I’ve always traveled light.
There’s a satisfaction in knowing everything you need is on your back.
But a recent trip to LA threw a new challenge at me. Now that I’m working from home, my livelihood is based around a laptop and a camera.
I didn’t just need clothes for the week. I needed the tools to do my job.
Just a week earlier, Alpaka sent me three of their bags to try out. And what better time to give them a try than a trip across the country?
I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous trusting a new bag to carry all my precious goods. But what’s the worst that could happen, I thought.
Oh, right. I could end up with no clothes and no job.
Ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the point.
During the trip, I put Alpaka through a few more tests than I’d planned. So how did it do?
Read my full review to find out.
What Is Alpaka?
First, the tech community fell in love with them. With plenty of space for a computer, the ergonomic designs made carrying a chunky laptop easy.
Then the photography community picked up on Alpaka. The sturdy build and extra padding made the bags a good choice for photographers on the move.
They’ve been steadily growing, too. All their designs are cut-proof and waterproof, so even if a pickpocket gets frustrated and throws a cup of water in your face, no harm done.
Alpaka has outfitted its factory with state-of-the-art equipment. They’re continually looking for ways to become more sustainable through the use of upcycled materials, efficient machines, and reduced waste.
All that is well and good, but when it comes down to it, I only care about one thing. Can my bag carry everything I need?
On my recent trip to LA, I stowed my camera and laptop in Alpaka’s Shift Pack. My layover flight out of Atlanta was delayed because of rain.
As I sat in the plane, I watched the luggage guys take my Shift Pack and set it on the tarmac. It sat in a southern downpour for five minutes.
It was do-or-die for Alpaka.
Either their bags were the real deal, or my laptop and camera were ruined.
So which was it?
My Hands-On Review
Alpaka sent me three of their best-selling bags to check out for my review:
I was able to
Here’s what I thought.
Without the Shift Pack, none of you would be here right now. Epic, right?
But seriously. It’s what first caught my eye when I reached out to Alpaka. I love the look of roll-top packs, but every brand has a different philosophy on them. Some brands go full-floppy with very little structure, which is a no-go for me.
The Alpaka Shift Pack got my attention with the sturdy, padded bottom. It has all the packability of a roll-top, but with added stability and security.
And I’m not sure I’d still have a computer and camera to write this review if the Shift Pack didn’t hold up so well in the rain.
That’s right. I’m not going to name names (Delta), but my bag was left out on the tarmac during a southern storm. I was watching out of the airplane window as my Shift Pack—along with some other luggage that didn’t fare so well—took a beating.
After the flight, as I saw my bag come down the luggage chute, I feared the worst.
But the Shift Pack looked untouched. It was completely dry even after being drenched just an hour before. I checked my laptop and camera, and both were unharmed.
Alpaka claims that the Shift will “keep your gear dry even in a downpour.” They weren’t kidding.
Besides being waterproof and saving me missed deadlines, there were a couple of other features I liked on the Shift.
It features a compartment in the back where I can stow my laptop safely. There’s a good amount of padding so I don’t have to worry about damaging or bending the computer. Even better, I don’t feel the big plastic rectangle on my back.
The Shift Pack distributes weight evenly, so it’s easy to walk around with fully loaded.
I love the bottom padded compartment. I’ve always had to carry my camera in a separate case to keep it safe, but on my most recent trip, I didn’t have to worry about that. I just stashed my DSLR in the bottom of the bag.
When it came time to go through airport security, it was easy to unpack all my electronics. Because they were both separated into their own easy-access pockets, I kept up with the flow of traffic.
The Shift holds 20l, meaning it has room for a weekend’s worth of clothes. I packed in a pair of shoes, three shirts, four underwear and socks, a pair of pants, a notebook, a laptop, a camera, chargers, and a few watches.
There’s a zipper in the bottom that allows you to expand the capacity to 30l, but I wanted to use the extra room for my camera.
From what Alpaka sent me, I felt that the Shift had the best balance of complexity and simplicity. A lot of tech bags can go overboard with hidden compartments.
There’s a convenient pocket in the front to put the things I need frequently, like my sunglasses, keys, and a phone charger. The larger pocket inside the main carrying compartment is perfect for my computer charger and other items I use less often.
The roll-top was huge in keeping everything dry in the rain, and I like that it’s an extra measure of security.
To keep the roll-top fastened, there’s a magnetic clip on either side that attaches near the bottom. The clips are super smooth and easy to fasten.
