As a boy and throughout my teenage years, I spent the majority of my free time hiking, riding and camping in the bush lands surrounding the family home, so when I recently visited my parents at their home at the base of the beautiful Blue Mountains, just one and a half hours north-west of Sydney, Australia, I decided that a good bushwalk was well overdue and the perfect way to test out the new Manfrotto Off road Hiker 30L Backpack.
When people talk about about the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, most immediately think of places like Katoomba, The Three Sister and Leura; all of which are on the sight seeing hit-list for overseas travellers – but what people don’t know is that there is another, just as impressive side to the Blue Mountains in the north, filled with fresh produce, beautiful gardens and stunning bushlands. Kurrajong Heights and Bilpin is situated approximately 45 minute from your usual Blue Mountains tourist traps and this local bushland is thriving with native flora and fauna – from Grass Trees a.k.a Black Boys and giant Eucalyptus trees to native Rock Wallaby’s and Water Dragon’s – the many tracks that the area offers make for interesting and varied day treks.
I hiked along a small local creek system called Wheeny Creek that runs down the back of our family property. The creek runs for kilometers and eventually links up with the Collo River one of the major river systems in the region.
The new Off road Hiker 30L has been specifically designed for those that combine hiking with their photography, with quick side-access to your camera and ample room for packing snacks, water and anything else that you need for a day out in the wilderness.
The Off Road Hiker Back Pack has the ability to comfortably carry a professional grade DSLR with a lens up to 70-200mm and one spare lens. Thanks to the clever design the internal Manfrotto camera protection system, it can actually be removed from the pack all together to allow you to use the bag purely as a hiking pack.
The bag also has a high focus on ergonomics and accessibility with innovative camera strap featured on the front of the backpack enables the camera to be kept securely fastened to the chest when it’s being carried, avoiding neck strain. You also have quick access to your camera at all times even when its packed away via the side pocket.
If you only put one place on your travel bucket-list forever more, make sure it’s the Galapagos Islands as I can’t even begin to explain how epic this place is and it’s honestly worth every cent. Growing up I watched countless documentary’s by David Attenborough. The most memorable of those doco’s where the ones about the Galapagos Islands and the rich biodiversity that inhabits the chain of volcanic islands. I clearly remember thinking that “one day” I’d go there. From an abundance of wildlife to some of the most beautiful and rugged terrain I’ve ever witnessed, the Galapagos is what the world would look like if we humans weren’t so set on interfering.
With a love for the water and a background in marine science; snorkeling and diving in the Galapagos was a top tier bucketlist item and I was lucky enough to be able to tick it off the list, thanks to my beautiful fiancéwho booked us a week long stint for my birthday while we were on our travels through South America.
The Galapagos Islands are an easy two-hour flight from Guayaquil Ecuador, and you have the option of flying to either Baltra or San Cristóbal. From here, the best way to explore the islands is via boat as most of the places you want to get to are National Parks so can only be accessed by dinghy during certain times of the day (as not to disturb the wildlife). We did a five day “voyage” with Millennium Yacht, which was a luxury boat that specialise in good food and small groups, both of which are big ticks for us when we travel. It was quite a costly endeavour, but waking each morning to seals playing below of our room balcony and throwing back cocktails each night watching the Frigate Birds ride the updrafts of our yacht, totally justified the expense. The days are set up to eat, hike, snorkel, eat, hike, eat, snorkel and then eat again – which suited us just fine, and we literally crashed into bed each night exhausted the days activities.
The animals that inhabit the islands and ocean surrounding the Galapagos region, were definitely the highlight of the trip. Due to the incredible work of scientists and national park staff who ensure that the animals are treated with respect and are given enough space, you are able to experience this brilliant biodiversity at an arms reach. We played with seals up-close in the sea, and saw them being born on the shore, saw blue-footed boobies dancing to impress potential mates and land iguanas nesting. We saw turtles, penguins, sharks, manta-rays and more types of fish and birds than I could ever recount – and despite seeing all this in one too-short week, we were wowed by every single siting. It was the most surreal experience for the animals to not even notice you and be completely un-threatened by onlookers, but the Galapagos Islands are one of the very few places on earth where humans are not a threat, and consequently nature and people can just co-exist, which is a pretty beautiful idea in itself.
On this trip I had my camera safely stored away in the fantastic Pro Light Access Camera Holster and never went anywhere without my compact Manfrotto monopod. With the seals, birds and iguanas being able to move so quickly around the islands, having a monopod is definitely the best choice for a fast setup, getting the right angle and a steady crystal clear shot of the subject.
As part of our global travels this November, myself and my fiancé embarked on a four day hike/ancient Incan pilgrimage – A.K.A The Inca Trail.
