Crumpler Brians Hot Tub
Over the past couple of years I have watched Crumpler grow from very odd trendy surfer bags to very odd trendy photo bags. I’ve been looking for some time for a rucksack that would house my 300mm 2.8 IS lens plus some other bits and pieces that I now use for some of my trips. For years of course I have been using Lowepro, quite happily too, and I never thought that I would end up testing a Crumpler bag, let alone use it in the field. Now I’m sitting here at Luton Airport on the way out to Germany, with Brians Hot Tub at my feet!
Brians Hot Tub. No it’s not the name for my next door neighbours Jacuzzi but the Crumpler rucksack for photographers. I must admit that it wasn’t love at first sight; yes it looked great but it was a totally different approach than what I am used to. For a start to open the rucksack you need to place it on its back, as the zips actually sit behind the shoulder straps (we will come to these later). This takes some getting used to but actually it is a brilliant idea which has two clear advantages. 1) The foam padding that sits against your back faces upwards and so does not come into contact with wet ground and 2) No light fingered merchant can open your pack in a crowd and remove any of your gear.
Opening the pack it again looks different as it is much more compact than I am used to. The rucksack is actually three bags in one; a laptop bag, a photo rucksack and a daypack. The laptop bag took my 14” laptop and was held snugly in place by two Velcro fasteners. The photo rucksack features a mesh cover, which can be a slight pain if you want to access the gear inside in a hurry. Once open though it has good space and I managed to fit a 300mm 2.8 IS attached to my 1Ds MK2, a 70-200 f2.8L lens, a 20mm lens, several spare batteries and a Jobo GigaVuPRO downloader. An additional pocket that fits snugly in the top held several filters, CF card wallets and various other small bits and pieces that I carry around with me. The photo rucksack comes as a complete unit and can be removed to transform the rucksack into a daypack if required. This is what I have for my business trip today, to present at the prestigious GDT festival in Germany; my laptop and my underpants in perfect harmony.
The outside of the rucksack is plain and doesn’t look like a camera bag – which is great! A camera bag labels you as a walking opportunity and I liked the anonymity that Brian's Hot Tub provided. I took the bag, with all the aforementioned gear plus my laptop, as cabin baggage onto a plane without any hassle whatsoever. One of my initial concerns however was with the comfort factor as the Hot Tub is supplied without a waistbelt (although one is optional). The shoulder straps are very well defined though and, when combined with the figure hugging shape of the rucksack and the solid back padding, actually make it surprisingly comfortable. I wore it up and down the Scottish hills and can say that it wasn’t any less comfortable than those rucksacks with a much more sophisticated support system. It is also a helluva lot easier to get off too that most rucksacks I have used previously. The optional waistbelt fits onto the bottom of the rucksack and might be a good option if you intend to walk miles, although I did and never thought of using it.
Build quality is excellent and the ChickenTex fabric seemed to resists all attempts to scratch it. The Hot Tub comes with two outside pockets that aren’t good for anything else other than a notebook, passports, and pens. Several outside loops are provided which will take the small external accessory packs made by many other manufacturers. To be honest there wasn’t much I didn’t like about the Crumpler bag, perhaps the biggest nit pick was the tightness of the internal zip; when fully loaded it can be a bit awkward to do up.
And that’s it really, all I have to say. Whilst you may not initially think of Crumpler as an alternative for your photographic gear, you should think again. Brian’s Hot Tub is a superb piece of kit for the amateur and professional alike. The bags not bad either…
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