Review: MRJAN GEAR - RISE BACKPACK
For quite a few years I have happily been using the “Boris” backpack from MrJan Gear. This is a very spacious backpack which fits my gear for my wildlife photography trips. It allows me to bring along several long lenses, camera bodies, some shorter lenses and some more. But I have made plenty of shorter trips where my Boris backpack remained half empty. So I was quite excited when I saw that MrJan Gear had made a smaller backpack for day trips. This backpack is called “Rise and shine” or in short just “Rise”. Shortly before Christmas I received my new “Rise” backpack. I have been using the bag as much as possible and will now share my findings with you.
The “Rise” is a compact but spacious 18 liter photography backpack and weights in at just 1,03kg. It is available in three colors; black, blue and orange. The “Boris” backpack is only available in black. I think it is great that the “Rise” is also available in the two bright colors. These make the bag stand out a bit more than the black Boris. I went for the blue one.
Backside and shoulder straps are padded for comfort. A rugged two way zipper closes and opens the bag on the backside.
The backpack arrived neatly packed with its own MrJan Gear protection cover over it. When I removed the cover, I could directly feel that also this bag is made from an extremely strong material (waterproof 600 denier Oxford polyester). The “Boris” backpack is made from a similar fabric (1000 denier Cordura) and doesn't show any wear or tear. Another similarity is that the backpack opens on the backside of the bag. The difference is that the “Rise” opens completely with just one double zipper. The “Boris” is divided in two sections and opens with two zippers. The zipper runs smoothly and seems to be very strong. The backside of the bag and the adjustable shoulder straps have nice soft padding. The waist belt and chest straps have been kept simple this time. No fancy stuff, just two sturdy straps. Both are detachable.
The waist belt is kept simple and is detachable. The top handle is rapped in a rubber grip for comfort.
The backpack comes with a rain cover which is packed in a very handy velcro pouch, a set of velcro dividers and an additional velcro pouch. The velcro dividers allow you to arrange the inside of the backpack to your personal needs. The entire backpack is velcro looped from the inside. So there is no limitation to where you can place the dividers or pouches.
Two velcro pouches come with the bag. The left one contains the rain cover and right one spare batteries in this case.
When you open the bag, you can see that the bag is fully padded on all sides. This offers maximum protection for your photo gear. The bag has quite some depth, which prevents your photo gear poking you in your back when wearing the bag. On the back piece, there is on the inside of the bag a large sleeve pocket. Here you can pack small laptop, tablet or other thin gear such as memory cards, documents, cables, etc. The outside of the pocket is also completely velcro looped, which allows you to attach velcro pouches with small gear. The top of the pocket is closed with a velcro flap, preventing your gear of sliding out when the bag is opened.
Large padded sleeve pocket on the inside, big enough for a small laptop, tablet or other thin gear.
On the top of the backpack there is an additional pocket with a zipper. This pocket is not padded and consists only out of a single layer of the waterproof “600 denier Oxford polyester”. This pocket is great for storing some extra stuff such as gloves, hat and food. I wouldn’t store any camera gear in there since it is not padded.
On the sides of the backpack you find laser-cut slits. Under the slits there is a second layer of the waterproof fabric. The combination of laser-cutting and the second layer of waterproof fabric, ensures that the bag won’t leak water on these points. The slits can be used for strapping extra gear to the bag, such as a small tripod or extra clothing. The straps were not delivered with the bag. I pointed this out to MrJan Gear and they will from now on also deliver their own straps with the bag.
The backpack in use
It all starts with fitting your gear into the backpack. Three velcro dividers were delivered with the bag. One is as long as how broad the bag is, one is squire and one is narrow. For the day trips where I don’t take super much photo gear and pack some additional small stuff, this is enough. But I can imagine that if I would take this backpack for a one week landscape photography trip and pack it full with just cameras, lenses and filters, that I would like to have some more dividers. I played a bit around with all the dividers I have from my other MrJan Gear backpacks and have come to the conclusion that I would prefer to have two of the long dividers plus three smaller ones. This would allow me to pack two camera bodies, a 16-35mm f2.8, a 24-70mm f2.8, a 85mm f1.8, a 100-400mm, a pouch with extra batteries, battery charger, filter kit in protected pouch (in the top pocket), plus some additional small gear in the big sleeve pocket. As you can see, this small backpack can pack quite a bit of gear.
Just out of curiosity I checked how much gear I could fit in the Rise backpack. Here I managed to fit my Sony 400mm f2.8, Sony a7rIII with the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 mounted, Sony a9 with a 85mm f1.8 mounted and a Sony a9ii packed in the small red pocket. Quit impressive!
