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Finding the right camera backpack often feels like a Goldilocks situation. Either a bag doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t have the right compartments, doesn’t hold enough, or weighs too much. I have gone through many packs trying to find the right fit for different situations, and I am typically frustrated and left wanting more.
The Moment Strohl Mountain Light 45L made a lot of promises that gave me high hopes for a hiking camera backpack that would finally tick my most important boxes. I had the opportunity to test the medium size in blue on a two-day backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota. We had rain and tricky trail conditions for most of the hike, and I definitely put it through the paces. I ended up with some mixed feelings about the bag, though they overall leaned positive.
Weight & materials
The main selling point of the Moment Strohl Mountain Light is implied by the name: it’s a very lightweight bag. Many camera backpacks I’ve used are fairly heavy before you even load them up with gear. That is not the case here. Moment says it is the lightest 45L camera backpack on the market. I’m inclined to believe that, as it weighs only 2.2 pounds when empty. It feels like an empty school backpack.
Despite its lightweight construction, the backpack does have some structure thanks to the steel frame. It won’t sit up on its own but does keep some shape, making it easier to pack. The frame is removable, however, should you want to pack the bag down into a suitcase or other bag during long trips. It has a molded back panel with some padding on the hip belt for comfort and ventilation.
The pack is made with Cordura ripstop fabric and taped seams. It’s supposed to be waterproof, and after two full days of hiking in very wet conditions, it mostly lives up to that designation. I had the pack land in mud and could just wipe it off (though it did stain some spots). But, there were areas where water appeared to be starting to soak in by the end. I wouldn’t have wanted to be out much longer in those conditions to see how waterproof it was.
Despite the material being waterproof, it would be nice to have a dedicated rain cover, especially since the front pocket doesn’t offer any protection from the rain. And, when I had the pack really stuffed to the brim, I noticed some potential leak locations. The bladder hose holes opened up, exposing some gear, and the brain had to be messed with to cover everything fully. A simple rain cover would have remedied these issues.
The exterior storage comprises stretch pockets on the front, each side, and two small ones on the shoulder straps. And when I say stretch, I mean it. I was able to cram a surprising amount of stuff in these pockets.
There are some straps and attachment points, so you can easily attach accessories like ice tools, crampons, trekking poles, etc. The built-in straps also keep items in the side pockets secure, which is a nice touch.
The pack also uses a removable brain for additional storage. It connects via three G clips–one on the front and two in the back. While these are easy to use, they are also too easy to remove. They frequently come undone when you don’t want them to, requiring you to reattach the brain. It got quite annoying at times.
The brain contains one large pocket on top and a smaller one on the underside. It provides a surprising amount of extra storage. And while the pocket on the bottom was useful, I wish it had at least one more interior zippered pocket on top. It would be nice to have a place to keep smaller items from getting lost without requiring flipping off the brain to access things. It’s nitpicky, but it would have helped me find things like the lighter, ibuprofen, and extra batteries much more easily.
Interior features of the Moment Strohl Mountain Light 45L
In order to cut down on weight, features are minimal in this bag. It’s essentially an open stuff sack style. For interior organization, it utilizes a removable camera insert (sold separately) on the bottom of the bag, a stretch pocket for a hydration bladder, and a tiny pocket on the camera compartment flap.
The dedicated space for a hydration bladder is a huge plus, though it doesn’t hold a large bladder. Less stopping to get out a water bottle is a big help. There are also hose ports on either side near the top of the bag. However, be aware that nothing separates the bladder from the camera compartment, so you could have a big problem if you spring a leak.
There isn’t much in terms of structured organization if you like compartments for individual items. But for backpacking trips like mine, the stuff sack is actually just fine and even preferred. It is roomier than a divided back would be. And the design of the bag allows it to be expandable (up to a point), which is ideal for trips of different lengths.
As mentioned, the camera compartment is a small area at the bottom of the pack. You’ll need to either buy a bundle that includes the camera insert or purchase it separately if you want to use this as a camera backpack.
