Reviews |Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack

Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack Review

Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack
Review

Price when reviewed

£229

$249
Check current price

Our Verdict

Flexibility is all the rage in bag design at the moment. Modular inserts enable well-designed camera backpacks such as this to be transformed into a standard empty carry-anything backpack within a few seconds.
While this modular approach is common, few do it with the finesse of the Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack.

The outwardly stylish design instantly promotes the trekking look rather than being an obvious camera backpack. Popping the fully ladened pack onto your back and the depth of Vanguard’s design experience is obvious with plenty of padding and wide straps.

Inside, the camera module insert offers a huge amount of space for kit, and the top section is ideal for a few personal effects, such as a light coat and snacks. The outer also has plenty of storage for a tripod/water bottle and water reservoir, along with a small side pocket for money, cards and spare batteries.

Inside, the bag is well worked out as a whole, but a secure zipped internal pocket or two would not have gone amiss. Overall a great trekking camera backpack.

For

  • Incredibly comfortable
  • Wide shoulder straps
  • A good volume of storage

Against

  • No internal zipped pockets
  • The laptop slot isn't reinforced

What is VEO Active Trekking Backpack?

Designed as an everyday trekking backpack, the Vanguard VEO 49 design is more outdoorsy and robust than other similar-sized and lightweight camera bags on the market.

Design features such as the fabric hoops for attaching webbing, a large pocket capable of holding a 2-litre water bottle and a water reservoir pocket on the side are all signs that this bag is a little different. Add these features to the comfort supplied by the well-padded back and wide shoulder straps, all helps to mark this backpack out against the lighter weight competition.

This backpack is also by no means cheap, so it is aimed at the keen enthusiast. The VEO 49 I’m looking at in this test has ample room for two camera bodies, a 100-400mm lens, three additional shorter-length lenses and a filter kit. More than most enthusiasts would require, but an essential capacity for anyone taking things a little more seriously.

Specification

  • Suitable for : Pro DSLR/Mirrorless camera with grip and 5-6 lenses (up to 300mm f2.8 or 150-600mm)
  • Camera Access : Rear Access
  • External Dimensions : 330 x 250 x 510mm
  • Camera Compartment Dimensions : 280 x 160 x 350mm
  • Litres : 35
  • Weight : 2720g
  • Rain Cover : yes

Build and Handling

The Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack stands out for its high-quality finish, materials and design. From the moment the bag arrives, there’s plenty of flexibility over how you use it.
Starting out by looking at the straps that are on offer and there’s plenty of adjustment to ensure comfort and the kit load is well supported.
As ever, the Vanguard bag stands out against the usual drab black camera backpack offerings with the stylish Grey outer accented with flecks of yellow. It is, at present, one of the best-looking bags out there.

This bag has been designed as a trekking backpack, and many features reflect this. The water reservoir pocket is well designed with tube routing over the bag so that it can be properly secured. Then there’s the charging pocket that enables you to link in a power pack and easily access a USB charging port. On the front are also a series of fabric webbing hoops that enable the easy attachment of the additional straps that are supplied or other accessories.

Open up the bag, and inside is the large removable camera section module that can be configured as needed. As is common, there are a series of padded dividers that can be moved and adjusted to fit your kit. If you want to use the bag as a day pack, this camera section can be zipped up neatly and removed to expose a large internal cavity.

Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack

On top of the bag is a short roll section that can be quickly accessed for a few personal effects or a rain jacket; again, it’s all nicely designed.

The one missing thing are any neat mesh pockets for keeping memory cards. However, the bag does come with two bag accessories, the first is a drawstring lens bag, and the second is a small accessories bag that does feature mesh zipped pockets.

Ultimately the build and handling of the bag is extremely well-considered, giving you plenty of room for kit, comfort and flexibility over its use.

Features

Every bag these days like to have a defining feature, something that marks it out against every other camera bag on the market. The Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack is, as the name highlights, aimed at those looking to go trekking and want to carry their camera kit with them. To that end, all the features around this bag are very much focused on this point, making it an ideal solution for wildlife photographers.

This focus on trekking adn the outdoors means that whereas many bags will make a big point of laptop slots and expandable and modular sections, the VEO Active goes big on those small but important features that will aid your photography and well-being out in the field, wood or moorland.

Firstly the backpack’s camera insert provides plenty of space for a Pro DSLR or Mirrorless with grip and five to six lenses up to 300mm f/2.8 or 150-600mm. On the rear opening, there is a 15-inch laptop and 10-inch tablet slot; these pockets are nice to have but are not a major feature.

Inside the roll top

All kit is accessed through the rear of the pack, and the support structure around the bag helps to keep a good solid shape as you delve inside. All outer materials are weather proof and there’s the usual rain cover included if the heaven do open.

