I was recently asked if I was interested in reviewing the Tamrac Anvil Super 25 backpack. I get lots of similar requests and turn most down due to lack of time (or interest). But, every so often, the request is for a product that I think is interesting, think you will find interesting or simply holds a good position in its niche. The Anvil Super 25 meets all three of those criterion and I said yes.
I heard nothing further and went about life thinking little more of the offer. Then one day a box randomly showed up at the front door with the backpack in it. I love getting boxes as they usually contain something fun and ... getting new camera backpack always meets the definition of fun.
I subscribe to the "You can't have too many camera cases" mindset as there are always specific needs waiting to be filled. The Tamrac Anvil Super 25 is meant to fill the single-big-lens-with-camera-mounted niche. As these lenses are most often used by wildlife and sports photographers, those are the photographers most-targeted by this backpack design.
How did "Anvil" end up in this backpack's name? I'll let Tamrac explain: "Inspired by both the beautiful but potentially dangerous cloud formations and the tougher than nails tools used by blacksmiths since the beginnings of human history, the Tamrac Anvil carries all your photography gear to the grittiest and most beautiful places on earth."
Here is a tour of the case:
The Anvil Super 25's lid curves into the top and the pair of zipper pulls highlight this fact. Rather well-concealed is the YKK zipper these pulls are attached to. This zipper is smaller-toothed than some alternative packs on the market today, but it works fine and again, the zipper teeth are better-hidden (and arguably more-attractive). With no flap around the zipper, inside or outside, there will be no hang-ups caused by such. The zipper pulls have a semi-segmented plastic coating to make the loop easy to grasp yet somewhat flexible for comfort.
Behind the zipper pulls in the above image is the substantially strong carry handle. This handle is flexible, yet easy to grasp (it is raised, but can compress to flat) and, with padding inside the nylon, quite comfortable.
At the bottom of the front, the Anvil Super 25 provides a small zippered pocket. Small items can be stored here, or, the foot/feet of a monopod or tripod can be placed into it. A pair of quick-release tripod straps loop through a pair of attachment points as shown above. These straps are detachable and are not captive, but with the buckles on each end of the straps, they do not easily come out unintentionally.
The right side of the Anvil Super 25 features an elastic-secured pouch, ideal for holding a water bottle or other small items. A pair of large, thick, semi-rigid, full-side-spanning, plastic-encasing nylon straps cross the side of the pack and provide attachment points compatible with a wide set of standards including Tamrac Arc and MOLLE/PALS (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment / Pouch Attachment Ladder System), the current military standard for attaching pouches and other accessories.
There is nothing new here. The left side is identical to the right, ready for your custom configuration.
As usual for a backpack, there is a lot going on in back of this case. I'll start with the belt. The removable belt is very wide (over 5" / 12 cm) with a slight taper to the buckle. The belt is modestly padded and slides through the heavily padded lower portion of the backpack.
A 2" (5 cm) wide nylon web wraps around the padded portion of the belt and fastens via a large buckle. The usual waist adjustment is provided along with pair of adjustment straps leading back to the pack itself. Though I wouldn't call the belt padding thick, it is quite adequate for its size, distributing weight nicely on the hips.
The roughly 3" (8 cm) wide, padded shoulder straps are sewn directly into the pack (vs. an adjustable harness system) and have some height adjustment made possible via adjustment straps at the top. The strap keepers used on these straps are nice, keeping the strap tails in place. The primary strap length adjustments are made available below the padded portion of the strap (the backpack standard method). The sternum strap is height adjustable and removable. The shoulder straps are contoured for comfort.
Various attachment loops are provided on the back of the pack, on both the belt and on the shoulder straps. A pair of plastic D-rings on the shoulder straps are ready to hold a camera (with the proper connection system) or anything else you want to clip to the pack.
Substantial padding is provided on the back of the pack, keeping even heavy weights comfortable. Carrying heavy weight on one's back typically leads to overheating and the airflow-enabling features utilized here keeps that heat issue minimized.
