I finally picked up a backpack for traveling: ONA’s Bolton Street Backpack. For my last few trips I’ve been borrowing friend’s Lowepro Fastpack 250, which although was completely functional and well built I wasn’t happy with. Since I already have a messenger bag (Domke F-2 Ruggedwear Shooters Bag) and my Pelican for jobs (Pelican 1510 Carry On Case) I really wanted to find a backpack I could take along with me when I was traveling. Messenger bags are awesome, but if you’re walking a lot while carrying a few lens it gets painfully heavy on one shoulder. Trust even if you man/woman up after a long period of time your shoulder will want to bloody murder you. I also very much love my Pelican case (it has wheels! it stores overhead on airplanes! you can sit on it! you can hit it with a car [yes this has happened to me]! it’s very, very organized!), but it’s not very traveling around the city or mountain friendly. Solution? Backpack!
The key features I look for camera backpacks:
- – Adjustable, padding to keep gear secure
- – Comfortable to wear
- – Well designed for easy access (this was the main thing that the Lowepro was lacking)
- – Doesn’t scream “I’m a camera bag! Come steal me!”
- – Fits a laptop
- – Fits in an airplane overhead compartment and/or under an airplane seat
- – Doesn’t make you look like a turtle from the side (I used to have the Crumpler Karachi Outpost –major turtle backpack! See photo below)
I think I’ve found the perfect combination of these features in ONA’s Bolton Street. Here’s my review and unboxing of it.
I was debating about getting a backpack from ONA for a while. Originally I was planning on getting The Camps Bay Backpack, but the large size wasn’t doing it for me. While I’m on the go I’d really like to have a small, compact bag (again avoiding the turtle effect.) I hesitated with the Bolton Street since all the review and photos at the time didn’t show the backpack holding a 13in laptop. Even the photos from the company didn’t show one. How the laptop was stored was important to me since I’ve had bad experiences with other bags. One made it nearly impossible to access the laptop without going through a series of zippers and velcro. The other was too accessible and resulted with my laptop flying out at an airport one time. I can happily say that my laptop is snuggling with the Bolton Street now.
And now let’s pretend to be a fashion blogger! Photos by Jenny Ong of Neonblush.
I’m going to have to say that ONA is one of the most aesthetically pleasing looking bags. It looks sleek and clean enough to tag along with me to meetings, but also casual enough to ride with me on a subway. Compared my everyday laptop backpack (an Electric Blue Incase) this one doesn’t cry out for attention. Yes, I’m happy being ignored. Go away and let me people watch you!
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Thank you for the review! I’ve been holding out waiting for better pictures and a detailed review, but I think I’m going to go ahead and try it out!
How is the bag holding up now? And do you find the adjustment straps too long?
Hi Brendan! It’s great I use it all the time whenever I’m on the go or when I’m on a shoot where a lot of walking would be involve. Otherwise I’d used my Pelican case. The straps are not burdensome at all either.
Did you took the light grey or the black one? I was wondering about the color…
I got the grey one for a more casual feel.
Thanks for the review! I’m seriously considering buying this bag because my current backpack has no dedicated camera compartment. Any suggestions for fitting a water bottle though? Can one of the side pockets be used for that?
Yep! Inside is all customizable, I usually keep one stored in the bottom compartment.
Thanks for the response! Looks like I’ll go ahead and purchase one.
How do you find the side access pockets? How much room is available in there?
I don’t really access the sidepockets too much. I use the space to store my 70-200 and accessory items like cables, batteries, flashes, etc.
Great review! Also looking at this bag for travel. How long is the bottom compartment? I have a MeFoto Roadtrip travel tripod that is 15 inches long and hoping it would fit.
Sorry to say Ken the backpack is about 13.3in in width according to ONA’s site. Your tripod won’t fit!
I know this is a silly question… but does it fit a 15 inch laptop? According to their website it doesn’t, but what if I were to really push?
Can you tell me if the D800 fits easily in and out of the side access flap or is it a tight squeeze? I read you use that camera and so do I. I’m looking for a side-entry backpack. Thank you.
Hey Jessica! Yes it fits with a little bit of wiggle room. I can fit the D800 + 24-70/2.8 in the side panels
Hi Melly, this was a great review! I know it’s old but I’m only just looking at the Bolton. I had a question – no one posts images of the bottom part of the main compartment. Can you access it through the top or is it strictly for the side access pockets? How convenient is that? Can you really fit 5 lenses in addition to a body + lens in there?
Technically you can access it from the top if you remove the velcro dividers. The whole backpack is modular in fact. Usually divide the bottom into 2 compartments. One for my 70-200mm and the other section for holding misc accessories such as batteries, chargers, and a speedlight. You can fit a lot into this pack, though I don’t personally since I consider this my “light weight” street photography bag.
Hope this helps!
Hi Melly, thank you for your great review! I’m thinking of getting the Ona Bolton Street. I currently own a gripped Canon EOS 550D (will be replaced with a 6D very soon) with an EF 17-40, 70-200 f4L and a 430EX II flash. For the laptop, I own a 13″ MacBook Pro Unibody. Will all the camera gear fit in the main compartment?
Also, how is the padding on the bottom of the bag (say, if I have my camera in there for easy access) for when I put it down? Is that something I should be worried about?
Thanks a lot Melly!
The 70-200L probably won’t fit in the top compartment. I usually keep my 70-200 in the bottom section. With that said you should have to worry too much about setting the backpack down when there’s expensive gear at the bottom. Though I wouldn’t recommend slamming it down on the floor.
Thank you so much for this review! I have been looking for a backpack for summer, and had kinda ruled out the Bolton until reading this! Definitely think the Bolton will be my next ONA, so thanks!!!
Based on your review, Melly, and other positive comments, I ordered a Bolton Street. Very nicely made, impressive materials, great looking. But a terrible fit. I’m 6’3″ and 220#. The padded portion of the strap is so short that the buckles gouge into my chest and shoulders, making it impossible to carry even light weight for any time at all. Gotta send it back, sadly. Any of you interested in the Bolton that happen to be XL sized, think twice.
Thanx for the review. Looking for a bag to go with me to South Africa. A bag that is not shouting; camera-bag. Still wanting a bag I can carry a camera for street photography and easy acces. And carrying about some bits and bobs. I am hoping that I can put my camera in bottom part of the bag pack for easy acces. The top is going to be for books, water bottle etc. And in other days, no hulydays, just work, laptop dossiers and no camera. Did you put a camera in bottom part; was it easy acces? No worry accidents?
Hi Marine! I mainly carried my camera in the top portion. I only carried it in the bottom when I had a long lens attached to it such as the 70-200. I never had an issue with access or accidents. Granted I’m also very careful with setting the backpack down gently.