Mindshift rotation180 Pro
The Mindshift rotation180 Professional is Mindshift's premier backpack. This pack has been specially designed for nature photographers who spend much of their time hiking and exploring. It features a rotating beltpack that provides quick access to your camera and lenses, as well as a larger interior compartment than can quickly be accessed without ever taking the pack off! The rotation180 has everything I've been looking for in a photography backpack!
In 2016 I spent 4 months traveling across the country on a photography expedition. Every day I was out taking pictures, hiking in the mountains, searching for waterfalls, and hunting for wildlife. Unfortunately, my “beginner's backpack” wasn’t cutting it. I only had room for a camera, 3 lenses and my Lee Filters kit. I was always making sacrifices on what gear to bring. “If I leave the wide-angle lens in the car, I can bring the Macro lens.” "If I hold my tripod, I can fit a water bottle in the side pocket." This was not good! I quickly learned that I should have invested in a better backpack.
In 2017 I spent 3 months on another photography roadtrip, this time with the Mindshift rotation180 Pro. The difference was amazing! Now I had room for all the gear I needed, the pack was comfortable to wear, and the rotating feature made things so much easier in the field!
The rotation180 is a 38L pack, the perfect size for a photographer who has a lot of gear. Once the weather warmed up in April I was excited to finally put it to use! I spent an afternoon collecting all of my camera equipment and laying it out. I wanted to see just how much could fit in the Mindshift pack. To my surprise, I was able to fit every single thing! A Nikon D750, Tokina 100mm, Sigma 35mm, Tamron 150-600mm, Nikon 24-70mm, Nikon 14-24mm, ResQLink, tripod, Nalgene bottle, headlamp, and random camera accessories. I never would’ve guessed that the Tamron 150-600mm would fit! I even had enough room left over for some snacks.
The main compartment
Inside the rotating beltpack I can fit my Nikon D750 with a 24-70mm lens and my Big Stopper, Little Stopper, Landscape Polarizer, and filter holder for waterfall trips. The beltpack also doubles as a workstation or table in the field. It makes adding filters to my camera much easier, even when I'm standing in the middle of a creek. The beltpack has removable inserts that allow you to customize the layout for your gear; you should be able to fit a camera body and four lenses with the default configuration.
Beltpack interior - plenty of room!
Depending on your configuration, you can even use this pack for a quick overnight trip. If you save the main compartment for camping gear, you can fit a single-person hammock, with straps, and a highly compressed sleeping bag. There are enough straps on the outside to secure a sleeping pad too. It may be a tight fit for camping gear, but then again, this is not designed for backpacking.
I am very impressed with just how much gear can fit into the rotation180! I love the fact that I can now have my Tamron 150-600mm in my backpack if I happen to spot a wild animal when I'm out hiking!
Clearly a lot of thought has gone into every single aspect of this pack. From the clips, to the rubber grips on the zippers, the separate rain cover specifically for the beltpack, and the magnetic lock on the rotating waistbelt. Each piece of the pack appears to be made of the highest quality materials, no corners were cut. Coming from just a standard photography backpack, this is a massive leap in quality! I can't say enough good things about the durability of this pack. The rotation180 is built to last!
The designers obviously spent a lot of time studying every aspect of a backpack. I do a lot of backpacking with a Gregory Baltoro 70L, so I’m used to having a high quality backpack on long trips. The rotation180 comes with a rain cover, has adjustable waist and shoulder straps, thick shoulder padding, a hydration reservoir, and plenty of pockets. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to fill my packs to the brim with gear! Even with a 70L pack, I find myself running out of room for my backpacking gear. I'm thrilled that the rotation180, a 38L pack, has more than enough room for all of my camera gear.
The only flaw I've found in the rotation180's design is the lack of padding on the waistbelt. The padding does not reach far enough forward, which leaves the bare straps uncomfortably tight on my hip bones. That means I have to loosen the waistbelt, transferring most of the pack weight back to my shoulders. I've also noticed the waistbelt tends to ride up and stay around my belly button, instead of staying around my hips. Again, if you aren't tall and scrawny, this might not be an issue for you.
