“Simplify, then add lightness.” – Colin Chapman
Moment is a brand that we have been featuring more and more here on Carryology. They began with producing excellent lenses to enhance mobile photography opportunities. But they’ve gone on to build an entire community around creatives. From housing their own shop for all things photo and video, to educational courses and lessons on relevant topics in those fields, to providing support and buying advice on all of the gear they offer, all while also producing their line of bags which continues to expand at a rapid pace. Suffice it to say, they’ve been busy.
Now they’re beginning a whole new endeavor by partnering with creatives to launch signature purpose-built models and they’re starting with photographer Alex Strohl, with whom they’ve designed the Moment x Strohl Mountain Light 45 (Mountain Light from here on). The bag is designed around two core principles, lightness and camera access; they chose each material for its weight-saving nature and have built a bag that is meant to be flexible.
Alex wanted to create a bag that was focused on just the essentials, traveling fast and light while out adventuring with a camera. It’s a concept that resonates with me deeply, as it’s perilously easy for photographers to wind up bringing so much gear with us that we end up missing the entire purpose of a trip. When the gear gets in the way of an experience, it’s time to reassess what you’re carrying.
Moment was able to send me a pre-production sample (which means there will have been some final adjustments made to the retail version) to get an early look at the design. I was eager to take a quick look to see how this bag handled and if it ultimately met their intended design goals. This is Moment’s first proper outdoor backpack, but it’s also currently the lightest outdoor camera backpack on the market. Let’s dig in.
Name: Moment x Strohl Mountain Light 45
Format: Outdoors backpack
Measurement: 31.5″H x 10.5″W x 10″D
Total weight: 2lbs, 6oz (1.08kg); Core backpack: 2lbs, 1oz (0.93kg)
Zippers: YKK #5RC
Material: 210D CORDURA® Lite Ripstop Nylon
Alex Strohl approached Moment with his ideas for designing a lightweight camera bag that would be able to meet his needs on one of his many adventures as a photographer. It needed to be fast to access, uncomplicated in its design, and above all, as light as possible. I, like Alex, have been through countless numbers of camera bags and backpacks in my journey as a photographer (both professionally and as an enthusiast). And though there are surely very good bags out there, a vast majority of them fall short of success when it comes to using them outdoors.
If you’re headed out on a multi-day trip or even just an overnight, there is a reasonable amount of extra “stuff” one needs to pack aside from just a camera, and this is where most bags fail. It’s typically 80%+ space for camera gear and 20% or less for the rest of your stuff. Well, with the Moment x Strohl Mountain Light, Alex and Moment have flipped the script.
This is a bag that is focused on the essentials. Carrying only what you need and then focusing on the experience. Their emphasis was on creating a bag that keeps you fast and light; Alex calls it “the running shoe of camera backpacks”. It is at its best when you decide before you leave, what gear you need and pack only that. One camera, and one to two lenses (or a few if you use smaller primes as I do), a couple of extras like batteries, memory cards, maybe a filter or two and that’s it. Leave the rest at home.
Who It Suits
This is a bag that is going to appeal to anyone who requires a lightweight backpacking option that is capable of carrying a small (but sufficient) amount of camera gear and enough supplies for anything from a day trip to a multi-day excursion. If you’re an ultralight backpacker who needs to bring some camera gear on a trek, give this bag a look.
Who It Doesn’t
This bag isn’t going to work for you if you require a ton of built-in organization or if you need to haul an extensive amount of camera gear. It is ideal for light packers. So if you’re one to bring everything plus the kitchen sink, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Additionally, it’s not suited for daily carry or even ideally configured for laptops and other tech.
When I first opened the box this fairly large pack shipped in, I remarked at how light it was. Sure, it’s not a true featherweight pack. But for having a fully padded back panel, sufficient harness, removable frame, and camera insert, it’s remarkably light (when empty). This seems like a simple bag on the surface. But as you begin to delve into the details, one begins to appreciate all the design touches and thoughtful features. You soon realize that this is very clearly a purpose-built pack. The light weight (for its size) comes from the 210D CORDURA® Lite fabric. It’s very abrasion and tear-resistant and features proper waterproofing thanks to the internal coating and taped seams which will keep your gear safe and dry from the elements. Water simply beads up and rolls right off the face fabric.
The rear access to the camera compartment is a much smaller-than-typical opening than one would find on photography-focused packs, as those predominantly feature a full-zip back panel. I actually prefer this implementation even though it ever so slightly impedes camera access for larger camera bodies, but it’s not enough to really be a problem. The insert itself is hard-sided and I loved the protective nature of it. I found it just the right size for my equipment and I felt very confident storing camera gear in there. Also when placing the bag down, the structure of the insert inherently adds some protection for your gear.
In addition to the camera insert, they are also producing a top-loading camera pouch which is an optional extra. It’s designed to mount onto the hip belt for quick camera access. But they’ve given it a few different mounting options to keep it flexible. The pouch features the same CORDURA® Lite material as the pack, but with padding throughout to protect your camera. Size-wise I am able to just barely fit my larger mirrorless camera body with a prime lens attached. But anything smaller than my setup should work just fine as my rig is extra chunky. Both the camera insert and top-loader pouch are available separately or as a bundle with the Mountain Light.
