We recently reviewed the Manfrotto Pro Lite Flexloader backpack and raved about it. Shortly after the review went live, Hex reached out to us and said, hey, we think the new Hex Back Loader backpack V2 is just as good. So, we jumped at the chance to see if these words rang true.
I have been using the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 for a couple of weeks now and I have to say, it’s an impressive camera bag for the price. Let’s talk about it in our full review.
- Size and weight
- Nice camo design
- Very generous plush padding in laptop pockets
- Lots of storage space for gear and accessories
- Quick access panel
- Nicely priced
- The exterior zippers aren’t as smooth as others
- No pocket for a tripod, just straps
Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 — Tech specs
All technical specifications are from the official Hex website:
- Water resistant 900D poly exterior
- Quick access top opening, exterior phone/tablet pocket
- Increased padding in laptop compartment fits up to a 15″ MacBook Pro
- Adjustable interior dividers
- EVA foam protection
- Hideaway rain fly
- Air mesh back
- Genuine YKK zippers with custom metal pulls
- Side tripod straps and lay-flat water bottle pocket
- Non-skid bottom
- Volume: 20L, dimensions: 18.5″ H x 12.0″ W x 5.5″ D, weight: 3.25 lbs.
Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 — Ergonomics and build quality
The Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is a great-looking bag thanks to its unique camo design. The bag isn’t overly large and isn’t cumbersome. Actually, the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is deceiving when it comes to its size.
Measuring in with a height of 18.5 inches, a width of 12 inches, and a depth of 5.5 inches, you could easily think that the bag might not be able to hold lots of gear. You’d be wrong though (more on that later). These dimensions also make it carry-on friendly which is great news for travelers.
You can see from the front of the bag that two outer pockets sit at the bottom of the bag and that there is another storage sleeve under the top flap. Flip the bag around to the left side and you’ll see two adjustable straps that can hold a tripod or monopod. The right side has a lay-flat pocket that can hold a water bottle. The very top of the bag houses a quick-access flap that lets you get to your camera in a hurry.
The main compartment of the bag is accessed via a clamshell style flap on the rear of the bag. Flip it open and you’ll see just how much space there is in this mid-sized camera bag. The straps themselves are a nice size and are nicely contoured. They also feature a sternum strap which comes in handy.
Overall, the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is a nicely designed camera bag that is also quite stylish. With a tripod attached to the side, you’d not know that it’s housing expensive camera gear and that’s always a plus.
The Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is sturdy. The nylon Cordura material feels nice. It’s not super soft, but it has a nice texture to it. While not fully weatherproof, the bag does repel water rather well. There is an included rain cover (it fits under the front pocket) that you can use when the rain starts falling hard. All of the clasps feel nice, especially the heavy-duty metal one that secures the top flap. It would have been nice if the clasps that secured the tripod were metal as well.
The YKK zippers are good. However, they’re not the best I’ve ever used. At times they felt quite rough and would snag. The bottom of the bag has a great layer of waterproof material. You can set the bag on the ground and you don’t have to worry about getting it wet. The Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 has stood up to everything I have subjected it to. It doesn’t sport the same premium fit and finishes as the Manfrotto Pro Lite Flexloader, but then again, this bag is quite a bit cheaper.
What gear can it hold?
The Hex Back Loader V2 has oodles of space on the inside. Open up the clamshell of the bag and you’ll find the main gear compartment. There’s enough room for two non-gripped DSLRs or two mirrorless cameras, a large assortment of lenses, and even some flash units.
I loaded the bag with a Pentax K-3 III with the Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 ED PLM AW attached. Then there were four medium prime and zoom lenses along with a Godox/Flashpoint AD200. You can easily adjust the thick dividers to accommodate the gear you own. You could carry several longer zooms, multiple smaller primes, more cameras, a drone and so on. It’s a versatile system.
On the inside of the clamshell are two zippered compartments that can carry accessories such as cables, lens cleaning cloths, and brushes. Underneath is a pocket that’s sealed with Velcro. On the outside of the bag are two more compartments.
There’s one pocket that’s fleece-lined for a smaller tablet (think iPad Mini), and then there’s a smaller pocket that has space for accessories like pens, card readers, filters and more. There’s even a strap that you can hang your keys on so you don’t lose them.
Another sleeve hides under the top flap. This sleeve can house a 15-inch MacBook Pro or a large tablet. My 12.9-inch iPad Pro probably had the nicest trip of its life thanks to the soft fleece lining. There’s also a small compartment for a wallet or picture ID. The bag can carry a water bottle and a tripod. A complaint here is that there are only straps and no pocket to rest the tripod in. This worked OK, still, I’d prefer a pocket to slip the tripod into with the straps to secure it at the top.
Overall, you can see that the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 can house a lot of gear. Not as much as the Manfrotto Pro Lite Flexloader, which can easily house gripped camera bodies and a gimbal, but I would say that there’s plenty of room for most.
Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 — In the field
The Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is a comfortable bag. I loaded it up and set off on several extended photo walks to see how it (and how my back) would feel after a few hours. The shoulder straps and the back panel of the bag are well-padded and they have a breathable mesh covering them. After a few hours, I wasn’t sweating while wearing the bag and my shoulders and underarms felt fine.
The sternum strap helps keep the bag tight against your upper body, This strap is useful as you’re carrying a lot of weight around. The last thing you want is for the bag to be swinging around. Fortunately, the Hex Back Loader V2 stays quite secure.
Yay for quick access
One feature that I love is the quick access panel. You still have to take the Hex Back Loader V2 off your back to access it. However, not having to dive into the clamshell is a plus. You can get your camera and whatever lens is attached to it quickly.
It has a thoughtful layout
Another positive is the overall layout. The front pocket is just the right size. The small tablet pouch, which can be secured via a padlock thanks to the two zipper pulls, is a nice touch. The hidden main laptop/large tablet sleeve under the top flap adds a layer of security.
With the bag being a decent size you can easily wear it in urban settings without worrying about bumping into objects or people, which is something you do have to keep in mind with the Manfrotto Flexloader because it’s so deep. So, for jaunts from location to location, you’ll find that the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is a comfortable camera bag that will protect your gear well.
The Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is a solid buy at under $200
So, who should take a closer look at the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2? I think that photographers who like to carry it all with them should give it a try. The bag sports great build qualities, it holds and protects a lot of gear, and it’s comfortable. The main gear compartment is easy to configure and tailor to your needs.
The Hex Back Loader and the Manfrotto Pro Lite Flexloader should not be compared really. The Manfrotto Pro Lite Flexloader is for modern hybrid content creators who need to carry drones, gripped cameras, multiple lenses, multiple light stands and tripods, and a gimbal. The Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 is aimed more at photographers who want to bring a large selection of lenses along with them as well as a single tripod.
Both camera bags are great. However, for me, the Manfrotto Pro Lite Flexloader is the superior bag as I now carry a gimbal. I also prefer the premium fit and finish of it over the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2. The price of the Hex Back Loader V2 is great, though. Still, if you’re a photographer who wants to spend under $200 on a camera bag that can transport lots of gear, the Hex Backloader Backpack V2 will serve you well.
Hex Back Loader Backpack V2
If you’re a photographer who needs a camera bag that will help you get multiple cameras, lenses, and laptops/tablets from location to location, the Hex Back Loader Backpack V2 might be the bag for you. This bag can be configured to suit your needs, it’s well made and it provides plenty of protection for your gear. Priced at under $200, this comfortable camera bag deserves to be looked at closely.