I went out and bought all this camera gear, now I needed a good backpack to carry it all around in. So began my quest. I made a list of the main things I was looking for in the bag.

– must be comfortable for long hikes
– must carry all of my primary gear
– must not advertise “expensive” camera gear to much (hey look, I’m carrying $£$£ worth of camera stuff, come steal me!)
– must be able to take as a carry on at airports- must provide good protection

I soon ended up seeing these oddly named Crumpler bags at a local camera store. They looked good (and not like a camera bag at all), felt good (strong, great build quality), and as a bonus they had laptop sleeves which I wasn’t initially looking for. Seemed like the right match for my needs, but there’s very little information on the web about this bag, so I decided to buy one and give it a test run. By the way, any time I refer to the “back” or “front” of the bag I mean this. The back is the part that sits on my back, where the shoulder straps are. The front is the part of the bag that people behind you get to stare at, wondering what kind of bag has a little crazy dreaded dude as their logo. I don’t know how everyone else refers to the front or back, that’s just how I see it.

From Crumpler’s website
The Schrinkle has Chicken Tex fabric with waterproof ripstop lining and removable extra padded laptopsleeve. Features two easy access front zip pockets and an additional zippocket and penholder. Inside there’s a fully removable photopack for professionals, with an adjustable photodivider and security supermesh. Access the photo and computer section via the backpanel which keeps the back of the pack clean when lying on the ground. There’s a dr bodenschatz back hugger which makes light work of heavy loads, and external side loops for pouch and tripod attachment. Plus there’s an extra pleatpocket and super strong shoulderstraps with chest strap for fine adjustment and extra loops for holding pouches. Optional extra waist belt.

 

I brought the Schrinkle home and started playing with the dividers to fit my gear. I was having difficulty with fitting everything in. Although the backpack was the perfect size on the outside, I couldn’t seem to fit my gear inside the way I wanted to. I also discovered that because my 15″ Toshiba laptop was slightly curved in the front, that would be enough to stop it from fitting into the padded laptop sleeve any more than half-way. I was now on the verge of returning the bag for the next size up, the Brian’s Hot Tub (what the bumba?), but it is a bigger bag and I didn’t want anything larger than the Schrinkle. I don’t like the idea of having to check my expensive camera gear at the airport due to size restrictions. So I decided to try a few more configurations. Low and behold, after some geometric brainstorming I managed to fit all of my key stuff inside, with some space left to boot. As for the laptop sleeve, since this wasn’t one of my main needs to begin with I figured that I could live without it. I am however going to try and get the sleeve custom altered to let my Toshiba fit. Literally all that’s needed to get my Toshiba in is maybe another half an inch of give. (UPDATE: I managed to get my laptop to fit after applying more force, nothing broke and it works fine.. No need for an alteration!) Looking at the Schrinkle’s space, there shouldn’t be a problem closing it after the alterations have been made. I’ll let you know how it goes when I get around to altering the sleeve.

So how does the Schrinkle meet my initial bag needs?

Hikes and city walking
Well I haven’t done long hikes with the bag yet, but it feels very comfortable fully packed on me. The straps are thick and padded well which helps to spread the weight nicely over a large area. The back of the bag is well padded and sits well, in fact it hardly moves on me which is great. If I bend over to pick something up, tie a shoelace etc. the backpack hardly shifts and doesn’t slide up my back. Thumbs up. I’ve taken it to work and walked around London with it and so far it’s felt very comfortable on me. It does however make your shoulders and back sweat, but I think any heavy backpack does this.

Carrying my gear
After I managed to wrangle the dividers around and figure out how to place things effectively I managed to get the following gear in.

