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.
By Durant Imboden
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
How it works:
In 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.)
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
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:
The 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
(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
With 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