, a terrible design.

I’m honestly not sure of which photographer would go for the VANGUARD VEO Travel 41BK. In my opinion, it wouldn’t appeal to anyone. So much so that we’re not even giving it any stars the way we normally would. Stay far away from this bag.