– Canon 10D w/24-70mm f/2.8L attached w/hood reversed
– Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS w/hood reversed & tripod mount
– Sigma 12-24 f/4.5-5.6
– Canon 50mm f/1.4
– Canon 380EX Flash
– Canon 500D 77mm Close-Up Lens
– Circular Polarizer 77mm
– Circular Polarizer 58mm
– Extra CF Cards
– Canon Elan IIe OR Canon G3
– BP-511 recharger
– Extra Batteries (AA’s & BP-511)
– Lens Wipe
– Mini-Tripod
– Toshiba 15″ Laptop and the following (Occasionally)
– Power Supply for Laptop
– Mouse
– A few DVD’s or CD’s
– If no Laptop, then the following can go in
– Magazines and Books

Click for larger image

Click image for a larger view

Functionality and Looks
The first thing that struck me about the Schrinkle’s design was that you can only access the camera gear by fully removing the backpack. Now for some this will be enough not to consider this bag. For me however, on a long hike this is not a big concern. I’ve gone through temperate and tropical rainforests with my Elan IIe, my shooting habits mean that I usually have some idea of what I’m trying to shoot beforehand. I prepare my camera with a lens that the most suitable for my goals. If I come across something that requires me to swap lenses then I do. But I’m not in and out of my bags all the time, just when I need to be. So now that I’ve touched on bag accessibility here’s what sets the Schrinkle apart from other bags. You must open the bag from the back, the area that sits on your back. This odd design has some advantages. One is that your expensive camera gear is very secure, no one will be able to steal anything from your bag in the middle of a crowd without you knowing. Two, opening the bag on muddy or wet surfaces will keep your back dry when you put the bag back on, because you place the front of the bag on the ground and open it with the back towards you keeping it dry and off the ground. Another nice feature is the inclusion of a safety net on the inside of the bag. Once you open the backpack, there is a protective mesh that prevents anything from accidentally falling out. This extra safety feature again slows access to the equipment a bit but is still a nice touch in my opinion.

Almost everything can be removed from the backpack. The laptop sleeve is removable and so is the entire camera compartment which when removed makes the Schrinkle quite roomy inside. Now you have the option of using the bag as a regular, everyday backpack for your non-photographic needs. All of the camera gear stays neatly in the compartment, ready to sit in the Schrinkle when you’re ready to go. Another note I should make, the Schrinkle has a few loops on the outside of the bag to hook accessories onto, and one loop and strap combo is meant for a tripod. When being worn, it is on my left side, take a look at the picture below to see it. None of the sites I visited for info ever mentioned this.

As for looks, it looks great. The bag doesn’t look like a camera bag to me, it just looks like a nice backpack.

Click image for a larger view

Click image for a larger view

Protection
The inside of the bag is stiff and well protected, it will probably handle some tough knocks and drops with little effect to the equipment inside.. I’ll let someone else test that area with real equipment though. 🙂 I did however pack the bag with weight (cans of stuff) and dropped it off my shoulder a good number of times to simulate it slipping off. It fell on the front of the bag every time, which is great. That would be the bottom of the camera gear which is well protected. I also dropped it a few times by holding the bag away from me and letting it fall straight down. It bounced slightly (off of the bottom) on impact and rolled onto the front. The design and shape of the bag means that the weight distribution pulls down and away from you, hence the consistent rolling onto the front when the bag is settled. This is true even when standing the bag up, which is annoying. For drops and falls this is good news for laptops as it seems they won’t have to take a direct hit. If the bag falls on a corner (in my tests it never fell cleanly on a corner, the weight shifted the fall towards the front and bottom every time) there’s lots of padding and some space before the laptop would even get hit.

The bag does not come with an all-weather cover. So if you’re going someplace with harsh weather conditions you’ll probably want to buy one.

At the airport
UPDATE: I’ve flown internationally a good number of times now with the Schrinkle, and have not had a single problem bringing the bag on as a carry on. I always have it on my back during the bag checks, and no one has bothered me about it. So the Schrinkle passes my airport travel requirements!

Conclusion
The more I’ve used the Schrinkle, the more I like it. It carries all my gear, is comfortable, looks good, travels as a carry-on at airports and I managed to get my laptop to fit in the end (it just needed some persuasion! :) ) I like the Crumpler Schrinkle and recommend it.

Nordin Rahhali

Related Links

Crumpler Bags Homepage (very quirky!)
Digital Grin Schrinkle Review