The main camera compartment of the Manfrotto Advanced Befree Backpack is in the lower half of the pack and it opens from the rear. This means that your kit is nice and safe from prying hands. Also, when you take the pack off your back, you have to lie it on its front to access your gear. That means you won’t get covered in mud when you put it on again.
As you’d expect, the dividers inside the camera compartment have Velcro tabs so they can be repositioned. It might not look that big, but you can fit a DSLR like the Canon 5D Mark IV or Nikon D850 in there with a 70-200mm f/2.8 mounted. A mirrorless camera like the Sony A7 III will as fit in nicely with a 70-200mm f/2.8 mounted. The Nikon Z 6 or Z 7 will also fit in with the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED mounted but it’s a bit of a squeeze as you need the FTZ adapter between the lens and camera.
With the camera and long lens in the centre, you have room either side for up to 6 other lenses.
While the red dividers are nice and thick, the grey ones seem a bit thin. However, pinch them with your fingers and you’ll find they have high-density padding, so you kit stays well protected.
At the top of the backpack, there’s a good sized compartment for stashing your wallet and other essentials. You can even squeeze in a thin fleece. Helpfully, this section has a zip-closing mesh pocket and a couple of organiser pockets to keep small accessories err… organised.
At the front of the Advanced Befree Backpack there’s a dedicated laptop and tablet pocket. This can house a 15-inch laptop and 9.7-inch tablet.
With a laptop at the front of the pack, you need to be careful how you lie it down to access your kit. However, Ali has had a couple of screens crack on him when he’s carried a backpack with the laptop in a section next to his back. So having the laptop section as the front is probably a good thing.
If you reach back with your left hand while you’re wearing the pack you’ll find a stretchy pocket that can hold a drink or mini tripod. Above this, there’s a zip-closing padded pocket that’s handy for small accessories or your wallet and passport.
There’s another stretchy pocket and zip-closing pocket on the other side of the backpack. However, the zip-pocket is bigger with the zip extending down almost the full length of the backpack. Once the zip is undone, you’ll find a drawstring liner section. This is the ideal place to stash a tripod, it’s the perfect fit for a Manfrotto Befree Advanced tripod.
Once the trip Manfrotto Befree Advanced tripod is safely stashed, you can close the zip almost to the top and the tripod stays nice and still. It won’t slop about as you walk.
In addition, there’s a compression strap on the outside of this tripod pocket and that enables a larger tripod to be carried. Just slip a leg or two into the pocket and secure the rest with the strap. A Manfrotto 190go! fits perfectly this way and again it stays still.
The straps of the Manfrotto Befree Advanced Backpack are fairly broad and have a dense padding that keeps them comfortable. There’s also a chest strap that helps keep some of the weight off your shoulders.
Manfrotto has given the camera compartment a thicker covering that the section above it. Although it’s not especially uncomfortable, I was aware of the thicker padding on my back. I can feel a slight ridge on my back.
I found I settled into using the Manfrotto Befree Advanced tripod quicker than I did the Manfrotto Manhattan Mover-30. The compartment and pocket layout seems a little more logical.
The Manfrotto Advanced Befree Backpack is the right size to be carried as hand luggage on a flight – although these things can change, so check first. It’s also smart and has space to carry the stuff you need for business as well as a decent amount of camera gear.
I love that it has a dedicated pocket for a tripod. It makes it very easy to carry a tripod, plus, you can access and store it quickly. I think it increases the likelihood of a tripod being used.
It doesn’t take long to work out where to store your gear and the pack is comfortable to carry when it’s full. The only slight niggle is the change in the thickness of the padding on your back. I wouldn’t want thinner padding on the camera section, but it would be nice if the change wasn’t noticeable when you’re carrying the bag.