This Actually Solves Stupid Back Sweat: Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 Review

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When camera bag makers design bags, they design around the camera. Cosyspeed’s newest backpack takes the opposite approach. The Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 is made around the carrying system first, and the camera second. The goal, the company says, was to create a bag that was comfortable to carry lots of gear for long hikes. So, was putting emphasis on the comfort first and camera second worth the effort?

The Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 offered better weight distribution than other bags that I tested. Despite packing a lot inside, the bag didn’t feel heavy. Add in a design where the bag actually doesn’t sit against your back, and you get a backpack that doesn’t give you the back sweats. But, the design isn’t perfect – I have a few complaints about those shoulder straps and that chest strap. The bag is funding on Kickstarter, where photographers have until Aug. 28 to be an early backer.

Author’s Note: I tested a prototype version of the Photohiker. Cosyspeed made a few adjustments in the final production bag. The company says that the following changes have been made since the first generation that I tested:

  • Larger laptop compartment
  • Revised hydration bladder hose placement
  • Improved pull zippers
  • “Changed some minor details in the carrying system”
  • Adjusted colors
  • The photo cubes were also redesigned, but my review sample already included the updated versions

Too Long, Didn’t Read.

The adjustable harness system on the Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 allows for excellent weight distribution when carrying lots of gear or going long distances. The airflow channel on the back is also amazing. But, you can’t access gear quickly, the shoulder straps chafe the neck, and the chest clip adjustment needs more range.

Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Comfortable air mesh system keeps the bulk of the bag off your back
  • Lots of room with dual removeable photo cubes
  • Plenty of pockets
  • Belt system and metal frame helps evenly distribute the weight

Cons

  • The shoulder straps rub on the neck.
  • The chest clip needs another inch of height adjustment to accommodate more body types.
  • No quick access.
  • It’s expensive (and right now, that comes with a Kickstarter risk).

Gear Used

I packed the Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 with the Canon EOS R6, the RF 24-240mm lens, the RF 50mm f1.8, and the Canon Speedlite EL-1. I also brought along the Panasonic S5 with the 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens. I fit my Manfrotto BeFree tripod in a side pocket, which fits great even without reversing the legs. I packed the bag with the XL photo cube at the bottom and non-photo supplies – including lunch for four people – at the top.

Innovations

Camera bags are usually made around camera gear first, then the user second. The Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 focuses on fitting the user first, and camera gear second. While you can find other bags with adjustable harnesses and an airflow back, they’re usually hiking bags. The Photohiker 44 is a hiking bag that’s made specifically to hold camera cubes and a tripod.

Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 Tech Specs

The company lists the following specs for the Cosyspeed Photohiker 44:

  • Height: 21.5“ (550 mm) to 31.5“ (800 mm) depending on the amount of gear inside
  • Wide: 12.5“ (320 mm)
  • Deep: 8“ (200 mm)
  • Laptop compartment: 15“ (380 mm) x 11“ (280 mm) x 1” (25 mm)
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs. (1.700 g) without PHOTOCUBE
  • Materials: NYLON D800, NYLON D200
  • Colors: Black or Blue
  • In the box: PHOTOHIKER 44 Black, PHOTO CUBE XL

Ergonomics

The Photohiker is designed by a camera accessory company but made by an outdoor company, Vaude. Cosyspeed says that this is to allow the best mix of photo features and hiking features.

A hiking-focused carry system

Cosyspeed says that the Photohiker was designed around the carrying system first, and the camera system second. So, let’s start our tour of the bag with the carrying system. The Photohikker uses an adjustable height harness system. Unlock the clasp and you can pull both shoulder straps higher or lower by a few inches. This helps the bag sit where it should on different body types. The company says that the bag is made for photographers between 5’3” and 6’6”. I’m 5’3” and true to form, I had the harness system on the shortest setting. Two straps on the outside of each shoulder strap change the way the straps hug the shoulders. Without adjusting these, I had a gap where the straps didn’t sit flush on my shoulders. Loosening these straps solved the issue.

