It’s been a decade since I shelved my last shoulder bag. I’ve tried backpacks, slings, messenger bags and other styles promising more comfort, capacity, convenience, etc. But a couple of months with Think Tank’s Speed Freak 2.0 has shown me that the bag-with-lid concept, though venerable, can still be improved upon.
The Speed Freak V2.0 (approx. $160) is the middle model in the company’s Speed Convertible line, flanked by the smaller Speed Demon V2.0 ($140) and larger Speed Racer V2.0 ($180). The V2.0 designation means they are second-generation designs. The overall aesthetic has gone from boxy to contoured and the shoulder and belt straps have been redesigned to make them true convertibles.
Convertibles? Yes, these convert easily between shoulder bag and belt pack. Fabric wings nearly as wide as the bag is tall form the first section of the belt, and they taper to meet webbing straps that hold the quick release buckle. The fabric wings are very comfortable around your hips when you orient the bag as a fanny pack or tummy pack. The side of the bag that comes into contact with your body is faced with a breathable mesh fabric, which continues on the contact side of the belt wings too. The detachable shoulder strap is well padded and has rubberized anti-slip strips on the contact side that work very well.
The company says the Speed Freak is designed for a “standard” SLR, a couple of lenses and accessories. I found that SLRs like an Olympus E-30 with 12-60mm zoom or Nikon D300 with 16-85 mm zoom fit with the lens hood on, and there’s still room for a tele-zoom (a 70-200 f/2.8 will fit) or a couple of smaller lenses and a flash. Inside the main cavity are the usual padded and tabbed separators that you can reposition to custom fit your gear.
A couple of pockets on the outside are also big enough for lenses or a 750ml water bottle. There’s a thin pocket with a hook and loop closure on the contact side of the body that will hold maps, airline tickets, passport etc., and a double pouch on the front that’s big enough for batteries, memory cards, filters, iPod, cell phone, etc. The pouch also holds the included waterproof rain cover. There is another thin pocket inside the main cavity and a clear one on the inside of the lid. The lid itself is split in half along its length and zippered, so that you can unzip it, reach in and grab the camera as an alternative to opening the bag in the usual way.
There are a few aspects of the bag that I’ve come to appreciate. The bag seems to be quite light, but not because it skimps on material quality. In fact the opposite is true — it feels and looks a cut above the typical shoulder bag. There are a lot of little touches that indicate that the bag was designed and made with attention to detail, in the interests of both function and appearance. The belt straps tuck away into their own zippered enclosures at either end of the bag, and they are well concealed when not in use — you’d never know they were there, and they don’t add much bulk or lumpiness to the bag’s lines. The shoulder strap connectors are robust looking metal, but the loops on the bag are fabric. This means no clanking, but also when the shoulder strap is removed, the loops become more or less invisible. Often the lid of a shoulder bag is hinged so that it inconveniently rests against your body when open, but on the Speed Freak it hinges the other way, which is the correct way when you are wearing the bag. These are all small touches, but they add up to make a big difference in usability.
For schlepping lots of gear, I’ll keep my backpacks, but the Speed Freak is my new favourite when I all want is a camera, flash and maybe one or two more lenses.
Speed Freak V2.0
- Inside: 26 x 22.2 x 13.97 cm (10.3 x 8.75 x 5.5 in.)
- Outside: 31.8 x 26.7 x 21.6 cm (12.5 x 10.5 x 8.5 in.)
- Weight: 1.1 kg (2.5 lb)