I bought my first camera backpack 8 years ago, when I bought my first dSLR. The camera was somewhat wanting (an Olympus E-500 -- in retrospect, the lamest camera in an already lame camera system) but the backpack was fantastic! 8 years later, it still carries its weight. It has been hiking everywhere with me and my gear, has taken a ton of abuse, and is only now starting to feel a little tuckered out.
Recently I switched platforms from Olympus Four Thirds (not Micro Four Thirds, mind you, just.... Four Thirds) to Canon full frame. I ditched a boatload of lenses and accessories and Olympus' top end SLR body, because Olympus as a company was no longer meeting my needs. With the larger Canon gear, I needed a bigger boat. Naturally, since the Tamrac Expedition 5x (below, right) had been so tough and helpful for so long, I sprang for the 5x's big brother, the Tamrac Expedition 7x (below, left). (Also thanks to Stephanie and Frances for the Amazon gift cards.)
With the the new Canon gear, I also needed a bigger tripod. I discovered my new Manfrotto was a little unstable on the back of the 5x--the pack is just too short. The taller 7x holds it nicely without any wiggling.
I'm not the sort of photographer who's more interested in the gear than the process of photography. To me, gear is great, but it's a really just a bunch of tools to allow me to make photographs. I look at camera stuff the same way a mechanic might look at a set of wrenches. If it works well, I'm not champing at the bit to replace it. (This is why I stuck with Olympus Four Thirds well past its obsolescence; I was still getting satisfying images). So I wasn't completely convinced I needed to replace the 5x because it didn't seem entirely necessary; but like a good tool, the 7x just makes things a little easier.
Like the 5x, the 7x has configurable and highly protective foam dividers inside. The 7x just adds another row. Both of them have a laptop pocket, a centered tripod holder, and two accessory pockets. My 5x weighed 30 pounds fully loaded. The 7x holds more but I haven't weighed it yet.
The Tamrac Expedition 7x adds a better, more robust and more padded waist cinch that is adjustable, more amply padded shoulder straps that are adjustable in more ways, and more room. Though it will be heavier than the 5x, it also has the better load-bearing waist cinch.
After trading in my ample collection of Olympus gear, I'm starting from scratch. I don't have everything I need yet, but the 7x has room for it when it comes. So far in the bag:
• Canon 6D with Canon battery grip
• EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM
• EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
• EF 300mm f/4L IS USM
• EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro
• Peleng 8mm f/3.5 circular fisheye
• Full size speedlight
• Macro ring flash (not an LED ring light... those are a waste of money)
• Extension tube set
• Off camera TTL cable
• Cable release/Intervalometer
• Spare camera and flash batteries
• Lens cleaning stuff
• Hiking towel
• Probably more I'm forgetting, like tripod tools, etc.
When I get the 70-200 f/2.8L, the ring flash will have to lose its case and live in the laptop pocket. A second 580EX type speedlight will stack over the current flash, and there is still a ton of room for wireless triggers, filters, etc.
The backpack is also an excellent place for all my gear even when it's just chilling at home. I don't baby my gear, but I do what I can to keep from breaking it, and so far the Tamrac has done the job beautifully.