Vanguard Heralder 33 Camera Bag Review
The Heralder is a new series of bags from Vanguard designed for “on-the-move” photographers such as photojournalists and event photographers. The Heralder series combines features commonly found only in camera backpacks such as a tripod holder and laptop pouch with the speed and ease of access of a messenger style bag. This combination of features makes it ideal for a photojournalist moving from one assignment to another who needs to be fast and mobile while still carrying a lot of kit. Some wedding photographers may also like the “pick up and go” style, making it easy to grab a shot even when you're packed up and ready to move to the next location.
The Heralder 33 is designed like a typical messenger bag with one wide strap. Unlike most messenger bags, the pad is integrated into the strap and the length adjusts at either end, allowing you to set it up to the desired length and not have to worry about the pad slipping around. Having to adjust both ends of the strap to get a proper fit is a bit more time consuming and awkward in the beginning, but the payoff is always having the pad right where you want it. (This could be problematic if you plan on sharing bags with someone else.) The pad is ergonomically shaped to your shoulder, and features a rubberized bottom to prevent it from sliding. Once the bag is properly fitted, it's very comfortable to wear even with a heavy load. The strap also features an optional secondary strap that connects to the bottom of the bag, securing it to your back and preventing it from bouncing while you're on the go. This can be easily removed if desired.
The bag itself is made of durable black polyester, and has a classic canvas look and feel. The bottom of the bag is rubberized for when you have to set it down on the wet ground, and the integrated rain cover is easily attached making the bag weatherproof. The rain cover lives in a pocket on the back of the bag, meaning that it is always available and won't be left behind for convenience sake. The back of the bag also features a strap designed to hold the bag on the handle of a rolling suitcase, which is very convenient for traveling with your gear. There is a grab handle on the top of the bag that can be used even when the main flap is unclipped, allowing you to quickly reposition your bag when necessary without worrying about dumping all your gear out on the ground. The main pocket can be accessed by lifting the zippered flap or through the top of the bag via another zipper. There is also a small neoprene pocket on one end suitable for stuffing odds and ends into such as car keys, a granola bar, a water bottle, or anything else you want to keep away from your gear. The front of the bag houses the tripod holder, which tucks away inside a flap and can be pulled out and clipped around the tripod when needed.
The main pocket features two inserts – one for a laptop or tablet, and one for your camera gear. A unique feature of the Heralder is that the gear insert is self-contained, so that you can detach it and remove all of your camera equipment at once, freeing up the bag for other uses. The camera insert is, of course, customizable (hook and loop), and the bottom is a nice bright orange, helping you see little cables or other accessories that may have dropped down into the bag without having to dump it all out. The insert also comes with a small zippered accessory case for storing batteries, cables and other small accessories. In front of the gear insert is a divider with a small zippered pocket for even more accessories and several pen/pencil/lenspen slots. There's a tiny bit of space in front of the divider that can be used for accessories as well The padded laptop case is also removable, and has a flap with hook and loop closure to protect your laptop outside of the bag. The Heralder 33 can fit up to a 13″ laptop or tablet, and due to the design it doesn't have to be a super thin ultrabook either. There is also a small zippered pocket in the back of the bag that is perfect for storing manuals or other documentation, and four memory card pockets on the underside of the flap. One feature that's notably absent is a cell phone pocket, but that's not an issue for me as I prefer to keep my phone in my pocket. It's also harder to design a one-size-fits-all phone pocket these days given the wide variety of smartphones that are on the market.
As I said in the introduction, this bag is clearly targeted at photojournalists who need to carry all of their equipment including a laptop for editing and uploading photos around with them from assignment to assignment, but also want to be able to access it quickly to capture “the shot” when needed. The downside to this is that you're swinging a lot of weight around on your shoulder all day long, as opposed to a camera backpack which distributes the weight across both shoulders and your back/hips in a more ergonomic way. That having been said, I am not a photojournalist, and if I was the trade-off of more access for slightly less comfort would probably be worth it. Most wedding pro's I know use a backpack or rolling bag to transport gear from venue to venue and then unpack and use straps/sling bags on location. The Heralder might be a nice alternative as it's easier to load/unload and can allow you fast access to grab a shot while you're leaving/entering a venue that you would otherwise miss with your camera buried in a more robust bag.
One feature that I really like is the tripod holder, which I use mainly as a light stand/umbrella holder. I typically have to carry my tripod or light stand in one hand, which when combined with a cup of coffee in the other (a must-have some days) leaves me scrambling for things like car keys, my phone, a handshake, etc. Being able to strap it to my bag is so much more convenient, and also means I'm more likely to bring my tripod or lighting setup along, which gives me more creative options on a shoot.
Another excellent feature is the quick access top zipper. There have been times in the past where I see something interesting, but don't want to make the effort of taking off my camera bag and digging into it to get out my camera and take a shot. Or by the time I do, the moment has passed. The top zipper makes it very easy and quick to sling the bag around, reach in, grab a camera, and shoot away. I found myself taking more of those “grab shots,” which occasionally turn out better than the shot I had set out to take.
The bag is well constructed, and has held up well to use. Vanguard did a nice job with the design, and there's an extra bit of hook and loop or a flap or a clip or a pocket to hold things when they're not in use. The rain cover is easy to use and store, making it worth having. The only issue is that it can't be used while you're using the tripod holder. The strap is comfortable, and although it's not easy to adjust, once you have it all dialed in you don't have to worry about it moving around.
What Fits In The Bag
The Heralder 33 is designed for a 2 camera body setup with a handful of lenses/flashes and accessories. Here's what I managed to stuff into it:
- Chromebook 13″ laptop
- Nikon D70 with 18-70mm zoom attached
- Nikon 50mm f1.8D
- Lensbaby 2.0
- Minolta XK 35mm SLR with 50mm macro attached
- Vivtar 200 f/3.5
- Minolta 100 f/2.8
- Luma Pro LP160 flash
- 2 Cactus V5 remote flash triggers
- Memory cards
- A few rolls of film
- Spare batteries
- Pens, LensPen
- Moleskine notebook
- Camera manuals
- LED Flashlight
- Bulb blower
- Various little bits and pieces in the accessory bag (which could be replaced by another lens or flash if desired)
Just for kicks, I weighed the entire setup, and it came in just over 23lbs. I'm sure it would have been even heavier if I owned f/2.8 zooms and a few pro level primes. I can tell you right now, carrying all that around on one shoulder gets really old really fast. But, if you and your spine are up for the challenge, this bag will deliver.
The Heralder 33 is a well designed messenger bag that fits a lot of stuff. It is targeted at photojournalists, and I definitely think it hits the nail on the head for that crowd (although maybe a little bit more accessory space would be appreciated). If you're not a photojournalist, you're probably not going to want to be carrying 25lbs+ of camera equipment on one shoulder all day. The integrated tripod holder and rain cover are among a host of nice features not commonly found on a messenger bag. I personally would be interested in checking out the Heralder 28 (the smaller size in the series) to see if it fits my equipment and weight requirements better. Vanguard designs some very good bags, and while I'm not the target for this model I appreciate the thought that went into it.
As of this writing, the Heralder 33 is available for about $170USD (amazon.com)
Things We Liked:
- Well designed and constructed bag – bonus points for the removable gear insert.
- Comfortable non-slip shoulder pad.
- Quick access top zipper – makes getting the shot faster and easier.
- Integrated rain cover and tripod holder – nice features usually only found on backpacks
- Holds a lot of gear, and holds it well
Things We Didn't Like:
- Holds possibly too much to be comfortable for its messenger style.
- A bit on the bulky side, especially with a tripod attached – harder to slip through a crowd.