Hail the Explorers— The Humboldt by Cecilia

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I’m kind of a nut when it comes to bags, something I’ve fully admitted several times before. But I’ve always been a messenger guy and honestly, at this point in my life, I can’t justify yet another one. There is such a thing as enough. A backpack however? Oh hell, here we go again.

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I believe I heard the first rumblings about Cecilia expanding their product line to include camera bags almost two years ago. Knowing the company and the quality of the materials they use to craft their wares, it was certainly an exciting prospect. I was in the middle of several projects when they first reached out but we finally got to talking just before I left for my UK trip. Long story short, I got home to a nice big box waiting in my downstairs studio. Full disclosure here: this was a gift. But as always, I don’t write about products I don’t use or enjoy. Not getting any kickbacks from sales either.

The Humboldt is a 14L backpack with fully customizable dividers, which means it can easily transform from a dedicated camera bag to a basic everyday carry. Strangely, this is my very first leather bag—I’ve always preferred canvas for some reason. But although that option is available, in this case I wanted to experience Cecilia’s original craftsmanship. I’m not disappointed: the material is gorgeous. I went with the chestnut model and I’m actually looking forward to wear and tear slowly transforming this product into an even more intimate object, taking on a life of its own. And as far as first impressions go, this one hits all the marks as far as I’m concerned: the backpack is shipped in a nice re-usable cotton bag that will definitely find some use in our household. 

So how much stuff does it hold? Well, for the following pictures I did a very quick setup, just to get a sense of what I could pack without too much effort. Needless to say I’ve barely scratched the surface: the main compartment still has a bit of room left in it and the top “shelf” is more than half-empty, with just an X-Pro2 with the XF 35mmm f/2 thrown in. The GFX 50S is my largest camera and its lenses are also much bigger than their XF counterparts—which means an X-series kit would allow even more gear to be packed. And I didn’t use any of the front or inside pockets so there’s plenty of space left for batteries and cards and wallets and passports and gum...you get the drift.

Everything is adjustable—even the top compartment can be removed.

Everything is adjustable—even the top compartment can be removed.

 Here’s the exact content as shown:

1. Apple iPad Pro 12.9 with Logitech Slim Folio Pro case (2018 models)

2. Fujifilm GFX 50S

3. Fujifilm GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR

4. Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2 R WR

5. Pentax 50mm f/1.7

6. Fujifilm X-Pro2

7. Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR

8. Fujifilm Tilt-Adapter

You’ll notice the Humboldt also includes a padded laptop sleeve, rated for anything up to 13” (their larger 16L Mercator bag goes to 15”). This was very important to me but I recently added Logitech’s new Slim Folio Pro to my iPad Pro 12.9 2018...and the word slim is rather daring on their part: this is one very bulky case. I knew this beforehand and don’t mind it one bit (the protection and typing experience more than make up for it), but it makes for a tight fit in this particular sleeve. It does work as you can see but for reference, I believe I’m essentially at the top end of what’s possible here. 

Of course leather requires a bit more care so there’s an integrated rain cover hidden in a bottom sleeve (which also houses a tripod pocket). Although I do wonder how necessary this is? I’m reminded of that Seinfeld bit about cows and leather...all those cows freaking out when it starts to rain? Or was that suede? I’ve clearly been watching too many reruns lately. Anyway the option exists if there’s ever a serious downpour. I tried it just for kicks and it’s a fast and easy solution. Besides, it’s probably more about preventing any sort of water infiltration than actual damage to the bag itself.

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A couple of things to point out: there are no side-pockets to carry a water bottle, which may be an important feature to some—although the top compartment could be used for this depending on how the bag is packed. And the straps are adjustable and comfortable, but I wonder if a chest strap might’ve been a welcome addition for added stability and load distribution. But niggles aside I have to admit I like this bag. A lot. It’s not cheap but then...it’s not cheap. And while it may look deceivingly simple, it’s actually quite versatile and well thought-out.

For more information check out Cecilia’s website.
Oh and they also make lovely messenger bags too. No, no...I’m just passing along the information...;)