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Mindshift Gear's
rotation180° Travel Away Backpack

Product Review

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ABOVE: Durant Imboden wears the rotation180° Travel Away backpack in Venice, Italy. INSET PHOTOS: The built-in belt pack's front compartment, a side view of the backpack with the belt pack stowed, the rotating belt pack's magnetic lock, and the rotation system in use.

belt pack

If you've ever been torn between buying a backpack or a belt pack, Mindshift Gear has you covered: Its rotation180° design gives you a two-in-one solution, combining a backpack with a belt pack that can be worn concealed inside the backpack or deployed instantly for quick access to your phone or small tablet, point-and-shoot camera, passport, maps, and other travel essentials.

How it works:

side view with belt pack stowedIn rotation180°  backpacks (such as the rotation180° Travel Away, which I field-tested in Italy), the lower part of the backpack has a horizontal channel between the backpack's main compartment and your lower back.

Inside this channel is a belt pack with a large zippered compartment that has several pockets inside. The compartment is big enough to accommodate an iPad Mini, a Kindle, or a guidebook.

The belt pack also has two zippered ""belt-wing pockets," each large enough for a compact camera.

When you don't need access to your tablet, e-reader, and other travel items, you can leave the belt pack inside its concealed channel within the backpack. (The belt-wing pockets will remain accessible, and the belt portion of the beltpack will serve as a conventional waist belt.)

release buttonLater, if you want to use the belt pack, you just reach back with your right hand, press a spring-loaded release button, and pull the belt pack around to the front. Deploying the belt pack takes only a few seconds.

You can reverse the process just as quickly--and to save you from having to relock the release button, Mindshift Gear uses a magnetic mechanism that grabs and locks automatically when you stow the belt pack.

What's inside the backpack:

The Travel Away backpack is designed to fit airline overhead compartments. Its exterior dimensions are 30 x 51 x 18 cm (11.8" x 20.1" x 7.1"), which are well within the carry-on limits of most domestic and international airlines.

Inside the backpack, you'll find a tall, deep zippered outer compartment with a smaller zippered pocket and two open-topped pockets within. (One of the open-topped pockets is big enough to accommodate an iPad or other tablet of similar size.)

Behind the outer pocket is another zippered compartment that's big enough for a 15" laptop. (This compartment also has small elasticized pockets for miscellaneous items.)

On the outside of the backpack, you'll find two stretch pockets for water bottles.

The padded "airflow harness," back panel, and belt-wing pockets are covered in a breathable material for greater comfort in hot weather.

My impressions after field-testing:

rotating the beltpackThe rotation180° Travel Away backpack has a clever design, and if you dislike wearing a travel vest or jacket (especially in warm weather), the built-in belt pack is a great convenience: It provides easy access to a camera, maps, guidebook, etc. when you're walking around, and you can rotate the belt pack into the backpack (where it will be protected from pickpockets) when you don't need it.

On the downside, the concealed belt pack channel cuts into the backpack's available storage space, so the Travel Away will seem smaller than other backpacks when you're trying to stuff it full of bulky clothes and other gear.

(If you want more space, you can splurge on one of Mindshift Gear's larger backpacks for photographers, the rotation180° Professional and the rotation180° Professional Deluxe. The latter includes such features as a 3-liter "hydration reservoir pocket" and a "front pleated stash pocket" for a jacket or other clothing.)

Bottom line:

mindshift logoWith a list price of USD 199, the rotation180° Travel Away backpack isn't for everyone, but it's a well-made product with a useful feature--the rotating belt pack--that you won't find on conventional backpacks.

For more information on Mindshift Gear's rotation180° backpack collection, or to order online, visit:

www.mindshiftgear.com

BELOW: Need access to the items in your hidden beltpack? Press a button and rotate the beltpack around to the front. (You can also rotate the beltpack into the backpack on the fly.)