The Expedition 8X backpack (model 5588 ) is one of the largest made by Tamrac. I tend to prefer smaller packs like the Tamrac Pro Digital Zoom 10 for my frequent, short forays from the vehicle (refer to my January 8, 2012 blog post for a review). However, I still need a large camera backpack for longer hikes and to carry my equipment on location.
For years, my standard camera backpack had been one version or another of
the Lowe Pro Photo Trecker AW ll. The pack worked well enough and, when the main zipper would fail, I would return it to the factory in accordance with its lifetime zipper warranty policy. Instead of replacing the broken zipper, my old pack was replaced with a newer version. When this happened again a couple of years ago, I was somewhat disappointed with the latest model. In particular, the newer model came with only one front pocket and the pack had many annoying tie strings that seemed to get caught in everything.
As I began to write this review, I decided to place my Lowe Pro Photo Trecker AW ll pack alongside the new Tamrac Expedition 8X backpack which ultimately proved to be very insightful. The first thing I noticed was that the profile of the Expedition 8X was slightly taller and was a tad more rectangular. The main inside compartment is fully foam-padded with numerous adjustable foam-padded dividers, some with restraint straps to hold down a variety of pro-size camera bodies, flash and an assortment of lenses. While this pack sports a dual hinge divider system to accommodate two digital SLRs to be carried with lenses attached, I prefer two carry one lens-mounted camera and two additional camera bodies. In addition, I often carry another camera mounted to my tripod as I walk about. Of course, each photographer customizes the inside space to meet his/her particular needs. While it may not be obvious at first glance, the more rectangular profile of the Expedition 8X allowed for the same equipment I had in to my Lowe Pro pack to fit with more ease inside the Tamrac pack.
Inside the front flap, three windowpane-mesh pockets provide plenty of visible storage for things like business cards, small notebook, markers, batteries, cleaning cloths, etc. In fact I have only partly filled this space. Finally, a foam-padded platform at the bottom of the pack provides for good shock protection. When the front flap is zipped up, it never feels as if the contents are squeezed!
From the outside, the Expedition 8X backpack also looks elegant and comes in black with mid tone gray accents on the wing pockets and bottom pocket. The backpack is very ruggedly constructed. One feature I especially like is the main zipper. It works effortlessly, even when the inside is jammed packed with equipment – there is no more fighting to zip the pack! A large weather flap provides additional protection around the zipper and can be easily rolled back if not needed. Incidentally, Tamrac also offers a life time zipper warranty!
On the outside of the front flap is a foam-padded computer pocket, complete with water-resistant zipper. While I personally don’t carry my laptop in this pack (see my earlier review of the Tamrac Aero Speed Pack 85 Dual Access Photo / Laptop Backpack), I use this space to store a variety of accessories such as sensor cleaning equipment, batteries, lens caps, extra cable releases, filters holders, etc. On the outside of this ‘computer pocket’ are two smaller but elongated ‘wing accessory pockets’ as well as a more ‘oval shaped pocket’ at the bottom in which I store items that I want to be easily accessible such as a small flashlight, more batteries, memory cards, compass, matches, bear bangers, whistle, cleaning cloth, utility tool, or swiss army knife, asthma inhaler, allen wrench, etc. If that wasn’t enough storage space, the side of the backpack sports attachment slots to conveniently carry Tamrac’s optional Modular Accessory System consisting of an array of lens cases, a carrier for a water bottle (Tamrac MX5398), a filter belt pack (Tamrac MX5388) as well as a large rain cover (Tamrac MX5354). Extra clothing or equipment can easily be secured using the four spidertabs fitted on the outside of the backpack. Finally, a ‘quickclip’ attachment system between the two wing pockets allows for a tripod to be attached should one wish to do so.
I have unfortunately been plagued with back problems much of my life. Therefore I was particularly happy to see that the harness system of this backpack is very well padded, as is the back of the pack itself. The shoulder straps did not dig into my shoulders and the waist belt felt very comfortable. An expandable sternum strap and cinch straps on both the shoulder harness and the waist belt allow for fine, individual adjustments. The well-padded lumbar support provides additional protecting and comfort. This pack sits low on my back and feels extremely comfortable.
While I have been mostly pleased with my previous camera backpacks, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the new Tamrac Expedition 8X backpack provided some additional features that suited me particularly well, in addition to offering a level of comfort beyond what I had previously experienced. While I am typically very loyal to products that have worked well for me in the past, I am also very pleased when I discover a superior product. Tamrac Expedition 8X backpack is just that!
Update: As of March 2019, I am still using the Tamrac Expedition 8X backpack (model 5588). While my hikes might be shorter now and I may be using this pack less for hiking, I still bring it along with me on every single trip as it provides me with a base pack to store most of my gear. I am also happy to report that the zippers function as well now as they did when I first started using this pack now more than 7 years ago. This is a real testament to the build quality of Tamrac's equipment.