The Manfrotto Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack is the best photography travel bag I’ve ever used
I’ve spoken about camera bags before. They’re one of those things that photographers just seem to collect. Each has its purpose, but ultimately, many of them fail to live up to expectations and just end up becoming gear storage to keep the dust off your kit when it’s not in use. I’ve owned far too many bags for years, so new ones rarely get me excited anymore.
Recently, though, I’ve been using the new Manfrotto Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack, and it’s very quickly become my favourite travel photography bag and one that I use all the time.
The Manfrotto Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack is part of a new range of fourteen (yes 14!) new Advanced2 bags that Manfrotto announced a little while ago. They asked if I wanted to check any of them out for myself. The logical choice to me felt like the Hybrid Backpack. It was something new, a different style of bag to those which Manfrotto had released before, and with DIYP’s trip to IBC 2019 coming up, I wanted to see how it would work as my personal item on the flight and wandering around Amsterdam.
I shot the above video shortly after returning from IBC. In the time since then, I’ve only come to like this bag even more.
What’s “Hybrid” about it?
So, it’s called the Hybrid Backpack. Essentially this means that it’s not just a backpack, it also turns into different types of bags. It has three different “forms”. There’s the backpack, the top handle mode for when travelling and a shoulder strap mode for every day easy access. So, it can essentially replace three completely different types of bag.
Who is this bag for?
While it can hold some gear, this isn’t a huge bag. You’re not going to load it up with a whole ton of equipment like you would something like the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II. If you generally head out to a shoot with 2 or 3 camera bodies, half a dozen lenses, a couple of strobes, softboxes, etc. this probably isn’t going to be the bag for you. Not if you’re only carrying one bag, anyway.
It’s primarily designed for travel photographers, lightweight assignments, or for going out for a wander while on vacation with just a camera and a few bits. But even on big shoots, this can be one of them, just holding your most important bits of kit.
When I travel, it’s usually to shoot, and I often take far more gear with me than I expect to use, just in case I need it. But in my downtime when I’m just exploring with my camera, the Hybrid Backpack means I don’t need to carry it all with me everywhere I go. It also means I don’t need to carry around a big, unwieldy, mostly empty giant backpack, either. I can just grab the Hybrid.
Normally, here, I’d give a whole tour of the bag and then talk about its uses. With this one, though, I think it’s better to explain my uses and show off the features as I go and how they relate to those uses.
How is it around the airport?
What drew me to this bag the most, as mentioned was the trip to IBC 2019. The dimensions looked pretty close to the regular backpack I’d been using as my personal item when flying the last few years, but this bag is geared specifically towards photographers.
I had a fair amount of gear to take with me to cover the show, and I wasn’t sure if it would all fit inside my Lowepro PhotoStream SP200. My regular backpack would probably have worked for those extra bits, but this seemed much better suited to the task, mostly due to the fact that the back panel of the bag has a slot allowing it to slip over the handle of a roller case – which is exactly what I did.
While the carry-on and personal allowances will vary from airline to airline, I took both the Lowepro PhotoStream SP200 and the Manfrotto Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack (in top handle mode) with me on the flight and had no issues flying out. When I was checking in or boarding the flight, nobody batted an eyelid at the little backpack perched on top of my carry-on roller.
Inside the Hybrid Backpack, I stored the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, a few batteries, my ASUS ZenBook Pro laptop, and a change of clothes – just in case the airline decided to send my checked luggage to Peru or somewhere for a day or two. Inside the SP200 roller was everything else. A couple of Nikon DSLRs half a dozen lenses, audio gear, and a big stack of batteries to power everything.
The slot in the back panel of the Hybrid for the roller case handle made it a breeze to keep with me without it getting in the way, as often happens with a regular backpack. Because it’s designed with this exact use in mind, if I needed access to any part of the bag, I had it without having to take the backpack off my roller. And it has a pouch in the front of the bag, including a zipped compartment, for storing things like your passport, boarding pass, etc.
Something else that will generally vary from flight to flight, and from seat to seat, is how much room you’ll have underneath the seat in front of you in order to store your personal item. There isn’t always room for personal items in the overhead bins. The flights to and from Amsterdam were fairly small planes, but I had no problem fitting the Hybrid underneath the seat in front of me either at the aisle seat going out or the window seat coming home.
All in all, it was probably the smoothest flight I’ve ever had as far as dealing with my carry on bags goes. Both from a checking in and boarding standpoint as well as logistical.
