Monday, November 13, 2017

Foliage Along the Henry Hudson Trail (YouTube)

Check out my latest YouTube video - Foliage Along the Henry Hudson Trail.

I stopped for a walk along the trail last week on my way to the office - a gorgeous two mile trek.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

UPDATED: Product Review - Tamrac Hoodoo 20 Camera Daypack


It has been more than two (2) months since I wrote my original review - Product Review: Tamrac Hoodoo 20 Camera Daypack and published my YouTube review Equipment Review: Tamrac Hoodoo 20 Camera Daypack. I have been using the pack on short hikes at different times of the day, different weather conditions and different terrain. While I still stand by my assertion that the pack is well-made, my overall opinion of the pack has changed and my recommendation is conditional.

In The Field Review

  1. I have found that using the pack, fully loaded, can become uncomfortable after a while - especially if there is something in the "laptop" compartment.
  2. While it is clever to have the camera compartment removable, I found that having to open two (2) zippers to get to my gear became inconvenient, tiresome and time-consuming.
  3. The lack of "D"-rings proved to be a greater problem than I suspected.
  4. The lack of mesh pockets or other method of carrying a water bottle is a problem.

1. Comfort

When fully loaded and a flat "composition book" in the laptop section of the backpack I experienced discomfort in my back. Removing the notebook eliminated much of the discomfort but that defeats the purpose of having the compartment. I have also experienced some discomfort in my shoulders but not always. The shoulder problem seems to be more pronounced when I carry the pack higher on my back or do not use the chest strap. If I loosen the straps a bit I can virtually eliminate the discomfort but the chest strap then moves up to about my collar bone; using the pack without buckling the chest strap is not recommended.

2. Removable Camera Compartment

I really liked this feature when I first examined the bag. This 2-in-1 approach is nice because you can attach the shoulder strap and have a small shoulder bag. In practice, it became somewhat of a nuisance. As I mentioned in the bullet point above, the pack has a zippered flap opening to the inside of the pack; once this is open you need to unzip the flap to the camera compartment. If you do this once when you arrive and then once when you leave somewhere it isn't necessarily troublesome but if you need to access different equipment it gets in the way. You could just leave the outside flap unzipped but that could lead to problems.

There is also a problem if you have some bulkier/heavier equipment in the top zipper section. There is no divider or structure separating the removable camera compartment from the top part of the pack. I have been carrying my old (1980's era) Sigma 400mm f/5.6 in the top section and it has been pushing down on the camera compartment. What this ultimately does is cause the removable bag to spread out a bit on all sides putting a strain on the outer flap zippers and making it more difficult to open/close.

3. "D"-rings

I really didn't think the lack of "D"-rings would be a big deal but I truly miss having them. I like to clip small things to the outside of the pack to make them easier to access; items such as a compass or a hat that I may have to take off for some shooting. There is a strap at the top of the bag which is fine if you aren't carrying it but things clipped to this loop tend to find their way between you and the pack while you walk.

4. Mesh pockets

This turns out to be the biggest issue that I have with the pack design. I pointed out the lack of mesh pockets in my original review but figured it was a day pack that wasn't really meant for hard-core hiking and I could probably get away with a small bottle in the upper compartment. Well, I tried a bottle in the upper compartment but the bottles tend to "sweat" and get the inside of the pack wet, not to mention I had to leave my first aid kit in the car to make room for the water. I could carry a bottle but this makes it awkward when I come across something to shoot - I have to find somewhere to put the water, put it down and then grab the camera. This is not so bad shooting landscapes but try doing that when you have a 10-point buck in the trail ahead! Going back to #3, if there were "D"-rings I could get an insulated bottle with a carabiner to clip it to the pack; not a great solution but better than having nothing at all.

So, the bottom-line is - this is a well-made bag that can hold a reasonable amount of equipment for the day hiker but some of the "flaws" are hard to overlook. I recently took a hike at Gambrill State Park in Frederick, Maryland. It was a warm afternoon and I decided to take a hike through the woods. I had the Hoodoo 20 packed with my regular gear, along with my Sigma 400mm in the upper compartment. I also had my tripod in it's carry bag clipped to the loop at the top of the backpack. I hiked about 1.5 miles and shortly after I got back to the car I passed out - I was overheated and dehydrated. I did not carry water with me because I didn't have the ability to easily carry it - I couldn't put it in my pants pocket, didn't want it leaking inside my bag and I needed my hands free while hiking over some difficult terrain. I ended up spending the night in the hospital. Now, I don't blame the backpack (that would be foolish) but had there been the ability to carry water with me I may not have gotten sick.

I will give a "conditional" recommendation with the caveat that you should find a way to carry water with you. I am going to try to come up with some convenient methods and will report back if I find something that works well. I would also love to hear from you, if you have any ideas.

I hope you found this updated review helpful and would like to hear of your experiences with the Hoodoo 20. Until next time - get out and shoot!