There was a time not all that long ago that I was not a Vanguard fan.
Their old products left a little to be desired, but that's definitely not the case these days.
In fact, Vanguard - in my opinion, anyway - makes some of the best bags on the market.
They're smartly designed, easy to use and carry, and in the case of their new Alta Fly 55T, they can hold a ton of gear.
Here's my hands-on review of this awesome bag.
I've bought several Vanguard bags over the last couple of years, and each time I've been blown away by the workmanship that goes into crafting these things.
I mean, the bags aren't flashy and over-the-top by any means. If you want a bag that draws attention, Vanguard isn't for you...
But when you look at the stitching and the buckles, work the zippers back and forth, and see how the bag is designed, you get a sense that a lot of thought and effort went into building this thing.
The wheels on the bottom of the bag roll as they should, and there's no wobble as you pull the bag behind you like you'd do at the airport.
Since it's a backpack as well, I'd be remiss if I didn't speak about the quality of the shoulder straps, too.
They're big and cushy, which as a tall guy, I really appreciate.
Granted, you can carry a lot of gear in this thing, so even though these straps are top-notch after a while you'll start to feel it.
But, hey, in that situation, the fact that it doubles as a roller bag with a retractable trolley handle is extra helpful! There's carry handles on the top and the left side of the bag as well, so there's really no shortage of means to get this bag from point A to point B.
The Alta Fly 55T can hold two professional DSLRs, four or five lenses, and a flash.
Add to that a padded sleeve for a 14-inch laptop, a front pocket with tablet storage and an organizer, and various other pockets to keep things like your car keys, passport, cell phone, and the like, and you have the makings of a bag that can accommodate everything you need to take on a long trip.
That makes this thing an ideal big bag for photographers on-the-go.
Now that I have a wife and son, I'm not on-the-go as much as I used to be. But you can bet that when we head to Hawaii in a couple of months that this is the bag I'll be using to get my photography gear there and back!
Organizational & Safety Features
If you ask my wife, she'll tell you that I'm disorganized.
I like to think of it as organized disorganization. It might not look pretty, but my system works.
Another system that works is Vanguard's interior organization in this bag.
I love the padded inserts and dividers (which are removable) that not only keep my gear nice and cozy in their own cubbies, but protect my lenses and cameras from clanking into one another on my journeys.
I also like the clear mesh zippered pockets under the lid, which give me a clear view of what I've stashed away in them long after I've forgotten what I've put in there.
Speaking of a clear view, I appreciate the bright yellow interior of this bag, because it makes it a breeze to see what gear is where, even in low lighting.
The Little Details
So, obviously, Vanguard knows how to design a great bag.
But beyond the major bells and whistles, I've found a few easter eggs that make this bag even better.
For starters, it comes with a Total Coverage Rain Cover, which might come in handy on my trip to Hawaii (though I hope it's nothing but sunshine!).
Secondly, I like the fact that when you carry the bag as a backpack, there's little covers to go over the bag's rear wheels so you don't get your clothes dirty.
There's tons of padding on the back of this bag, too, which your back will appreciate on those days where you have to primarily use the bag as a backpack.
And best of all, the Alta Fly 55T's wide-mouth opening makes it easy to get your gear in your bag, whether the bag is standing up or laying on its back. You can even carry your tripod with the integrated tripod straps on the bag's right side.
As I noted in the introduction, there was a time when I wouldn't give Vanguard the time of day. That's definitely changed.
Their Alta Fly 55T is an awesome bag. I can't wait to take it on longer adventures and really put it to the test!