Go under the radar with this Thule Covert DSLR backpack

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For me, the chase of finding the perfect camera bag is as difficult as finding freaking Nemo.

You see, over the years I pretty much have what some might call a collection of camera bags, and the collection is still growing. There are bags I use everyday (ThinkTank ShapeShifter, AirportSecurity), some are seldomly used (the good ol’ LowePro Stealth AW), and some, such as my giant Pelican 1650 where I bought solely to photograph the America’s Cup a few years ago, are essentially one hit wonders. There’s even a repurposed Timbuk2 messenger bag with inserts for small flashes and lenses when I need to go light and stealth.

All of those have been my “system” and they have worked for me for a variety of assignments from shooting the Super Bowl, wildfires, sitting in presidential campaign motorcades, CEOs, weddings, and bike races.

But, as if the N+1 rule extends to camera bags too, there’s always room for another one.

The struggle is so real that I now sympathize with my wife whenever she goes bag shopping. Okay, maybe not about the last part but you get my drift.

So here comes the Thule Covert camera backpack.

Better known for their extensive line of roof and bike racks, Thule has been making inroads into various products to help consumers bring whatever they want along, hence their motto of “Bring Your Life.” So out in the wild are Thule phone cases, luggage bags, strollers and backpacks.

On the outside, the Covert looks just like any other roll-top backpack that has been all the rage lately. It’s a pretty inconspicuous bag that doesn’t scream “HAVE CAMERA. ROB ME NOW.” Awesome.

From the top, the roll-top lid is neatly tucked away with adjustable buckles, and unrolling it will reveal the zipper to access the main compartment.

The main compartment can be divided into two with its removable partition that seals the top half of the bag from the lower half that houses the camera insert.

Halfway down the bag is a second flap that covers a generous zippered organizer for small items such as batteries and keys. There are also two Velcro pouches that I found to be perfect for storing external hard drive and charge for my Macbook Air.

As if there isn’t enough space, there is one more pouch on the lower half of the bag where I can comfortably store a u-lock or a Nalgene bottle. There’s also another zippered pocket behind the lower center pouch to carry more ClifBars.

So yes, lots of pockets for those who 1: Like to carry a lot of stuff and 2: like their bags to be organized.

On the right side of the bag is an open pouch with an adjustable opening that’s meant for bottles and a small travel tripod. Also good for beer.

Moving on to the left side of the bag, there are side-entry zippers to the laptop/tablet storage and the heart of the bag: the camera pod.

the SafeZone camera pod Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

While the idea of a removable camera compartment isn’t new, Thule deserves giant kudos for making the compartment right. Dubbed SafeZone, the pod’s dividers are some of the best I’ve ever come across. They’re denser than the ones from my other camera bags and cases. They also have origami-like ridges to facilitate folding for a customized fit.

I’ve been using the bag on and off for the past few months and it’s now my go to when I have to travel with my camera. During a recent wedding shoot in Mexico where I needed to divide up my gear for security, I was able to fit my essential kit (a Canon 1Dx Mark II, a 135mm f/2, a 50mm f/1.2 and a 24-70mm f/2.8) into the pod. The removable-nature of the pod also made going through custom inspections an easy one since I was able to just pull it all out at once. The partitioned top half of the backpack also meant the rest of the gear wouldn’t fall out of the side door if you go for the camera or remove the entire pod.

For short in-town trips, I could pack a 70-200 2.8 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 attached to Canon 5D Mark III straight into the compartment with room to spare. The carrying chassis of padded shoulder straps and the back panel are ergonomically shaped to stay comfortable. I do wish Thule included a waist strap for better stability though.

Maybe I am a sucker for a multifunctional backpack with an understated look, but the more I use the bag the more I actually enjoy using it. For me, the Covert hit the sweet spot of what I want in a travel camera backpack: Keeping my essential camera kit safe while leaving plenty of room for everything else. By removing the divider and the camera pod, the Covert can be quickly converted into a regular backpack for those last minute grocery runs. The water-resistant material and overall construction are good quality and it is well thought out from its pockets and dividers, all the way down its zippers. At $199.99 and a lifetime warranty, the Covert is made for the long haul and will carry all your gear, or lots of six-packs, with ease.

