I was impressed with the bag build-quality and feel and fell in love with the zipper system (more on that in a bit). This bag is not big enough to hold all the gear I use for my usual shooting setup, but it’s just the right size for the casual walk with a camera, or a quick run and gun gig.
Is that a zipper in your bag?
The first thing that got me was that this bag is weird in how it’s built. I’ve never seen a zipper system like this.
Most backpacks have a zipper that “opens” the back, or the top, or sometimes the side. The DUO has a zipper line that runs in a tennis-ball-like curve and covers the entire bag. When you fully open the bag, you get a flat “piece of fabric” that basically exposes the entire insides bag. The bag has four zipper sliders, and in combination with the curved zipper, you can create some interesting access points. Firstly, you can reach your gear from either side of the bag (left or right). This is useful if you are used to slinging your bag on the side to access gear. But if you use the bag as I do, you get a second access point on the top of the bag that you can use to access the top compartment.
Storage and compartments
The DUO is a 20 litter bag, so it packs what you need for about a day or so. In that regard, you can expect the same load capacity as you would from most similar bags. The cleverness of this bag comes from how the compartments are arranged inside and from the organization they allow.
The main storage space can be used as a huge empty compartment. so if you just need to throw some clothes and a lunch box in there, you would be satisfied. But! If you use the bag as a photo/day hybrid, the bag shines in all its glory.
The bottom of the bag has a small pop-up padded cube that takes about a third of the bag. Once that cube pops up, it’s perfect for storing a camera and a lens. It comes with a small divider thingy that you can use to split the cube into two spaces: left and right. Once the cube is “built” it feels very solid and I feel 100% comfortable leaving photography gear in there. There is a small semi-rigid sleeve that acts as a divider on the cube. You can see it on the image below. I am not a fan of this and wish they came up with a better system. It is just another thing to fiddle with and lose.
Then there are two pockets that kinda look like cup holders. Those are big enough to put a lens or a strobe in, but they contract when they are empty. In most cases, I’d put a lens in one and a strobe in the other. Or I would use both for two extra lenses.
One side of the internal compartment has two small pockets for cables, headphones, snacks, and other small things. The other side has an extra pocket and two loops to hold pens.
The back of the bag has two laptop sleeves the bigger one held my Dell XPS 15 with some space to spare. The smaller one can probably hold a flat-ish tablet. Incorporating a laptop sleeve to the back of a bag ca sometimes create an inconvenience by making the bag flat and rigid against the back. This was not the case with the DUO. the bag feels nice with or without a laptop inside.
Lastly, there is a big loose mesh opposite of the laptop sleeve. I couldn’t really find a good use for it other than storing bug chunky cables like power cords or XLRs.
The bag does not offer a lot in terms of external storage, there is a water bottle pocket that collapses when unused and two more zippers.
The first zipper is placed on the front of the bag, and it’s useful for documents. The other zipper is placed on the top and leads to a padded pouch. This one is good for your phone. While I like the fact that it’s padded, needing to reach the top of the bag for your phone can be inconvenient when the bag is on your back.
There are a few cool extra features that are worth noting.
If you travel a lot, you’ll appreciate that the bag’s padded back doubles as a trolley sleeve. That means that you can place the bag sideways on a trolley while strolling between airport gates. It’s kind of weird to place it sideways, but I tested this and was pleasantly surprised.
Just under the sleeve, there is a hidden zipper. This is where you’d consider putting your cash or passport. I dunno. I always carry those two items in my front pocket which feels safer than on a bag. Jut in the case someone will rip the entire bag away from me. If you are comfortable putting sensitive items in a bag, then this is probably as good as it gets.
The back and bottom of the bag have some loops for connecting straps, you can get the straps from WNDRD, or you can use “cheap” regular straps. I never used them so I can’t really say if they are comfortable or not.
Day to day use
This is a fun day to use daily as long as I don’t need to carry to much gear. It holds a camera and 203 lenses + a strobe an a trigger if I need them. It also packs my lunch, a laptop, some snacks, and a few random items. Even fully packed, the Duo feels pretty comfy on the bag. I am not sure if it’s the technology in the fabric, the padding, or simply the fact that the curve on the bag are a perfect fit for my back. Either way, It feels very light, even fully packed.
It is also one of the most accessible bags I’ve ever used. The multi zipper thingy is geniuses. I can access my laptop and most items from the top, and I can access the camera comfortably from the side.
I never had to use the “secret” pocket, and I doubt that if someone robs you, they will not simply take the entire bag, so I am not sure it is a useful feature.
One of the things I like about the bag, is that it spreads. It spreads almost flat with all the zippers open, acting like a makeshift tarp where all the gear is super accessible. I love tarps. It’s a great way to organize a gear hub in a shoot.
My biggest complaint with the bag is that it’s a dust magnet. It looks beautiful when it’s clean – super stylish and fashionably black. Sadly, it is kind of rare that the beautiful black is not smeared with dust, chalk, sand or any other that taints the bag.
The duo will set you back about $220 on B&H or Amazon. It’s a great offer for the features that the bag gives. The Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L which is in a similar niche is normally $259.95, so it’s a tad more economic than the competition.
I love the versatility, the genius zipper system and the design and high-fashion look. I just wish it was repelling dust better.