Vanguard Up-Rise 43 Sling Camera Bag (Review)
I recently had the pleasure of trying the Vanguard Up-Rise 43 sling-style camera bag. Sling style bags have been gaining in popularity lately, but the Up-Rise was the first that I've had the opportunity to try. I have always used backpack or shoulder bag styled camera bags in the past; the sling was a nice shift away from both of these.
When you open the Up-Rise 43, it has all the standard bells and whistles. The interior is lined with brightly colored fabric (orange in this case) so as to aid in finding small accessories. The camera pocket is padded with the same adjustable dividers that we all know and hate/love. I did find that the camera storage pocket was a bit snug, but nothing to be concerned about. One nice touch was that the Up-Rise has a built in raincover, as opposed to most of the other bags I've used which included rain covers, but they were not attached and took up space in one of the main pockets. The rain cover on the Up-Rise is always attached to the bag by a small webbing lanyard and tucks into a barely noticeable pocket on the back of the bag. This alone is enough reason for me to consider giving up my old KATA. I hate to go anywhere without a rain cover, but don't want to put anything more than I need to into my bag. Limited space wasn't really an issue with this bag though as the Up-Rise also has two expansion zones. It can expand both vertically and horizontally, giving extra room for whatever it is that you hadn't originally planned on carrying home.
Perhaps my favorite feature of this bag is that the camera body with attached lens can be removed without ever taking the bag off. All I had to do was spin the bag around, release a clip, grab a handle, and pull. Most of the other pockets are positioned such that the bag does need to be removed in order to access them safely, but considering most bags are this way, I didn't see this as a drawback at all. I did have an issue with the front-most pocket on the Up-Rise. The vertical zipper which runs the length of the bag looks stylish, but largely prevents you from using this pocket. I wore this bag to a graduation ceremony, and found that I couldn't fit the program into this pocket simply because of the positioning of the zipper! The pocket is tight to begin with, so anything placed in there would need to be thin. Unfortunately, the positioning of the zipper cuts the size of items which can be stored in half! Unless you're willing to fold or crumple whatever you are carrying, it might not fit into this pocket in spite of fitting inside the pocket. This is a huge design flaw in my opinion. Were it not for the placement of the front zipper, this pocket could hold books, programs, etc. As is, I was only able to use it for wrappers.
There is one more pocket which makes me a little nervous. This certainly isn't a flaw, but perhaps an oversight on the part of the designers. At the base of the main strap, there is a small mesh pocket. Given it's size, it is perfect for a spare battery, spare memory, or just spare change. However, the fact that it is made of a very soft mesh severely limits its potential. I have never had a mesh pocket of anything that didn't wear out within a year. I don't dare put anything in this pocket for fear that it will snag on something and tear, get wet and ruin whatever I'm carrying (This pocket is not covered by the raincover), or that the material will just wear out. The solution is pretty simply to keep anything remotely important inside one of the main pockets. It isn't a perfect solution, but this pocket is virtually useless in my eyes. Perhaps in future iterations, Vanguard will replace this with Neoprene or Nylon.
One thing that I love about this bag is the reinforced base. I've had the bottom of backpacks wear out before; it's nice to know that won't happen with the Up-Rise. Unfortunately, the base is pretty rounded, so it makes the bag fall over a lot. This was more of a nuisance than anything else, but I do like to set a bag down and know that it won't start rolling around of it's own accord. So long as you lean the bag against something, it should sit still, but you definitely need to keep your eye on this one at all times.
What Fits In the Bag
The first thing I did when I received this bag was to take all of my accessories out of my considerably larger bag (a KATA DR 467) and move it over. I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of it fit! All told, I carried the following in the Upr-Rise 43:
- Canon 450D Camera Body
- Tamron 28-75mm lens (attached)
- Canon 100mm Macro lens
- Canon 50mm lens
- Canon 580EXII Speedlight
- Bloggie HD Touch
- Small filter case with 6 filters
- Remote shutter release cable
- Flash Diffuser
- Spare batteries
- A few Spare Memory cards
- Lens cleaning cloth with spray
The KATA bag is nearly twice the size of the Up-Rise, so I was surprised to find that I actually had more space in the Up-Rise than I had in the KATA.
Having never worn a bag like the Up-Rise before, it felt a little awkward at first. The Up-Rise is incredibly comfortable to wear when you're standing still, but takes some adjustment before walking feels normal. Because the bag uses a sling design, only two of it's four corners are actually restrained. If the bag is too loose, it will wobble along this axis and repeatedly bump your back with the other two corners. I only found this to be mildly irritating and, with a bit of adjustment, was able to remedy the situation. When properly adjusted, the bag looks and feels great while walking. If you find that there is still some swing left in the bag even after you have adjusted it, Vanguard has provided a second strap to act as a stabilizer. The second strap tucks into the lower corner of the bag and can clip to the middle of the primary strap so as to hold the lower corner of the bag tight to your back. My initial assumption was that this would stop the bag from wobbling, but in the end I found that it wasn't worth the trouble. In order to hold the bag snug to my back, I had to tighten the stabilizer strap to the point where the bag was no longer comfortable. I eventually tucked the stabilizer strap back into it's pocket on the back of the bag, and was much happier for it. In spite of this, the Up-Rise proved to be an excellent bag for exploring the city.
During the last week, I've carried this bag to work, out with friends, exploring the city, to a beer festival, and to a graduation. It has served me well on each of these occasions, though it is tough to make any kind of bag work with a suit. I found myself unable to wear the bag properly at the graduation for fear of damaging my suit jacket, but also found that it works quite well as a shoulder bag and certainly allowed me to carry more in the way of lenses and accessories than I would have otherwise wanted to haul around. To top it off, the bag is stiff enough that it made a great improvised, lap-based tripod during the ceremony. In spite of this, I think I'd rather use it for general outings, vacations, or beer festivals in the future. It allows you all the benefits of carrying a camera bag without making you look too much like a tourist. Camera access is convenient, accessories are stored securely and are decently easy to access, the bag is generally very comfortable, and it looks better than a normal backpack would.
The beer festival may have been the best all around test of this bag. Breweries from all around the country had gathered on a gloriously rainy Boston day to try and promote their brews. In spite of the rain, I packed up the Up-Rise, put on the attached rain cover, and headed out. I was soaked within 15 minutes, however my camera and accessories remained perfectly dry. The rain cover does cover the side access panel, but I was still able to reach under it and get my camera out quickly enough to catch a few memorable moments. The sling styling proved especially helpful as there wasn't much in the way of open table space, and I was able to operate it with only one hand. Best of all, because I didn't have to worry about the rain ruining my equipment, I was free to enjoy some good beer!
All told, the Vanguard Up-Rise 43 is a fantastic bag. It has a few issues here and there, but nothing that would stop me from recommending it or buying one myself. I do hope they fix the front zipper and replace the mesh pocket with something sturdier, but it's really hard to find many gripes with this bag.
Things We Liked
- The sling style is easy to put on and take off.
- The side access panel allows easy access to your camera.
- The attached rain cover makes this a great all weather bag.
Things We Didn't Like
- stabilizer strap doesn't help much with stabilization.
- Mesh strap pocket seems flimsy and isn't covered by the rain cover.
- Rear pocket's central zipper limits the size of items which can be stored.