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The Mountainsmith Parallax Photo Backpack : Revisited

Web: www.stevenfrischling.com — E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

22/10/2008 – The Mountainsmith Parallax Photo Backpack : Revisited

There are some photo assignments that require a wide range of equipment, for a wide range of shooting scenarios. At times these assignments also require a photographer to be able to work quickly and deal with the reality of working in confined spaces.

Over the next two days I will be shooting landscapes, architecture, environmental portraits and unscripted situations for a corporate client. Each day will involve shooting in approximately 10 locations over a 9 hour period. As I planned out my equipment I once again found myself turning towards a small photo backpack that can appear to be a ‘clown car’ when you pack and unpack it. This backpack is the Mountainsmith Parallax.

I first introduced the readers of Flying With Fish to the Mountainsmith Parallax back in August of 2007. Back in August 2007 I selected the Parallax to be the only bag to accompany me on my journey around the world one-and-a-half times in (flying roughly 34,000 miles) in a four-day period. You can revisit my initial thoughts on this bag here : 3-August-2007 : Going Around The World For A Few Days? You’ll Need To Pack Ulta-Light

Now, more than a year later, this bag has continued to be one of the ‘go-to’ bags for challenging packing scenarios. For this two day corporate project the Parallax was the obvious front-runner to make the trip. The Parallax is small, so it can stay out of the way. The bag is ergonomic making it comfortable to wear when fully loaded. The bag is easy to configure and reconfigure allowing me to set up the inserts to meet my needs. The bag is deep allowing me to stack lenses, flashes and other items. The bag has tremendous and durable mesh side pockets and lash-straps allowing me to secure two Manfrotto 3373 compact light stands.

So what is being packed in this easy to carry, unassuming, fully legal for carry-on baggage backpack? Let me tell you:
1 – Canon 5D w/grip
1 – Canon 20D w/grip
1- Canon 14f2.8L
1 – Canon 24f3.5L tilt-shift
1 – Canon 50f1.4
1 – Canon 85f1.2L
1 – Canon 70-200f2.8L
1 – Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II
2 – Nikon SB-28dx Speedlights
2 – Pocket Wizard transmitters
2 – Pocket Wizard receivers
2 – Manfrotto 3373 compact light stands
1 – Manfrotto 3007 compact tripod w/extension post
1 – Think Tank PeeWee Pocket Rocket
1 – 1-quart Hefty Bag with extra batteries, PC cord, random accessories
1 – mini roll of black Gaffers tape
1 – PhotoFlex mini Speed Ring
1 – PhotoFlex Q39 soft boxes
2 – Calumet Swivel Adapters
1 – Think Tank Cable Management 10 (with CF card reader, power supply etc)
1 – 15″ Apple PowerBook
1 – PhotoFlex 22″ white/white LiteDisc (Not Pictured)
2 – Canon BP511 battery chargers (Not Pictured, they were charging batteries)
4 – Sets of spare “AA” batteries (Not Pictures, they were on the chargers)

Overall, the amount this bag can haul, for its compact size is amazing. Most bags that are able to handle the size of this load have a much larger ‘footprint.’ Working with a larger bag is not only uncomfortable most of the time, but it also makes wearing the bag while shooting more challenging.

You can view the specs for the Mountainsmith Parallax on Mountainsmith’s website at: www.mountainsmith.com

Below are 5 photos of the Parallax depicting the bag externally, internally, with all the packed gear (both packed and unpacked) and a 15″ PowerBook with the bag to give you a sense of how compact the bag is.

Happy Flying!
–Click Images To Enlarge–
a black backpack with pink straps

a backpack with a laptop and a gun

a bag with a camera and other equipment

a bag with many objects inside

a group of equipment on the floor


  1. I’d be tempted to get one for my NY trip next month, but it appears to not be legal carry-on for Virgin America.

    10 x 16 x 24 allowed vs. 18 x 13 x 12

  2. Dracil,

    The back pack is legal. The Parallax is still well under the maximum linear dimensions. If you look at airline carry on regulations, they differ from airline to airline, with virtually all of them having the same linear dimensions.

    The backpack is legal, totally allowable, and is fantastic!

    Happy Flying!


  3. Fish,

    What is the total weight for all the stuff you packed in there? Do you end up having to pay extra if the baggage allowance weight limit is low, like around 5kg?


  4. Bemjamin,

    The total weight is around 35lbs. There is no excess baggage fee, as no airlines charge an excess baggage fee for overweight carry on bags.

    Many US and Euro carriers have no published carry on weight limit. A number of Asian carriers do not enforce the carry on weight limit. I tend to try and fly these airlines.

    If the international airline I am flying does enforce carry on weight, I try and upgrade to business class,as they rarely hassle people flying in business class about carry on weight.

    One advantage to using smaller bags, such as the Parallax, is that the compact size draws no attention from gate agents. Airline agents are looking for larger bags that appear to have significant weight.

    I always make sure no matter what bag I am using, I act as if the bag only weighs 5lbs, even if it is over weight and killing me to haul it.

    Happy Flying!


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