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Reviews > Cameras > Photography Accessories > M Rock Camera Bags > Test Report by Brian Tannehill

M ROCK CAMERA BAGS
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN TANNEHILL
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - June 25, 2009
FIELD REPORT - September 22, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - November 21, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Tannehill
EMAIL: tannehillclan (at) gmail (dot) com
AGE: 34
LOCATION: Colorado Springs, Co
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 185 lb (83.90 kg)

I am fairly new to backpacking, but I have hunted/fished/camped all my life in East Texas, Colorado, and California. My kids (7, 13, 15) limit me to weekend overnight camping trips, or day hikes Geocaching. I am also an avid mountain biker. Currently I live in Colorado Springs, Co at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Pike National Forest surrounds me at 9000 – 14,110 feet (2743 m – 4301 m). Snow can happen 10 months out of the year and summer is the hottest reaching 80 deg F + (44 C+), The other months average 45 deg F (7 C).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFO & SPECS

Camera bags
M Rock Bags



Manufacturer: M Rock
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.m-rock.com

530 Modular Belt
MSRP: US$ 30.00
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 6-3/8 oz (182 g)
Other details: Fits waste sizes from 25 to 46 inches (64 - 117 cm)

511 Yellowstone Camera Pouch
MSRP: US$ 54.00
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 1 lb 3/4 oz (474 g)
Other details: H - 7 x D - 4.5 x W - 6.75 inches (17.5 x 11.25 x 16.8 cm)

505 Ozark
MSRP: US$ 32.00
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 6-7/8 oz (196g)
Other details: H - 4 x D - 3 x W - 4.5 inches (10 x 7.5 x 11.25 cm)

506 Niagra
MSRP: US$ 34.00
Listed Weight : Not listed
Measured Weight: 7-7/8 oz (224 g)
Other details: H - 6.25 x D - 3 x W - 4 inches (15.5 x 7.5 x 10 cm)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I received three camera bags, the Yellowstone 511, the Niagara 506, and the Ozark 505 along with the 530 modular belt. The bags appear to be very well built and have numerous different configurations available for use. The bags have a soft interior and rugged exterior. The Yellowstone bag accommodates my Nikon D40 camera just fine and can accommodate a camera with up to a 4 in (10 cm) lens attached. The Niagara bag is designed for flashes, smaller digital cameras, and extra lenses up to 6.25 inches (15 cm) long. The Ozark bag can hold lenses up to 4 inches (10 cm) long, smaller digital cameras, and other small electronics like Mp3 players. The three bags can attach to each other to form one modular system.

modular2
Image courtesy M-Rock

Each bag also includes one shoulder strap, except for the Yellowstone which has two shoulder straps and can be configured in either an over the shoulder bag or a backpack when not used on the modular belt. Also included with each bag is a dust cloth and a rain proof bag to cover the camera bags. These are both tethered to the bags via a small cord.

I can also attach the three bags to the belt for a fanny pack style.

modular3
Image courtesy M-Rock

The larger Yellowstone bag has a loop to pass the hip belt through, and then fastens in place with the hook and loop closure in the middle of the belt. The other two bags are designed in such a way they could attach to any belt. The back side of the smaller bags has a strap that fastens closed via hook and loop closures. For a better description see the image below. Also shown in the image are the D rings that the shoulder straps attach too. All bags have these as well.

small camera bags
Small camera bags



The Yellowstone bag opens from the back, while the two smaller bags open from the front. However the two smaller bags have a large flap covering the zipper, which is somewhat different to open. I have to pull the flap all the way up over the bag to unzip them.

flap on small bags
Opening the small bags

TRYING IT OUT

I've used the Yellowstone bag so far and it holds my camera well. There are what the web site calls small bridges to support the body of the camera. These appear to work well on the mile (1.6 km) long hike I took with the family, taking advantage of the free national park weekend.

SUMMARY

Overall these bags are very impressive. They seem very rugged and well built and should provide excellent protection for my camera gear. There seems like a hundred different ways to configure them and I am anxious to see what works best for me.

This concludes my Initial Report. Please read below for the FR


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

So far I've used the camera bags on a couple of family outings, a couple of day hikes, a 4 day camping trip, and a two hour ATV ride. The hikes have ranged anywhere from 2-4 miles (3.2 - 6.4 km) long. Weather was sunny and warm. The 4 day camping trip consisted of camping out in the Gunnison National Forest. Temperatures on this trip ranged from the low 40's (4 C) to the mid 60's (18 C). It also rained a couple of afternoons. I've also been able to use it while walking around a couple of local towns here in Germany.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

These bags have worked great. They are sturdy and well built. I really like the web belt for the camera bags. It frees up my hands and I don't have to worry about holding on to a shoulder strap while hiking. The belt fits very well and does not slip while walking. As the main camera bag sits in the small of my back, the only problem I have is trying to quick draw the camera for unexpected shots.

So far I have worn the bags in two primary configurations. One is just using the large bag with one over the shoulder strap, and the other is all three on the belt. The hook and loop fasteners hold fast and do not allow the bags to slip on the belt at all. Since I am a new photographer with a new camera I don't have all the cool toys for it yet. In the large bag I do carry a remote, a small cleaning kit, a polarized lens, and a small hood for the end of the lens. I still do not have a telephoto lens for it. In the meantime I either store all the shoulder straps in the medium bag at home, or when we go camping/hiking I throw small items/kits in there. Things like survival stuff, fire starters, etc. The medium bag holds these small things well. I usually do not zip them up and just close it and snap the front and I have not had anything fall out, even while riding the ATV over really rough terrain up in the mountains. The bags protect the cameras from dust very well. The ATV wheeler trip I took, I placed the camera bags on the belt and placed the belt around my waist. There were three of us in the convoy, interchanging positions through out. We drove over everything from creeks, to rocks, to dirt paths. When finished I noticed some dust on the bags, bit didn't notice any inside the bags at all. They cleaned up nice and easy as well.

