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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > MindShift Gear rotation180 Panorama > Test Report by David Wilkes

Test series by David Wilkes

MindShift Gear rotation180 Panorama

Initial Report - March 19 2015
Field Report - June 8 2015
Long Term Report - August 18 2015

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
E-Mail: amatbrewer@yahoo.com
Age: 47
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 200 lb (90.7 kg)

Biography:

I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions the Northwest has to offer.  I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. I have finally managed to get my basic cold weather pack weight, not including consumables, to under 30 lb (14 kg).

Product Information

Manufacturer:

MindShift Gear

Year of Manufacture:

2015

Manufacturer’s Website:

http://www.mindshiftgear.com

MSRP:

US$ 199.99

Listed Weight:

Backpack 2.0 lbs (0.9.1 kg)
Beltpack 0.9 lbs (0.4 kg)
Total 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg)

Measured Weight:

Backpack 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg)
Beltpack 1.1 lbs (0.5 kg) *
Total 3.6 lbs (1.6 kg)
* weight includes dividers

Listed Volume:

Backpack 1013 cubic inches or 16.6 liters
Beltpack 329 cubic inches or 5.4 liters
Total 1342 cubic inches or 22 liters

Color:

Charcoal *
Tahoe Blue
* color tested

Photo:  From MindShift Gear Website
Photo: Mindshift Gear

Product Description:

Mindhsift Gear makes backpacks and accessories aimed at photographers. They sell a line of packs named rotation180 with a distinct feature: A built in lumbar type pack (they refer to as “belt pack”) that stores in the main backpack and can be rotated around to the front of the wearer when needed and rotated back into its storage compartment; all without removing the backpack. I received the “Panorama”, which seems to be larger than the “Trail” but smaller and with fewer features than the “Professional.”

Initial Report

March 19 2015

Belt PackIn addition to the pack I also received the optional rain covers. Yes, “covers” plural. There is a rain cover for the entire pack and a smaller one for the belt pack alone. Being an optional item the rain covers would normally not be reviewed in this test aside for any use I may get of it. However due to its unique design I will be describing it and mention how it performs if I get the opportunity to use it.

I am not a photographer. I was, but that was a long time ago and I no longer have any of the equipment. So while I may consider some of the features from a photographer’s point of view, mostly I will be focusing on its use for a hiker.

I will start with the key and most unique feature of this pack (in fact the entire rotation180 line of packs), that is what they refer to as the belt pack. This is a lumbar type pack attached to the main hip belt. It is designed to store in a compartment in the bottom of the pack and while the user is wearing the pack, the entire hip belt can be pivoted 180 degrees around positioning the belt pack in front of the user for easy access. When not needed the belt pack can then be pivoted back into its compartment. For full disclosure; when I first saw this pack advertised I assumed the pivoting belt pack would probably be a gimmick. However after looking over the pack and trying it on for size I was quite surprised to find it actually seems to work, at least empty. More to come on that as I test it. The belt pack / hip belt combination can be separated from the main pack and used alone. The belt  pack consists of one main compartment covered with a fleece like material (the loop half of hook-n-loop attachment systems). This area contained 5 dividers with the loop material so that the compartment can be reconfigured to fit various sizes of cameras (or other equipment). There is also a smaller compartment on the side closest to the user that looks suitable to fit something like a small tablet device. On the lid of the belt pouch is a small green mesh pouch with hook-n-loop closure running the entire length of the opening. The entire pouch is made from what feels like a stiff foam to protect the contents and the side of the pack closest to the wearer feels like it also contains a stiff plastic sheet which should serve to protect the equipment as well as protect the wearer from irregular items in the pack. On the outside of the pack are two pull straps. One on the lid of the pack and one on the side. The one on the side serves as the way to pull the pack when pivoting. The zipper pulls on the belt pack, as well as the main pack consists of large cord loops with plastic stiffeners. These look like they should be strong and usable by gloved fingers.

The hip belt is permanently attached to the belt pouch. It is a rather standard affair with a wide padded hip section and adjustable belt with clips. Of note is the two loops on the end of the padded sections. These loops resemble equipment loops I have seen on some climbing harnesses.

