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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > MindShift Gear rotation180 Panorama > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
Product Information Back to contents
Product Description Back to contents
The MindShift Gear rotation180° Panorama Backpack is essentially two packs in one: a daypack and a beltpack. At its core it's a daypack with somewhat traditional features like a lift handle, padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, padded back panel, padded hip belt, various gear compartments (three of which are zippered), a hydration port, daisy chains and an assortment of compression and gear attachment straps. Where things shift from common to unique is the beltpack feature. The Panorama has a special cubicle at the bottom of the pack, under the main cargo pocket, where the beltpack sits. While joined with the daypack the beltpack is held in place by a side wing and magnetic release buckle that can be operated with one hand. The beltpack is connected directly to the hipbelt. This feature allows the user to swivel the entire hipbelt around from the lumbar position to the front or sides of the waist without removing the whole backpack. The beltpack can also be fully removed from its daypack counterpart and worn separately.
Image #1 Lid pocket & Lift handle ..... Image #2 Main pocket (holds 48 fl oz / 1.4 L bottle) ..... Image #3 Beltpack & Grab handle ..... Image #4 Side wing with release buckle ..... Image #5 Side hydration pocket
In addition to its distinctive rotation aspect the beltpack has several other special traits: on both sides of the hipbelt and on the left side of the pack itself there are nylon grab handles that facilitate twisting from back to front and vice versa. Inside, the pack is padded and offers a system of adjustable protective partitions to keep sensitive gear snug. There is also a small mesh pocket on the underside of the lid.
True to their photography roots, MindShift Gear added one more exclusive element to the Panorama, a deployable tri-pod pouch with straps. The attachment straps and pouch stow away into two different, discrete compartments located on the far back of the daypack. The top strap has a quick-release buckle with locking clip.
Lastly, MindShift Gear generously included the Panorama-specific rain cover set (sold separately) for our test. Since the pack has two separate components, the rain cover does as well. There is one larger cover for the daypack, created with the beltpack access port in mind and a smaller cover specifically for the beltpack. Both are seam-sealed and provide water-resist coverage. The daypack's cover also has an opening that allows it to be slipped over the pack even with a tri-pod attached. There isn't a dedicated pocket on the Panorama explicitly for storing the rain gear but the larger cover has an incorporated pouch with a loop so it could be attached to the outside of the pack if pocket space was at a premium.
The Panorama arrived complete and in perfect working order as far as I can tell. I did not find anything broken or miss-made on either the pack or the rain covers.
There were several tags attached to the pack. Although I found almost all the features fairly straight forward, three whole tags were primarily dedicated to explaining the rotation process, which was very clearly done with pictures and captions. One tag offered a list of optional accessories and another gave gear stats like total volume, weight, and expected hydration capacity. I found all this helpful since these would certainly be questions I'd like to know before I made a purchase.
Two bits of information that I generally look for and in this case had trouble locating were load capacity and the country where the backpack was made. Load capacity was not on any of the included tags nor did I find it on the website. The country of origin tag was eventually located tucked away inside the top pocket. For ethical reasons I do not buy products from certain countries and therefore knowing upfront where a product is made is very important to me as a consumer. I'd like to see this information added to one of the more obvious product tags.
On an interesting side note, for those folks who seek out environmentally minded companies, MindShift Gear clearly states on a few of the tags their dedication to conservation and preservation of nature. As such, almost all the tags they used were printed on 100% recycled paper and they attached all the tags to the pack using string instead of plastic.
Expectations and First Impressions Back to contents
Judging from the provided material and the MindShift Gear website, it's obvious the designers of the Panorama had photography enthusiasts in mind when they created this pack. I am not a heavy-duty photographer by any stretch. I do, however, always have a camera with me while hiking, especially while on work hikes because taking pictures of my clients in the field is one of my job requirements. A fun requirement, I might add, since my clients are dogs. My camera is compact and does not require extra lenses or other add-ons. I do generally carry a small flexible tri-pod, however. I also lug around a ton of water, first-aid gear, my 10 Essentials kit and spare doggie stuff like leashes, collars, poop bags, treats, multi-tool and other cacti removal items, emergency muzzle, etc. With that said, while I am not going to be using the Panorama as a photographer would, I expect to utilize its many compartments and one-of-a-kind features to the best of my abilities. In return, per the manufacturer's talking points, I am expecting to be able to access all my gear "without sacrificing comfort or function" and being able to do so easily and quickly.
