Vanguard VEO Active 46 Backpack Review


On the outside, it looks like any other hiking backpack. But peel back the layers, and you’ll find that Vanguard creatively designed the VEO Active 46 backpack to hold loads of gear. It comes in four sizes (two bigger than the Active 46 version that I tested). It seems made for experienced hikers and travelers on long journeys. It doesn’t just have loads of space inside; There are sufficient pockets and storage spaces so you can organize your gear well.

It’s probably bigger than most camera bags you’ve used so far, so maybe it’s not something you’d use for your weekly photo walk. The Vanguard VEO Active 46 seems to be aimed at people who want to carry loads of gear over trips lasting a couple of days. With some creativity, you could also easily fit in the clothes and snacks you’d need too, in addition to a laptop, an iPad, accessories, and more. In fact, you could probably live out of this backpack for an entire week.

The Big Picture

I think I would have to be at least 5’10” to not feel minuscule while wearing this pack. I can only imagine how dwarfed I would be if I had tried either the Active 49 or 53 models. But large as it is, the design process behind it seems carefully thought out. There are pockets for essential travel items like power banks, there’s a section for hydration, and electronics can be snugly tucked away. And while these features are in a lot of hiking bags these days, Vanguard designed this backpack to suit the long-term traveling photographer. For the most part, they seem to have gotten it right. It’s really not a daily use bag, but if you’re someone who does long travels, it’s worth considering.

Pro

  • Oodles of space
  • Comfortable straps
  • Padded waist straps
  • Dual control wheels
  • Airflow padding for back
  • Easily straps over your luggage trolley handle
  • Raincover, cards/cables pouch, and multifunction pouch included
  • Powerbank area to easily connect your phone to for charging without having to place it inside the backpack
  • Metal frame keeps the bag upright and firm.
  • Removable camera box insert

Cons

  • The removable camera box insert really should have had hooks and a shoulder strap. This would help in scenarios where you want to take only the camera gear out of the backpack and move around with it, leaving the main backpack behind.
  • It felt a bit heavy on my back, even with just the Nikon Z6 II and 24-120 f4 Z mount lens inside the camera box. Maybe it just takes some getting used to.

If you’re a photographer who’s an avid hiker too, or someone who enjoys exploring the outdoors overseas and wants to ensure you have all your camera gear with you, this is the bag to pick. You can easily fit two cameras and up to five lenses in the camera box. The bag easily accommodates a 14″ laptop and 10″ tablet. Don’t worry about your massive landscape tripod; it’ll fit there too. I only wish the camera box had a shoulder strap option.

We are giving the Vanguard VEO Active 46 four out of five stars. Want one? You can buy it on Amazon.

Gear Used

We tested Vanguard’s VEO Active 46 khaki-green backpack with the following gear:

  • A Nikon Z9 with the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S lens (both on loan) attached
  • A Nikon Z6 II with the Nikon Z 24-120 f4 S lens (both mine)
  • A Leofoto Mr Q tripod
  • Nikon FTZ II
  • Various filters
  • Macbook M1 Air
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10
  • Clothes

Innovations

The inclusion of the metal frame inside the backpack is interesting. I personally haven’t seen this in other bags of this genre. Even if you don’t have much gear inside, or even if the camera box isn’t inside the backpack, it still remains fairly upright thanks to this.

Ergonomics

This is the first backpack I’ve used that I’d use the word “chunky” to describe. Maybe it’s because of those heavily padded shoulders and waist straps. They almost feel like you’re holding a lightweight brick in your hand when you grip them. Even if they take a bit of time to adjust to, you get used to them. They do fit snugly, and even on my relatively narrow shoulders.

The most interesting and important piece for those of us obsessed with keeping our gear spotless is the above-seen camera box. This removable insert comes with lightly padded removable dividers that you can move to reconfigure the space inside it.

Seen here inside the camera insert box are a Nikon Z9 with the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S lens attached, a Nikon Z 50mm f1.8s lens, a Nikkor F mount 17-35mm f2.8 lens, Laowa’s 10-18mm ultrawide lens , a Nikon FTZ adapter, and a Godox TT350s speedlight. I could have squeezed an ND filter in if it had a protective case. And there’s still room for an air blower and a small sanitizer bottle. An elastic strap with velcro is kept as an extra line of safety to prevent your camera from falling out, though I’m unsure what would keep your lenses from doing the same should you ever be in such a situation.

Access to the insert is possible via the rear of the Vanguard VEO Active 46 backpack, but this involves opening the zipper to access the gear. I didn’t see how the cover of the insert could be tucked away when you stash it inside the backpack for easier access to gear.

Pockets, Pockets Everywhere

The inside of the back of the backpack is also where you’d stow your laptop and/or tablet, and travel documents if you’d like.

The Vanguard VEO Active 46 is definitely more comfortable when the removable waist strap is secured. For one thing, it’s unsightly to leave it open as it’s obtrusive to look at. But Vanguard has included a pocket on one of the waist strap’s paddings, which can take a smartphone or maybe even a compact camera.

The top of the backpack has a thin nylon handle. I really like the shiny silver buckle that protects the top compartment. I wish all the other black buckles were silver too; they would add an extra bit of premium feel to the backpack. The upper compartment is loose, and doesn’t have any padding or structure to it. It’s best used for storing your sweater or hoodie while you travel. If you place any camera gear in there, be sure to use some padding around it. It’s the expandable part of the backpack; roll it down and collapse it when not needed.

There’s also space in here to keep your smartphone, with an included USB cable to attach to it. It’s easily swappable should you want to change it to a high-speed cable of your own choice. I’d keep business cards or often-needed cables in the zipped net pocket if I were to use it.

What Came Inside The Top Compartment?

The rain cover, multi accessories pouch (where you can store cards, cables, and more), and the multifunction pouch (good enough to fit a 70-200 or a 1.5L water bottle).

Sides

One side has a space for a fairly large-sized power bank. There’s a port in there to plug in the cable from the power bank. The other end is probably what the cable in the top collapsible compartment connects to as well. Just below this, on the same side, is an expandable pocket where you could store a bottle of water. A small tripod could also fit in here, or you could hold a larger one with the strap provided.

The other side has two buckles securing a large zipper, which opens up the main compartment of the Vanguard VEO Active 46 Backpack. This is the only way you can remove and add the removable camera box insert. These straps aren’t for holding a tripod; They look more for just securing the side. You could also hold the tripod against the front of the backpack, using the two straps there, and tuck in the tripod legs inside the multifunction pouch.

Build Quality

I’m just under 5’6″, and the bag fits me pretty well, but I felt like it would weigh down on my shoulders due to its size. And while it did feel like this when I first hoisted it over them, it felt pretty comfortable once I adjusted the shoulder straps for a tighter fit.

Croydon is about 5’10”, and the bag fits him much better. He found it comfy during a trip to Amsterdam some months ago.

The bag was tested in Amsterdam, as well as in the deserts of UAE: the latter being the harsher test. Out in the dunes, with wind blowing sand on me often, the backpack seemed unfazed. No sand clung to the exterior of the bag, and I can’t recall it any sand in the car at leaving the end of the shoot that day.

I love that all the zipper pulls have these large, brightly colored tags. Overall, the quality of the materials used in the Vanguard VEO Active 46 is special, even if the exterior of the back reminds me of the graph sheets I used in math class.

Ease Of Use

In terms of being able to store large amounts of gear safely, Vanguard nailed it. But when it comes to swiftly accessing your gear, be prepared for exercise patience.

Let’s first address the issue of the camera box insert. Useful as it is to store gear in an organized manner, the zipped top cannot be removed in any way (at least not that I saw). This means that, in order to get to your cameras via the back of the bag, you need to unzip it. If the cover were removable, I’d be able to access the gear faster. This could be achieved by swinging the backpack to your front (while the waist straps were secured) and just unzipping the top of the zipper at the back. Slide a hand in and take out your primary camera, then zip up and swing the backpack around to your back again. As it is now, there’s an extra step of having to unzip the camera insert box or at least move the flap out of the way each time.

Secondly, if the insert had a shoulder strap (or at least hooks for this), maybe I could have used it as a shoulder bag for when I didn’t want to lug the entire backpack along. Imagine you’re at a campsite and just want to take a camera body and a couple of lenses along for a small hike. You can’t really sling the camera insert box across your shoulder as it only has one handle. And even that is mostly to just yank it out of the backpack when you want to access gear.

The bag doesn’t look like a traditional camera bag, so you’re probably not going to be the target of thieves and pickpockets while you travel abroad. It can carry loads of gear as long as you creatively pack it. Just know that you can’t access that gear as quickly as you would with a regular camera bag.

Who Should Buy The Vanguard VEO Active 46 Backpack?

Photographers who are hikers, travelers, and outdoor explorers that love going off the grid can find this bag as a good solution to their gear carrying woes. It fits a lot of gear (if you still want more space then Vanguard has Active 49 and 53 models too) and can still take travel accessories and clothes.

You just can’t access your gear on the go as quickly as you might want to, so treat this as more of a luggage case on your back. That said, it will probably get easier to do this once you’re used to it. And it has no shortage of pockets and sleeves for storing accessories.

I hope future iterations of this bag will have a shoulder strap option for the camera insert box.

Tech Specs

Tech specs are from the Vanguard VEO Active 46 product page

Color Khaki Green
External Dimensions 11.4 x 9 x 18.7 inches
Internal Dimensions 10.6 x 6.2 x 18.1 inches
Laptop/Tablet Storage 14″ Laptop/10″ Tablet
Volume (Liters) 25 L
Maximum Weight Capacity 24.25 lbs.
Item Weight 5.6 lbs.

All images on this page that featured the backpack with a model wearing it or using it were taken by Madonna Yumnam.

The Phobographer may receive affiliate compensation for products purchased using links in this blog post.





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