Vanguard Adaptor Backpack (41 and 46) ongoing review

I love my tiny Vanguard Adaptor 41 backpack. Compared to what I needed to haul my giant DSLR equipment, the Adaptor is a refreshing mini bag to fit my mirrorless equipment. It is well padded, fits two mirrorless bodies with lenses attached, fits at my feet and I can still access the main compartment with (relative) ease (compared to other bags I have used). It also fits my Peak Design Capture Pro Clip with ease.

I love it except for one little thing — the material on one side tends to fray on the right side (my left when it is on my back). At first, I thought this was because I use my left elbow to push the backpack behind my back. But my elbow and arm hit significantly above where it frays (I have to work hard to touch this part when it is on my back), and none of my other bags have done this.

Plus, this is NOT the side that usually lays down against the ground when I take out a camera. That side is like new. The fraying started several weeks after getting the bag years ago. I have trimmed off the fraying a few times and it appears to be holding up well, but I would rather it not do this, but I haven’t figured out what I am doing to do this.


FYI

I found info on the bags rather confusing so here is what I found when I compared the models. There are 4 models which look nearly the same:

But:

  • 41: side access and the tiniest (and what I own)
  • 45: side access. slightly bigger
  • 46: side access. the same as 45 but 0.9″ deeper for the tablet/laptop pocket
  • 48: back access*. tallest.
Model Price

Outside
(W x D x H)

Inside
(W x D x H)

41 (side access) $80

9.0  x  7.9  x  16.1

7.9  x  5.5  x  7.9

45 (side access) $100

10.6  x  9.0  x  17.9

9.5  x  6.1  x  10.25

46 (side access + laptop pocket) $110

10.6  x  9.9  x  17.9

9.5  x  6.1  x  10.25

48 (back access)* $110

10.6  x  9.0  x  17.9

9.5  x  6.1  x  16.90

*I do love my back access backpack, but it is hard to open when you are seated at an event, so I’m sticking to my side access for daily use and my back access for big jobs.

Misc

I don’t use it as a sling (I prefer using it as a backpack), but it can convert (adapt 🙂 ) into a sling backpack. This works fine for my narrower Fuji bodies, but is a but of a struggle with my wider Canon DSLR bodies.

And the pocket that holds a strap in sling mode (on Adaptor 41) is ever so slightly too small to hold an iPad. (Rats.)


Adaptor 41 vs 46

I contacted Vanguard about the fraying issue. It is not usual unless there is some kind of friction happening, they say, but offered a significant discount on new bag which I gladly took and got the Adaptor 46 that I wanted.

The backpack is as light as a feather and doesn’t feel like 2.2 lbs (the 41 is 1.4 lbs). I need only to take out my two cameras with lenses to realize the weight that I carry is nearly all equipment (and not the backpack). When I put the backpack on empty, I have to be careful not to launch it like The Hulk tossing a cannonball.

My my! Those few additional inches here and there really matter. My beloved Adaptor 41 is like my little brother – toned and slim. The Adaptor 46 is like me – barrel chested and taller. If I repositioned the upper divider, I think the Adapter 41 could fit inside the Adapter 46.

let me eat you

The added inch for the laptop/tablet pocket is a significant part of this size difference (if this pocket is not something you need, the 45 does not have this).

The pocket is significantly padded on both sides (but I am planning to face my iPad toward my back).

The 41 can just fit 4 Fuji batteries in the top zipper pocket. The 46 looks like it could fit 6 (more if you layer them but that would make the top flap comically full).

The top pocket is spacious now that the main compartment is much larger to easily fit my Fuji X-T1 + 50-140mm.

Customization

The Adaptors, like other photo backpacks, come set up with dividers like the sales pictures. These look nice (form), but I like to keep my lenses attached and room for my fingers to get around the camera or lens to get the camera out easily (function), so I divide mine vertically like this:

I used one of the big dividers like a flap attached to the top of the compartment.

