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Tamrac’s new Expedition 7 backpack ($180 street) looks like it belongs in a camping store instead of a photo store. After all, its harness system-with padded waist belt, sternum strap, and lumbar support-resembles a mountaineer’s rucksack. But if you haul lots of gear, you’ll quickly appreciate this carefully designed bag.

The shoulder straps adjust from both bottom and top. Along with the waist belt, the straps keep heavy loads high on your back and over your center of gravity so they’re easier to carry.

We packed the main compartment with three SLR bodies, six lenses, two flash units, and a flashmeter, though you can arrange the foam dividers to hold various combinations of gear. Three zippered mesh pouches covered with clear plastic line the inside of the cover. Plus, soft leather tabs keep the zippers from scratching your equipment.

Two pouches on the outside of the cover open wide to reveal pockets perfect for cell phones or other small devices. They also house six small pockets with red fabric tabs to tag batteries or memory cards that are depleted or full of images. Tamrac calls this its Memory & Battery Management System.

A bag this size wouldn’t be complete without a tripod harness. Three straps with clips hold a tripod to the pack, while a pocket toward the bottom neatly keeps the tripod’s feet from soiling your clothes.

Big as it is, the Expedition 7 is designed to fit in airline carry-on bins. Tuck the straps onto the sides, clip the belt around the front, and you’re ready to fly. Our only gripe? We could’ve used a softer handle. With the pack fully loaded, its rubber grip dug into our hands. So keep this pack on your back.

For more info:; 800-662-0717.

What’s Hot
Pocket for 17-inch laptop computer.
Back-saving harness system.
Carry-on size.
Tripod harness.

What’s Not
Hard rubber handle digs into hand.
No wheels.