Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

WANDRD PRVKE 21 Backpack

For people who mind about the bags they carry, finding the ideal one is really hard. WANDRD’s PRVKE 21 attempts to be that perfect everyday carry backpack for photographers. I’d hesitate to label anything perfect. The PRVKE 21, however, is really good, and you should check it out.

Before we go too far, you probably want to know how to pronounce these strange names. WANDRD is pronounced “wandered”, while PRVKE is “provoke”.

The PRVKE 21 is WANDRD’s second backpack. It was launched in 2016 as a crowdfunded project on Kickstarter, after the success of their similarly funded PRVKE in 2015. The original PRVKE is almost identical, with the main difference that the newer PRVKE 21 has a smaller volume at 21 litres, instead of 31 litres for the former.

Most of the time we’re faced with difficult choices: do you want a functional but ugly bag, or a good-looking but difficult-to-use bag? WANDRD has managed to bring to us a design that is both good-looking and highly functional.

The WANDRD PRVKE 21 is designed to be an everyday backpack for photographers. A key standout functional feature of this backpack is the side access door that enables easy retrieval of camera gear. I’ve found that even some newer backpacks with side access doors don’t provide the same level of functionality and convenience, and look as good.

I like that the PRVKE 21 doesn’t even begin to look like a typical camera backpack. I don’t fancy walking around with a bag that tells everyone what’s in it

The backpack’s elegant, minimalist, exterior is mostly made out of waterproof tarpaulin and ballistic nylon materials. The expandable roll-top, which is secured by a large over-sized bespoke metal hook, adds another 4 litres of volume.

The tote handles at the top offer an alternative carry option, in case you sometimes don’t want to carry it over your shoulders. Magnets in the handles help keep them together, without having to mess with cumbersome velcro flaps that are often used.

A huge flat pocket on the front lets you fit documents and other reasonably flat items.

Another big functional highlight of the PRVKE 21 is that the back opens up all the way so that the backpack can lay flat. The laptop and tablet compartment is on one side, possibly giving some added convenience as you get through airport security. Everything else is contained on the other side.

You should note that while the laptop sleeve can take a 15-inch MacBook Pro, it is quite an exacting fit. If you want to fit other 15-inch laptops, it needs to be as small as the 15-inch MacBook Pro. My 14-inch (officially 13.9-inch display) Lenovo Yoga 920 fits with only a little room to spare.

When you lay the PRVKE 21 flat, you have convenient access to the whole main compartment. There are actually two parts to the main compartment, with separate zippered flaps to access them. The lower two-thirds is designed to hold a camera cube. There is an inside flap separating the two parts so small items don’t fall through and get lost in the lower area. If you don’t want to use the camera cube, you can open the dividing flap to use the whole compartment as a single volume.

The lay flat access to the main compartment is especially useful when the entire volume is used as a single compartment. It’s far easier to find and reach items this way, than to grope into a cavernous black-hole if you had to access through the roll-top opening.

The side access door that enables you to reach into the main compartment is on the left when you’re wearing the backpack. This means you’ll swing around the backpack on your left shoulder, and use your right hand to open the door and grab gear within. This is great if you have a right master hand; I’m not sure how it’ll work out for others.

Embedded into the side access door is a zippered compartment that contains a few mesh pockets to contain small items.

There is an expandable zippered pocket on the other side for a water bottle, or perhaps a camera tripod. Ordinarily, this pocket can be quite spacious, but when you have a camera cube installed, the rigidness of the cube means the items in this pocket cannot expand into the backpack’s main compartment, thus reducing its capacity.

There’s a side pocket near the top to stuff small items, like spare batteries. There’s also a hook for your keys, but without a quick-release mechanism, I haven’t found it convenient to use.

A velvet-lined pocket at the top let’s you store items such as sunglasses or smartphones, or any item you need to protect from scratches.

At this point, I should also mention that YKK zippers are used throughout the PRVKE 21. All the external zips have a weather-sealed design, helping to keep water out. Some of them, such as on this top pocket, have a “shoe” at the end to park the zip in, so the inevitable gap at the end of the zip is also protected.