The main feature of the rotation180 pro is the beltpack that slides out. This gives you quick access to your camera / lenses / filters / anything you need. I am able to fit my Nikon D750 with a Tokina 100mm attached in the middle, with a Nikon 24-70 and Sigma 35mm on the sides. There's just enough room for 2 smaller lenses as well. The beltpack also has a mesh pocket that I put my remote shutter and lens caps in. With the removable divider pads, I can arrange the layout to fit multiple gear configurations.
I can also completely remove the beltpack and wear it by itself. This is great when I need to get my gear safely in a tight space or hard to reach area. For example, I had to climb up a cliff-face while in a harness, to photograph some rock climbers from above. I was able to put my D750 and 2 lenses in the beltpack and climb up easily!
I love how I can rotate the entire pack around and have easy access to the main compartment. With my original backpack, I either had to handhold the telephoto lens all day or leave it in the car. Always a compromise.... With the Mindshift, I can bring along my telephoto lens, and if I happen to see some wildlife, I can quickly switch lenses! The rotation feature is truly a game changer!
Accessing the main compartment
You may be wondering why something as mundane as tripod placement has its own section in this review. Backpackers know how important it is to have a balanced pack weight. If one side is heavier than the other you will have a sore back / shoulder by the end of the day. One of the biggest problems I had with my original backpack was the tripod placement on the right side. After a long hike, the tripod would pull down on the right side of my pack, causing my shoulder to get sore. Having an unbalanced pack is not fun! This was honestly one of my biggest problems with that backpack.
Great tripod placement!
I love how the Mindshift puts the tripod holder right in the middle of the pack. No more uneven weight! The rotation180 has a special sling that holds the tripod securely in place. This frees up the side pockets for a Nalgene or anything else really. Due to the rotating nature of the pack, I always have easy access to the tripod too!
Imagine you're standing in ankle deep, fast moving water. You need to take a long exposure using a polarizer and ND filter. There's no safe, dry place around to put your pack. I've had this issue numerous times, whether I'm on a steep ledge or in the middle of a creek. In the past, I'd have to find someplace safe to put my pack, take out my gear, and setup my filters. Then I'd head back out into the water, or climb back to my perch, with all my gear in-hand. This was always very risky.
The rotation180 is my new assistant! Since the pack can rotate around on my waist, I always have a mobile work station! If I need to add my filter system, I have everything I need right in front of me. It's like having a portable table and assistant with you at all times. Just this past week I was photographing The Narrows, in Zion National Park. I was able to easily and safely attach my Lee Filters Kit to my camera in the middle of the stream using this pack. I could even switch lenses and use my 14-24mm with its massive Progrey 150mm filter system without any problems. The rotation180 Pro has been a life saver on this trip!
My biggest problem with this pack is the waistbelt. For big backpacks, the waistbelt is supposed to sit right on the hip bones; this takes most of the pack weight off of your shoulders and transfers it to your hips. This makes hiking long distances much easier and comfortable. My Gregory backpack has a large, padded waistbelt, which makes hiking long distances comfortable on my hip bones. Unfortunately there isn't enough padding on the Mindshift, the padding ends before it covers my hip bones. In the image below you will see how much further the padding goes on my Gregory pack.
Notice how the padding on the right pack stretches around to the front
The lack of padding on the Mindshift causes sore hips when tightened properly. I should mention I'm 6' 3" and pretty thin. It's possible that this lack of padding may not be a problem for other people. To be fair, the Gregory is a high-end backpacking pack. It is built for carrying heavy loads long distances. The Mindshift and the Gregory are two completely different beasts. Still, it's something the designers can look into for the next iteration.
Honestly, that’s the only real problem I have with this pack.
If you’re in the market for a new backpack, I would highly recommend the Mindshift rotation180 Pro. The rotation feature is a game changer for photographers!! You always have quick, easy access to all of your gear, without ever having to take off the pack! The build quality is top-notch, almost every single part of the pack is well thought out. Having spent years with a sub-par backpack, I'm honestly surprised just how much of a difference a high-quality backpack can make. Having used this pack extensively for the past three months, I can confidently say this is a great investment! If you do any kind of long exposure photography, or find yourself in difficult to shoot areas, the rotating pack feature is a game changer. My only regret is not getting a Mindshift pack sooner!