On the side are two large tripod pockets; in this test, I found one was ideal for a tripod while the other I used for a water bottle. There is a pocket for a water reservoir, but I don’t have one at the moment; what’s interesting about this pocket is that it’s sealed, so if your reservoir splits or is punctured, the water won’t seep into your bag. Although I didn’t use this for a reservoir pocket for it’s primary purpose, I did store the waterproof cover and my jacket in this pocket after being caught in the rain.

The daypack section is secured with a roll top at the top of the pack. There’s plenty of room for a dry, light waterproof or a few personal effects, but it’s not as large as some that you find on backpacks.

Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack

The USB interface port is a nice feature that is becoming common with Vanguard backpacks. This cable enables you to plug one end into a power pack such as the Tether Tools USB-C 30W PD Battery pack, while the other goes into your phone, iPad or camera.

Along with the large water reservoir pocket and USB pocket, there are plenty of other smaller pockets to stash the kit. Along with the bag comes an additional pouch for memory cards, cables and batteries.

Being a trekking pack, comfort for the Vanguard VEO 49 is high on the list of requirements, and here vanguard has done a great job with the padded harness and back airflow system. The bag has been designed to meet present airline hand luggage restrictions, so if you can tuck in a weekend’s clothing and washkit, you’ll be able to fly through luggage and customs without having to check in luggage.

Performance

Starting with the backpack, there’s a good amount of adjustment in the shoulder straps. The height of the straps can be tightened to raise or released to lower, then tightened in the usual way. The chest strap features a standard buckle, and a larger more robust clip features on the waist strap; again, there’s some fine-tuning of the waist strap that can be done between the strap and the body of the bag.

Taking a few moments before filling the kit to get the pack roughly positioned and adjusted saves time in the long run, and although the pack will need some re-adjustment once the kit is in, the initial fit should act as a good starting point.

Setting the bag down on its front, kit can then be accessed through the back of the pack. I like this approach in Autumn and Winter conditions as although the front of the pack can get dirty and damp; it keeps that back of the pack dry.

Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack

Folding down the back and it reveals the inner camera section. This inner camera section is modular, so has been designed to be removed if needed with a zipped lid keeping the contents secured inside.

This lid is handy if you want a second level of cover for your camera and lenses in addition to the main back of the bag. If not, this lid can be folded back on itself and tucked neatly out of the way. Another point about the opening is that as it’s opened, it lays flat without buckling or deforming the bottom of the bag; this shows real attention to detail and the additional rigid frame support also helps the bag structure.

Inside the camera section, there’s a huge amount of room, and I easily fitted in three camera bodies with fixed focal length lenses, an additional lens, a field monitor and flash. It seems a surprising amount for a bag that doesn’t seem or feel as large as it is.

Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack

Zipping up the back and popping the backpack on, the straps perfectly balance the load with a small adjustment to compensate for the weight.

Along with the camera kit in the main section, I popped a light rain jacket and a few snacks into the roll-top section before heading out.

Through the weeks I’ve used the pack, I have to say I’m impressed with the comfort; the shoulder straps are a decent width and carry the load well. Setting the pack down and unzipping provides easy access to extract cameras and lenses through the back. I also like the ability to zip up the camera section and fully remove it from the bag to create an empty day sack if needed.

 

Side straps help accurate adjustmentThere are a couple of points that I’m not so keen on. The first is the laptop and tablet slots. While these are padded and have a velcro strap to prevent the devices from slipping out, their presence feels secondary, as if they have only been added because it’s expected. The padding is good, but there’s no structure to the slots, and this always makes me a little nervous if a larger iPad Pro or MacBook Pro is contained within. However, you have to think that this pack is designed as a trekking backpack and not one to take to the office, so in reality, aside from the odd occasion, would I ever use this slot with a weighted bag when out photographing wildlife? Probably not.

The other issue for me is that although there are plenty of pockets, the memory card and battery pockets that are usually built into one of the flaps don’t exist in this bag. Instead, there’s the removable pouch. While I like this approach, it doesn’t feel as finished as I would like. However, I have to say it works fine; it’s just different from what I’m used to.

That’s it. As a bag designed for trekking goes, this one hits the mark.

Final thoughts

The Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack is extremely well-balanced; it offers you exactly what you need for carrying your kit when you go on a trek. There’s plenty of room for a camera, lenses, a filter or two, and more if you want. As ever, the inserts are moveable and, although lightly padded, offer a decent amount of protection for your kit.

The design of the straps and the amount of adjustment make the backpack extremely comfortable. For those with wider shoulders, the pack sits well on the back due to the additional movement the adjusters allow.

Some features that stand out to me are the large water reservoir pocket and routing for the feeder tube; this is a really neat solution. Then there are the additional pockets and loops and two spacious side pockets for tripods, stands or other.

Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack4As a trekking backpack, the Vanguard VEO 49 Active Trekking Backpack stands out. While its focus is for that one use, there’s plenty of flexibility to use it in different ways if you need to, including carrying your laptop to the office.

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