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Thule Covert next to a Canon 200-400 attached to a 1Dx Mark II

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Yup. I can shrove a Canon 200-400 f/4 with a 1Dx Mark II into the Covert. With the camera pod and divider removed, of course. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

 


Bikes, Bags, and Shades, the Latest and Greatest From Summer PressCamp

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Midweek editor's ride led by all-around good guy Eric Porter. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The behind of scene of every bike beauty shot. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Product demonstration area at White Lighting. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Koroyd engineering cores in various shapes and forms. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Gerard Vroomen of OPEN showing his ONE+ superlight hardtail (with plenty of room for 3" tires) Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Would love to see more company doing subtle paint details like OPEN. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Custom Pinarello logo on this Mavic spoke. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Filed under "cool stuff you cannot have" aka dual-sided Stages powermeter made for the US Olympic track pursuit team. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The gravel crew in the afternoon. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Start 'em young! Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Love them Alpinestar gloves. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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For 2017 GT is also bringing back that Performer BMX you wanted back in 1986. You know you want one. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

PressCamp in Park City is still one of my favorite events of the year. The laidback atmosphere, killer rides, that ride party at Eric Porter’s House, the daily doses of epic breakfast bacon, and of course plenty of fun new gear to talk about. Here are a few of the highlights from the week-long meetings. We will have more individual highlights/reviews in the pipeline.

Cannondale

The vaulted SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod will be available this fall with disc brakes. While the bike looks almost identical to the caliper brake version sans the brakes, the frame is brand new given that you just can’t slap a brake caliper mount to the frame mold and call it a day. The geometry is the same but the disc frame will have a different layup to accommodate different loads generated by disc brakes.

photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod disc with Ultegra Di2. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Even then, the weight penalty is minimal. Otherwise, the most noticeable differences are the utilization of the Flat Mount standard for the brake calipers, improved tire clearance up to 28C tires (the bike we were shown had 25C Schwalbe one tubeless clincher mounted to the Cannondale Hollogram carbon clinchers with a 19mm inner diameter), and the 12×100 thru-axle for the fork. What’s interesting, though, is that Cannondale kept the traditional 135×9 quick release for the rear wheel. The model we were shown, a SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Carbon Disc with Ultegra, will retail for $6,200 and I expect more disc models at different price points will be available as well.

3T

Better known for their cockpit components such as stem, handlebar and seaports, the storied Italian component maker 3T carried a truck full of their new Exploro gravel road bikes and they did not disappoint. In fact, they were so good they would have easily won the best of camp if there was one.

3T Exlploro. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
3T Exlploro. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

The loaner I rode was mounted with 2.1×27.5 WTB Nano mountain bike knobbies (and it’s compatible with 700c for road and cross) and it blew me away in terms of how playful the bike was over the rocky dry terrain at Park City. Oh, and it’s an aero gravel bike designed with bottles, fat tires and mud in mind that 3T went as far as 3D printed mud for testing.

THM Calavicula SE crankset. Bling. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
THM Calavicula SE crankset. Bling. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
3T. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Now, at $4,200 for the top of the line LTD frameset, the Exploro will definitely take up a good amount of your hard-earned moola but it’s one hell of a super gravel bike if you can only have one to do it all.

Fabric

It’s only been a short time since Fabric came to the US market and they have yet to disappoint with their ingenuity. New for 2017 are their lineup lights. In particular, the $39 R30 rear light.

New Illumination offerings from Fabric. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
New Illumination offerings from Fabric. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Thirty lumens LED strip capable of running in 4 different modes off a USB rechargeable lithium battery rated for 8-9 hours depending on running mode, all housed inside a IPX5 water resistant outer case. Beneath the hood, Fabric added an accelerometer so the light will automatically glow brighter when the user brakes to slow down, just like the taillights on a car.

Ryders Eyewear

I must admit I am not familiar with Canadian sunglasses maker
Ryders Eyewear despite seeing their products at different places over the years. Sales of sports sunglasses is one tough competitive market but Ryders seems to have a lot of good technology neatly integrated across the board from their entry level model all the way to the no holds barred models.