The size of the dividers is not optimal for the mirrorless system cameras, when used without a grip. They are either just to broad or just to narrow. I have talked with MrJan Gear about this and they will produce new dividers which are especially sized to the smaller size of the mirrorless cameras.
This is the optimal arrangement I managed to make, if I would use the backpack for an one week landscape photography trip. It holds a Sony a9 with a 100-400mm mounted, a Sony a7RIII with a 16-35mm f2.8 mounted, a 85mm f1.8 in a lens pouch and a 14mm f2.8 loose. There is still plenty of space for extra gear such as another lens, charger, cleaning kit etc.. The filter set is packed in the top pocket. I used a second long divider from one of my other MrJan Gear backpacks.
Since I have been using the gear from MrJan Gear for a while now, I knew that I didn’t need to worry about how the backpack is build. But since it is a new design, I was very curious to find out how comfortable the bag would be. To test this, I have taken the bag out for some hikes and several days of skiing trough different terrain. The gear I had with me during the trips was consistent, a Sony a9 mounted on a Sony 100-400mm, a Sony a7RIII mounted on a Sony 16-35mm f2.8, GPS, a full 1L thermos, some food, extra gloves, an extra fleece sweater or down jacket. Everything together, the bag weighted every trip between 7 and 8 kg.
The backpack sits very well on my back. The shape follows my back well and with the straps tightened the bag doesn’t move around at all. Even during the skiing I barely noticed that I had the backpack on. I am very pleased with this.
My main worry was about how comfortable the waist belt would be. Contrary to the “Boris” backpack, the waist belts on the “Rise” do not have any padding where the straps cross over your hips. During my first trip I was wearing a thick winter jacket. I could barely feel that I had the backpack on. It sat very comfortably and did not notice the waist belt. On the first skiing trip I was wearing only a thing fleece plus a GORE-TEX shell jacket. So there was not that much clothing between my body and the backpack. Also here the backpack sat very comfortable and I didn’t notice the waist belt. I guess the waist belt is not much of an issue, because of the size of the backpack. I like to strap my backpacks tight to my back. This means that the “Rise” sits above my hips. The waistband doesn’t cross the widest point of my hips, so doesn’t cause any annoying friction when moving. I have not yet tested how the strap will feel if I would go for a longer hiking trip with just a T-shirt on. …it is a bit too chilly for that at the moment. But considering how well the backpack sits on my back and how little the bag moves around, I think there shouldn’t be any problems.
The MrJan Gear "Rise" backpack in use.
The waist belt is not that thick but strong and doesn’t untighten by itself. Even when I attached the dog leash to the belt, in order to let my dog pull me on the skis. My dog pulled me for several kilometers on several trips, and the belt didn’t slip. Both the waist belt and chest straps are removable. Personally, I am not that keen on removable straps since I have lost these in the past. I hope that this will not be an issue with these.
It is great that the backpack opens on the backside. When you put the bag down on the ground to open it, the frontside of the bag will touch the ground. This means that the backside always stays well clear from the dirt, snow, mud or water on the ground. Which means that you won’t transfer any nasty stuff from your backpack onto your clothing when putting it back on.
The MrJan Gear “Rise” backpack sells on their website for 225,- Euro (or 2301,25 NOK here in Norway). Looking at other similar backpacks, it falls in the higher price segment. The reason why the bag has this price tag is because every single bag in handmade in order to ensure the high quality. Also the materials used are selected because of their endurability. These backpacks are made to be used, keep your gear well protected against the elements and last a life time.
MrJan Gear has again come with an incredibly good quality photography backpack. I have used it with a lot of joy and will continue doing that for sure. Find below the list with pros and cons.
- Nice looking simple design, available in three attractive colors.
-Well build, every single backpack is handmade to ensure maximum quality.
-Light weight (1,03kg).
-Perfect to use as hand luggage on airplanes.
-Lets you design the inside completely to your personal needs.
-Packs a good amount of gear.
-Sits very comfortably, also during the more active trips.
-Comes with rain cover and two handy velcro pouches.
- The backpack doesn’t come with loads of small pockets with tiny zippers, which will break and leak water.
-Comes with only three dividers. Two extra dividers would be perfect.
-No side pockets for thermos or water bottle.
-Straps for attaching tripod are missing. But from now on these will be delivered with the backpack.
-Detachable chest straps (I have lost these in the past).