The Vanguard UP-Rise series of bags have recently won the prestigious T.I.P.A 'BEST PHOTO BAG 2010' award, so we figured we'd take a look and see what makes their bags so good.
The UP-Rise series of bags offer a large number of features, including the ability to expand in size to accommodate changing gear loads, a bright orange interior to help you find small items, a removable rain coat, multiple pockets, as well as generous configurable padding. One of the most popular features of the UP-Rise series is their "Rapid Access System", which allows you to rapidly access the camera/lens combination in a mere seconds, so you don't miss the shot. Paying particular attention to details, protective tabs prevent shoulder strap hooks from scratching gear when accessing the bag.
The Vanguard UP-Rise bags are available in messenger, zoom, shoulder, sling and backpack styles, ranging in price from $49 to $149. This review focuses on the UP-Rise 48 backpack, kindly provided to us by Vanguard for the purpose of this review.
According to the documentation that came with the bag, a diagram shows the UP-Rise 48 holding a DSLR with a lens attached, a spare body, 3 spare lenses and a flashgun. Despite this impressive load, this still leaves a large accessory section empty, as well as various pockets, and a laptop compartment that will hold up to a 17" wide-screen notebook computer. The UP-Rise 48 is a spacious bag, with exterior dimensions of 13 3/4" x 11 7/8" x 20 1/4" (350mm x 300mm x 515mm) and retails for $149.
Vanguard UP-Rise 48 Features
The UP-Rise 48 has a lot of features, so lets go through them briefly one-by-one, starting on the outside:
Rapid Access System
The Rapid Access System is one of the key selling points of the Vanguard UP-Rise bags. Flip the bag on its side, and you'll note in the picture below a clip, underneath which is a handle that operates both zippers.
Simply open the clip and pull the handle opening both zippers at once, and the cover opens (there is also Velcro holding it shut for added safety), revealing the very well padded and very orange camera compartment.
The picture below shows a Nikon D700, complete with MB-D10 grip, Kirk L-Bracket and Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens in the bag. This is a very large combination, and as you can see it fits just fine, even without having to expand the bag.
Retrieving the camera via the rapid access system is very fast, and with practice you can get the camera out in less than 5 seconds. The combination of Velcro, zippers and the plastic clip also means the camera certainly isn't going to fall out on its own. The Nikon D700 shown above complete with grip and L-Bracket is about as large of a DSLR combination as you can get (even larger than a D3s), and is slightly bigger than the opening, even so it fits just fine. A smaller combination (like an un-gripped D700) would be even more accessible.
Shoulder Straps and Padding
Camera bags get heavy, sometimes really heavy. If you are hiking in summer, you get hot carrying all that weight fast. Without proper support and padding, carrying your camera gear can quickly turn into a miserable experience. Vanguard has clearly put a lot of thought into this area, as the three images below show.
First of all the padding on the back of the bag is split into three areas – the three areas that rest against your body (your lower back, and back of your shoulders). The padding is thick (lower back is at least an inch thick), comfortable, and covered with a breathable material that lets air flow. In between the three padded areas are channels that allow even more airflow across your back
The shoulder straps are equally well padded, and also feature the same breathable material on the inside as the picture below shows. The straps are adjustable, and each strap features a metal D-Ring attachment points.
As you can see in the image below, chest and waist straps are also built in. The waist strap tucks behind the padding when not in use, and the padding is sufficiently thick that you don't even know it is there.
Until someone invents an anti-gravity camera bag, loaded up with cameras and lenses your bag is going to be heavy. Vanguard's UP-Rise 48 bag goes a very long way to help at least make the load feel lighter than it is, and perhaps even more importantly on hot days, helps get airflow across your back.
Your camera bag is likely so spend a lot of time on the ground, being loaded in and out of cars etc., so one of the areas that usually suffers the most wear is the base. As you can see, the UP-Rise 48 bag is reinforced in all the right places:
One of the major features of the UP-Rise bags is their ability to expand. Compare the picture above to the picture below: simply undoing a zip gives almost 2.5 inches of additional height in the gear section of the bag.
Flip the bag on its side to reveal a tripod holder (we'll show this in use a little later when we load the bag up).
A long zipper on the side of the bag opens to reveal well-padded laptop compartment. Shown here is the biggest laptop we had available, a Dell Inspiron 6000. This is a fairly big laptop, measuring approx 14" x 10.5" x 1.5" and fits with ease.
