Just about a year ago, I tested out a new piece of gear and did a lengthy video review. I took the Rotation180 from Mindshift Gear into the villages of remote China and put it through the test of international travel, inspections, and the rigors of rain soaked muddy roads and long sloppy hikes. You can see the review of the bag here.
After having this bag for a year now, I consider it an integral part of my camera gear if I am doing anything other than a normal shoot in town. I have bumped into one small issue though, the size. It is a big bag and when I tried to take it in the capital tour on a recent trip to Washington DC, I wound up having to leave it in my senators office. A great solution to this would be the bag called the Panorama Rotation180 by the same company, but I only discovered that in hindsight.
That being said, I decided to take this bag in a different direction, into the wild. I am blessed in that we have a decent sized wilderness area located in the Kisatche National Forest in the middle of the state of Louisiana. There is a short 7 mile loop through this area where nothing mechanical can be driven; no bikes, ATV’s, jeeps, NOTHING! And it is awesome! As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t believe you are still in Louisiana with all the hills and sandstone rock outcroppings. It was into this area I set my sights. I did a short 1.5 miles walk though the area to decide what kind of camping I wanted to come back and do and settled on hammock camping. If you have not tried this yet, they are fairly inexpensive and incredibly comfortable!
A couple of reviews that I have read regarding the Rotation180 was that it was too small for serious backcountry camping. That depends on what you deem as necessary to have with you. Let me share my thought process and then my load out.
#1 item to consider – Shelter. The hammock of choice for me is the Yukon Outfitters Mosquito Hammock. Even in the winter time, those pesky mosquitos can show up and make for a miserable camping trip. This little hammock weighs in at 1.55 lbs with the hardware. It does not however include the tarp or the straps to attach it to trees. I went with the ENO Atlas strap system which can be picked up on Amazon for $30. The hammock can be found for $40 on Amazon or if you are lucky, you can find it for $30 like I did on Woot!. So my entire shelter only weighed 3.25 lbs. Not too bad.
#2 – Staying warm. I was able to pack silk thermals and enough layers to keep me very comfortable in the 40 Degree weather. That wasn’t that cold and I actually never even put the silk layer to use. I slept in a 0 degree bag and found myself more than warm at night. Plus being suspended in air, I didn’t have the ground drawing any body heat away. In colder weather, that means I don’t need a thermal ground cover (as long as there are trees). The bag I have is actually as old as I am (40+ years) and so its 7 Lb bulkiness can be dropped in half today thanks to advances in technology.
#3 – Water and a container to carry it in. Although the Rotation180 has a place for a water bladder, I prefer something a little tougher. I would hate to rupture the bladder with a fall. So throw in a water bottle and a filtration system and you are ready to go… as long as there is a water source. It had rained the night before I set out on my hike, so I knew the creeks would have something to offer.
#4 – Fire. I also had multiple means of starting a fire, but the aforementioned rain waterlogged the wood, so I didn’t bother to fight it. So, to cook, I packed my trusty little Jetboil. I am in love with this little gem. It is amazing! Boils water faster than you can open the food packs and take out the little moisture absorbency packet. Well, almost.
#5 – Food. Having partaken my fair share of MRE’s, I wanted something a little better and went with some of the dehydrated stuff. Pretty dang good, and very light weight. I had 3 meals and a dessert packed.
#6 – Knife/ camp ax/ etc. I packed a small camp hatchet, my always present Leatherman and a sidearm for protection since I was by myself. We will leave it at that.
#7 – First aid kit. Don’t leave home without it. I didn’t need it, but you never know when you might.
All of these items and other miscellaneous needs all fit in the top portion of the bag, leaving the rotation part 100% available for camera gear.
So what did I pack in there? My Canon 5D, GoPro Hero3 Black, extra batteries and cards and my Pivothead glasses. I strapped the tripod to the back of the bag in the wonderful tripod pouch and then strapped my Voltaic Systems solar charger over the top of that. With this setup, I will run out of food, LONG before I run out of power.
This whole setup wound up being between 40-45 lbs. I hiked 4 miles into the wilderness area and had to makes some adjustments to the straps to handle the load a little better. Although this bag is made well enough to carry twice this weight, I am not sure of the comfort level of going much higher. With the majority of the weight on your hips, the hip strap just isn’t as comfortable as a larger, traditional hiking back pack. BUT, I was not uncomfortable in the 40 lbs weight range once I got everything set right.
So can the Rotation180 work in the backcountry? Yes, but it will limit your stay by how much food you can squeeze in this thing. I did an overnight and it worked great. My next outing will be 2-3 nights and I will have to update then.
Additionally, I am in the process of dropping weight in the bag, trimming things down and that should make a difference. I am also making some modifications that will up the tech factor of the bag. All of this is being completed in the very near future, so stay tuned for what is coming next.