A Bag That Loves the Great Wide Open: WANDRD FERNWEH Review

FERNWEH in German means wanderlust, and if you’re a photographer who loves to travel, the WANDRD FERNWEH may be the camera bag for you.

WANDRD has been innovating in the camera bag space since it hit the scene with its first Kickstarter campaign, and the company is continuing to forge ahead with new bags that have unique designs and even more unique names. The new WANDRD FERNWEH (pronounced FEIRN-VEYH) camera bag will aim to force its way into the competitive hiking and travel market. Bags in this segment have to be incredibly comfortable, be able to hold and secure large loads, and need to withstand rugged terrain. WANDRD sent us the FERNWEH to test out for a short period, and we have been putting it through its paces to see if it can do all the things listed above and more. Join us after to break for the full review.

Editor’s Note: We tested a pre-production model before release.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Pack and carry a lot of gear with ease
  • Plenty of room for accessories, a change of clothes, a drone and more
  • Most comfortable shoulder straps of any bag we’ve used
  • Waist straps and lumbar support are excellent
  • Sealed-off hydration bladder compartment is a game-changer
  • Incredibly configurable. You can make this bag work for you
  • Little details like a key holder in the upper compartment, the hidden passport pocket, and small storage compartments everywhere
  • TSA compliant despite its size
  • Stowable sleeping bag holder is a nice touch
  • Side access provides quick access to your camera
  • Huge size, like really huge
  • Available on Kickstarter for a great price

Cons

  • Huge size, like really huge
  • A complicated bag that you will need to spend time with to get the most out of it
  • The outer material gets dirty very quickly, but it’s easy to wipe clean
  • Not the most stylish bag ever, but this backpack is more about function than fashion

Gear Used

We used the WANDRD FERNWEH with the following gear:

We also packed the bag with various accessories (sd cards, chargers, etc.) snacks, sunscreen, and other small items hikers, outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen may need.

Tech Specs / Feature Highlights

All features and tech specs have been taking from WANDRD’s press material.

  • YKK ZIPPERS
  • GRAB HANDLES ON TOP, BOTTOM, AND BOTH SIDES
  • DURABLE WATER-BASED PU COATING ON MAIN EXTERIOR FABRIC
  • HYDRATION BLADDER COMPATIBLE
  • OVERSIZED ZIPPERED WATER BOTTLE/STORAGE POCKET
  • 4 ACCESS POINTS TO MAIN BODY OF BAG
  • QUICK-DRAW SIDE ACCESS OPENING
  • REMOVABLE BUCKET TO SEGMENT GEAR
  • STOWABLE SKI CARRY STRAPS AND ICE AXE LOOPS
  • MULTI-POINT EXTERIOR ACCESSORY LOOPS
  • HIDDEN PASSPORT POCKET
  • REMOVABLE SHOULDER STRAPS AND CONTOURED HIP BELT
  • BREATHABLE FOAM AND AIRMESH BACK PANEL, STRAPS AND BELT
  • STOWABLE SLEEPING BAG/PAD CARRY SYSTEM
  • EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS: 25” X 13.75” X 9.5” (SMALL/MEDIUM) 26” X 13.75” X 9.5” (MEDIUM/LARGE)
  • SHOULDER STRAP LENGTH: 17” (SMALL/MEDIUM) 19″ (MEDIUM/LARGE)
  • WEIGHT: 5LBS
  • HIP BELT LENGTH: 29” PADDED + 20” WEBBING (SMALL/MEDIUM) 32.5”PADDED + 26” WEBBING (MEDIUM/LARGE)
  • EXTERIOR MATERIALS: 420D NYLON 5PM COATED, 630D NYLON
  • INTERIOR MATERIALS: 200D POLYESTER
  • POCKETS: 7

NOTE: The WANDRD FERNWEH bag we received was a pre-production unit. Some minor changes are being made to the final version of the bag, including better zippers around the top pocket, an improved hidden passport compartment, a few more hooks to route your hydration flask hose through, and a few other small changes.

Ergonomics

wandrd fernweh

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room at the start: the WANDRD FERNWEH is enormous, massive, gigantic, and any other word you can think of to describe something rather large. WANDRD’s FERNWEH 50L bag has been designed with a particular type of photographer in mind: one who likes to get out into the great wide open with as much gear as possible.

