Think Tank Rotation 360 Backpack Review

Update Feb 2010: I’ve recently replaced my Think Tank Rotation 360 with a Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive. I found I wasn’t using the rotation feature of the 360 that much, and sometimes needed to haul a little more gear. The Streetwalker HardDrive is lighter weight than the Rotation 360, holds more gear, and can hold a laptop for airplane carry-on usage. The only thing I liked better about the Rotation 360 was the very comfortable, wide waist belt. For the Streetwalker HardDrive I added a Think Tank Pro Speed Belt. When I get to a location I can either shoot with the whole bag, or remove the belt and attach Think Tank Modular Components (usually just a Speed Changer, lens pouch, and water bottle holder). The laptop and spare gear stays in the backpack back in the room or in the car. So far this system has proved very versatile, and I’m happy with the change.

If you decide to order any Think Tank gear, take advantage of this special link that will let you add a free accessory to your shopping cart!

Think Tank Rotation 360 Backpack Review

If you’ve been a photographer for a while, chances are you’ve tried a few different ways to carry your camera gear. Figuring out how to efficiently pack your gear for protection and easy access can be a challenge, but I feel like I’m at a point where my bag situation is pretty dialed in. Depending on what I’m shooting and how much I have to carry, I have 2 backpacks, 2 shoulder bags, and a beltpack from which to choose. I didn’t really need another camera bag.

And then I saw the Think Tank Rotation 360 online. The most innovative design feature of this backpack is the bottom section is actually a beltpack that can rotate around to allow easy access to your gear without taking off the bag – perfect for quick lens changes.

Going into orbit

I’ve been testing the Rotation 360 since January, and it’s really easy to use. The beltpack rotates around smoothly, and is positioned to provide a stable place to change lenses. Rotating the beltpack back into the backpack is also fast after you get used to it. There are well positioned handles on each side of the beltpack for a solid grip, and a quick little wiggle ensures it seats nicely back into position. There is a locking pull tab on the belt to help keep the beltpack in place, and you can clip the beltpack to the backpack for extra security when traveling. I am extremely pleased with how well the rotation feature works. Once you’ve tried this bag, you’ll notice how many times you set your regular backpack down in the course of a shoot to access your gear.

Get up, stand up

Speaking of setting your bag down, the Rotation 360 stands up straight because the bottom of the backpack frame is completely flat. My other backpacks have a propensity to topple over into the dirt, so I really appreciate this feature. The ergonomic carrying handle on the top of the bag is also nicely designed.

Protect Your Neck

I’m a longtime fan of Optech neoprene straps because they comfortably distribute the weight on your neck when walking. The Think Tank folks include what looks like a basic camera strap with the bag, and it attaches to the backpack’s shoulder straps. I’m such an Optech fan I wasn’t even going to try it – man, am I glad I did. The Think Tank strap has a small metal loop on each side. The backpack has metal clips on the shoulder straps – simply attach the clips to the camera strap ring and all the weight magically disappears from your neck. The clips are easy to connect, height adjustable, and store away neatly when not in use. Many pro camera bodies can weigh 5 pounds with a lens attached. When clipped to the shoulder straps, your camera provides a counter balance for the gear on your back. This setup not only protects your neck, but also really helps comfortably distribute the load by moving some weight to the front.

Ergonomics

The part of the bag that contacts your back is quite comfortable due to a nicely designed back pad system. The padding in the lumbar area is thicker than other bags. In addition to being comfortable, the placement of the padding creates space between your back and the bag, which allows for ventilation on hot days.

The shoulder straps are comfortable and easy to adjust, as is the sternum strap. The beltpack strap is wide enough to help put some of the load on your hips, but not bulky. The belt strap attaches to the right of center, which keeps the clips from rubbing on your pants or belt buckle — a small but thoughtful design detail. I’ve been on multiple 4-5 hour adventures using the Think Tank 360, and it’s the next best thing to having a sherpa.

Tripod System

A standard sized tripod can be carried by putting 2 legs into a mesh pocket on the outside of the lower backpack compartment. While the durability of mesh for this purpose concerned me at first, I found the tripod carrying system to work just fine. I secured the tripod with the built in strap at the top that’s hidden in a zippered pocket when not in use. A bottom strap that’s not built into the bag is included, but I didn’t find it to be necessary. For a more balanced load when carrying large tripods there is a hidden fold down pouch on the bottom of the bag.

How Much Stuff Fits?

The Rotation 360 holds 1-2 camera bodies, 2-3 lenses, flash and accessories. I’ve been carrying a Canon 5D with a 24-70/2.8L mounted in the top compartment, which I then pull out when I get where I’m going. A jacket and snack can then go into the space where the camera was. A backup camera body or extra lens can also go in the top compartment with filters or other accessories. In the beltpack I’ve got a fast telephoto prime lens for more reach or portraits, along with a 580EX flash, Lensbaby, lens cloth, and extra AA batteries. The bottom outside pocket of the backpack holds a cell phone, gels, notebook, pens, and business cards. The beltpack has a separate small built-in pouch on the side that’s perfect for quick access to important items like extra camera batteries, memory cards, and dark chocolate.

Carrying more stuff

You can attach Think Tank modulus components to the waistbelt for quick access. If you normally shoot with a standard zoom but occasionally need quick access to a telephoto zoom, mounting a lens changer right on the belt might be the way to go. If you prefer to keep your lenses in the backpack, you could use the space for a Lightning Fast flash pouch, or R U Thirsty water bottle holder.

The upper side area of the backpack also has room for modulus components. The bag is narrow enough where attaching extra accessories on the top doesn’t make it too bulky. Having a medium sized backpack that’s expandable is a good way to have a lot of flexibility when packing your gear.