Using it in other places
After arriving in Amsterdam, this was where the Hybrid Backpack’s versatility really started to make itself stand out. When I’m heading away somewhere to work, especially if I need to use my laptop at the hotel, I often prefer to sit in the hotel bar or restaurant rather than in my room. It’s a nicer atmosphere, they have bigger tables, and there’s always somebody who can keep bringing me coffee.
But working in a hotel restaurant often means a laptop, charger, mouse, tablet (the Android kind, not the Wacom kind), SSD, headphones and various other bits. Trying to carry all that lot in your hands is a pain. Switching the Hybrid into backpack mode makes it a doddle to carry everything around while still keeping both of my hands free and without risking dropping everything on the floor.
Because the inside of the bag is compartmented, I can get easy access to everything I need quickly without having to unload the entire bag to find one small cable. The compartments inside the bag are housed in a pouch that’s velcroed to the sides. This can be removed if you want to utilise the full space and don’t need to store specific individual items in there.
For more general use, attaching the shoulder strap and just slinging it over your shoulder is the easiest way to have access to it regularly while carrying it around without it tying up your hands.
This is the form I like for when I’m out shooting with it. Packing light for landscapes with just a camera, a few ND filters and a travel tripod it’s a lightweight bag that I can just throw over my shoulder while walking, but it leaves everything in easy reach without having to set the bag down to open it.
The same thing goes for street photography. I can pop a couple of cameras in there with plenty of room to rummage around and have easy access to everything. If I’m shooting film, the top pouch lets me store a few rolls and my Sekonic meter, too.
I use it a lot for my location scouting trips, too. I tend not to take a lot of gear with me on those trips. Usually, it’s just one body with a zoom lens, a travel tripod. In backpack mode, it lets me keep the bag out of the way and have both of my hands available to make sure I don’t fall on my ass while clambering through the wilderness – it’s been known to happen. Once I get to a spot where I want to shoot, I can put it over the shoulder and have easy access to take my camera out or put it away.
The size of this bag makes it ideal as a lightweight backpack, and when I need regular access to the inside, I just take it off my shoulder, lay it down on its side, unzip it and I’ve got access to everything. And when in backpack mode, there are also a couple of side pouches for holding a couple of bottles of water or other drinks to keep you hydrated while exploring.
One of the other important factors for travel bags is the build quality. And when it comes to the Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack the build quality is as good as you’d expect from a company like Manfrotto. The material feels good and the stitching looks good. I’ve only been using the bag for a few weeks so far, but it’s been thrown around like the other backpacks I’ve used, and it looks like it should withstand the rigours of regular use pretty well.
Pros & Cons
It’s difficult to really describe a bag like this in the concept of pros and cons. It’s well built, it has various practical and useful cavities, pockets and slots that are valuable for travelling photographers, it’s comfortable to wear and use in all three of its forms and it carries a nice amount of gear for a light shoot or casual day out.
It might be a little on the pricey side compared to some other backpacks, but I expect that it will be very worth it in the long term. As I said, it’s well built, and I so far it’s stood up to just about everything I’ve thrown at it travelling to other countries and exploring around the Scottish wilderness. If this bag doesn’t last a good few years, I would be very disappointed.
The only real negative I have for the Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack, as I mentioned in the video up top, is that I wish there was a short handle on the “top” of the bag for when it’s in backpack mode. If I have to take it off my shoulder to set it down and then pick it back up again fairly regularly, which can happen a lot when you’re travelling, I don’t have to bend down quite as far in order to do it. But, it’s not a real breaker for me.
The Hybrid Backpack is primarily intended for travel photographers or lightweight day-tripping with basic gear. One camera, a lens or two, a small travel tripod, maybe a laptop, with space for your passport, travel tickets, and a few other bits. It’s also handy for things like street photography, location scouting, or any other times where you only need a small bag of kit out with you.
The three different modes the bag offers make it a very versatile option over a regular backpack or messenger bag. The top handle mode with the slot in the back for a roller handle makes it ideal for travelling with, and it complies to the personal item limitations on many airlines (but do check with your airline first!). The backpack and shoulder bag modes are pretty self-explanatory and will be the ways you’ll likely use it 99% of the time.
The big test for me of any camera bag is which one I instinctively go for when I need to head out the door? Over the past few weeks, for me, when I haven’t needed to carry a whole ton of gear, that’s been the Manfrotto Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack. I have several small backpacks and other bags here, but since I got the Hybrid Backpack, I’ve not touched any of them. And when I fly or take a train with my roller case, the Hybrid Backpack is now pretty much a permanent partner for it.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.