It’s important to point out that the camera insert is small. Its dimensions are only 10.5 x 9 x 5 inches. I only fit my Sony a7 III with the Sony 24-70mm f/4 attached, a disposable camera, headphones, an extra battery, and a lens cleaning kit. My Sigma 12-24mm is a bit too tall, and although I can zip the flap up, it would probably poke into my back. The opening is also small, so you have to button things a bit.
This backpack is definitely intended for carrying a minimal photography kit. If you like to have a lot of lens options or additional equipment on you, this is not the bag for you. But then, you’re probably not as concerned about having the lightest possible bag.
Also, the Moment Strohl is probably not the best pick if you want rugged camera protection. The camera insert is pretty sturdy, but it isn’t padded. And the way it attaches to the bag is less than sophisticated. Four velcro tabs on the pack attach to each side of the insert, and that’s it.
I found if I moved much with the backpack on, those tabs popped off. And, any debris on what you shove in the top of the pack could easily make its way to the camera compartment since it’s not closed off in any way. Yes, it makes the bag more versatile, but I would prefer more protection. There are plenty of dedicated hiking backpacks, less so with camera protection.
One thing that helps free up space is the Camera Loader. The Camera Loader is also a separate purchase, but I would highly recommend it for a few reasons.
First, the backpack’s camera compartment is located on the back of the bag, meaning you would need to take it all the way off to get the camera out. The loader gave me much quicker access to my camera, meaning I could take more photos without slowing the group down.
Second, the camera was protected while hiking. While Peak Design makes a slick clip to keep your camera on your shoulder strap, it leaves the camera out in the open. On rainy hikes, that’s not great. And, with the slippery terrain, it gave me peace of mind knowing that if I fell, there was at least some padding around the camera.
There is a downside to the Camera Loader, though. There are a few ways to carry it, but I opted to loop it onto the waist belt. This was great since it was out of the way but easy to access. But it isn’t held on by anything. So, whenever I unbuckled the waist strap to take the pack off or put it back on, I had two options. I could slide the Camera Loader off and then have to thread it back on. Or I could attempt to hold it in place while maneuvering the bag on or off.
Either way is annoying, and it makes the pouch easy to fumble. Some way of locking the thing on the waist belt would be an improvement.
Fit & comfort
As a smaller female, I’ve had lots of issues finding larger camera backpacks for hiking that actually fit. So I appreciate that Moment sells this bag in two torso sizes (medium for 17-18.5 inch torsos and large for 18+ inches).
I went with the medium and, overall, was happy with the fit. It didn’t extend below my torso, which I’ve had with other bags. The waist belt actually cinched up enough to take some of the weight off my shoulders, though I had to max it out. And the shoulder straps didn’t need to be shortened so much that getting my arms in and out was difficult. Anyone much smaller than me would likely have issues with the medium still being too large.
I packed the Mountain Light to the brim, hitting the scale at slightly over 30 pounds, before I added water and some extra snacks. We hiked just over six miles on both days on slippery, uneven terrain, and I found the pack to be as comfortable as it could be for carrying that much weight. I didn’t have any bruising on my hips or back, though I wore a few layers that added padding. My shoulders were, naturally, tired at the end of the day, but the waist belt helped relieve some of that.
Final thoughts on the Moment Strohl Mountain Light 45L
- Roomy, with expandable storage space
- Durable, waterproof material keeps your stuff dry
- Fairly customizable
- Comfortable even when loaded up
- Hydration bladder compatible
- Extremely lightweight
- Camera compartment isn’t very refined
- Camera Loader easily slides off the waist belt
- Brain compartment becomes unattached easily
There’s a lot to love about the Moment Strohl Mountain Light 45L backpack. But there are a fair amount of things to dislike as well. The pack offers something new in its lightweight, minimal design, which is refreshing. It offers plenty of room for storage, enough for a two or three-day trip if you pack light. And it’s overall rugged and durable, keeping your stuff dry.
But, there are some, in my view, design flaws that lead to frustrations while using the bag. The tendency for the brain to come unattached and the rather uninspired camera insert design are the two main downsides for me.
I would still say the bag is worth purchasing and using, but only for a particular type of person. If your focus is going light and minimal, then this pack is a winner. But, if you want robust camera protection and organization, pick something else.