There are a few things that go hand-in-hand with cycling - beer, coffee, and photography, to name a few. With newer mirrorless cameras being small and compact, there is almost no reason now to ride without one. I often find myself out for an evening ride wishing I had brought my camera. I like landscape photography and riding both road and MTB brings me into some awe inspiring places on almost a daily basis. I've also been on cycle tours where I really wish I could keep a decent camera on me at all times but just didn't have the right place amongst all my panniers to store it, and even then you always end up missing the moment as you scramble to find the camera you swore was in the rear drive-side pannier somewhere.
Mirrorless cameras are smaller and more compact than big traditional DSLRs, so you would think it would be easier to take your camera everywhere, but until now no one made a mirrorless sized camera bag that was suitable for sports. Most bags are designed to fit the larger DSLR cameras like the Canon 5D and 1DX, so the newer mirrorless cameras would bounce around and get lost in these big bags, making them essentially useless especially when pounding down a trail or a rough gravel road.
Before we go any further, what actually makes a good bike/camera bag? If anyone has spent time riding with a camera and some gear, you'll know this is actually quite specific. The bag needs to support the camera and gear in a comfortable way, so it doesn't swing around side to side, or shift on your back causing you to adjust your riding position. When riding long distances, the bag needs to sit comfortably on your back without causing fatigue or discomfort. Your camera and gear needs to be quickly accessible so you never miss a shot. It needs room for tools, gear, jacket, and all the other random bits you need on the trail or road. The bag also needs to be tough as nails and reliably weather proof, as conditions can change in an instant. To put it straight, right now there is no decent camera bag that allows you to ride a bike and take your smaller mirrorless camera set up with you.
Enter the MindShift Rotation 180° backpack line of action camera bags featuring design elements that almost make them bike specific. A quick rotating waist belt combined with premium construction, top of the line materials, space for a hydration bladder, tool storage, balanced fit, and compact design tick all the right boxes and make MindShift a front runner in cycling camera bags. Even if you don't ride with a camera, the Trail 16L may be one of the best bike bags period.
The bag I've been riding with is the MindShift Rotation 180° Trail 16L. It's the smallest of the four Rotation bags line with hydration bladders and is a great choice for taking out on your daily rides. The bag itself looks inconspicuously like an everyday hydration pack. In fact, it's almost the same size as my CamelBak MULE NV bag. The Trail 16L uses a mix of nylon fabrics from ripstop, 420D velocity nylon, and 420D high density nylon, which has all been DWR coated on the exterior and polyurethane coated on the underside giving it a premium look and feel.
The sleek bag uses top quality YKK zippers with rubber coated toggles and is constructed with closed cell foam for protecting contents. Available in blue or black, the bag is as good looking as it is functional. The bag is water resistant, but not waterproof, though a rain cover designed to work with the Rotation 180 system is sold separately.
image: Josh Palmer
The main feature that sets the Rotation 180 series of bags apart from all others is the smart hip bag that easily rotates out from the backpack body bringing your camera within easy reach while still straddling your bike. There is a flap on the right hand side of the bag that is easy to open, but stays securely closed with a magnetic enclosure, keeping the hip bag in place. The hip bag is one piece with the adjustable waist belt making it seamlessly integrate into rest of the bag. The waist belt compartment has enough room for mirrorless camera, extra lens, and a tablet, but you can always rearrange the dividers to fit whatever mix of gear you have.
image: Josh Palmer
The main compartment was designed to carry the extra bits you take along with you on a ride, but because of the separate hip bag, the main pouch only extends to halfway down the bag. With that being said, it has enough room for a warm layer, light lunch, tools, tubes, a couple beers, and whatever else you might want to bring. There is a separate zippered pouch within the main compartment that helps separate your smaller tools, etc. With the bag being made of closed cell foam, the main compartment is a great place to keep fragile goods like flashes and extra lenses. There is no room for a laptop computer in this bag, but if you finding yourself needing a computer on your ride, then you have bigger issues then this smart MindShift bag can solve.