There is very little to talk about here – the bottom of this case is void of features. The bottom of this case will be what you sit on the ground most of the time, so ... you probably will not utilize features here anyway.
The inside of this backpack consists of one primary storage area, designed to secure and protect a large lens with or without a camera mounted. Shown toward the top in the above image is a hook-and-loop height-adjustable pad that centers the mount of a lens ideally for a gripped/pro camera body and works fine with smaller cameras as well. A hook-and-loop closure strap holds the lens in place. Four thick hook-and-loop-attached pads (2 large, 2 medium) can be attached or removed as desired to center the lens in the case and cushion against impact.
The lid offers 4 small pockets (ideal for memory cards) and a larger zippered transparent pocket.
Important for a camera backpack that will see lots of outdoor use is weather protection. Tamrac includes a rain cover with the Anvil Super 25. However, I don't think they included the right model with the pack I received. Pics on Tamrac's site show the rain cover fitting snuggly over the Anvil Super 25. The cover I received barely fits over the pack vertically, but it has room for many side attachments.
The rain cover that I received folds into a convenient, permanently-attached pouch that measures about 4 x 4" (100 x 100mm).
Overall, this pack is a very tall relative to its depth and width.
|Dimensions||Anvil Super 25||Glass Limo||Lens Trekker 600 AW||FirstLight 40L|
|External Dimensions||10 x 22.5 x 10.5"||9 x 20 x 9.2"||11.9 x 26.2 x 16.25"||13.8 x 21.7 x 9"|
|Internal Dimensions||8.5 x 21 x 9.5"||8.7 x 19 x 8.3"||7.9 x 24 x 8.7"||10.8 x 17.5 x 5.3"|
|Weight||4.4 lbs||2.6-3.9 lbs||7.3 lbs||6.0 lbs|
|Volume||6.6 gal||n/a||n/a||10.6 gal|
|External Dimensions||25 x 57 x 27 cm||22.9 × 50.8 × 23.4 cm||30.2 x 66.6 x 41.3 cm||35 x 55 x 22.9 cm|
|Internal Dimensions||22 x 54 x 24 cm||22.1 × 48.2 × 21.1 cm||20 x 61 x 22 cm||34 x 51 x 18.5 cm|
|Weight||2.0 kg||1.1-1.8 kg||3.3 kg||2.7 kg|
|Volume||25 L||n/a||n/a||40 L|
At 4.4 lbs (2 kg), This is a lightweight pack for its size.
For those planning to fly with their camera gear, airline carry-on limitations are always an important consideration. The last limitations I saw for domestic US flights were 9 x 14 x 22" (22 x 35 x 56cm). Based on Tamrac's specs, two of these dimensions are slightly exceeded. However, placing a tape measure on my pack (with nothing stored on the sides) shows that the width dimension can easily be compressed to 9.5" (24cm) and the height will easily compress below the 22" (56cm) mark with the load shown below. As always, the risk is yours, but ... you will likely be able to get the Anvil Super 25 on a plane.
Dimensions, at least in many regards, lead directly to a backpack's capacity.
Capacity is always a top priority for backpack selection – what good is a backpack if it will not hold your gear? As mentioned in the beginning of this review, the Anvil Super 25 is designed for a single big lens. According to Tamrac, "The Anvil Super 25 is designed to carry up to an 800mm lens or up to a 500mm attached to a pro DSLR with battery grip."
I of course had to try a 600 f/4 with a pro body mounted and ... it fits. But, the fit is quite snug, straining the zipper modestly (at least initially before some slight stretching occurred) That is the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens mounted to the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in the above image. All four of the bottom pads have been removed to accommodate the reversed hood size. This really is the maximum gear size the case will hold and, again, this fit is quite snug.
Don't forget that the attachment points allow a variety of additional gear to be configured to this case.
Tamrac says that the "Anvil was designed from the ground up utilizing over ten different optimized foams for the perfect balance of weight and protection." Listed materials include:
A dense padding is provided all around the pack with a thicker pad in the bottom, better cushioning a hard set-down (or drop).
The Tamrac Anvil 25 has a softer, more matte exterior material than some of the other available packs. I don't see this being either an advantage or disadvantage functionally, but more of a preference.
