- Buyer's Guide
I’m a professional photographer and I’m always out in the elements for work. And when on location, I’m shooting both photo and video and need a decent amount of gear. So I’m always looking for larger photography packs that can handle abuse and carry comfortably for long stretches.
While it’s been on the market for a while, I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on the award-winning WANDRD FERNWEH until recently. It’s large, built for backpacking, and if I could describe it in one word, I’d use the word: ‘impressive’.
How does this backpacker work with camera gear? Inserts, of course.
There are several options for camera cubes that will fit within the FERNWEH, and I picked up the Pro Plus Camera Cube, as I generally need a large cube for my gear. For my current main setup, I carry the following:
1 – Lumix GH5II with Lens
1 – DSLR Body with a 17-35 and a 24-70 (or 70-200)
1 – DJI Air 2s with controller
1 – GoPro HERO10
I usually have a tech pouch with cables and batteries and a Peak Design tripod that I carry with me on or in my pack. So for my big shoots, I need a big bag. The WANDRD FERNWEH comes in at 50L, so smaller than some of the other bags I have used, but it does fit what I need. So, let’s jump into the bag and see what it’s about.
Who It Suits
The FERNWEH rolls in at 50L, so it is a large bag, but when out on traveling shoots, I generally have a 50-70L bag with me for gear, so this is at the smaller end of what I usually carry. This pack is also well-suited for anyone needing a one-bag clothing and gear travel system. One of the great things about this bag is that no matter what size kit you need to carry when traveling, they have a cube that will work. If you are a small mirrorless/drone carry person, you can pick up the Mini Plus Cube, but if you carry a ton of gear, the Pro Camera Cube will not let you down.
The top opening of the bag opens into the removable bucket system. This system is divided by a nylon fabric that zips into place to keep items from falling into the camera compartment. If you were using a small camera cube and some packing cubes, you might not even need to utilize the zipper bucket for gear, but it is nice to have when you need it.
That said, with the modularity of the bag, it can work for quite a range of photography needs if you are traveling or backpacking. With the included features, the user could take this bag out for a day or two and carry all the necessary items for comfort.
Who It Doesn’t
The WANDRD FERNWEH is not a daypack; if you are going out for a hike with friends or shooting around town, this is a lot of bag for you to carry unless you need to bring a mini keg with you for hydration. The pack with a camera cube is pretty heavy even when empty, so that might be a deal-breaker for some. If you are looking for a travel bag/backpacking bag and only carry a small mirrorless camera, there are cheaper options out there that are more suited to the user without having the features of a full, dedicated camera bag.
There are a lot of unique features to the FERNWEH, but let’s start with the harness and back panel. At 50L, when fully loaded, this bag gets heavy. But, while using this bag, I took a few long hikes while fully loaded, and the harness easily handled the load. The back panel, straps, and belt utilize a thick air mesh that is reasonably breathable. This was nice when out in Moab on a 75-degree day; sweat spots were minimal, and comfort was optimal.
The load lifters mixed with the padded belt did their job. I could hike and scramble comfortably and keep my shoulders from feeling too much weight. The belt pocket is perfect for quick access to snacks or a pair of gloves when needed. The harness is adjustable so you can change the straps depending on your frame size for maximum comfort.
Overall the pocketing and access for the bag are fantastic. The front of the pack has a long pocket perfect for storing a rain shell and a hydration pocket. This front pocket also allows a hydration hose to be threaded to the back of the bag to keep the hose from adding any extra snag points.
The bag’s top has a pocket on the exterior and an interior mesh pocket. Both are sized for small tech pouches, bulky gloves, hats, or camp food pouches.
On one side of the WANDRD FERNWEH is a pocket for a thin water bottle or tripod. This might be the most confusing pocket as it depends on the size and shape of your tripod or water bottle. The pocket fits a Peak Design Travel Tripod perfectly. It is tight, but it fits and zips closed. If you have a bigger tripod, the fit might be just one or two legs and securing it with the straps. As for a water bottle, it won’t fit anything Nalgene-sized. You have to have a thin, tall bottle.
There is an external sling access to the camera compartment. This pocket has a zip pocket within it where you can store batteries or a card wallet if needed. Finally, the back panel that clamshells open has a small hidden passport pocket and a laptop sleeve that easily fits my 15″ MacBook Pro.
There is one last zipper on the bottom of the bag that, when unzipped, reveals a fabric flap that can loop around and attach, creating a compression hoop that can hold a sleeping bag, tent, or any other oversized items one may need while out. This extra space is excellent as it allows the user to carry additional items and not take up any of the pack’s interior.
The FERNWEH has four grab handles. Each one is constructed of padded webbing and feels great even when the bag has a ton of weight. The two side handles are wide, allowing the user to slide the pack onto a rolling luggage handle while traveling.
The materials chosen are suitable for an adventure bag. The front of the bag utilizes 630D Robic nylon. The Robic nylon covers the top pocket to the bottom of the bag, allowing for good abrasion protection. The 420D TPU-coated nylon is used on the sides of the pack and is equally waterproof and strong.
The Not So Good
Overall the FERNWEH is a fantastic pack, but there are a few things that I felt could use some help. First, the sling access in a pack this size is unnecessary. If you carry a fully-loaded pack, it will not be easy to swing around and unzip a pocket to access a camera. By the time you do this, the moose will be gone. A water bottle pocket might be better served in this space.
On the other side of the pack, the tripod pocket, while useful for the Peak Design tripod, should be enlarged to fit more options. It could still be compressed when needed, but a slightly larger volume could help with the user’s kit.
While the material on the bottom of the pack is strong, I would like to see some reinforcement in this area. If the fabric catches on a sharp edge, it could tear. But with some Hypalon or Cordura reinforcement, the bottom of the bag would be epic.
Technically separate from the pack, the Pro Plus Camera Cube has a two-zipper section. For my use case, this was just frustrating having the zipper pull land in an area where I wanted to safely store a lens, camera, or drone. The volume of the cube is significant, but the layout is just interesting. I know this is used in their other bags, but the cross strap gets in the way in the FERNWEH.
Granted, in a bag this size, most people would probably use a tech pouch; however, there was no admin organization in any pockets. Sometimes, it is nice to have separate pockets for items like hard drives, card wallets, or snack bars.
Overall, this is a fantastic bag and one that will stay in my rotation. With the pocketing and overall size, the WANDRD FERNWEH makes an excellent travel and adventure pack. The bonus is that the harness system is comfortable even when loaded with gear. The bag fits in the overhead on a few flights, but I removed the belt to make the bag seem smaller. If you are worried about weight, there might be better options, but any large adventure bag will be a little on the heavy side. Also, for larger tripod users, remember that this might be a bag you need to get creative with to mount one.
I used the Gobi Tan color, which while attractive, was dirty immediately. But I am not one who worries about my gear getting used, dirty, or torn. This has become a new favorite bag for adventuring with my gear. If you are on the fence, just go for it. The WANDRD FERNWEH is comfortable and built to last.
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