Most camera backpacks are geared toward professionals, who have a vast collection of lenses, SLR bodies, flashes, and everything else that goes along with pursuing photography as your chosen vocation. That often leaves nonproffessionals to choose between buying a bag that's just too big for them, or opting for something much smaller and deciding which lens to leave at home when heading out the door. Tamrac's Expedition 5 camera backpack fills the size gap with a rugged, well-padded bag that still has enough room for a couple of bodies, a flash or two, and a healthy complement of lenses.
Of course, there's also ample room for accessories, such as memory cards, batteries, MP3 players, lens cloths, filters, or other items. Two small zippered compartments on the front of the bag, along with two compartments on the inside of the main compartment's cover, provide storage for such items. The front pouches each include two of Tamrac's Memory and Battery Management System pouches, which make it easy to differentiate between used and unused batteries and memory cards. A vented pocket on the bottom of the front of the bag is made to hold the feet of a tripod, while three straps can keep your 'pod nicely tied down. A large pocket, as big as the main compartment cover, sits behind the smaller pouches on the front of the bag and is big enough to hold a small magazine, some papers, an airplane ticket, or other similar-size items.
Just about the only thing I found myself wanting in this bag was a convenient place to put a cell phone. The front pouches can definitely hold one, but it'd be awkward to have to take the bag off to get to the phone. It'd be nice for Tamrac to include a small, removable pouch on the shoulder straps to keep a phone handy while shooting. They do offer these types of pouches--even some big enough for lenses--that can attach to this and their other bags at specific points on the straps and sides, but including one with the bag would be a nice touch. One other thing to note: There's no laptop compartment. Of course, given this bag's size, you wouldn't be able to fit a laptop in it anyway, so you can't fault Tamrac for that. If you really need to put a laptop in your camera bag, you'll have to step up to something a little larger than the Expedition 5.
Tamrac's Expedition series is meant to be slightly more rugged than the company's other bags and includes an extra layer of padding on the back of the bag. While the bag isn't waterproof, it's built to withstand some inclement weather, with a big rain flap that you can tighten down over the zipper of the main compartment. Rubberized zippers on the front pouches help to keep those as dry as possible.
One of the nice things about Tamrac is that they tend to pay attention to detail. For example, the zippers inside the main compartment have flaps covering the metal sliders so they won't scratch your gear. Also, a waist belt helps keep the pack over your center of gravity so it's easier to carry. There's also a chest strap with some elastic built in so it can expand and contract with your chest as you breathe. And although I give them credit for trying, Tamrac did miss the mark on the handle atop the bag. The handle is covered in squishy webbing that inevitably leaves a mark on your fingers if the pack has some heavy equipment in it.
Well-built and just the right size, the Tamrac Expedition 5 occupies a nice middle ground in camera backpacks. If you've got a dSLR and a healthy, but not extremely large, collection of lenses, then it should serve your needs. I know it's the perfect size for most of my shooting needs.