If you’re the kind of person who’s comfortable with top-loader backpacks, you’ll be right at home with the Mountain Light. It’s one large cavern that you can quickly stuff with your gear and hit the trail. In fact, the only real organization to speak of is one stretchy compartment along the back panel which you could use as a stash pocket, but it is designed to hold a hydration bladder. I was able to comfortably fit a 2L bladder inside. But my larger 3.1L bladder was unfortunately too tall to be secured with the hanging loop. The bladder hose can be routed out of the pack via a concealed opening and secured to either strap on the harness. I would have liked to be able to carry my larger hydration bladder just out of preference. But the space provided is sufficient for the intended application.
I loved that the exterior side pockets are so generously sized but stay nice and tidy when not in use. These were easily able to handle any size water bottle I had available (tested up to a 40oz Hydro Flask). I could even comfortably fit my tripod in the pocket and lash the legs down with the side compression strap. The front stretch pocket is equally useful for quick storage of any loose items you need to drop off your person (like gloves or a light shell), though there’s no organization, so keep that in mind.
The silhouette of the pack is both tall and slim. But the give of the material allows you to stuff it full if need be, more than you might think. If you’re traveling light for a day hike, you can remove the top brain and cinch down the sides to help compress the bag and make it more manageable in size. The top opening uses a cinch cord to keep things secure. But an additional flap attaches to the main G-hook on the front of the pack as an alternative closure method. This flexibility in capacity is a real positive trait, allowing you to utilize the pack comfortably in more scenarios. This extends its usage envelope, which makes it good value.
I appreciate the mindset it puts you into as you begin to pack. By forcing you to bring less camera gear, you’re more apt to bring only what you need. So you can focus on the experience of your trip and be ready to capture images, rather than always changing lenses or worrying about what gear you should be using. It makes packing intentional and I like that, a lot.
Not So Good
I’m adding a caveat to this section with a reminder that the bag I’ve used is a near-final production version. There will be some small adjustments made in the ones shipping out to buyers. So some of my concerns may be alleviated in the final production model.
As someone over 6′ tall, I appreciate that Moment offers multiple sizes of this pack to accommodate differently sized torsos. I have been testing the Large size which is suitable for my tall frame. However, I wish the padding in the harness straps was a bit longer to keep the buckles from digging in under my arms. (This is where that caveat applies. Moment has informed me that the final version will feature longer and slightly more contoured strap padding).
It’s not uncomfortable, and it may not even be an issue for you personally. But it’s something I often struggle with on packs and wanted to at least call it out. As such, it’s enough that I notice the weight of the pack when it is heavily loaded. Given that the bag is designed to be an ultralight packer, I need to call out that it is best suited for lighter loadouts. I ultimately loaded too much with 30+lbs in the pack during testing. The ideal weight range for this pack is 10-20lbs according to Moment’s designers.
I also noticed that after some time hiking, the Velcro tabs which hold the camera insert in place are starting to come unglued. I found this curious as they still hold the insert in place but the tab itself is hook on one side and loop on the other. The tab is still secured into the stitching of the pack but I did find it odd that it was glued in the first place, rather than sewn.
This is not a bag for being hyper-organized; if you need to have specific places to store everything, this will probably frustrate you. You can mitigate the lack of organization to some degree by using pouches. But even then they’ll just be free-floating within the main compartment. This isn’t a flaw in the design; it’s just something you need to be okay with going into a pack like this. I found myself wishing for just a little more organization for smaller items, as I was more or less forced into using pouches to contain everything (which isn’t outside of my normal packing methodologies).
Lastly, I want to touch on the warranty for the Moment x Strohl Mountain Light. For a new design, and at this price point, a two-year warranty is a bit limiting in my opinion. But I will add a caveat to this opinion with the fact that with ultralight backpacks, wear and tear can wind up being accelerated due to the nature of the thinner materials in use. Two years is Moment’s standard warranty for all of their products. However, to their credit, if you do have a failure that’s not related to normal wear and tear, it’s always best to reach out to them directly as they’ll likely take care of you.
So while I am calling this out as a con, mostly because we’re growing so accustomed to long-term or even lifetime warranties, I do appreciate that Moment does try to make sure their customers are looked after, even outside of the normal warranty period.
The Moment x Strohl Mountain Light 45 is an overall impressive new design for Moment; it allowed them to flex their soft-goods design muscles and demonstrate that they are capable of and committed to expanding their portfolio of purpose-built bags. I particularly enjoyed that while the bag was designed around carrying photography gear, it wants you to embrace a “fast and light” mindset and put the experience before the gear in your travels. This is something I’ve often struggled with as a photographer. I appreciate the level of focus the bag affords the user in being present in the moment (pun intended). If this is the kind of gear Moment is going to be producing going forward, well I think we should all be paying attention.
Well done, Moment.