Rotation 180The pack consists of one main compartment that opens from the top. Unlike most packs I am familiar with this opens away from the wearer. Not sure the importance of this or even if it matters, I just found it noticeable. Inside the main compartment is a smaller mesh compartment. This is similar to the one inside the lid of the belt pouch except it is larger and the top is held closed with elastic. On the lid of the main compartment is a smaller compartment which contains a plastic clip suitable for securing something like a keying. The bottom and largest portion of the pack consists of the compartment the belt pack fits in. This opens on the wearer’s right with a large flap and is otherwise unremarkable except for 3 small patches of loop material which are used to secure the rain cover and the plastic clip on the side opening. I will discuss this further below. At the top of the belt pack cover is an adjustable elastic cord. When this cord is loose the cover of the hip belt compartment will naturally fall into the closed position and so needs to be opened before pushing the belt pack into its compartment. However when the cord is pulled tight it pulls the flap open when the magnetic catch is released, so the flap remains open rather than falling back into place. The separation between the main compartment and the belt pack compartment contains stiff foam padding to provide structure and protection. Running up the wearers left side of the pack is a zipper opening. This is the hydration pouch pocket. The web site mentions that it “holds up to a 2 liter reservoir.” I tried the 2 liter pouch I had handy and while it did fit (empty), it did not fit well, so I intend to try this out to see how it works with a full pouch in the field. On the same side as the hydration pocket is a rather standard water bottle pocket, and at the bottom of that, a large elastic loop. Note the elastic loop is secured by passing through a metal grommet at each end and simply tied in a knot. The knotted ends are accessible so this can be removed and/or replaced. Parallel to the hydration pocket is the standard ice axe attachments, with a loop at the bottom and an adjustable elastic attachment at the top. Last but not least are two semi concealed pockets. These contain the integrated tripod attachment system. On top is an adjustable strap with snap closure, and the bottom a adjustable loop. The bottom pocket also contains a small fold out pocket. Presumably one or more of the tripod legs could fit in this fold out pocket, or for larger tripods just the straps could be used. I don’t know if this was intentional but the lower pouch seems to fit the rain covers nicely.

The shoulder straps are rather unremarkable. Contoured and padded, with load lifting straps at the top and an adjustable chest strap. There are also one hydration tube strap on each.

The manufacturer describes this pack as “Lightweight.” From a backpacker’s point of view considering the weight to pack volume I doubt I would classify it as a lightweight pack, however for its total size it is not excessively heavy either. And I am sure when contrasted against more traditional methods of carrying camera equipment it might be lighter.

Trying it out:
Unloaded the pack was easy to put on and adjust. My torso length usually puts me between a regular and long size for packs so when it is an option I normally choose the larger torso size. This pack seems to fit my torso with no problems. The padded sections of the hip belt seem a bit short for me. They fail to wrap around my hips and so the adjustment buckle sits right on the front of my hip bone. I am concerned that this could be a problem for long distances when the pack is full.

With the pack empty I was able to reach down and on the first try had no problem pushing down on the magnetic closure that secures the belt pack within the main pack, then grasping the handle and rotating the belt pack around to the front. This was quite simple and totally intuitive. Rather surprising given how unique the feature is. Returning the belt pouch to its storage position was just as simple. I rotated it back into position and the clip fell into place for easy closing. The magnetic closure makes the process as simple as getting the clip close and letting the magnet do the rest. I tried this a few times with no problems at all. So much for my natural skepticism.


Field Report

June 9 2015
Usage
  • Day hike - Snow Mountain Ranch (Central Washington Shrub step) – altitude ranging from 1850’ (550 m) to around 3000’ (900 m) Temp approximately 75 F (24 C) and clear. Estimated distance 2 miles (3 km).
  • Day hike - Bear Canyon (Eastern foothills of the Washington Cascades) – altitude around 2200’ (670 m) approximately 70 F (21 C) with scattered showers. Estimated distance 6 miles (10 km).
  • Day hike - Deer Lake (Central Washington Cascades) – altitude ranging from 4500’ (1370 m) to 5260’ (1600 m) Temp approximately 75 F (24 C) with scattered showers. Distance 6 miles (10 km)
  • Trail Maintenance - Goat Peak Trail (Central Washington Cascades) – altitude ranging from 3300’ (1000 m) to 4100’ (1250 m) Temp approximately 75 F (24 C) with fog/mist and thunderstorms in the area. Estimated distance 2 miles (3 km)

Hip belt pouch in use
My first outing with the pack was a short day hike with my wife. I packed an extra jacket, first aid kit, and some basic “essentials” in the upper pack, and our lunch in the hip belt pack. For the Bear Canyon hike I intended to hike up into the canyon and get some practice making bow drills (fire starter) and snares. I did a bit of off trail travel up the side of the canyon to find suitable locations to practice. The terrain was steep, loose, wet, and muddy from the recent rain making the off trail travel rather challenging (I managed to fall only once). The Dear lake trip was primarily to scout out the trail conditions, what kind of repairs might be needed, number and location of any trees across the trail, and see how much snow is remaining. I had light rain on and off the entire day.
I managed a day off work so I headed up to a trail called Goat Peak. This is a short but steep trail that I had heard could use some work. I cleared one tree and spent a few hours working a few sections of the trail that were in really bad shape. The forecast was for thunderstorms, but all I had to deal with was some light drizzle, fog and the almost constant dripping from the trees. I was carrying a folding pruning saw and a pair of trimmers along with my first aid kit, and snacks in the hip belt pouch. I had gloves, a warm hat, a jacket, and a few essentials in the main compartment and strapped a bow saw to the tri-pod attachments on the outside of the pack.