My first impression of the Panorama is that a good deal of thought has gone into its design. There are several little extras like wide finger loops on the zippers and the grab handles on the hipbelt that are probably not absolutely necessary but they sure as heck make sense and more importantly, they make using the pack a ton less tedious.
I have two immediate concerns, having loaded the pack with my gear and taken
it out a few times already. First, I'm concerned the daypack will tilt heavily
to the left if I choose to use the hydration compartment for its intended
purpose. The right side of the pack doesn't have a complementary pocket to
provide balance. The right is the side where the beltpack deploys and I suspect
the designers felt a pocket on the access wing would disrupt its ability to
bend outwardly. Secondly, it seemed obvious to store the items I need to access
quickly inside the beltpack, after all, that is the point of the convenient
rotation option. The problem is, when the beltpack is stowed away in its cubby
at the bottom of the daypack, it's not possible to unzip it and get to the
gear inside without going through a bit of gymnastics. While the set-up works
perfectly fine when I'm wearing the Panorama, it's quite inconvenient when
Since receiving the MindShift
Gear rotation180° Panorama Backpack a few months ago I have been able
to use it on fifty dayhikes and one three day fishing trip.
The majority of my use
with the Panorama has been for work treks in the Cave Creek, North Scottsdale
and Phoenix areas of Arizona. These 1.5 to 3 hour dayhikes almost always take
place in desert mountain preserves or along riparian trails in our desert
washes. Elevation in these areas fluctuates between 1,500 ft (450 m) and 2,400
ft (730 m). I've experienced sunny as well as cloudy and rainy weather, sometimes
within 10 minutes of each other. Typical of our spring, temperatures ranged
between the upper 50's and the upper 90's (14 to 36 C).
I've also used the Panorama
on the following "just for fun" outings:
- Marcus Landslide Trail, McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale, AZ; Elevation
2,900 ft (880 m). This was a four mile dayhike with my family to an interesting
sounding, yet somewhat underwhelming, geological feature. We had a beautifully
clear spring day with temps in the upper 70's F (26 C).
April - Black Canyon Trail, near Bumble Bee, AZ; Elevation 3,700 ft (1,130 m). This was a 7.5 mile day hike through the Sonoran Desert in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains. Cool, sunny day with temps ranging from 58 - 75 F (14 - 24 C).
May - Agua Fria National Monument, near Bumble Bee, Arizona; Elevation 3,500 to 3,800 ft (1,070 to 1,160 m). I took two trips to this area to visit Native American archeological sites. The first was a 2.5 hour hike to find Pueblo la Plata ruins. That day was chilly (62 F / 17 C) with consistent wind and sporadic rain showers. The second trip was a four hour creek hopping adventure with my family in the Aqua Fria River canyon. We experienced similar conditions as the previous outing but the temperature was a bit warmer, more like low 70's F (22 C). The picture on the right of me carefully weaving through the prickly pear gauntlet is from this trip.
in May - Mingus Mountain, Prescott National Forest, near Prescott,
AZ: Elevation 7,200 ft (2,200 m). This day trip was part of a larger three
day fishing/hiking trip I took with my family to the Prescott area. I used
the Panorama off and on several times on this trip but the longest use was
the 5 hours we poked around the pine and juniper forest of Mingus Mountain.
The weather was a mix of clouds and sun with temps in the upper 60's F (20
Pros and Cons Thus Far Back to contents
Having become very well acquainted with the Panorama, I have to say, I rather like it. Within only two uses I had the fit fine-tuned for my body and was pleased with the way the pack rides. Both the shoulder and sternum straps adjusted easily as did the hipbelt. Given the generous amount of padding MindShift Gear used I was not surprised at all to find the pack quite comfortable to wear, having said that, the pack does get slightly less comfortable when the beltpack is transitioned from back to front. This happens because while the beltpack is in its normal lumbar location it works in the same way as any other hipbelt to direct more of the total pack weight onto my hips When I rotate the beltpack out of its compartment I essentially have a daypack without a hipbelt so all that weight shifts onto my shoulders. This isn't a major problem in my opinion because the total volume of the Panorama (22 L / 1,343 cu in), especially without the beltpack (16.6 L / 1,013 cu in), isn't very high, meaning I'm not able to carry enough weight to overburden my shoulders. I will go into further detail about this in a moment.
