Real user review of the Vanguard VEO Select 46BR GR Slim Backpack
22 February 2023 | Admin
The Vanguard VEO Select 46BR is the bigger relation to the Veo Select 37BRM. Why is that relevant? Simple, the 37BRM is a bag I purchased previously and has been my go-to backpack (for when I am walking around towns) for around the last 2 years or more. As well as being small and slim enough to get through crowded places, the 37 BRM has the storage capacity to hold everything I need for a town type shooting environment - namely 1 full frame mirrorless, 3 lenses and the small accessories that you simply can't leave behind. So when I had the opportunity to review the larger 46BR, I jumped at the chance.
Starting from the outside, the 46BR photo backpack is made from a mixture of (slightly water-repellent) woven fabric, a solid PVC type material on the front and a tough & water-resistant material on the very bottom. Though the bag comes with a separate rain cover, it is fairly well resistant to short bursts of light rain/showers.
If you like zips - great - there are loads of them.. Access into the bag and accessory pockets are all covered by zips on the Top, front, back, and sides. Inside the top compartment, there is also a zippered accessory/memory card compartment. Both the top access and back access are double zippered, with all zip seams being of a close fit variety, sort of making them kind of water-resistant.
In terms of storage, the 46BR has a lot more to offer than the smaller 37BRM I own, with both larger top and main camera/lens compartments. The top compartment is big enough to happily take a lens or whatever else you choose to throw in there. For the record, it will take a 16-35 F4 with adapter attached, as well as storing cards, lens pen and a battery in the internal zippered compartment. There is the same decent foam padding in the top compartment as is found in the rest of the bag, so a thumbs up for the flexible use this part of the bag has.
As with a lot of bags, the internal compartments can be customised as the dividers are held in place by Velcro. If you want, the base of the top compartment can be removed to create a single/larger storage area. Great for much longer lenses.
Access into the main storage area is via three ways - main zippered back to access the whole compartment, or a zippered side access panel on each side of the bag (same as the 37BRM). Inside the panel on the back is a padded tablet pocket. You will probably struggle to get any laptop in there, as the bag just isn’t of the size needed for that. Vanguard say it will take a 13” laptop. I cannot vouch for that, but will say that my 14” laptop will not fit in there.
The side access doors/panels are mirrors of each other. The bag can be configured for left or right-handed access, or set up the dividers to access a lens in one side and camera on the other. Side access has always been a favourite of mine, allowing you to grab gear quickly without having to find somewhere to lay your bag down. I know some are critical of this, citing them as invites to thieves, but so far (touch wood) I haven’t lost any gear. One thing I would like to point out is the size of the side doors/panel - large enough to extract a full frame mirrorless such as a Sony or Nikon with ease. Anyone with a larger DSLR may not find this so easy.
On each side is a tripod strap at the top of each side and a zippered compartment that hides a tripod foot/water bottle carrier on each access panel. Once unzipped, you can fold out the water bottle carrier, but you cannot zip that compartment back up once the carrier folded out. All that means is that you have the choice to carry a tripod/bottle or use as a small accessory compartment, but not both at the same time. Vanguard describe the ‘carrier’ as a lower pocket, and they may have intended its use solely for tripod feet. I have mostly used these as bottle carriers but in all honesty, they don’t make brilliant bottle carriers, as the shape of the lower pocket means it's easy for the bottle to fall out. Not necessarily a design flaw, perhaps just that I have been using it differently than was intended. Also, not being able to use it as a storage compartment when the lower pocket is in use is not really a big deal. On the front of the bag is a vertical zip with access to a large, but thin storage compartment. Great for rain cover, batteries, or other small accessories. I would never put a mobile phone in there. Too accessible to thieves. Which brings me onto one of my favourite features of this bag - the zippered pocket on the back of the bag. Like the smaller 37BRM, the 46BR has a small compartment at the top of the back where you can store a wallet or decent sized mobile phone. When wearing the bag, this compartment is completely hidden. Now, I won’t say this is totally thief proof, but I imagine it's extremely difficult to get a hand between your back and bag and unzip it to access your phone/stuff. All bags should have this.
Another neat little feature is the waist strap that hides away at the back of the bag near the bottom, so no flapping about when it's not in use. This bag also has the suitcase strap on the back, so you can secure it to a suitcase handle. It's secured against the bag via Velcro when not in use and whilst handy. Pretty much very standard stuff, don’t think I have seen a bag that doesn’t have this?
On the protection side, it's all standard Vanguard stuff. Lots of dense foam that keeps the bag semi-rigid. Apart from great height drops (Eiffel Tower?) and buses running over the bag, it feels secure, offering the gear inside the protection required. Regarding comfort, Vanguard have also put plenty of foam padding in the back of the bag with two sections of foam running vertically down the bag to offer a ‘breathable channel’, when wearing the bag. These foam sections also have holes in there to allow for a bit more air circulation. The straps are also of a similar construction, with holes to make the straps more breathable. There is plenty of foam in these straps to make this bag comfortable, even fully laden with gear.
In terms of the bag's size, the 46BR fits into what I would call the medium-sized category. Not too wide, tall or deep - large enough to fit a reasonable amount of gear but not so big that it will bump in to others when wandering around in a town/city environment.
The last thing I have to say on this bag is price and longevity, it's not dirt cheap, but it's certainly at the lower end of the price range for the features you get, mixed with the quality of materials & build. So how long is this bag likely to last? Based on a comparison with the smaller 37BRM, a bag that I have solidly used pretty much every weekend for the last 2 and bit years, I would say the 46BR will last just as long. The only thing that went wrong with my 37BRM was fabric fraying inside the top compartment. Somehow it frayed near the zip on the inside with threads getting stuck in the actual zipper, making it harder to open or close. That was easily fixed with a lighter or knife (cant remember which) and though the bag could not be passed off as new, it's still in very, very good condition for its age. I’m expecting it to last for another year or two, and see no reason why the bigger version wouldn’t just last as long.
Review by Justin L