Think Tank is one of our favorite camera bag brands, making shoulder bags, backpacks, and rolling camera cases! We appreciate how their different collections suit so many different photographers, from wedding photographers to wilderness adventurers. So, we are excited to write this review of the new Think Tank Retrospective EDC Backpack and duffel bag!
First and foremost, though, neither bag is what you’d expect from Think Tank, a brand that literally has the word “PHOTO” in their website URL and official business name. Both of these bags are not specifically made for cameras. They are meant to complement your creative lifestyle overall.
The Think Tank Retrospective EDC Backpack is an “everyday commuter” backpack, as its name implies. (Although I’m sure you’d fit right in at the Electric Daisy Carnival, or Coachella, or Burning Man, too!) The Think Tank Retrospective Duffel 75L is just that, too: A very large duffel bag.
There are Retrospective style camera bags, too of course. This EDC backpack and the 75L duffel make perfect companions to a Think Tank Retrospective photo backpack or shoulder bag. We’ll be doing this Think Tank Retrospective review with that in mind!
[Related: Quick Tips For Traveling With Your Photography Gear]
Think Tank Retrospective EDC Backpack Specifications
- BAG TYPE: Backpack (everyday/commute)
- GEAR ACCESS TYPE: Multiple zipper compartments
- CAPACITY: 19L (up to 16″ Macbook Pro Laptop)
- MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION: Stone-washed 100% cotton canvas, YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion-resistant) zippers, full-grain Dakota leather accents & zipper pulls
- COLORS: Pinestone (Stone-washed canvas)
- WEATHER PROOFING: Water-resistant coating, seam-sealed rain cover with self-storage pocket included
- DIMENSIONS – EXTERIOR: 11.5” W x 18” H x 9” D (29 x 46 x 22.5 cm)
- CARRY-ON (AIRPLANE OVERHEAD BIN) COMPATIBLE? Yes
- WEIGHT: 2.2 lbs. (1 kg)
- ACCESSORIES: Retrospective Organizers
- PRICE: $219.75
Think Tank Retrospective Duffel 75 Specifications
- BAG TYPE: Duffel, shoulder sling
- GEAR ACCESS TYPE: Large main zipper compartment
- CAPACITY: 75L
- MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION: Stone-washed 100% cotton canvas with premium ripstop tartan liner, YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion-resistant) zippers, Full-grain Dakota leather accents & zipper pulls
- COLORS: Pinestone (Stone-washed canvas)
- WEATHER PROOFING: DWR treatment, P300D two-tone twill ripstop inside liner
- DIMENSIONS – EXTERIOR: 30” L x 15” W x 12.5″ H (76 x 38 x 32 cm)
- CARRY-ON (AIRPLANE OVERHEAD BIN) COMPATIBLE? Yes, depending on how full you stuff it!
- WEIGHT: lbs. 7 oz (1.57 kg)lbs. 7 oz (1.57 kg)
- ACCESSORIES: Retrospective Organizers, Retrospective Laundry Bag, Stash Master 13L Camera Cube
- PRICE: $189.75
Think Tank Retrospective EDC Backpack Review | How Much Can It Fit? Who Should Buy It?
Although this backpack isn’t meant to carry tons of camera gear, it can fit a fair amount of stuff in general. It’s designed for the purpose given by its name: an everyday commute!
If you do have a camera to carry, it had better be a rather compact one, such as an APSC camera from Sony/Nikon/Canon/Fuji, or a Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus (OM Systems) or Panasonic. a padded camera “cube” can easily be carried in the duffel. A small padded camera case could be stored in the EDC backpack, but again, compact cameras only!
The Retrospective EDC backpack is designed to be a matching pair with a Retrospective camera bag, in my opinion. The EDC is perfect for days when you’re just heading in to the studio to do some desk work, or heading to a coffee shop to meet a fellow photographer or client.
Of course, if you’re not a photographer or videographer at all, and are just looking for a commuter backpack with this understated, durable style, then I’d recommend the EDC backpack just as highly!
Travel Style: Airplanes, Trains, Roadtrips?
Would we use the Think Tank EDC backpack for longer trips? If you’re a photographer or videographer, then the answer may be no; you’d be more likely to use a larger photography backpack. The main exception would be if you use a rolling camera case for your gear, and you only need a backpack for carrying a laptop etc.
Personally, I’d still travel with both a rolling gear case and a camera backpack, because I prefer to travel with my camera gear split between two different bags, in case anything happens to one of them. So, I’d probably opt for the Retrospective (photo) Backpack 15. That would allow me to carry not only my laptop and other travel necessities, but a camera body plus a couple lenses and a flash as well.
Think Tank Retrospective Duffel 75 Review | How Much Can It Fit? Who Should Buy It?
The Think Tank Retrospective Duffel 75 is their second duffel bag, the first being a 50 L model. As the 75 (liter) name implies, the newer, larger one is downright cavernous in its capacity. As someone who does a lot of backpacking/trekking, I can tell you that 75 liters of space is enough space to live out of!
Having said that, as a duffel bag, it is basically just one giant storage compartment. There’s one small, slim side pocket on the outside for a few essential items, but you’re largely on your own in terms of organizing the bulk of your gear.