The unique beltpack feature has been both wonderfully handy and a little annoying. To be fair, I am using the beltpack to house more than just my camera so someone using it only for camera gear and a larger camera may not have the same experience. I generally carry my palm sized camera, first-aid kit, cell phone, snacks, multi-tool, and several other dog items I need to reach quickly. The super handy part is the whole 180 degree rotation concept. Switching the beltpack from lumbar position to my right side or my front is truly, as the manufacturer claims, a one-handed motion that took very little time to get used to. The magnetic release buckle is very well conceived as is the grab handle on the side of the pack. I find I use this handle over the other two smaller handles pretty much every time. Additionally, the interior space of the beltpack has been sufficient for my needs. I don't use all the partitions that came with it but it's good to know I have them if I choose to carry a different assortment of items in the future. Being able to get to all this gear without dropping my pack and digging around in one of the pockets is excellent.
Unfortunately, even though I think the concept is brilliant, the execution isn't without a few tradeoffs. First, as I expressed in my Initial Report, I was concerned about getting into the beltpack when not wearing the backpack. I have found this to be by far the biggest inconvenience of the whole rotation concept. After the first two weeks of testing I actually stopped carrying my camera in the beltpack because it was so time-consuming to get it out when I'd stopped for a break and taken my pack off. And for my particular job, I find I'm using my camera most at rest stops. I have the same issue with my cell phone. While hiking, it's great to have my phone so quick at hand and yet so well protected in its own little padded partition. When I return to my vehicle, however, if I forget to take it out before taking my pack off, I have to go through a bit of gymnastics to retrieve it.
Another tradeoff is the layout of the Panorama. Although it has a 22 L (1,343 cu in) total volume, the way the compartments are configured to accommodate the beltpack with access wing, leaves the space available for gear fragmented. For the desert climate I live in, I found the volume to be insufficient for longer hikes. For example, the intended water storage location is the side hydration pocket, which is supposed to hold 2 L (70 oz) of water. That amount of water just is not realistic for a full days walk in the desert, especially if I have my kids or dogs with me. On my Black Canyon Trail hike I was hard pressed to get my 2 L (70 oz) Platy Big Zip into the hydration pocket at all because I had all the other gear compartments maxed out.
I felt the volume worked best for shorter treks. In these situations, like
my work hikes, I need only a limited amount of essential gear, which I could
spread throughout the smaller pockets, leaving the main cargo compartment
for water. I usually lug slightly more than 3 L (100 fl oz) in a combination
of three bottles, which is too much water for the side hydration pocket alone.
Although, the main compartment is kind of shallow with the beltpack cubicle
directly below it, it's still deep enough to stand a 1 L (32 fl oz) Nalgene
type bottle upright, but not deep enough for a 1.4 L (48 fl oz).
Some other random stuff:
I found the upper strap on the back of the pack (originally intended for tri-pods and such) very useful for holding a jacket or my hat. I also used it to affix my dog's backpack when she needed a break on one of our longer treks. I'm going to try it with trekking poles next.
There is a small open-top pocket located on the left side of the pack. Normally I stow a collapsible dog bowl there because it's easy to reach without taking the pack off. This pocket works well for the flexible bowl but not for much else. It's made of the same material as the rest of the pack body and therefore has no stretch whatsoever. This means if I put something rigid like a water bottle in there it presses into the compartment behind it, in this case the hydration pocket. So when the hydration pocket is full, the side pocket has even less room. Furthermore, the material is a bit slippery so anything with a stuff sack or similar nylon type cover slips out while I'm walking.
MindShift Gear used different sized finger loops for the zippers on the main compartment and the zippers on the top stash pocket. What a clever idea that was, thank you very much!!! These two zipper tracks are very close together and I could easily get them mixed up but for the different loops. Totally simple solution for that problem, I love it!
Lastly, I was able to use the rain covers on a couple of outings but I missed
one opportunity because the rain surprised me and I didn't have the covers
with me. Both were easy to install in the field. Total time start to finish
was just a minute or two. For the light rain I experienced they worked perfectly.
I will try to get into some heavier down pours during our upcoming monsoon
Aspects I'm pleased with…
Aspects I'm underwhelmed with…
Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents
With the four additional hikes listed below I've collectively been able to use the MindShift Gear rotation180° Panorama backpack a total of fifty-seven times.