I did notice that my clips came undone a few times while going through the airport. I was never in any danger of losing anything—the bag was still zippered up and rolled at the top. But the clips became extra straps waving around behind me.
All-in-all, I’m a big fan of the Shift Pack. It’s my new go-to for travel and when I’m out with my gear in the city. It earned my loyalty with its heroic waterproof moment.
7ven Mini Messenger
I’ve been using messenger bags since before they were cool. It started as a Freshman in high school—complete with My Chemical Romance logo and all.
I’ve done through a few iterations since then, my most recent being a Timbuk2. It’s been my main workhorse for a few years, but lately, parts have been wearing down and ripping. Overall, it’s starting to get dingy.
Enter the 7ven Mini Messenger.
I really like the small profile of the 7ven Mini. My old Timbuk2 and the 7ven both can carry much larger laptops—the chunky type that gamers and coders carry around.
I do all my work on a lightweight Chromebook, though. Having a smaller messenger means my laptop is more secure and I have less bulk to carry around on my back.
The front slash pocket is perfect for a notebook and pen. The interior has plenty of room for my laptop, lunch, water bottle and charging cables. And in the front, sealed by YKK storm guard zippers, is a pouch with a key ring and multiple places to stash for your phone.
The pockets in the front seem a little excessive—it could just be me, but too many pockets just lead to more fumbling around. And they tend to collect things like old cough drops and nasty pennies. There are seven separate pouches, and with all the other room in the bag, I just don’t see myself using them all.
Four plastic feet on the bottom keep the Mini flat on the ground, so it doubles as a modern briefcase, too.
The velcro can be quite loud when opening the main compartment. I’ve drawn some looks over the past week at my local cafe. But overall, the 7ven Mini works great if I’m bringing my laptop to the library to get some work done.
Go Sling Pro
I’ve never been much of a sling guy. The Go Sling Pro is starting to change me.
But only for one reason.
This bag is perfect for photo shoots.
My old camera case worked, but I had no idea how bulky and inefficient it was until I tried the Go Sling Pro. I like the quick disconnect Fidlock buckle on the strap. It’s easy to slide apart and I don’t have to do a crazy dance getting my bag out in front of me.
Normally it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but over the course of a few hours, all the extra movement starts to wear on you.
Unlike what came with my camera, the GSP has secure places to put my keys, wallet, and phone.
I’m a gung-ho photographer, which means I’m always crouching or lying on the ground to get the best shot. I don’t like having anything in my pockets, and I hate when my pack slips around my back and hits my arm when I’m taking photos.
I carried my camera in the Go Sling Pro when taking these images, and it didn’t slip off my back once. I didn’t have to think about it—my focus was on my work, not on the bag.
The removable dividers are great for separating my lens and the internal pouches are great places to hold my SD card, charger, and an extra battery.
I may not use the Go Sling Pro as an everyday carry—the Shift Pack and 7ven Mini are more my style—but it’s my favorite camera case I’ve owned.
My Overall Thoughts
What I Like
All three bags are a great blend of form and function. They look cool and they make traveling much easier.
The Shift Pack is truly waterproof. Trust me.
The Go Sling Pro fits snug so I didn’t have to worry about it moving around—and it fits a DSLR camera plus accessories.
The extra padding, pockets, and compartments in the Shift Pack made it possible for me to carry my entire workstation across the country with me.
The 7ven Mini Messenger cut out all the bulk of larger bags and fit flat against my back. I didn’t feel any strain when carrying my laptop and lunch on my daily mile walk into the city.
What I Don’t Like
The velcro on the 7ven Mini was loud—especially in quiet areas.
The magnetic clips on the Shift Pack came loose a few times as I walked through the airport. It didn’t affect anything, but I could see the strap swinging around in the corner of my eye.
For me, the front pocket of the 7ven Mini has too many nooks and crannies where trash can collect.
Alpaka has built three great bags for modern workers, digital nomads, and freelancers.
Any skepticism I had went out the window when I watched sheets of rain fall on my Shift Pack—only to see it a few hours later completely dry as if nothing happened.
As someone who depends on their laptop and camera to make a living, a good bag is like an insurance policy.
Each of these will serve a purpose for me—whether it’s for short outings in the city, longer travels abroad, or extensive photoshoots.
While there were a few minor issues like loud velcro and an occasionally finicky buckle, there’s no denying how well Alpaka has worked for me. These packs will be my travel companions for years to come.
I trusted Alpaka with the most important things I own and they didn’t disappoint. While some aspects of the bags seem over-engineered, they’ve created three pieces that I consider necessities for the modern freelancer.