As a photographer of more than fifteen years, I own a lot of bags. Most of them are camera bags but when you also consider that I’m a climber, that means quite a few other bags as well. I’ve got various sizes of camera bag that are suitable for different types of trip, along with various rucksacks for climbing gear, not to mention a handful of general purpose bags for everyday stuff. At the last count, I have more than twenty. Who better than me, then, to ask to test Etre Forte’s Tracer’s Travel Bag?
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The problem with conventional rucksacks is that you often find yourself pulling out stuff in order to get through to the one thing that you need that is inevitably always at the bottom. Inevitably when I’m packing to go climbing in the forest, everything is a bit rushed and stuff gets thrown haphazardly into a bag. One of the things that I soon appreciated about the Tracer’s Travel Bag is the clamshell zip which allows you to open the bag completely, laying all of your gear flat and making every last item immediately accessible.

Being able to have everything so much easier to find is a small subtlety that somehow makes life that little bit easier, keeping me focused on climbing rather than fighting to find my finger tape. A zippered side access panel gives you access to the main compartment on-the-go when the clamshell opening isn’t convenient.

For those occasions where you have a bit more time to pack and want to be a bit more organised, the bag offers various small pockets ideal for tucking away things like pens, notebooks and laptop chargers. An external pouch keeps your water bottle to hand and you don’t have to worry too much about any leaks. There’s a large pocket for a laptop or a tablet, and a stealthy pocket that sits against your back for hiding away your passport and wallet.

I’ve yet to use the Tracer’s Travel Bag for any international trips as I have a specific camera bag that’s better suited for keeping all of my gear nicely protected, but this is my default bag for trips to the forest. 45 litres is a good size when you want to stuff in an extra sweater and a coat for when the temperatures drop later in the day, but the bag is still lightweight and definitely doesn’t feel too massive when it’s only got a few items inside.

When I’m in the forest, I often switch to being barefoot and the straps on the bag’s exterior allow me to carry my shoes quickly without having to wedge them inside. This is a nice touch as it maximises the bag’s potential load and is handy for carrying extra clothing when temperatures are a bit unpredictable.

I’ve been using this bag for a year and it’s stood up pretty well to regular use. I’d make a few small changes: firstly, all zips eventually fail and the bag might benefit from a clamshell zip that’s a larger gauge and a bit more robust. Secondly, the shoulder straps are a bit fiddly to tighten when they’re completely loose, but this is a very minor issue. Finally, the straps for attaching gear are solid when cinched tight but seem a bit precarious when hooked only loosely. I frequently want to attach a pair of shoes very quickly and I’m a little concerned that they might fall off.

For a bag that offers this many features and is so well designed, you’d typically pay a lot more money. This is an affordable and functional bag for tracers who do a lot of travel, and it’s great to see more varied products appearing that are designed with parkour and art du deplacement in mind.

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