So, you could easily fit an entire portable studio inside, or a week’s worth of travel gear such as clothes, hiking boots, food, etc. However, you’ll need some sort of organization system within the duffel.
Think Tank offers accessories for this, from a laundry bag to, of course, padded camera “cubes”. Some folks will appreciate this style of organization, while others may want to opt for a more traditional, organized luggage option. Personally, I love the versatility of a duffel, but I do still own a rolling suitcase for air travel.
Think Tank Retrospective | Duffel 75 & EDC Backpack Review | Pros & Cons
The biggest advantage of the whole Think Tank Retrospective series is the simple fact that they achieve durability with style like no other photography/travel bag we have reviewed. It is truly rare to have travel gear that offers these things, yet isn’t impractical or uncomfortable!
Of course, style and fashion are subjective, so we understand that they may not be right for everyone. For us, as photographs who do all kinds of work, travel a ton, and love the outdoors, it all first perfectly with our lifestyles.
As you can see above, the Think Tank Retrospective EDC backpack (left) and the Retrospective Duffel 75 (center) match perfectly with the Think Tank Retrospective Photo backpack. (right)
Comfort & Ergonomics
There are a few pros and cons of the EDC backpack and the Duffel 75 that we should definitely mention. First and foremost, having reviewed innumerable backpacks over the years, one thing that I immediately notice is comfort. I generally weigh down my backpacks quite heavily with lots of gear, so if they don’t have enough padding in the shoulder straps, along the spine, and especially at the tailbone area, then I immediately don’t like the backpack. In some cases, I absolutely cannot even use the backpack, period.
So, I am happy to report that the EDC backpack is quite comfortable! It has the advantage of not necessarily being designed to lug around 20-30 lbs of camera gear, of course. However, even with my large 16” laptop, a (small) water bottle, some hard drives, chargers, cables, a light jacket, and some snacks, the backpack felt great.
With regard to the duffel, I can say this: I would not look forward to a full traverse of a large international airport, but I will certainly be bringing it on all types of trips where I am just looking to throw a bunch of gear together, and not have to lug it around on my shoulder(s) for more than a few minutes here and there.
Design, Features, & Versatility
I have often been highly critical of camera bags that simply aren’t easy to use. Whether it is a design flaw or a missing feature, a backpack in particular is something that I will be handling literally every day for months on end, so even one “annoyingly designed” zipper system could be a deal-breaker.
Thankfully, with the Think Tank EDC backpack, everything just works beautifully. The zipper pulls are easy to open and close from almost any angle. Also, they are simple leather straps so they don’t snag on everything like hoops or hooks can. Overall, it’s just a pleasure to use both bags.
The biggest thing that I missed about the EDC backpack was the lack of an external side pocket. I know this was a decision for style, but personally, the side handle (visible above) just isn’t as useful for me compared to having a water bottle pocket. This is not really a deal-breaker, just a side note.
Simply put, it’s hard to match the longevity of the Retrospective bags at their affordable prices. With the Think Tank Retrospective EDC backpack at just under $220 and the Retrospective Duffel 75 at just under $190, we think the value is unbeatable.
There are other bags that may be even higher quality, but those usually cost a fortune. There are very few other bags that will last this long at a better price, too. That really sums it up in terms of why these are an excellent value!
Think Tank Retrospective Bag Review | Alternatives
We must mention at least a couple of alternatives if you like what you’ve read about the quality and value of these bags but their exact purpose isn’t perfect for you.
First, in terms of backpacks for an everyday commute, your choice is simple: if this EDC backpack isn’t for you, it’s likely that what you’re looking for is, of course, the Think Tank Retrospective (photo) Backpack 15L. The overall aesthetic is nearly identical, with even more of the rugged rucksack look thanks to the metal buckles on the rear and side pockets. Of course, as mentioned earlier, it’s designed to do almost everything the EDC backpack does, and also carry a fair amount of camera gear too.
Having said that, the EDC does go a bit above and beyond the 15L photo backpack in terms of compartments and storage for things like papers, tablet devices, etc.
In terms of the Duffel 75, your alternatives are almost as simple: If 75L is too capacious for you, then there’s also the Retrospective 50L duffel. It’s a perfect fit for multi-day road trips, it fits nicely in an airplane overhead bin, and it is priced a bit lower, too.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for the opposite in terms of organization and protection, we would recommend looking into something like the Think Tank Airport series of roller suitcases. There is a diverse range of options that suit almost any type of photo or video equipment carrying needs, and we have personally used some of them for many years.
Think Tank Retrospective | Duffel 75 & EDC Backpack Review | Conclusion
All in all, both of these products may fit a niche among photographers and videographers. However, as general purpose bags, we’d recommend them to an even larger audience.
The icing on the cake is how perfectly they also match a Retrospective camera bag, of course. Whether you already own one or are still shopping for a line of 2-3 bags that matches all of your needs, look no further than the Think Tank Retrospective lineup.
The Think Tank Retrospective EDC Backpack can be purchased for $219.75, and the Think Tank Retrospective Duffel 75 can be purchased for $189.75.