  • Right flap = X-T1
  • Left flap = X=E2
  • Pull divider from the bottom and get access to the other side – handy for cramped foot spaces.

What will I do with my smaller Adaptor 41?

Keep it. All my bags are different sizes for different needs. There are many times when I just want my X-T1 + 18-55mm, but I need something to carry it.

~

P.S.


I apologize for the inconsistent white balance of the photos. I was lazy, did not pull out my flashes and shot in mixed lighting.

**Update 5/2016**

After several weeks, I have now velcroed down the divider. I found that I don’t need to access both compartments from one side very often, but I do often get annoyed that the heavier lens muscles it way into the other side (but that might be just me). I used panels from my Lowepro Flipside but I could have used a panel from the Adaptor – the Flipside panel was just handier.

I’ve also created a mini compartment for my rocket blower using scrap velcro. I covered the hook side of the velcro (“cro” for all you hobbyists and educators) by taping two loop sides (“vel”) together and covering the hooks. The last photo shows some vel holding the upper flap in place. This is scrap wide stick-on velcro, but you can get sew-on velcro from a hobby store to get a better look.

**Update 6/2016**

Tinkering again. To keep the new mini compartment from flapping open, I added some double-sided hooks (“cro”) to hold the loops (“vel”) in place. This required the panel to be flipped, but pictures explain this better.

**Update 1/28/17**

This is not my preferred method of carry equipment, but to answer Dre’s question, the Adaptor 41 could hold a 7″ long Nikon 70-200mm f/4, but would be a tight fit for an 8″ 70-200mm f.2.8.

Below is my similarly-sized 7″ long Fuji 50-140mm with lens hood reversed in an Adaptor 41 with a tiny X-T1 above it (but that space should be plenty of room for a D800).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you like small and light (and had no future plans to carry much more than this), the Adaptor 41 should do it. Good luck!

**Update 4/27/2017**

FYI

My Adaptor 46 purchased in early 2016 is made so the pouch that stores the straps does not just pass through the bottom, and there is a separate pouch for the rain cover (the straps store between the rain pouch and the main compartments).

And, although an iPad will (barely) fit in the strap pouch (more than a bit tight with a thin case) (this is in reference to getting and Adaptor 45 which is the same size as the Adaptor 46 minus the laptop/tablet section)…

The bottom of the pouch is not padded so a hard drop could damage the iPad. (The bottom of the laptop/tablet compartment of the Adaptor 46 is part of the padding at the bottom.)

FYI the small strap pouch on a smaller Adaptor 41 miiight fit an iPad mini, but this pouch, too, is not padded at the bottom (it sits on the edge of the padding at the bottom).

20170426 211927 DSCF1132 Adaptor41_DCE

**Update 4/2017**

One year later

… and the Adaptor 46 is going strong. After dozens of events, soccer games, cross country meets, and going to church with me every week (for potential church newsletter photos), there is hardly any fraying (new material is much better)…

20170426 211803 DSCF1131 Adaptor46_DCE

…but the bottom corners are beginning to crack.

For me, this is just cosmetic, but I will let you know if it goes beyond that.

**Update 4/28/17**

FYI The section divider is attached to the back of the backpack so it can’t be completely removed, but you can flip that divider straight up or down and create one big compartment (and use it like a regular backpack).

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17 thoughts on “Vanguard Adaptor Backpack (41 and 46) ongoing review

  1. In your opinion, do you think the Vanguard 41 fit a Nikon D800 and a 80-200mm lens (not attached)? I’d prefer to get the smaller bag if so.

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    1. It depends on what else you want to carry in the smaller 41 bag.

      The inside is nearly a cavern if you remove the dividers and move the top/bottom divider, and could carry my Canon 7D with 70-200mm f/4L IS mounted, but then nearly everything else is loose in the cavern. Using small lens bags or other small bags can help with accessories.