Moving further down the shoulder straps, the bag has a chest clip. The clip is height adjustable, but, even at the smallest setting, the chest clip wasn’t ideal for my body type. Another inch of height would have been a more ideal placement. If I adjusted the shoulder straps so that the gap between the strap and the top of my shoulder was back, I could get the chest clip over the sternum. But, as a petite female, I had to choose either the correct chest clip placement or the correct shoulder strap placement. I was finally able to adjust the shoulder straps enough where the chest strap didn’t cut right across the middle of my chest at the smallest setting. But, I still would have liked to raise it another inch.

A sturdy waist belt takes most of the weight of the bag and has two pockets for quick access to small accessories. When you adjust the height of the shoulder straps, you can find a comfortable position for where the waist belt sits. You only get an inch or two difference, but it’s helpful to adapting the backpack to your body.

The carrying features combine to equal a pretty comfortable bag. I wore this pack for two hours and for once, my shoulders and back weren’t protesting by the end. But, the shoulder straps sit a little too close together and rub slightly on the back of my neck. I’ve never found a bag that I could comfortably wear with the straps directly on my skin. This is no exception. I was comfortable wearing a collared shirt, but the bag chaffed the back corner of my neck a bit when wearing a t-shirt. This, combined with the chest clip placement, dampened the comfort levels a bit for me. I had my husband – who is taller with broader shoulders – wear the bag. He said the same thing about the neck-straps hugging too close to the neck.

My favorite part of the carrying system, however, is what doesn’t touch your skin. The back of the backpack doesn’t actually rest against your back. A mesh panel rests against the back, while the pack’s metal frame allows it to sit suspended off your back by an inch. Those two hours that I wore the bag? It was in the upper 80s. I didn’t get the usual back sweats for wearing a backpack in such weather. The Photohiker puts the mesh padding and air panels of other photo backpacks to shame. Because, really, how much air gets into a mesh that’s on top of thick padding?

The metal frame and adjustable height shoulder straps remind me of the hiking carrier that’s designed to carry my 25-pound toddler rather than my camera gear. The photo gear, for the record, is much more comfortable to carry. I love the height adjustable straps and the mesh back panel. The weight is also very well distributed. I don’t love the chest clip or that I’d have to wear a collared shirt or turtleneck to keep the shoulder straps from rubbing against my skin. But, for distributing a lot of weight on long hikes, the Photohiker does very well.

“I’ve never found a bag that I could comfortably wear with the straps directly on my skin. This is no exception. I was comfortable wearing a collared shirt, but the bag chaffed the back corner of my neck a bit when wearing a t-shirt. This, combined with the chest clip placement, dampened the comfort levels a bit for me. I had my husband – who is taller with broader shoulders – wear the bag. He said the same thing about the neck-straps hugging too close to the neck.”

Pockets, pockets, pockets.

The main compartment of the backpack has two main access points. A wide, clamshell zipper at the bottom is the fastest way to pull out gear from a camera cube. The top has a drawstring closure that’s covered by a buckled flap. This design allows the room at the top to expand a little if you need to pack in more non-photo items like a jacket. The main compartment is separated between those two access points. However, the separating panel is a zipper that can be undone to make one giant space. By removing the Velcro on this divider, you can also access the laptop from the top of the bag instead of the rear panel.

These two access points are made for using two photo cubes, converting completely to a hiking backpack, or doing half photo gear, half hiking gear. The XL photo cube sits in the bottom of the main compartment, while the medium cube can fit in the top. The XL cube is easy to access. But, of course, you have to unzip the bag and unzip the cube. The cube zippers are sometimes difficult to reach and there’s nothing that keeps the camera cube flap opening out of the way for you. The M photo cube is trickier – I had to pull the cube out to access gear there from the top of the pack.

The photo cubes have rigid, sturdy sides. The dividers are more flexible, but nicely padded and include elastic straps to keep smaller items from wiggling around too much. Both cubes have two mesh zippered pockets in the door.

The flap closure for the top compartment has a mesh pocket on the inside as well as a zippered pocket on the outside. This exterior pocket has a padded smartphone pouch, another smaller zippered pocket, and a key ring. A large mesh pocket that blends well with the rest of the bag also sits outside the front access zipper. The bag also has attachment points for trekking poles.