The WANDRD FERNWEH doesn’t look like a camera bag at all; it looks like a utilitarian bag that wouldn’t look out of place on a mountain expedition. This a good thing. It’s already large enough to draw attention to itself. Add in the fact that you might be carrying expensive camera gear, and you might get more looks your way. Despite the bag being so large, WANDRD has done an excellent job with the design. It’s not the most stylish bag you’ll ever see, but it still looks great. The function over fashion step with this bag works well.

wandrd fernweh

As you can see the front of the has a large zipper that runs down the middle. Once opened, you will find a pouch for a hydration bladder (not included) that has been completely sealed off from the rest of the bag (more on this feature later). You can also store other items in here if you wish. The whole front flap unzips and flips up as well so that you can have access to the main compartment of the bag. This will give you quick access to another zippered pouch inside that can be removed if desired.

wandrd fernweh

The right-hand side of the bag features a rather large zipped pouch you can use for accessories. I rarely carry a tripod with me these days. Still, I took one with me on this hike to show that you can stuff a few legs of a tripod in there, zip it back up and use the clasps on the side to secure a tripod to the bag.

wandrd fernweh

The left-hand side of the bag is home to the quick access compartment that lets you get to your gear. You’ll also find two more straps that can be used to tie down more gear. In this image, you can also see the pocket on the waistband. The pocket provides a great place to store your phone.

wandrd fernweh

The back panel of the FERNWEH can be opened up to reveal the main compartment of the bag as well. Here you can see the WANDRD Essentials + camera cube, which was able to hold all of my gear easily. The cube is configurable and very well padded. Right above the cube is a pouch you can access in two different ways.

From the main compartment, there is a zipper on the pouch that will give you access to your accessories or snacks. This same pouch can also be accessed from the front of the bag as well (see below). On the inside of the lid in the main compartment, you will also find a sleeve for a laptop. This sleeve can hold a 15-inch Macbook Pro. I’m not sure how many hikers will take a laptop with them on their adventures, but it’s nice that it’s there.

wandrd fernweh

This is a top-down view of the bag. Pictured is the pouch shown in the last image. The whole top of the bag unzips to reveal the large storage pouch. I used this compartment to house snacks, but there’s plenty of room for flashes or even a change of clothes. This whole pouch can be removed as well. If you do this, the main compartment of the bag will open up into a much wider space. There is also a zippered compartment in the roof of the bag where you can store spare batteries, flash triggers, or whatever floats your fancy,

wandrd fernweh

Believe it or not, there is actually one more compartment on the bag. This pocket sits on the very top. You’re not going to be able to get much in here, but you will find it’s a great place to store small items such as keys, sunscreen, etc. As you can see to the right of the image, the hose from your hydration bladder also gets routed through this pocket.

The WANDRD FERNWEH will take a little while to get used to because there is so much going on here in terms of storage compartments, hooks, clips, straps and so on. But once you have this down, you will be able to quickly navigate your way around the bag, and you will appreciate its design.

Build Quality

wandrd fernweh

We’ve come to expect excellent build quality from WANDRD, and with the FERNWEH they keep up that tradition. Though we had a pre-production model to review, it felt like no expense had been spared when it came to the materials used. Like other WANDRD bags (such as the PRVKE), the FERNWEH uses durable coated nylon, which will help keep your gear on the inside nice and dry. The material feels pleasant to the touch. I can’t help but notice how quickly this bag becomes dirty, but stains easily wipe away.

In the image above, you can see the contoured shoulder straps, the mesh backing of the bag, and the oversized waist support system. The back of the bag and all the straps have ample padding, which makes the bag incredibly comfortable to wear on long hikes, even when the bag is fully loaded.

wandrd fernweh
The padding and the mesh on the back of the bag and the straps will help keep you comfortable for long periods.

The YKK zippers used are nice and smooth. The clasps have a good heft to them, and they feel sturdy. All loops, straps, and hooks you find all over the bag, which have been designed to hold everything from ice axes to skis, and hydration flask hoses to keys, all feel durable. This is a bag designed to be used in all sorts of rugged terrain. There is no doubt in my mind that it will hold up well.