      If you kept the lens and body separate, my 70-200mm L would not fit across the bag by itself (too long), but would fit vertically along with the DSLR body. I would use something large and padded like a flattened lens bag to separate the lens and body in this case.

      Hope this info helps.

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      1. Thank you for the response, do you think it’s better to just get the larger Vanguard 45 then in my case? Would that make a difference, or will I still end up with the lens and camera loose next to eachother? Is it a noticeable difference in size from the 41?

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      2. There is definitely a size difference. I could probably fit the 41 inside the 46 (if that were possible). The 41 has a 7.9″ interior width and the 45/46 has a 9.5″ interior width.

        I just double-checked your emails (to make sure I was understanding your needs) and looked up your camera and lens. Do you have the Nikon 70-200 f/4 or one of the f/2.8’s? The f/4’s official length is 7″ which makes it juuust fit the 41 interior, but if you have one of the f/2.8’s, these are 8″ so will probably need a wider bag.

        I’m going to take some measurements of the bags when I get home to confirm.

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  2. Have you tried to store an iPad in the large pocket that is supposed to fold the shoulder straps when in sling mode?
    If that’s the case, then I might get the 45.

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    1. I had not tried it since I typically carry my iPad Pro in my 46. I tested my 46 with my iPad 3 which is 7.3″ wide and it fits! (The current iPad Air and Air 2 is speced at 6.6″.)

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    2. I have a 45 and use the rear “straps” pocket for a 10″ tablet. It fits snugly. The only thing to keep in mind, there is a velcro strip at the bottom of that pocket that would prevent it from falling out, which is closed naturally most of the time, but if it opens for some reason, the tablet may fall through…

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  3. Hi! This might be a strange question, but can you tell me, how many liters is the capacity of the Adaptor 46? I assume it is not 46L, because my Osprey Quantum daypack has bigger numbers in dimensions and its only 35L. I am only asking this, because I ordered the Adaptor 46 from Amazon (it`s now on the way) and realized later, that I may have accidentaly ordered the older version, which supposedly doesn`t come with a rain cover (this is stupid and confusing from them, they should state clearly in the model name, or elsewhere if it lacks some features). So I may have to get one raincover, but for that I have to know the capacity of the Adaptor 46. Thank you!

    Like

    1. Hmmm… That’s odd. My other backpack is measured in liters, too, but I could not find any information online about the capacity of the Adaptors in liters. Sorry.

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    1. Ivan, yes and no. The section divider is attached to the back of the backpack so it can’t be completely removed, but you can flip that divider straight up or down and create one big compartment (and use it like a regular backpack). I’ve added photos above that I hope will help.

      Like

    1. I have not seen the Tri M. It is a little small for my needs, but it might fit the bill for other photographers.

      Like

  4. Hi,

    Do you think that Adaptor 46 could hold a mirrorless system like: Sony A7r, 2-3 lenses and a flash easily?

    Also how secure is the side access? I’m thinking also at Adaptor 48 maybe….

    Thanks,

    Like

    1. If you are worried about thieves, then I would go with a rear access backpack. This hilarious video that I saw recently shows the danger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMfAsQAJwDI.

      I have a Lowepro Flipside Sport which you can check out at https://happyphotodad.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/camera-bags/. My particular model is huge, but they do make smaller ones. If you are interested in other back-access backpacks, I did some rescheduling and will have a post out late tomorrow on my research back in 2014. I don’t think the Vanguard 48 was out in 2014 since it wasn’t in my table.

      Like

    2. Oh! And I forgot to answer your question about a7r and lenses. Which lenses are you wanting to pack?
      If
      A) You used all the dividers to use up all the available space
      B) and you used the upper compartment, too (I’ve packed an X-E2, 18-55mm, and a mid-size flash up there before)
      You can pack a lot of equipment, but you won’t be able to pack 3 giant wide-aperture zooms.

      Like

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