Since there doesn’t seem to be an ideal backpack for our travels, I thought that maybe I should concentrate on the expensive things that should be protected. I still like the idea of anti-theft bags and decided that I should try another Pacsafe product after giving such a poor review of the Venturesafe™ 45L GII Travel Backpack. I’m glad to say that this bag is much better than the previous one I reviewed. I think this one will be the one to go with me around the world.
I looked at the comparably-sized Pacsafe Camsafe V17 Camera Backpack (Black) and the slightly larger Pacsafe Camsafe V25 Camera Backpack (Black). Both had very similar features, however, because I already will be using a backpack as my main bag, this sling bag is narrow enough that it could be awkwardly hung in front of me between my other backpack straps when I need to carry both bags for more than just a few minutes. To begin, let’s start with what I like about this bag.
This camera bag has a 16 liter capacity and can hold a full-size DSLR with a mounted lens along with a second lens. It could also easily accommodate a mirrorless system with room to spare. Since I’ll be bringing a Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 and a 12-24mm f/4 lenses, the size was perfect. This bag is geared for the more casual photographer and not a pro, so if you plan on bringing something larger and faster, such as 70-200mm f/2.8, you may have to reconfigure this bag, carry the big lens in a pouch in the main compartment of this bag, or simply find a different bag. The main compartment is divided mid-way by a drawstring closure, that can be opened up to make it one long compartment. The main compartment is big enough to also carry my large 100×150 filter bag with filter holder and adapter rings, as well as enough clothes and toiletries for a 2 -3 day excursion.
The bag’s security features are quite good. The front, sides, and bottom of the bag are lined with a stainless steel mesh to stop bag slashers. All of the outside zippers have recessed security clips that keep pickpockets from easily opening them. The nicely padded crossbody main strap goes from the top center of the pack to bottom right corner, when facing the back of the bag. There’s a secondary strap that comes up from the left bottom corner that snap buckles onto the main strap to help stabilize the bag. The main strap has padding with nylon tricot fabric on the inside face and has two stainless wires running through the strap to prevent it from being slashed. The main strap also has a buckle with a two button safety release that allows you to pass the strap around a fixed object to thwart opportunistic bag snatchers when you take it off to sit down.
There’s a compartment against the back of the bag for an iPad, tablet, small netbook or laptop, such as a MacBook Air, or a hydration bladder. There’s even a little covered hole for the hydration tube. The back panel is made with a fairly stiff HDPE sheet that has good padding against your back and gives the bag the necessary support. There are two mesh zippered inside pockets, one inside the top main compartment, and one on the flap of the outside pocket along with a split keyring and pen pockets. The bag includes a rain cover that encloses the outside portion of the bag, all of the zippers, and tucks into a velcro bottom pocket when not in use. A small strap attaches the rain cover to the pack so it won’t get lost or blown away. Finally, there’s a sturdy padded handle on the top of the bag for when it’s not on your shoulder.
The material seems rugged enough for everyday carrying and the construction appears solid. Empty, the bag weighs just a few grams shy of a kilo, or 2 lb. 3 oz. When fully loaded my bag weighs just under 7 kilos, which is the carry-on weight limit on some discount Asian airlines. I carried my bag, fully loaded, for about 30 minutes to see if it was comfortable and I’m quite happy with it. The sling-style bag takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’ve been using it for a while, it becomes second nature to swing the bag under your left arm to get access to the camera compartment.
There isn’t much that I disliked about this bag; most were little things, but still worth mentioning. However, there is one thing that I consider a fatal flaw. The main strap has two wires embedded into the webbing to prevent slashing. The wire runs from the top of the bag across the padding against your body and wraps around the buckle near the bottom. However, the other side of the buckle is attached to the bottom of the bag with standard nylon webbing with no wires. The one place that you can’t easily see while wearing it, but is exposed to a slasher’s blade, is where it’s least protected. I consider that a fatal flaw. Also, the buckle with the two button safety release faces out where thieves can see it and study it before making their move. The safety release should be facing inward and more hidden. The rest of these issues are minor.
Although the bag uses the “exomesh” on the bottoms, sides and front of it, the top of the bag is unprotected. The portion of the main compartment where the zipper runs does not have the steel mesh. The top portion of the outside pocket, above where there’s a visible seam, also isn’t protected. Nor are the sides or bottom of the back laptop compartment. To be fair, you’d have to thoroughly know this bag to know its weak points.
The main strap isn’t adequately secured to the padding. There are a couple of nylon webbing straps to hold it in place, but the padding occasionally rolls out from under the strap itself. It’s a minor annoyance that can usually be avoided by securing the secondary strap.
The tripod pouch on the right side is very tight and the elastic around the opening doesn’t stretch much, if at all. I have a fairly small tripod, but to make it fit, I have to leave one leg outside of the pouch. The fabric of the pouch itself doesn’t seem very durable, but I have similar fabric on other camera bags that have lasted quite a long time. At least it’s a lot better than mesh and if you don’t overstuff it or put heavy or sharp objects in it, I think it’ll be fine.
The padded camera compartment is removable, making the entire 16 liters of the bag available. However, with the padding removed, don’t count on the drawstring divider in the main compartment to support any weight or provide any protection for your contents.
The main compartment and the front pocket both have two zippers on the openings. Most of the time, you’ll probably want to zip it closed to a midway point, however, to secure the zippers with the security clips, both zippers must be at one end of the zipper. The security clip for the main compartment is inaccessible if you are using the tripod pouch. To get to it, you have to first remove whatever is in the tripod pouch.
Unless you have a camera system very similar to what I’ll be carrying, this bag may not work for you. There are a very limited number of ways that the dividers in the padded camera compartment can be configured and still remain easily accessible from the side zippered opening.
The bag itself is actually nice looking and doesn’t call out too much attention other than the Pacsafe logo, but that’s small and can easily be blacked out with a Sharpie marker. A lot of crossbody bags look very feminine, but this bag in black doesn’t look out of place on me. It also comes in Storm Gray color.
This bag is nearly perfect for my needs. I’d give it a 4-star review, with the one star taken off for the sum of all the small issues I listed.
Unlike the newer V17 Camera backpack, this is an older style, which is no longer shown on the Pacsafe website, and discounted at many places. This bag is available on Amazon through our affiliate link: Pacsafe Camsafe Venture V16 Camera Slingpack (Black). It’s retail price is $179, but it usually sells for $135. Occasionally, you can get some colors for around $100, which is how much I paid. At that price, this bag is a great deal.