Ease of Use

wandrd fernweh

The WANDRD FERNWEH is easy to use once you have learned all the ins and outs of it. When you first get the bag, you will be quite overwhelmed at just how many straps, hooks, pockets, and compartments there are. But take your time, learn about them, configure the bag to your liking, and you will appreciate the design a great deal.

The FERNWEH can be configured in several ways to suit you, and when it comes to comfort, this is key. The bag is compatible with all of WANDRD’s cubes. You can choose to leave the waist strap and support on, or you can take it off. The shoulder straps can be taken off or repositioned so that they fit you better, and all the straps and belts can be adjusted to shift the load points on your body as well. You can even switch the shoulder straps out for shorter or longer ones. This bag is large, but it can be made to fit different sizes of people.

I’m a big guy (6ft1, 280lbs), and I was able to make the bag fit me. My wife is much smaller, and we were able to configure the bag so that it worked for her too. In both cases, the FERNWEH was incredibly comfortable to hike with for long periods. You’re also going to find multiple handles placed around the top and sides of the bag, which makes this monster easier to pick up and carry. You can even thread the bag over the handle of rolling luggage so that you don’t have to carry it all the time when traveling.

wandrd fernweh
Little touches like the hook to hang your keys on shows that WANDRD really tried to elevate the user experience.

There are lots of other small features that add up in significant ways with this bag. Pictured above is a simple hook, which is located in the top pocket of the bag to hook your keys. I have lost count at the number of times I have struggled to find my keys in my camera bag after a long hike, so this little touch is excellent. The hidden passport pocket behind the back panel is a great addition too. So is the sleeping bag holder, which tucks away neatly into the bottom of the bag when you don’t need it.

wandrd fernweh
The pouch for a hydration bladder is a wonderful addition, and the hose routing makes getting a drink easy while on the go.

A massive plus for this bag is the inclusion of a pouch that can hold a 3-liter hydration pack/bladder. The compartment the bladder sits in is completely sealed off from the rest of the bag. At the bottom of the compartment, there is a drainage hole. If your hydration pack leaks, the sealed chamber and the drainage hole will keep water away from your camera gear. Routing the hose through the bag is easy as well. Being able to grab a sip of water and not having to stop to do so is fantastic.

The side access panel also makes it easy for you to grab your camera out of the bag while on the go. There are many backpacks on the market which try to appeal to photographers who like hiking that omit this feature, so I am pleased to see this access panel has been included: it makes your life a whole lot easier. Overall, the WANDRD FERNWEH offers a ton of versatility. If you make the most of that versatility, you will find that this bag will be one of the easiest to use because you can customize it.

Conclusions

Likes

  • The sheer amount of configurations
  • The bag remains comfortable for long periods of time
  • The small features that add up to huge things like the hydration bladder support, the stowaway sling, and more.
  • The side access panel

Dislikes

  • It takes quite some time to get the bag set up for you
  • The nylon material is a dirt magnet

Overall the WANDRD FERNWEH (after you have configured it to your liking) is easy to use and filled with a lot of small features that make it stand apart from other bags on the market. No matter how much you load into the bag, the well-padded shoulder straps, the waist support system that hugs you, and the chest strap which helps keep the bag from swinging around, make this a wonderful bag to use. Throw in the compatibility with a hydration bladder, the quick access panel, and the other features like a key chain, the pocket on the waist belt that can hold your phone, the loops that can hold an ice axe, and straps that can hold skis, and it takes this bag over the edge.

So, who is this bag for? The WANDRD FERNWEH is for photographers who like to get serious about their outdoor adventures. If you like going on long hikes, mountain climbs, skiing trips, and the like, the FERNWEH will let you take along a considerable amount of gear without compromising comfort. The bag is enormous (50L) and really isn’t suited for anything other than being in the great wide open. Try and wear this bag on crowded public transport in a city environment and you’ll struggle, but out in its element, this bag is a sure winner.

The WANDRD FERNWEH camera bag receives a score of five out of five stars. The WANDRD design team has taken the time to make a bag that fixes issues present in other bags in this category for some time. While it’s complex, once you have the bag configured, you’ll wonder how you lived without some of the features this bag offers.

Want one? WANDRD has a Kickstarter for the FERNWEH. If you pick one up from there, you can get it for just $279 until July 23rd. The retail price in stores will be $349.