I will start by saying that after some use I can appreciate that this is a purpose built pack, and that purpose is photography. From the standpoint of a general day pack the pack is quite heavy and bulky relative to its carrying capacity. For a full day hike my “10 essentials” along with food, water, a light jacket, hat and gloves pretty much filled the pack. However it does have some very nice features that I like but suspect it would require carrying delicate items like camera equipment to fully appreciate it. For example the structure and padding in the pack seem to be effective at protecting the contents. And the operation of the hip belt pack is much better than I expected, however I found the way the hip belt pack opens (away from the wearer) was a bit awkward, but part of the problem could be the spare tire I carry around my middle which is not the fault of the pack. However, I think I would prefer if the lid opened the other direction. The magnetic clip to open/close the section of the pack the hip belt is in works very well and is quite intuitive to operate. The same goes for pivoting the hip belt back around to the front. I really like the ability to have instant access to thecontents of the beltpack while also being able to securely store it in the main pack behind me. Often I prefer to not stop for snacks and/or lunch. And with other packs that usually means putting my food in my pants pockets and/or the hip belt pockets of my pack (assuming it has any). Being able to store my snacks in my backpack but still having access to it without taking the pack off has been really nice. And that goes for other items I have placed in the hip belt pouch such as camera, GPS, sun screen, bug repellent, etc. I have used the rain cover (for the main pack) 3 times now and for the most part it works quite well but I have yet to use the hip belt pack rain cover. I found the rain cover quite easy to put on and take off and the way it secures to the hip belt access flap means it does not interfere with using the hip belt pack. There is one exception I found to this. On my trail maintenance trip I used the tri-pod attachments to secure a bow saw to the pack and realized that while the tri-pod attachment feature works quite well, it made it rather difficult to attach the rain cover.

As mentioned above the hydration pocket is on one side of the pack and rather narrow. After digging around I managed to find an old 1L (34 oz) hydration pouch that seems to fit, but the fit was rather snug and when full I was unsure if the zipper would close. But it did. I would note that while I fully understand the configuration to help keep the pack contents safe from any possible leak of the hydration pouch, this configuration requires loading the pack with heavy items on the opposite side to help balance the pack.

The water bottle pocket is quite short and I found even a 0.5L (16 oz) water bottle to stick out enough that I chose to use a carabineer to attach the bottle to the pack so it would not fall out. This pocket really needs to be deeper.

As mentioned above the cover for the hip belt storage area has an elastic strap and toggle, that when pulled will cause the flap to remain open when unlatched. I found this to be a nice feature. When I opened the flap and pivoted the hip belt the flap would remain open making it easy to pivot the belt pack back into place.

Long Term Report

Due August 18 2015
Usage
1 day hike Yakima Skyline trail – Eastern foothills of the Washington Cascaides (1343 –1866 ft / 409-569 m). Distance unknown

On a rather hot day I went to hike a trail I have avoided due to it being quite exposed and dry in order to test a sun umbrella. The temperature was over 100 F (38 C), the trail rugged, dusty, and has no cover starts climbing up the ridge from the start. I am not sure how far I got but, after about 1hr of sweating and frequent stops I gave up and turned around for the air conditioned comfort of my truck. I know why I have never hiked that trail before, and don’t plan to do return. For this hike I had my “10 essentials” in the pack. This changes per the needs of each hike but is basically a compass, whistle, small first aid kit, some cord, a fire starter with a piece of fatwood, tissue paper, Mylar blanket, knife, and head lamp. I had a 1.5 L (50 oz) soda bottle filled with water in the hydration pocket and a 0.5 L (16 oz) collapsible water pouch clipped to the outside of the pack. I started out with the sun umbrella in the side water bottle pocket, but removed that soon after leaving the trailhead. On the trail I pulled out the hip belt pack to access my camera and found it difficult to get it fully back into place afterword. I removed the pack and found the water bottle in the hydration pocket was the cause. Apparently the hydration pocket shares the some of the same space as the hip belt pack, so once removed it took a bit of force to squeeze the pouch back into its storage compartment. It is evident the hydration pocket was intended only for a flat hydration pouch and not something round like a water bottle.

 As with the previous usage the pack fit and rode well, but throughout the hike I often considered how much more this pack weighed vs. other packs I have of similar carrying volume, and given the heat of this trip that extra weight was hard to ignore.

Overall I think the pack is well built and could be an asset for carrying delicate items like camera equipment, however this results in it being a bit over built for general day hiking. In order to provide protection to delicate camera equipment the packs construction includes materials to provide structure and padding which reduce its carrying volume as well as add weight.

At the conclusion of tests I always contemplate the ongoing use I anticipate. And as much as I like this pack I simply don’t see me getting much use out of it, as evidenced by a few outings during this test that I chose to take a lighter pack instead of this one. However, I have a friend who is a semi-professional photographer and he has expressed interest in this pack. I will see if he can put it to use because I would hate to see such a nice pack go unused.


Triumphs: 
  • Easy access to the belt pack contents while wearing pack
  • Well constructed 
  • Hip belt pouch works quite well
Opportunities:
  • Water bottle pocket too short

This concludes my report. I would like to thank the folks at MindShift Gear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

 



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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > MindShift Gear rotation180 Panorama > Test Report by David Wilkes



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