Andy Westlake checks out a pair of new photographers’ backpacks from Billingham, the Billingham 25 and 35 rucksacks.

Billingham 25 and 35 rucksacks at a glance:

  • Premium-quality canvas and leather construction
  • Model 25 takes DSLR and five lenses
  • Model 35 takes CSC and three or four lenses
  • Each available in four colours
  • Price: Rucksack 25, £350, Rucksack 35, £280
  • Website: www.billingham.co.uk

It’s rare for Billingham to introduce a new bag, but this year the company has been unusually busy, first with a series of small S-series bags and now a pair of rucksacks. One of these, the larger 25, is a reworked version of a classic design first made in 1998 but which has been unavailable for years, while the smaller 35 is entirely new.

The two bags may look rather different, but they have a fair bit in common. Both are constructed of the same three-layer StormBlock fabric that includes a waterproof butyl rubber layer between the outer canvas and inner liner.

The large main compartment is accessed from the front by a double zipper around the top and sides. There’s also a separate zipped pocket on the front.

The shoulder straps are quite lightly padded, and lined with a mesh material for breathability. As with many Billingham bags, the protective padding is completely removable, allowing the bag to be used as an everyday backpack. Four colour options are available: black, khaki, an attractive dark olive green and burgundy.

Billingham-bag

Billingham 25

The Billingham 25 is the larger of the two bags and is very similar to its forerunner. However, the leather attachment points on the side are much deeper, so accessory pockets won’t dangle at an angle when the bag is tilted. The capacious main compartment will swallow a full-frame DSLR and a maximum of five lenses, up to the size of a 70-200mm f/4. The front pocket is large enough to fit sandwiches and a flask, or lightweight waterproofs. When fully loaded the bag can become rather heavy, and I’d have liked the option to add a waist belt to the harness.

Billingham 35

The Billingham 35 is a slimline backpack that seems best suited to CSC users. It uses a removable camera insert that’s accessed from its top, and which was large enough to accept my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II with 7-14mm f/2.8, 12-40mm f/2.8 and 40-150mm f/2.8 lenses. The disadvantage of this design is that it’s difficult to use the space above the camera compartment without compromising access to your kit.

The pocket on the front is rather smaller than the one on the 25, but still large enough to take personal items such as sunglasses or small accessories. Two brass D-rings underneath it can be used to attach optional tripod straps.

Billingham 25 and 35 rucksacks key features

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Covered zips

All openings are shielded from the elements by protective flaps.

Adjustable straps

The shoulder straps can be adjusted across a generous range via an ingenious arrangement of two
brass D-rings.

Lid pocket

A slip pocket inside the lid will accommodate maps, documents or a 10in tablet.

Our verdict

Billingham’s bags are undeniably expensive but they provide exceptional protection for your kit and will last for years. Both the 25 and 35 offer the top-quality materials and flawless construction that are the company’s hallmark, and are straightforward, easy-to-use designs.
If you like having lots of pockets for memory cards, batteries and filters, these bags probably aren’t for you, but if you want to keep your kit safe and dry whatever the British weather throws at you, few bags will cope better.

SCORE: 5 out of 5

About Billingham

Billingham is perhaps the best-known British brand in photography. Previously a maker of fishing bags, it has been producing top-quality, hard-wearing camera bags since 1978 to essentially the same template, using premium materials (canvas, brass and leather) with an emphasis on simplicity and practicality. Its designs are so timeless that its original 550 model is still in production, practically unchanged.

All prices are approximate street prices