Having finally got my new bag home and installed all my camera equipment I think I can give a meaningful initial review of the Crumpler “Brian’s Hot Tab” photographic and laptop rucksack.
The “Brian’s Hot Tub” is the largest of the Crumpler rucksack style bags for photographic equipment. It’s about the same size as a large standard rucksack you would get from the likes of Karrimor etc. and the outer shell is made of a very similar material.
Unlike any other rucksack I’ve come across, the bag opens by unzipping around the inside edge of the back, the part which rest upon the user’s back, and the flap then folds down giving complete access to the internals. Attached to this flap, by an ingenious set of flaps and velcro, is the removable laptop pouch which is easily big enough to fit my rather large laptop though there’s no storage for the power supply.
Within the main body of the bag can be found the photographic storage unit. This is a separate sub-unit again velcro’ed into the shell and can easily be removed so that the bag can be used as a standard rucksack. It’s well padded and has a mesh front which zips around the outer edge of the unit. Internal to this are a large number of shaped partitions, all velcro’ed together and a small sub-unit faced with another zipped mesh front.
Externally there are two fair sized pockets on the front of the bag and one on the right side. On the left there is one fixed loop and one adjustable loop to allow the carrying of a tripod. I’ve tried my Manfrotto 055MF3 and that fits in there easily.
The overall build quality is very good, as you would hope with a bag with a list price of around £170 (though I picked mine up for £130). The shoulder straps are wide, well placed and shaped with a buckle to attach them across the chest. There is an optional waist band, costing around £12, but I don’t have that to test.
The only niggles I have with the bag are as follows:-
(1) Because of its highly modular construction the amount of space available for photographic equipment is rather more limited than you would expect from such a large bag.
(2) It would have been better is Crumpler had used an impervious sheet rather than mesh to cover the front of the photographic unit as this would have prevented dust generated by any other items stored in the bag from contaminating the photographic equipment. It would also have made the unit useful as storage of the equipment out of the bag for when you want to use the main shell as a normal rucksack. It would have been even better if the unit had a grab-handle on its top for this use as well, as the laptop unit has.
(3) There’s not obvious place to store any power units. This would be fine in the days of film but not today’s digital camera era, especially if you’re using this bag for travelling rather than as a day bag. This is also a problem with the laptop unit.