This adventure began in the super-touristy Peruvian town of Cusco, where all hikers spend a couple of days getting their bodies acclimatised to the high altitude before undergoing the epic up and downhill haul. Cusco has been the main city hub in the highlands of Peru for centuries, and as we spent two days roaming the city streets, feeling like we were wading through concrete (thanks to the Cusco’s elevation). Despite the altitude, it was plain to see from the impressive and well-worn stone walls, cobble streets and intricate alley-ways why the city has been so pivotal to the region for such a long period of time.
We booked our hike over four months ago in order to get spot on the mystical Inca trail. We decided to go with a tour company by the name of Llama Path, which have a great reputation with the locals and Trip Advisor for providing an unforgettable experience for hikers and most importantly, for their sustainable and ethical treatment of porters (which a lot of other tour operator seem to neglect). Thankfully Marco, Wilber and their team really came through with the goods.
During our trip we found ourselves hiking huge distances of up to 12 hours a day and literally walking up-and-down mountain peaks, reaching altitudes close to a staggering five thousand metres in elevation. This was all very daunting considering that a few days earlier, we were sitting on deck chairs on a yacht sipping on cervezas in the Galapagos Islands. But, every time we stopped to catch our breathes along the famed trail, we found our energy levels were quickly renewed by simply looking around and taking in the majestic mountain passes, snow-capped glaciers and the ruins left behind by the ancient Incan civilization which you are passing along the way.
As you can imagine, a trip to the fourth wonder of the world meant that my camera and memory cards were both working around the clock throughout the entire trek. Because of our amazing porters with their super-human strength, I was able to hike up the mountains fairly unhindered, only having to carry my Osprey daypack and Manfrotto Light Holster Bag , meaning that I had quick access to my camera at all times.
The Manfrotto Light Holster Bag is the perfect camera carry-case for an excursion like this one. It is decent sized, no-fuss and durable holster bag that can fit up to x3 lenses and a body at one time. It also has enough room to accommodate for several memory cards, filters and lens cleaners. All the essentials and nothing else.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve ever done. If you’re planning on making the trip to Cuzco to see the fabled ruins, I highly recommend NOT catching the train and bus straight to the ruins, and making the trek yourself. You will appreciate Machu Picchu and the incredible Incan civilization so much more if you take the Incan Pilgrimage into the mountains. It will make your experience far sweeter than any of the other tourist who take the bus! Not to mention the self-fulfillment and priceless sense of accomplishment that you get to take home as a souvenir.
I’ve often been described a bit of a bag addict, always having the latest and greatest day packs, hiking bags, messenger satchels and of course, camera bags, but I’ve always found it difficult to find a pack that is the perfect balance between comfort, weight and protection, especially for my prized digital possessions. That was until my new Manfrotto Pro Light Camera Backpack arrived on my desk. This particular camera pack is a great medium sized bag that easily packed away my essentials, which included my Nikon D800, 24-70mm & 50mm Nikon lenses, speed light, card reader, Gopro and leatherman multi-tool.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to give the pack a serious workout, spending two full days exploring the magical Jervis Bay region on the south coast of New South Wales in Australia. This particular stretch of the eastern coastline is jam-packed with stunning beaches, bushlands, walking trails and loads of wildlife just hanging-out for visitors to see.
One of the main attractions in the area is Hyams Beach, which is located on the southern shores of Jervis Bay. It’s known for having the whitest sand in Australia, and because of this sand, the water is the most picture-perfect sapphire blue. Knowing that dolphins and whales make frequent appearances here, meant that my new camera pack’s quick accessibility options were a major plus when meant I needed to get my gear out quick.
On our explorations we discovered two stunning coastal walking trails, the White Sands Walk and Scribbly Gum Track. This interconnecting 2.5km loop was packed full of stunning scenery, from the crystal clear waters lapping up on Greenfields Beach to the erratic natural graffiti on the native Scribbly Bark trees.
Aside from general comfort the Manfrotto Pro Light Camera Backpack, it offers a great deal of protection, which due to the varied weather conditions, was truly put test on our weekend of exploration. The bag includes a detachable rain protector and the bag itself is coat edin, which is an aquaphobic coating to protect your gear two-fold in the case of wet conditions. On the flipside, the rain cover also acts as a UV/heat deflector to prevent your digital gear from overheating so you don’t have to worry about your gear if you’re down at the beach all day in the harsh Australian sun.
During our time in Jervis Bay we stayed a great holiday rental property, about 1 minute walk to Seamans Beach, we loved it so much, that we’re now considering visiting again over new years with friends. We can highly recommend Home At Hyams for anyone looking to visit the area.