Sky Alta 45D - Brian Kerr Photography

Vanguard Alta Sky 45D

Product Information

Lightweight and Useful for both Short and Long Landscape Photography Treks

Over the years of photography I have had a number of bags or backpacks, some were okay and did the job but still had issues, others just did not work for me at all. I was asked by the folks over at VanguardUK to try one of their camera backpacks and after a few weeks of working with it I agreed to give my opinion on how well it performed.

The bag that I agreed to test was the Alta Sky 45D

Whenever I have go through the process of choosing a new camera bag there are a number of things I look for in the bag, some of which I have listed below.

The size of the bag and will it be able to hold my equipment, be it camera, lenses, filters or tripod etc.

What about the design of the bag, what are the access points like for getting to that all important equipment.

Will the bag be comfortable to carry when fully loaded with all your gear including the all important tripod.

You need to also work out if the bag will suit your needs not only for today but also any new gear you buy.                            

Finally the all important cost factor, does it stick within your budget.

The Sky Alta 45D is what I would describe as a medium size backpack which according to the product information comes in 2.2kg or 4.85lbs which as a starting point is pretty good and feels lightweight. It is always hard to imagine how the weight will change once you starting adding the camera equipment to it, one of the reasons I moved to the Sony mirrorless camera system a few years ago to save all those little bits of weight that on a longer hike do become noticeable. With this bag I was able to fit all my gear without any concerns and had plenty of room to move items around.

I like the overall design and styling of the bag with it various ways of accessing the equipment compartments. Everyone will have their own preferences when it comes to using bags in the field, so these options felt like a major plus-point to me.

The bag has 3 main access points for the camera gear. The side entry allows quick access to my main camera set up with attached lens, which seems to be the one I go for most when not using a tripod as I like to shoot freehand more often than not. The rear entry gives access to the main compartment of the bag; it also has a nice feature of bright orange zip toggles, making locating them so much easier. This main access point also has your laptop section which is not something I use personally, I prefer to put some of my extra filters and holders in that section. The 3rd access point is the bottom section which is where I would keep those spare lenses, spare body or remote trigger etc.

Now there is a 4th compartment on top which is where I actually keep my more used filters, but this top section can be reconfigured to work with the main body of the bag allowing for a larger main compartment. I can imagine on a longer hike reconfiguring this section to allow me to take a lighter camera choice and allowing me to take a change of clothes, food and water, this being a feature which I would certainly use more as I intend going on longer hikes carrying less photographic equipment.

The bag has nicely padded vented section on the back of the bag as well as both shoulder and back straps which I can imagine giving enough of a cooling effect while walking on those longer hikes. I’ve not had the chance to use it in a really long hike yet, but so far the ventilation system has worked for me.

All the various straps are easily adjustable and I was able to get to a comfort point very quickly which for me is certainly a bonus as I am not keen on continually trying to adjust it. Once the bag is on it sits well and feels very balanced and comfortable.

The front of the bag has a flap that can be adjusted to attach either a drone or in my case my Gitzo tripod and Kirk ball head which is held very securely, although perhaps my tripod would suit the next size of bag as the tripod felt just a bit too big for it. A smaller more compact tripod might be next on my list especially on those longer hikes. The bag also has several other pockets and zips for the usual memory cards, spare batteries etc.

The rain cover is provided as a separate item (not attached, as some are) so is easy to fit even when the bag is at full capacity, and then easy to dry afterwards. It gives snug protection around the whole bag even around the top of the straps.

All internal sections are all a bright yellow colour, which provides a useful high-contrast background when trying to locate your gear in lower light conditions.

My usual photography gear I carry with me is based around a Sony A7Rii body with currently 3 lenses (Zeiss Loxia 21mm, Sony FE24-70mm F2.8GM, Sony FE70-200mm F4). My filters are all based around the Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra system which I find to be one of the best filter systems available. My trusty Gitzo tripod is one thing I would find essential in certain weather conditions.

My thoughts after a month’s trial? So far it seems that this bag is the one that has come closest to meeting my needs best,…so far – more impressive considering that it retails at only £199. The Alta Sky 45D is a good all-round bag which has already proved itself on my landscape photography trips in winter and spring conditions, so I look forward to trying it out on those warmer summer trips.

Brian Kerr

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