True story: CNET photographer Sarah Tew and I were on the street in New York taking photos of Peak Design's Everyday Backpack for this story, and a guy walked up and asked "Is that the Everyday bag?"
The excitement in his voice was something I'd expect when seeing a new iPhone or a sign for free ice cream. But a backpack? He followed up with "Is it any good?"-- and it is, and for many reasons.
Peak Design hits the same sweet spot with this backpack as it does with its Kickstarter record-breaking messenger. It's a camera bag, but it's designed so well that it can just as easily be used to keep your day-to-day life organized.
What that means exactly is that things like the origami-inspired folding dividers inside the bag can secure your camera and lenses, but also fold out of the way to make room for your lunch or a change of clothes, all without the need to rip them out to reconfigure them. But if you do need the entire inside for storage, you can take them on out.
Speaking of increasing storage, the top of the bag is secured with Peak's Maglatch closure, its answer to Velcro, cheap plastic clasps and other mechanisms that can't easily be opened with one hand while remaining secure. The latch uses a magnet to securely grab onto one of four catchpoints, so you can increase or decrease the bag's size by using a different catch. It's a pretty natural one-handed movement to open and close, too, and the design keeps the front looking nice and clean without flappy straps or extra zippers.
On each side is an expandable pouch with a compression strap so you can secure anything from an umbrella to a tripod. There are also two more hidden compression straps at the bottom front with attachment points at the top in front and at the bottom back giving you extra external carry options.
Just about every other camera backpack I've tried requires you to take it off your back to access your lenses or other accessories. The Everyday Backpack has symmetrical weather-sealed zippered openings giving you full access to the main compartment by simply sliding the bag around to your front while over one of your shoulders. Plus, inside each of the side openings are covered, zippered compartments with organizational pockets big and small.
Along with the main compartment there's a tablet and laptop pocket that fits up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro, but depending on what's already in the front of the bag, it can be a bit of a squeeze. You might need to release the Maglatch and lay the bag down flat to slip it in. The laptop compartment is also sealed with a weatherproof zipper and the whole bag is coated so it's weatherproof, too. If you need it to make it through an absolute downpour, however, you'll need to supply your own rain cover.
There are a bunch of other features, like the grab handles on the top and on each side or the simple, but sturdy pulls for tightening and loosening the straps, or even the key tether that's not fixed to the bag, so you can attach the tether where it's better for your needs. And I didn't even mention that it's really comfortable to wear.
But, you know, nothing's perfect. One or two small external zippered pockets would be welcomed to stash my phone without the need to take the bag off my back at all, or at least to keep things like a boarding pass or ID handy without resorting to opening the entire top or laptop compartment. The side pockets are a little too tight to get a larger water bottle into one handed while on your back. Also, if you slip the bag around front and try to open the sides when the side pockets are filled, you end up jamming said pockets -- and whatever's in them -- into your chest. I wish they opened away from you, toward the front for comfort and security. But hey, I'm not everyone, and these are my nits to pick.
At the end of the day, it's still a well-designed bag with top-notch hardware certainly worthy of the $199 pledge (about £150 or AU$260) to secure one as a reward. It is the fine tailored suit of backpacks, and it's clear a lot of thought went into every detail to make this a true multipurpose bag. It is expected to ship to backers before the year is out, but if you don't want to take any risk, Peak Design says it'll be $260 (£200 or AU$340) once the campaign ends tomorrow, September 9.
Editors' note: Peak Design's Kickstarter campaign closed on September 9, but the company has moved presales for its bags to Indiegogo. However, prices have increased slightly, for example the 20L Everyday Backpack is now $219 (approximately £165 or AU$290) and shipments won't start until March 2017.