On the reverse side of that metal-framed back, the Photohiker can tuck a 16-inch laptop into a padded sleeve. I just barely couldn’t get my laptop to fit in. This is something that the company says is changing from my first round test model that I tested to the one that will ship out to Kickstarter backers. It’s getting bigger. I wasn’t able to test to see how comfortable the bag is to carry with a laptop inside. This spot can also instead be used for a hydration bladder.

The Photohiker has matching side pockets on both sides of the bag. These pockets can be used for water bottles or tripods, with three straps to keep taller tripods in place. Both pockets are roomy and deeper than many photo backpacks.

With pockets on both sides, however, there’s no quick access point to swing the bag around and grab a camera from a side pocket. You have to take the bag off and open two zippers to get to anything stashed in there. Even taking the bag off, you have to work two zippers. And, the top photo cube needs to be pulled completely out of the bag. The trade-off for the carrying system designed to be comfortable even on longer hikes is the lack of quick access.    

Build Quality

The Photohiker is constructed from nylon, a go-to material for athletic and hiking bags. The material feels sturdy. And, despite needing to put the bag down in order to pull out gear, it doesn’t yet have visible dirt. The metal-framed back feels well-made and helps the bag keep its shape when unpacked.

A rain cover is hidden inside a zipper at the bottom of the bag. It protects the front and sides of the bag. Like most rain covers, it doesn’t cover the part of the bag that rests against your back. The cover has enough of an overhang, however, to go right up to my back. The air mesh gap can still be covered with the rain fly to keep water from getting into this space.

Ease of Use

Backpacks typically don’t have a learning curve. You just pile stuff in and walk out the door, right? That’s not exactly the case with the Photohiker. Because there are multiple ways to adjust the bag to fit your body, it takes a bit of experimenting to find the best fit. Adjusting the harness is simplified by the word “pull” right on the bag. It pulls a little stiff and took some wiggling to move, but it wasn’t crazy difficult.

I did, however, miss the two pull straps to further adjust the top of the shoulder straps. Once I adjusted these to my liking, the bag sat better on my shoulders. With the harness height, top shoulder strap adjustment, bottom shoulder strap adjustment, chest clip, and waist belt to adjust, it may take some trial and error to find the ideal fit. That time, however, is worth it, particularly for long hikes or carrying heavy gear.

Conclusions       

Likes

  • This bag solves the backpack back sweats.
  • There’s a ton of room in this bag. It’s probably even big enough for backpacking.
  • The organization is nice, with lots of pockets.
  • The belt system helps evenly distribute the weight without any major backaches.

Dislikes

  • I wish the shoulder straps were farther apart so that they didn’t rub on the sides of my neck.
  • I wish the chest clip had just a little more range for a better fit on petite photographers.
  • There’s no quick access.
  • It’s expensive.

The Photohiker distributed the weight of heavy gear better than any other camera bag that I’ve tried so far. Because the bag sits off the back, it’s also the coolest bag that I’ve tested – literally, not figuratively speaking. But, it needs a few tweaks to create the perfect carrying system. The chest clip wasn’t quite right for my body type. The straps also sat a little too close together so that they rubbed my neck, even leaving a red mark. I was uncomfortable with the shoulder straps unless I was wearing a collared shirt.

The Photohiker is made for hiking first, and photography second. That shows in the design of the bag. It does an excellent job of comfortably distributing the weight of your gear. But, it’s not great for accessing gear quickly. It’s also not quite perfect for all body types as I was hoping the adjustable harness system would help achieve. If not for the limited height adjustments of the chest strap and the chaffing of the shoulder strap, it would be the perfect hiking bag for me.

If comfort comes first and speed second, then the Cosyspeed Photohiker 44 is an excellent choice for many photographers. The harness system isn’t quite right for petite women. It’s also most comfortable with a collared shirt to keep the straps off the skin. I would be more apt to sacrifice the quick access if the straps didn’t rub the wrong way. But, it’s a sacrifice that some photographers may make for that excellent weight distribution and cool back panel.

I’m giving the Cosyspeed Photohiker four out of five stars. Want one? The Kickstarter campaign ends on August 28, where you can pledge $410 to get the Photohiker 44, or $352 for the smaller 24L version. The campaign is fully funded, but keep in mind that even a fully-funded Kickstarter comes with some risk.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.