Versatile backpack carries the load with style [Reviews]

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The Moshi Arcus backpack wants to shoulder the weight of all you carry for a day's work or travel.
The Moshi Arcus backpack wants to shoulder the weight of all you carry for a day's work or travel.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Red flags go up for me when a shoulder bag or backpack is described as having a “minimalist” design. Minimalist is code for “won’t carry all my crap.”

However, in the case of the new Moshi Arcus multifunction backpack, the minimalism actually conceals an ample and well-thought-out space. A surprising number of pockets in various sizes accommodate all the tools of a daily carry.

San Francisco-based Moshi has accessorized mobile professionals since 2005 with protective cases, cables and adapters, audio headgear and charging solutions for a variety of mobile devices, with a definite lean toward Apple products.

Moshi is a brand I tend to trust, and its iPhone cases are among the best I’ve used. Its line of bags and packs never hit my radar until Moshi rolled out the Arcus in January. A separately sold insert for camera gear that could appeal to serious photographers further piqued my interest.

Moshi Arcus: A cloud as design muse

Moshi Arcus backpack
Nature inspired the Moshi Arcus’ design.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The designers of the Arcus were inspired by the rolling shape of the arcus cloud, a rolling, low-hanging cloud that forms the front base of a larger storm cloud. They are dramatic and otherworldly.

The Arcus backpack, likewise, is striking in profile without the ominous nature. Apropos to its name, it’s constructed from a durable, rain-resistant fabric.

This bag’s main compartment is accessible from the top and is ready to hold books, extra shoes or a change of clothes. The sloping top portion is crush-resistant for fragile items like headphones or sunglasses.

Pack for a weekend getaway and include your electronics, like a laptop and camera.

Moshi Arcus backpack
The Moshi Arcus is perfect for a weekend getaway with a laptop and camera.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

A second top-loading compartment, the zipper of which frames the back panel, unveils fully cushioned sleeves for a tablet and 15-inch laptop. Three flapped pockets with Velcro enclosures house accessories, with enough room left to store document folders, a few magazines or maybe an extra pair of pants.

Another zipper pocket runs down the front of the pack. Two zipper pockets on the back secure a wallet and passport. And an exterior pocket proves perfect for a small tripod, umbrella or water bottle.

The electronics compartment can hold a 15-inch MacBook and an iPad.

Moshi Arcus backpack
Moshi Arcus’ electronics compartment accommodates a 15-inch MacBook.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Photography on the side

A right-side loading panel accesses the main compartment of the Moshi Arcus or serves as an opening for camera gear.

The camera insert fits neatly at the bottom of the main compartment and lines up with the zippered side opening. The insert includes three Velcro-edged dividers for a customizable compartment.

The design allows a user to unshoulder the bag on the left side to allow it to swing forward while still on the right shoulder, allowing the side compartment to face up for an easy reach of the photo gear.

I packed the Arcus with clothes and my computer for one weekend trip and, without having to edit, fit everything in. This included three shirts, underwear and socks, tennis shoes and sweats. Rather than carry a separate toiletry bag, I fit my personal care items in the hard-top compartment. Other items that fit just fine included charging cords for my iPhone and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Although I did not have a hike ahead of me, I made sure to walk around with the bag fully loaded on both shoulders. The shoulder straps and back panel are cushioned for comfort and seemed to prevent pulling on my neck and shoulders (though this was only a moderate load for testing).

On a second outing, I used the Moshi Arcus strictly for photography. I tested it with two different camera kits, one mirrorless and the other DSLR.

Moshi Arcus backpack
You can access the Moshi Arcus’ camera insert from the side.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The lowdown on Moshi Arcus backpack

The insert easily stowed two mirrorless bodies with lenses attached and an extra lens. A third camera and lens hung around my neck. With one DSLR body and lens outside the pack, I was able to stow a body and a 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom lens.

While I love the Arcus as a backpack, I’m not sure this will appeal to every photographer, especially pros who carry a lot of gear.

The camera insert holds only a small amount, but takes up enough room in the main compartment that little space is left for other things. With the insert in, I can use the remaining space in the main compartment for some small things, like my MacBook charging cord.

Photographers who need to carry gear in a backpack generally use one that’s more specialized, with dividers for extra bodies, lenses, flashes and other items that fill the entire bag.

Every bag or pack involves some sort of compromise. I have an expensive photo backpack that holds all sorts of gear, but has no space for a laptop or anything else I might need to carry.

But the balance the Arcus design strikes may make it an ideal bag for the photographer with one camera body and an extra lens or two, or one who works with smaller gear, like the mirrorless system.

Most of my work is documentary in nature so I find little use for some photographic extras, like flashes, remotes or super-long telephoto lenses. The Arcus, for me, is a versatile bag in both the field and travel. It comes in Charcoal Black or Titanium Gray.

Price: $229.95. Camera insert costs an extra $4.95 with the purchase of the backpack or $29.95 by itself.

Buy from: Moshi

Moshi provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See Cult of Mac’s reviews policy; and check out more stuff we recommend in our Best List reviews.