One of the pull tabs did come off one of the smaller cases. However it has two zippers on it to open and close so I really don't miss it that much. Since I have a 36 inch (91 cm) waist, and the belt is kind of one size fits all, there is usually some excess webbing hanging off either side. This is easy enough to fix by just tucking it in to the belt.

The hardest part for me is trying to figure out where to put the internal supports for my camera. One thing I have noticed, is if the supports are not positioned properly, this can be bad for the camera. I'm not sure if I dropped the camera bag with the camera in it, but I did find my lens cap really stuck like it was jammed into the end of the lens.

On the shorter hikes I take with my wife, I usually just have her take the camera out of the bag instead of me having to take the whole belt off to get the camera out. I've also found the medium sized bag holds a 16 oz (.4 L) bottle of water very well.

The pockets on the outside of the smaller bags are a bit small. Especially the front pocket on the the smallest bag. That pocket already holds the rain cover and that's about all it can hold. I'm still not a big fan of the way the two smaller bags open. I much prefer the way the large bag opens as it makes it easier to get to the camera. It takes two steps to get in the smaller bags, unclip and fold the flap out of the way, and then unzip the bag. While on the larger bag all I need to do is unzip the bag. I do like the built in rain cover and dust cloth. I'm certain to never lose it now, which makes cleaning the camera much easier when I know exactly where it is. I can clean it as the last thing I do before putting the camera in the bag.

This concludes my Field Report. Please read below for the Long Term Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have continued to use this camera bag on all my hikes and city adventures. Since I do not have a car over here I have to walk everywhere and take the city transit system. Between that and all the trails I have walked a lot. Weather has been mild to cool, partly cloudy with high humidity. Temperatures have been in the mid 50's F (10 C). From Wiki about Stuttgart, "The elevation ranges from 207 m (680 ft) above sea level by the Neckar river to 549 m (1,801 ft) on Bernhartshöhe hill. As a result there are more than 400 flights of stairs around the city (called "Stäffele" in local dialect), equivalent to approximately 20 km (12 mi) of steps" Thankfully I have not walked all the stairs, but I did walk a lot of them it feels like. I have logged probably another 15 miles (24 km) with this camera bag either on my hip or on my shoulder.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

These bags have held up well for me. I have used them walking all around town and through the trails and woods here as well. One hike I did was about 4 miles (6 km) long and I did notice that the belt slipped a bit. However I was walking fast (for me anyways) trying to get back because it was getting dark, and cold, and I was not exactly sure where I was. None the less I tightened it back up and it was fine after that. I will say the belt is hard to tighten while it is on. For example on the right side, I have to pull the excess belt away from the buckle, further to my right extending my right arm. This makes it difficult for me, especially with a partially torn rotator cuff. However I think it would work better if I could pull the right side across my body towards the left to tighten. I have a backpack that tightens this way and it works great.

I have also tried using the large camera case as a backpack.
Camera1
Backpack Style
I do not like this option at all. For one there are two adjustments per shoulder strap, this makes getting each one the exact length difficult. Second, I like to wear a backpack fairly tight to my back. If I tighten the straps up like this, the buckle gets in the way of the padding.
buckle
Buckle and Padding
Because of how I have it adjusted, this causes the padding to sit further down and not on the top half of my shoulder, rubbing against my arms as I walk and is uncomfortable.

I am torn though on which design I like most about these bags. I think both designs are great and both have great applications. I am talking about how the camera bags attach to the hip belt. The smaller camera bags have a hook and loop flap on the back that allows them to be attached to almost any belt (see picture titles "smaller bags" in the initial report), while the large camera bag has to slide over the belt to be attached to it. Since the large bag has a hook and loop closure on the back that attaches to the belt, this makes it difficult to remove. I think the flap design from the small camera bags would work great on the large camera bag as I could line it up and then velcro it on.

As I mentioned in the FR, one of the smaller things I do not like about the belt and the straps are the excess when I tighten them up. I have a waist size that runs about 36 inches (91 cm) and when I tighten the hip belt up, I have about 15 inches (38 cm) of belt on both sides. This is not that big of a deal as the hip belt does have a clip to fold up the excess, but the excess webbing does not always stay put. Shown in the two pictures above is the excess from the shoulder straps.



SUMMARY

Overall these camera bags are great. They are highly customizable and easy to use. I like all the different option they have to use/wear. Depending on where I am going so goes the configuration. If I am going on a hike in the woods, I tend to lean towards the hip belt to free up my hands. If I am going on an urban hike I tend to configure the bags with just a shoulder strap. I like to wear it across my body with the bag hanging on one side or the other. This allows me the best access, and I can swing it back out of the way or pull it around to the front with out taking it off.

Things I like:
Multiple configuration options
The hip belt
Hook and loop flaps of the smaller bags for configuration on any belt.

Things I do not like:
Excess web belt when tightened.

Thanks to BGT and M Rock for allowing me to test these camera bags.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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