An adventure bag that's tough, but smart
As with all the Flipside bags, the flap for the main gear compartment is on the part of the bag that sits against your back. Because of that, you have to take the shoulder straps off in order to get at your gear. You can either set it on the ground or use the waist strap to support the entire bag and swing it around to the front of your body. It's a process that takes a little getting used to, and, again, if you're tall, can be a little awkward. Still, it's nice to have the option not to have to set it all the way down.
But, I've been putting my camera backpack on the ground to get out my gear for years now, and it immediately became apparent how much better that is when the opening is on the back. Now, the part that's touching me doesn't get filthy from the ground. If you want to keep the bag itself looking clean, you can also put on the rain cover before you put it down. Smart.
Adventure bags need burly padding, and this fits that bill to be sure. The padding actually feels a little thicker in this bag than it does on street-oriented bag, which is reassuring. Even the interior padding units are a bit thicker to keep individual pieces of gear from bonking into one another.
I took it on a couple hikes and on some demanding indoor jobs and everything remained safe and secure. The outer pockets could possibly use a little more protection, but that's almost always the case with camera backpacks.
The outside of the bag is made from rip stop nylon, as you'd probably expect. Because of that, it sheds water like a champ. I snagged it on some branches, scraped it against some rocks, and did all the other things you'd expect to do when you're out on the trail and it came out looking brand new. Impressive.
While the actual bag is built burly, some of the details aren't constructed to be quite as tough. The zippers aren't as burly as you might expect, and they don't have a big flap going over them to ensure that the elements stay outside the bag. I didn't break one or have any issues with water getting in, but if I had to pick the point I predict the bag to break first, that would likely be it. The plastic clips on some of the straps could also stand to be a little beefier.
Overall, however, the whole thing is extremely sturdy.
The rain cover is also excellent. It's attached to the bag at the bottom and fits very easily into an integrated pocket. You take it out, snap it over the bag and that's it. Impossible to lose. Easy to take out/put away. Plus, you still have access to your main gear pocket because it's on the back. Perfect.
If you're looking for a discrete bag, this certainly isn't it. You can pick bright blue or even brighter orange. Good for visibility on the trail, but bad if you're just walking around. You'll likely either like the look or hate it. I like it, but hey, it's function over fashion anyway. Especially in the wild.
Who should buy it?
If you're only occasionally dabbling in adventure photography, this bag might be overkill. But, sometimes overkill is what you want. You can easily bring an entire kit and be reasonably sure it will be totally safe, even if you're not. The $180 price tag isn't cheap, but it's also not out of the normal range for an adventure pack. It's even cheaper than the more hardcore bags that have things like metal rails in them.
If you need to carry a lot of gear out into the wild, it's a great option. Just be sure to try it on before you buy.