An Inconspicuous Companion

Vanguard Havana 41

Vanguard Havana 41

There are certain expectations one has from a camera bag when travelling and shooting. Natasha Desai investigates whether the Vanguard Havana 41 delivers.

Picture this. You’re visiting a new city, and decide to use the local transport to really get a feel of the place. You board the train/metro/tram, find a seat and settle down with your bag between your feet. As your stop approaches, you reach for your bag, but instead find nothing there. And now, you’re in an interesting photographic environment, without your camera and possibly your laptop as well. Why? Because the bag you’d carried looks like an all-important gear bag in a no-nonsense black or grey.

With the Vanguard Havana 41, I was pretty sure all my stuff would be safe. Simply because the tan coloured bag looks like regular-Joe backpack and not something that was housing a Nikon V1 body, a 10-110mm lens, a 30-100mm lens, a small flash gun, a GoPro Hero 4 and an iPad. It also had travel documents, assorted toiletries, money, a change of clothes and a bottle of water. (It can fit in a single lens and DSLR body in place of the V1 kit.)

This backpack is not for the OCD photographer who needs every minute part of his gear neatly organised into various compartments as there aren’t many compartments and flaps present. The bag has a pouch-like compartment on the front that can house loose change, cellphone, wires, a power bank, a lens pen and the likes. On the inside, it has a separated mesh compartment for memory cards and one additional slot. It also has a water bottle compartment that doubles up as a small tripod/monopod holder.

You can access your camera from the front of a bag via a zip which pulls out a padded camera insert with dividers. The padding is not the best, but it is adequate. Owing to how this particular compartment has been constructed, it is not the fastest way to reach for your camera. But for a traveller and a very relaxed walk-around-the-city, urban shoot, I found it to be perfect.

Another thing I really like about the bag was the fact that you can remove the camera insert, remove the Velcro divider that separates the top general compartment from the bottom that houses the gear. This transforms the bag into a regular backpack. You can even put the bag on the handle of your trolley, and secure it with the Velcro strip present there.

While the rain cover placement could have been better—I would have preferred it to unfold from the bottom—the Havana 41 at least has one, which is a lot more than you can say about a lot of camera bags.

I would have liked the bottom of the bag to be a much stiffer, because right now I would be a little worried if the bag happened to slip or was placed firmly on the ground. While I find the padding of the camera insert is adequate, I think a lot of people would find this concerning

Let me be very clear, this is not a camera bag, it a backpack that can also house gear. What makes this bag ideal for me is the fact that it is light and small, yet is able to fit in up to 5kgs of gear, clothes and other stuff when required. It looks inconspicuous, it looks good, it can double up as a regular backpack and it has a rain cover. Priced at Rs. 7490, this bag has won it for me as a perfect around-city/travel bag.

Tags: Review, Camera Bag, Vanguard Havana 41, Back pack