By Jason Heaton
on 3.16.10

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Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes, built for a wide variety of uses. Sometimes you need a small hip pack for hiking to the waterfall with your compact point-and-shoot. Other times you need a backpack for traveling cross-country with an SLR and few extra lenses. And then sometimes you need a bombproof bag to haul a couple of camera bodies and a quiver of lenses into the thick of a coup d’état (or your friend’s wedding). This is that bag – the Mountainsmith Reflex II XL.

The Reflex II XL is not the smallest, lightest or most inconspicuous camera bag around. But it will keep your gear safe from harm and easily accessible. Made of 420-denier nylon, with Ballistic reinforcements, the bag has a thick rubber base that not only protects from knocks and moisture but also keeps the bag from sliding on slippery surfaces like the steel bed of a bouncing pickup truck or a pitching boat deck. A stow-able elastic rain cover stays folded in an outside sleeve until the skies open up. And the large rubber grab handle inspires confidence when you’re running for the last helicopter so you can file your photos and make deadline (we can dream, can’t we?).

Pockets are plentiful and smartly situated for accessing your lens cover, your notepad, memory cards or a spare battery. Flip open the water resistant top flap and there’s a laminated mesh pocket underneath. Zip open the bag and the large main compartment is fleece-lined, with adjustable hook-and-loop dividers for organizing your kit. Maybe the best thing though, is that the inside is bright yellow, making it easy to find stuff quickly, avoiding the black hole syndrome that afflicts so many camera bags.

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There are countless configurations for the main compartment but I was able to fit my Nikon D90 with a wide angle lens mounted, three extra lenses plus a small HD video camera. Take away the video cam, and it would have easily fit a spare camera body or flash unit. An additional inner side pocket zips open and holds cables, a battery charger and energy bars. My only gripe about this bag is the shoulder strap, which could stand some extra padding. But that can easily be swapped out.

Don’t be surprised if carrying your camera gear in the Reflex II XL actually improves your photography. You might even start walking with a bit of swagger. But do us a favor and resist the urge to wear one of those goofy vests with all the pockets.

Buy Now: $80

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