The bag also comes with straps to attach a jacket to the bottom. It looks like a jacket might hit you in the butt when attached this way, but it actually works quite well. With your bag full of photo gear and a tripod on the back, putting a jacket on the bottom is actually a smart idea.

Talk About The Weather

The seam-sealed rain cover for the backpack fits nicely, and has a Velcro strap that goes through the beltpack hole to keep it secure. As you may want to use just the beltpack on occasion, it has its’ own built in raincover that fits well and hides away when not in use.

Nitpicking

The lower tripod strap and bottom strap are not attached to the bag. I haven’t been using the lower tripod strap, and would decide if I needed to use the bottom strap before leaving home, so this isn’t a big issue. The bag also comes with a shoulder strap for using with the beltpack. I couldn’t figure out how you would carry the beltpack with the shoulder strap — the folks at Think Tank let me know that the shoulder strap is for extra support when using the beltpack by itself to carry a heavy load.

Conclusion

In case you couldn’t tell already, I am a big fan of the Rotation 360 – it’s a versatile, thoughtfully designed bag. Think Tank president/designer Doug Murdoch and designer Mike Sturm have many years of camera bag experience and it really shows.

Innovative design and quality materials do not come cheap. The Rotation 360 retails for $279. There are certainly other camera backpack options in this size range for half the price. The quick access, comfort, and long list of useful design features make the Rotation 360 well worth the price. I’ll be getting rid of a couple of my current bags, and using the Rotation 360 instead. Having one bag you really like means less time spent packing gear, and more time shooting — and that’s a worthwhile investment.

To see the Rotation 360 in action, check out the product information including photos and videos: www.rotation360.com

UPDATE: A shorter version of this review was posted over on The Online Photographer.

14 thoughts on “Think Tank Rotation 360 Backpack Review

  1. Thanks Joe. Unfortunately I’ve been suffering more shoulder and neck pain over the past months and swore off shoulder bags. I used to be very partial to a Domke F-803.

    Looks like I’m going to have to keep hunting for that magical bag :)

    Allen

  2. hi joe,
    I was wondering if lowe pro sliplock pouches will attach to the thinktank accessory patches ? I know they sell their own but I’m sure many people like myself already have a small collection of sliplock pouches kicking around.
    And also, how easy to use and durable is the rotation system ?

  3. Hi Marcus,

    I will check with Think Tank about using LowePro Sliplok pouches. Pulling the beltpack around is quite fast — putting the beltpack back into the backpack is easy once you get a feel for it. Durability seems fine.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  4. Will the bag hold the following:
    -canon 5D with grip and 16-35L II attached
    -1D IIN with 24-105L attached
    -70-200 F2.8L IS
    -580 EX flash
    -2x converter

    Can both the top and bottem compartments be used to store camera gear?

  5. Hi Khurram,

    Both compartments can be used to store gear. Either the 5D + 16-35 or 1D + 24-105 will fit with the lens mounted in the top compartment along with the flash and TC. The 5D + 16-35 will fit in the rotation compartment, but pretty much fills it. The 70-200 could go in the lens changer 75 on the belt or top of the bag. You may be able to fit all this stuff inside including the 70-200 if the lenses aren’t mounted to the camera bodies.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  6. Joe – after reading your piece on TOP and coming here I went out and bought myself a Rotation 360 – possibly the first person in the UK to do so, seeing as the price here is right at the top end of the scale and bears no relation whatsoever to the dollar price, despite the very favourable exchange rate we have right now!

    Nevertheless, it appeared to be the bag fo me and I have to say that so far I’m not regretting the purchase in any way.
    The only thing that baffles me though is that, like you, I cannot work out the purpose of the (substantial) shoulder strap. When Think Tank explained to you that ‘the shoulder strap is for extra support when using the beltpack by itself to carry a heavy load’, did they explain exactly how that works in practice?

  7. Hi Roy,

    From what I understand, you would wear the beltpack around your waist, and also attach the shoulder strap in order to help distribute the load. This seems much too awkward to me, so the shoulder strap went directly into the parts bin.

    Hope you’re enjoying the bag! I did a steep hike with mine yesterday & still find it to be very comfortable.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  8. I got an update from Think Tank about mixing LowePro Street & Field pouches on Think Tank bags:

    The LowePro S&F bags will attach to the Modulus rails on Think Tank bags, but they can’t be locked into position and will wiggle a bit. The narrow LowePro Sliplock connector is designed to lock into place — the Think Tank connector design is a little bit wider, and can either lock into place or be moved around the belt. Hope that helps!

    Cheers,

    Joe

  9. Hi Phil — I’m not sure. Try contacting Think Tank directly. I’ve found it’s a better packing strategy to keep the camera + standard zoom in the top of the bag, and extra lenses, accessories, etc. in the beltpack.

    Cheers,

    Joe

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  11. I am likely to get this bag, having gone into a store and spent a good hour inspecting its quality, trying it on and fitting gear in the beltpack. I got the following kit in the beltpack which entirely filled it: Canon 5D with 24-105 lens attached and a 17-40 alongside. This was not a squeeze but a comfortable fit. It would be possible to get a couple of slim, flat or soft items like cleaning cloths or somesuch in the internal zipped pocket in the flap.

    The rotation belt is a cinch to use and slipped around my waist easily and comfortably. Kneeling down to photograph the beltpack pouch was ideally placed to give firm, padded support to my elbow. A welcome bonus during long day of shooting lugging and holding gear, no doubt.

    There are lots of velcro tabbed dividers with the bag so configuring the backpack for various kits would not be a problem (other makers skimp on padding in comparison).

    The acid test has got to be going out for a day fully loaded up and seeing how much of the strain the bag would relieve. As a design the Rotation 360 is in a class of its own!

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