I took the Anvil Super 25 loaded as shown above along with a monopod attached to the exterior on a fast 1.5 mi (2.4km) hike that included plenty of steep verticals and multiple stream crossings. I simply put the out-of-the-box setup on my back, adjusted the belt, shoulder strap and sternum strap to be snug and went on my way. It was not long before I found the bottom of the shoulder strap pads mildy annoying, pressing slightly into my ribs. Fortunately, a small amount of adjusting corrected that issue (tightened the sternum strap and lengthened the shoulder straps slightly) and then pack was a joy to carry.
There is no getting around having whatever weight you are carrying being supported by your lower body, but having a pack rest comfortably on your hips yet staying close to your body makes life much better and avoids upper body strain. The Anvil Super 25's belt is very wide, but quite comfortable, riding nicely on the hips. The contents remained secure and I didn't feel like the pack was throwing me off-balance even when hopping over rocks in the streams and ducking under branches, etc. The narrowness of the pack makes going between obstacles easy.
This pack's airflow design works. My hike day was very hot and humid and I sweated profusely, but the pack didn't overheat my lower back.
I didn't find much to complain about while reviewing this pack. Adding 1/2" to the case height would make the 600 f/4L IS II mounted to a pro body fit more comfortably, but ... airline carry-on compliance may be further compromised in this case. I already mentioned that I think the wrong rain cover was included, but I'm sure that Tamrac would correct that issue. Otherwise, it seems like other complaints would stem more from personal preferences or specific needs this pack was not designed to support.
The Think Tank Photo Glass Limo is another backpack worth considering. The Limo holds up to a 500 f/4 with a pro body mounted and can optionally be configured as a standard camera backpack with the provided divider system. The Limo is slightly smaller (9 x 20 x 9.2" vs 10 x 22.5 x 10.5") (22.9 × 50.8 × 23.4 cm vs. 25 x 57 x 27 cm) and slightly lighter (2.6-3.9 vs. 4.4 lbs) (1.1-1.8 vs. 2.0 kg). Note that the Pro Speed Belt is optional with the Limo.
The Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW (currently on version III) is another long lens-specific case. This pack is huge – very substantially larger than the Tamrac (11.9 x 26.2 x 16.25" vs. 10 x 22.5 x 10.5") (30.2 x 66.6 x 41.3 cm vs. 25 x 57 x 27 cm). But, the 600 AW will swallow up the 600 f/4 with a pro body attached. The extra size translates into extra weight in this case (7.3 vs. 4.4 lbs) (3.3 vs. 2.0 kg).
Most of the other competing backpacks are more conventionally designed with configurable padded dividers. The MindShift Gear FirstLight 40L is one of my current favorites. The FirstLight 40L holds a 600 f/4 with pro body mounted very slightly more comfortably than the Anvil Super 25 does. The FirstLight 40L is larger in width, but slightly smaller in height and depth (13.8 x 21.7 x 9" vs 10 x 22.5 x 10.5") (35 x 55 x 22.9 cm vs. 25 x 57 x 27 cm). That extra width accommodates substantial additional accessories inside the pack (vs. using optional attachments). Additional storage space often correlates with additional weight and that is the case here (6.0 vs. 4.4 lbs) (2.7 vs. 2.0 kg). The extra width also correlates to more difficult navigation between people in crowds and between brush and trees in the forest.
To make comparisons easier, these three alternatives are included in the chart above.
While this is the first Tamrac backpack I've used, I have known of Tamrac for a very long time and have always respected the brand (Sean's current primary backpack is a Tamrac and he really likes it). Not long ago, another brand that I also like and have a bit more experience with, Gura Gear, purchased Tamrac. I have not seen any negative implications for Tamrac products due to the acquisition and, knowing Gura Gear, I do not expect there to be any. The Anvil Super 25 is a high quality case that I don't (and didn't) hesitate to entrust some very valuable gear to. My first Tamrac experience was a positive one. This pack is definitely worth considering for your long lens carry, transport and storage needs.
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