I could not find a dedicated place to carry the rain cover, so it found its place in the zippered mesh pocket. This left very little room for anything else to be kept there, so things would have to go into the main compartment loose.
image: Josh Palmer
The bag also has a soft, fleece lined sunglass pouch, a stretchy slim front pocket perfect for your shell, and a smart bottle pocket along the side that is also designed to carry a tripod. All-in-all, the MindShift Trail 16L is incredibly versatile and useful for its compact size.
Space is limited, however, in the MindShift Trail 16L size, but that's the point. This bag carries enough of what you need for your daily ride and your camera gear. This way you have no excuses to not bring your camera on every ride, whether it be on the road or on the trails.
What I stuffed into this bag - Sony A7 with 35mm 2.8, Sony 28-70mm 3.5, 2 batteries, camera care and cleaning kit, XL Race Face Chute jacket, Birzman E Version 20 multi tool, 27.5 tube, Birzman Apogee MTB pump, energy bars, banana, 2L water, MindShift rain cover, and my father's old SLIK tripod.
Out On The Trail
First thing to note is that the bag is a light 2.5lbs unloaded. The shoulder straps fit more comfortably than I was expecting, and the bag stays perfectly in place loaded up and hammering down the trail. I was quite impressed with the comfort of the bag; it feels no different than using a regular hydration backpack. After a short time on the trail I forgot the bag was even there; anyone who's ridden with camera gear knows this is a huge accomplishment. The bag carries the camera weight well, keeping it against the small of your back which lends to its not-even-there feeling.
Using the Rotation 180 system is unbelievably intuitive. I honestly had my doubts that the hip bag would rotate out then back in without getting caught up or requiring two hands. With that being said, the bag is incredibly easy to use with just one hand - it seamlessly deploys and retracts without much of a hitch. Having my camera rotate out from my back helped make it possible to get those spur of the moment shots, whereas normally you have to drop your bag, dismount your bike, open a zipper and get your camera, making it almost impossible. After using the rotating hip bag for a couple months I have to say I am a believer.
There was one ride where I needed more room than the Trail 16L offered, so the MindShift Multi-Mount Holster was the perfect solution. It gives you another place to safely put your camera and attaches to your bag in multiple ways, allowing you to free up the hip bag for more gear storage. So, even though the bag is only 16L it can easily be expanded to accommodate more gear with the use of the Multi-Mount Holster. The Canon 5D system was a little too big for the 16L, so if that's your system, I recommend the larger MindShift Rotation 180 Panorama 22L or the Horizon 34L bags, depending on how much gear you want to bring.
The only shortcomings I see in the Trail 16L are: 1) the camera storage is too small for anything other than a mirrorless camera set up (5D BARELY fit but had no extra room for lenses or other gear), 2) the bag requires a rain cover which you have to buy separately, costing you more money and more valuable space in your 16L bag, and 3) the bladder is also a little snug to get into its space, but with space being at a premium in the compact bag, it's a little forgivable.
It can also be a little awkward to load your camera in the hip bag when you're not wearing the backpack, as the hip bag needs to be completely removed then reloaded. There is no dedicated card storage pouch in the Trail 16L, so using a card holder like the MindShift Card Again is a must.
I had my doubts about MindShift's Rotation 180 system. I'm always apprehensive when it comes to features, thinking they'll just be gimmicks. To put it short, the Rotation 180 system works and works well. The bag is also comfortable and balanced to ride with fully loaded, which is always the struggle of camera bags.
I'm comfortable saying that the MindShift Rotation 180 Trail 16L is the best bag on the market for day-to-day use with a mirrorless camera. There are many other bags out there for double the price, but they are half as usable as the Rotation 180 series. Although the bag is not advertised as bike specific, you can definitely tell that biking was what the MindShift engineering department had in mind when they created the Trail 16L.
Just like mirrorless cameras themselves, sometimes less is more. With the compact size and intelligent design, the MindShift Rotation 180 Trail 16L allows you to bring your compact camera system with you on every ride. Whether on the road, cycle tour, or out on the trails, the Trail 16L is the best bag I can find for those who want to take along a smaller camera system without sacrificing the bike-specific features you need.
Check out the Comparison
4 of the best camera and gear bags from MindShift Gear
Prize pack includes rotation180° Panorama 22L backpack, Multi-Mount Holster 20, GoPro L bundle, and House of Cards wallet.