The PRVKE 21 is not waterproof, but its design should keep out light rain and splashes. If you are worried about heavy downpour, WANDRD does sell a purpose-designed rainfly. There is, in fact, a dedicated pocket for the rainfly at the bottom of the backpack.

The wide shoulder straps are comfortable to wear. Weight is well distributed, and the moulded foam pattern on the back helps ventilate and keep your back cool. Although the soft stretchy material on the underside of the shoulder strap is comfortable, I am a little worried about its durability over the long term. Only time will tell.

There are several loops on the shoulder straps which you can use to attach carabiners and other accessories. The end of the left shoulder strap has two elastic bands which you can use to hold lens cap. The same spot on the right shoulder strap has a fixed rigid strap that can be used to attach something like the Peak Design Capture Camera Clip.

A secure storage compartment is built into the back of of the PRVKE 21, which makes it hard for pickpockets to reach. This zippered compartment has two pockets inside. You can easily fit a passport, ID cards, credit cards, and some cash.

WANDRD sells the PRVKE 21 backpack on its own, or as a bundle with all of its accessories, which includes the camera cube, rainfly, accessory straps, and waist belt. For photographers, the camera cube is almost a necessity. It’s designed to fit exactly into the lower main compartment and integrated into the side access door.

You can also remove the camera cube to use it on its own, or use it in another bag. Foam insert for the top cover adds rigidity when the camera cube is used on its own, and you can remove it when used inside the backpack.

The camera cube, of course, is an exacting fit for the PRVKE 21. There are attachment points to hold the cube in place, integrate the cube’s door into the backpack’s door, and a flap to keep the cube’s opening clear.

A couple of padded cardboard inserts allow you to design the cube to fit your gear the way you want. There’s plenty of space.

In fact, there’s so much space that I find it to be a small problem of its own. If you use a small, compact, mirrorless camera, like the Sony A6500 I have, and have few other fragile gear, I find that the camera cube is a little too bulky. I would have preferred it to be about an inch flatter, and perhaps even a little narrower, so there can be some space allowance for the side pocket to expand into.

The accessory straps can be mighty handy for photographers too. There are 8 attachment points around the exterior of the PRVKE 21 which you can use to hold bulky gear.

Four more attachment points inside the backpack allow you to do a cool trick. You can wear the PRVKE 21 on your front, open the backpack to 90°, to give you a “platform” to pull out items from the main compartment, without having to set the backpack on the floor or table.

WANDRD provides a storage pouch with the PRVKE 21. The camera cube also comes with a similar, but smaller, storage pouch.

WANDRD has done an excellent job with the PRVKE 21’s design. This everyday carry backpack looks very nice, and still caters very well to the needs of photographers.

I particularly like the side access door as it allows me to conveniently reach for a camera that is securely protected within. The laptop sleeve is easy to reach, and the lay flat access to the main compartment is very useful.

Apart from the stretchy material under the shoulder strap, which is also the same as that used in the expandable side pocket, the PRVKE 21 seems to be extremely durable. It also will keep out water.

My chief complaint is that the PRVKE 21, although already the smaller than the 31 litre original PRVKE, is still a little large for my liking when the small camera cube is installed. I don’t exactly need the backpack itself to be smaller, but wished the camera cube could be a bit more compact.

I wished, also, that there were a bit more internal pockets for added organisation. For example, I would appreciate a couple of pen/stylus holders. These could be placed on the internal cover over the main compartment.

The PRVKE 21 isn’t perfect, but it certainly gets almost everything right.

The WANDRD PRVKE 21 backpack on its own retails at US$184. It is available in black, blue, or green (as reviewed here).

The full bundle, which includes the camera cube, accessory straps (set of two), rainfly, and waist belt, retails at US$264. You can also buy any of the items individually.

Conclusion

WANDRD has managed to design the PRVKE 21 everyday carry backpack to be both highly functional and good-looking.

Pros:

  • Extremely useful side access door
  • Elegant design, does not scream camera bag
  • Good weather sealing
  • Camera cube offers excellent protection

Cons:

  • No pen holder
  • Camera cube too big for minimal, compact, gear
  • Stretchy material under shoulder strap may not be durable enough

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