(L-R) Aero, Seventh and Incline by Ryders Eyewear. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
(L-R) Aero, Seventh and Incline by Ryders Eyewear. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

A few details that caught my attention: Grilamid TR90 materials on all their non-metal frames that is super flexible. We tried to pull apart a frame without success, yet it was able to retain its shape after our post-presentation abuse. Second, integrated anti-fog in the back of the lens and hydrophobic coating in front to shed water. No more aftermarket mods!

Blue

Typically better known in the time-trial/triathlon scene but at PressCamp, however, Blue showed up with a slew of new additions to their 2017 line up and the Prosecco EX Carbon gravel bike is possibly one of the best value bikes from PressCamp. For $2,699, you’ll get a full carbon frame, hydraulic brakes AND Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic grouppo. Also cool is the slippery looking Leigh carbon track bike, race ready straight out of the box.

Blue Prosecco EX carbon Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Blue Prosecco EX carbon Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Blue Lehigh track bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Blue Lehigh track bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

GT

GT Pantera: Seems like brands are putting more focus on introductory/middle tier models this year at PressCamp and for that reason, GT reintroduced the Pantera back into their 2017 mountain bike lineup. Only this time with a sturdy new aluminum t6 frame, a competitive spec and most importantly 27.5+ wheels for comfort, maneuverability, and fun factor for the price ($1620 for the top of the line Expert model). It’s a very playful bike and I think it’ll be a hit next year.

GT Pantera Expert. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Pinarello

Pinarello is now in the gravel market with the addition of the GAN GR and GRs, with the latter equipped with a elastomer rear suspension delivering 10mm of travel similar to the absorber found on their Paris-Roubaix proven K8-S machine. Both models are disc only and heavily features design cues from their top of the line F8 road frame, but with ample tire clearance and fender mounts as well as a lower price point ($2850 with Shimano 105 and $5250 with Shimano Ultegra.)

Pinarello GAN GRS gravel bike. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Pinarello GAN GRS gravel bike disc with Shimano 105. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Elastomer suspension with 10mm of travel to soak up the road chatters. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Elastomer suspension with 10mm of travel to soak up the road chatters. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Thule

Many associate Thule with being the brand that makes racks and accessories for your car but the Swedish company is much much more than just a one trick pony. Thule has developed products such as rugged phone cases, and luggage bags. What caught my attention was the Covert Camera Bag: a rolltop-style backpack that’s been the rage lately but the dedicated camera compartment had some of the nicest inserts I’ve seen. We will be reviewing one very soon so stay tuned for updates!

Thule Covert camera backpack Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Thule Covert camera backpack Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Nicely padded inserts for the camera compartment. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Nicely padded inserts for the camera compartment. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Smith

Smith, being the first to incorporate the novelty Koroyd material into bicycle helmets, is back with two new affordable helmets (with Koroyd, of course) called the Rover (for MTB) and Route (for road.) While the original Overtake and Forefront helmets saw a full wrap of koroyd around the helmet, it drove the price of the helmet.

(L-R) Smith Route and Rover helmets. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
(L-R) Smith Route and Rover helmets. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

For the Rover and Route, Smith was able to strategically place Koroyd panels in the areas where it would likely see impact, thus lowering the price point. I know the last few sentences were full of Koroyd. I, in fact, was treated to an interesting presentation directly from Koroyd, 45 minutes on a single material backed by data, Surprisingly, though, it was also one of the more memorable, and convicing presentations during the week that would make you want to wear nothing but Koroyd gear. It’s that good.

Ridley

Ahh, the slippery fast Noah SL, now better with disc. We tested a caliper brake version of the Noah SL a while back and had a great time with it. For the Noah SL Disc, Ridley designers went back to added thru-axle front and rear for security and stiffness. Ridley’s split aero fork remains and we expect the bike to be even more capable than its caliper brake brethren.

Ridley Noah SL Disc. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Ellsworth

Six month is a long time in the bike biz and Ellsworth is back at Summer PressCamp with a new owner and a spiffy looking Rogue Sixty enduro machine with 160mm of rear travel. The iconic ICT suspension remains but founder Tony Ellsworth incorporated a 420mm short chain-stay, mil-spec dual row bearings, slack geometry, and hex taper-axles that should translate this carbon-framed bike into one sweet tight berm riding machine.

Ellsworth Rogue Sixty in orange and black Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly