Introducing M-ROCK’s Flagship Backpack
All modern mobile electronic equipment needs protection while in transport. With the proliferation of such devices the need for such protective transport containers is ever increasing. Today, we are going to look at the new M-ROCK Zion combination laptop and camera backpack.
M-ROCK is primarily a maker of a line of camera bags. The line extends from very small bags for things like phones and music devices to their new combination laptop and full DSLR kit backpacks, with many intermediate sized bags between. There are several styles and many sizes of bags to fit the needs of almost any photographer. All of the M-ROCK bags (beyond the very smallest sacks) are made of durable padded nylon materials with soft non-scratch interiors, have combinations of hook and loop, zippers, and buckle closures and feature multiple carrying options such as hand-held, belt attached, and shoulder straps.
The Zion fits the "laptop plus DSLR kit" backpack category and is one of M-ROCK’s largest bags. It is designed for laptops (up to 15”) along with a full sized camera kit.
The Zion features:
- Separate rear laptop compartment
- External bungee straps and pockets
- Removable/reconfigurable interior padded dividers
- Accessory Bag for keeping loose items inside the main compartment (HWD: 7x5x11 inches,17.8x12.7x27.9cm)
- Weather jacket/lens changing bag
- Lens cloth
- Wire port for your MP3 player headphones
- Snap hook for keys
- Two exterior storage pockets
- Two interior mesh pockets
- Heavy duty construction and padding
- Airline carry-on compatible size
- Compatibility with M-Rock’s Attachment System
- Interior Measurement (maximum): (HWD) 17x12x6.25 inches (42.5 x 30 x 15.6 cm)
- Separate Rear Laptop compartment (fits max 15 inch laptop): (HWD) 17x12x2.25 inches (42.5 x 30 x 6 cm)
- Exterior Dimensions (including front pockets): (HWD) 18.5x13x11.75 inches (46.25 x 32.5 x 29.4 cm)
- Empty weight: 6 lbs. (2.7 kg)
- 5 year manufacturer’s warranty
The first thing I noticed about the Zion was that it did not look or feel like a backpack, but rather more like a small piece of luggage. The padded construction of the Zion makes it relatively rigid and prevents it from collapsing when empty like a normal backpack would. It also stands up on its own, even when loaded. The Zion is constructed of heavy duty nylon fabric with padding inside.
There are two large external pockets, each about half of the height of the Zion and an inch or two deep. The front also has a small tripod pocket and bungee straps to secure the tripod. This pocket and the straps also worked well for holding my compact umbrella on a trip where I did not need the tripod but wanted an umbrella. The lower front can also open for direct access to the bottom half of the pack.
All of the external zippers have double pulls, are heavy duty, and are covered with a small ‘weather strip’ to keep dirt and rain out. On top there is a stout carry handle and the backside has padded shoulder straps with a chest strap. The back also has contoured padding designed to allow air to circulate while wearing the Zion as well as allow for the use of the optional waist belt.
The laptop compartment is located in the back of the bag (where it would be against your back when wearing the Zion) and has its own zippers. Each side of the Zion has a pair of D-ring clips for attaching bags from the M-ROCK modular attachment system or other items as you desire, and a small external pocket.
Inside the Zion
The inside of the Zion is lined with soft, non-scratching cloth, and all of the seams are covered. The laptop compartment has a divider with a retaining strap for one side. My 15” wide-screen laptop was too tall to use the strap, but with the compartment closed, there was little extra room for movement, so I did not worry. There is a small earphone feed-through slot from the laptop compartment allowing for the placement of an MP3 player inside. With my laptop, there was only enough room left for a very small player. Since my old, hard-drive based MP3 player would be too large, I would just place it in the upper front pocket and use the double zippers to form an earphone wire path. The two external pockets are roomy and each contains two smaller pouches and a zippered mesh compartment for storing and organizing all of your accessories. The main compartment also has two large mesh pockets, located on the front, opening part of the bag for organizing and storing small items.
The Zion comes with a large variety of padded dividers for the main compartment along with the accessory bag which can fit snugly into the top. I loaded up the Zion with my large DSLR, two large lenses, and a full sized flash. I was able to quickly make an arrangement that fit all of these items and left a large volume at the top for other things (like a snack, or my video camera for those occasions that need still and video coverage). However, my larger 70-200mm zoom lens, at 8.5” (215mm), was tall enough that it was difficult to fit the accessory bag in the top space.
The accessory bag also has hook and loop panels on its exterior for holding it to the inside of the Zion. These attachments make the accessory bag difficult to fit into place if the space is tight, though once in place, it was secure even if the items below were removed. If desired, the accessory bag can also be attached to the top handle of the Zion via a large hook-and-loop strap on the bottom of the accessory bag (included for just this purpose). The accessory bag itself is padded and quite stiff, so it can protect its contents well.
The optional Great Lakes bladder is designed to fit into the laptop compartment for hikes where a laptop is not needed but water is desired. It has a 1.5 quart (1.3 l) capacity and includes a neoprene case with a reflective insulation liner. It has a wide mouth for ease of adding your favorite fluid and ice if desired. The small feed-through in the Zion laptop compartment allows the tube from the bladder to exit the compartment with the zippers completely closed.
The Zion in Use
With the Zion loaded with my full camera kit, a small tripod, some snacks, and a water bottle, the total weight was about 22 pounds (10 kg). The wide, padded straps made the Zion comfortable to wear on a hike in the local mountains. The Zion fit well and moved with my body well. I took the Zion on a hike up a creek-side trail on a day with on-and-off light rain to a waterfall at its full winter level with corresponding spray. The Zion kept my camera equipment dry and safe the whole time. With the tripod in place on the Zion, it was not possible to access the lower half of the bag via the lower zipper; the tripod had to be removed or the backpack had to be opened with the main zippers to access my camera in the lower part of the main compartment.
For airplane travel, I would add my laptop to the load along with its batteries and charger, along with the camera charger. This would push the total weight of the Zion and its contents over the 30 pound (13.6 kg) mark, but for the limited times you need to carry it from terminal to terminal it would be comfortable. If carrying such a load would present a problem, M-ROCK offers the McKinley, which is the same backpack with an added set of wheels and a handle, turning into a true piece of luggage.
The Zion is a high quality camera plus laptop bag that is large enough to hold a large DSLR with large lenses, a 15” laptop, and associated accessories. There are tons of pockets and plenty of dividers for configuring the interior to suit almost any assortment of items. All sides are padded and the entire backpack is made of heavy duty materials. Several accessories are included with the bag and many more are available.
While the list price of $230 does seem high, you get a lot of bag and it is competitive with other major manufacturer backpacks of this size and functionality. If you order directly from the manufacturer, you can currently get a 20% discount, making the Zion cheaper than the competition without sacrificing quality or functionality. The peace of mind from knowing your equipment is protected is well worth the investment.
Legit Bottom Line: If you are in the market for a large combination laptop and camera bag, I would recommend the M-ROCK Zion without hesitation. Given the quality of the Zion, I am confident that the other M-ROCK camera bags are of equal quality and should be given serious consideration if you are in the market for a protective bag for your digital camera or other portable electronic devices.