The carry handle on the top of the Up-Rise 48 is extremely well padded and comfortable, and features the same breathable material as found on the chest straps and back of the bag.
A small detail, but a useful one – a luggage tag with basic contact info is provided should you need to check your bag at an airport etc.
The zipper running down the middle of the bag in the picture below reveals a very generous accessory compartment. The compartment runs the full height and width of the bag (not just the oval area), and while not padded, it is ideal for carrying flat objects like passports, tickets, maps, books, magazines or just about anything else you may need.
Folded into a pocket on the bag of the bag is a rain cover. The rain cover installs in seconds, and has Velcro straps to keep it in place even in strong winds, while allowing the bag to still be used as a backpack.
Moving to the interior of the bag, a zipper opens to reveal the generous accessory compartment, which also features 2 pockets for smaller items like memory cards.
Opening the two main zippers reveals the interior of the bag, exposing both the accessory and gear compartments in all their orange glory. The compartments are very well padded, and the dividers are Velcro'd into place, making it very easy to reconfigure the bag to fit your gear.
Now we've highlighted the Vanguard UP-Rise 48's impressive list of features, now onto the fun part:
So How Much Gear Will This Bag Actually Take?
When traveling with camera gear, you are constantly battling keeping the weight down, verses having the gear with you that you need (that lens or accessory you just bought isn't going to help you get the shot if you leave it behind). That is where expandable bags like the UP-Rise series really come into their own: When traveling by air, car etc., you often take as much gear as you think you will need for the entire trip, so you expand the bag and fill it. Then on day trips where you are going to have the carry the bag long distances, you reduce the size of the bag and only take the gear you actually need for that specific day.
The picture below shows the bag fully loaded (well, we could have crammed in a few more items in the air spaces if we really tried), weighing in at just over 40 lbs:
Below is the list of what we comfortably managed to fit:
- Nikon D700 with MB-D10 grip loaded with eneloop batteries.
- Nikon D300 with MB-D10 grip loaded with eneloop batteries.
- Nikon 105mm f2.8 Macro Lens (attached to D700)
- Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 Lens
- Nikon 70-300mm VR Lens
- Nikon 12-24mm f4 DX Lens
- Nikon 50mm f1.4 Lens
- Nikon 1.7x Teleconverter
- Nikon 1.4x Teleconverter
- Nikon ML-3 Infrared Remote in Pouch.
- Two spare trays loaded with eneloops for the MB-D10 Battery Packs
- Two spare Nikon EN-EL3e Batteries
- Seven spare Compact Flash Memory Cards
- Wimberley Sidekick
- Three 77mm Nikon Filters in Cases
- Rocket Blower Brush
- Multi-Purpose Utility Tool
- Long Ethernet Cable
- Nikon MH-18a Battery Charger for the EN-EL3e's
- Sixteen spare eneloop Batteries
- Two Sony NiNH Chargers plus additional cabling for charging in car
- Feisol CT-3442 Tripod
- Acratech GP Ballhead
Basically, this lot:
That's two very large DSLR's (gripped D300 and D700), 5 lenses, 2 teleconverters, a big laptop, tripod and a lot of accessories. You can tell a lot about people by what they pack – it's obvious even if I'm camping days away from a power outlet, I'm not going to run out of power…
Overall, for a $149 bag, the Vanguard UP-Rise 48 is amazing. From the impressive feature list to the incredible attention to detail, this bag is a definite winner. Features like the Rapid Access System help you avoid missing shots if you need your camera in a hurry. The expandability makes the bag incredibly versatile, so one bag can be used both as transportation for your gear, as well being used for light day trips and longer hikes with a smaller kit. The padding, airflow system and rain cover make the bag easier to carry in all weather conditions.
Even details like the bright orange interior help you find items in the bag in lower light conditions (who hasn't wasted time searching for lost items in their gear bag before?). I must admit I'm not the biggest fan of the color orange in general though. My aversion to the color orange probably dates back to my childhood, being given time-outs and having to sit on an orange stair carpet. However in the Vanguard UP-Rise bags even I'll admit it serves it purpose very well.
This bag will be traveling with us extensively over the coming months; we'll report back and update this review detailing how it holds up over time. Based on our experience so far, it's a well-designed and flexible backpack, and at an extremely competitive price point.