June - Two-day trip which involved hiking and water play near Cottonwood, Arizona. The weather was clear and hot with temperatures in the mid 90's up to a gross 102 F (35 to 39 C). This area has a mix of riparian vegetation down by the river and high desert or juniper scrub above. Elevation: 3,100 to 3,800 ft (945 to 1,160 m). The picture below is me goofing around in Wet Beaver Creek, one of two local water ways we visited on this trip.
July - Four mile night hike in the Sonoran Desert Preserve north of Phoenix, AZ. The elevation of this desert mountain area is around 2,000 ft (610 m). Temperatures on this particular night were in the upper 90's F (36 C) with clear skies.
in July - Three mile night hike in the Sonoran Desert Preserve
in north Phoenix, AZ, elevation 2,000 ft (610 m). Weather was slightly cloudy
with temps in the low 100's F (39 C).
Long Term Conclusions Back to contents
One of the product tags that came with the Panorama stated that the rotation180° was "Backpack Access Reinvented" and I concur. MindShift Gear has indeed produced a very creative solution to the problem of getting to gear while on the move. My opinions of the rotation concept and the beltpack's function haven't changed over the last two months; I still think it's super clever.
While I don't think the Panorama is perfect, it does have many plus points; durability, for instance, has been great. I've used the heck out of this pack and everything is still working just as well as it did on day one. Of course it's far dirtier, but the exterior fabric has held up nicely to all the rocky, dirty and prickly trail conditions we have around here. I haven't had any workmanship failures with the zippers, the buckles, the straps, the seams, etc
I didn't want to finish the test without trying something in the tri-pod pouch. Since I don't own a tri-pod I borrowed one. Although I only had a limited amount of time using this unique two pocket system, I thought it worked great. Even with the main two compartments filled to capacity with water and other gear there was enough room to slip one end of the tri-pod into the top pouch, tighten the gear strap, slip the lower end into the extended pouch at the bottom of the pack and then tighten that strap. I didn't think it would all fit but it did, very snugly too I might add. Thinking a bit more creatively I also tried using these pouches to carry a sun umbrella I recently started testing. Being lighter and having a much slimmer profile than the tri-pod it didn't fit as tightly into the pockets, thankfully the cinch straps were there to secure it in place so I didn't have to worry about losing it.
When not in use hauling camera stands or umbrellas I found a bonus use for the bottom tri-pod compartment, it's just big enough to house the rain gear, even with the extendable pouch and cinch strap stowed inside. I'd really like to see an additional piece of hook and loop added to the pack side of the pouch, however. Doing so would allow the hidden stow-away compartment to be securely closed even while the tri-pod pouch is deployed. In this way items like the rain gear could be kept in there all the time regardless of whether or not the extendable pouch is in use.
Speaking of rain gear,
unfortunately I didn't encounter any more rain over these last few months
so I wasn't able to evaluate the covers any further. From what I experienced
with them during field testing, they should work fine with the type of short
rain bursts we typically get here in the desert. As to extended downpours,
I have no idea.
Final Thoughts Back to contents
As someone who is using the Panorama as a day hiker more so than a photographer, I felt it was mostly a very functional pack. Having said that, I think before it can truly be exceptional MindShift Gear must rethink the hydration capacity in general and the imbalance created by the hydration pocket in particular. I don't know how much water folks in other parts of the world typically carry for a full day of trekking but 1.5 to 2 L (32 to 50 fl oz) is not nearly enough for us here in the Sonoran Desert.
One thing I'd really like to see added to the hipbelt is zippered pockets. I realize, on the face of it, the idea of the rotation concept seems to make these unnecessary but I think there are three immediate benefits to hipbelt pockets. First, they would offer a solution to the accessibility issue created when the pack is not being worn and the beltpack is stowed away in its compartment. Exterior belt pockets can easily be reached whether the user is hiking or has the pack off. Secondly, they would increase the volume and add a little counterbalance to the weight of the beltpack when it's being used solo. Finally, exterior pockets would provide an alternative location to store items that could be potentially harmful rattling around inside the same compartment as delicate camera equipment; car keys and my multi-tool come to mind first. The partitions help but they don't totally solve this problem.
I think MindShift Gear is really on to something with the rotation180° idea and it's only going to take a few tweaks to make the Panorama something legitimately mind blowing!
My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and MindShift Gear for giving me the opportunity to be part of this test series. I hope you all found my report helpful.
-Jamie J. DeBenedetto
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