Manfrotto Bug 203-PL backpack review by landscape photographer José Ramos

Manfrotto Bug 203-PL Bag Review

Following an endorsement from Manfrotto, I had the chance to test one of their bags, the Manfrotto Bug 203-PL. My experience report  was originally published in the Manfrotto Bags website. Here’s a transcript of it:

Becoming one with Nature while photographing

Ten years ago, as soon as I ventured into the world of photography, I saw this craft as an extension of my unconditional love for the outdoors. The act of leaving our chaotic cities behind and venturing into the wild has always been much more than a simple walk, it was a re-connection with my roots and myself. Trying to capture the beauty of nature with a camera, while also establishing this re-connection, required a special relation with photographic gear, one where it wouldn’t get in the way, where things would still flow smoothly on the terrain, with no redundant bells and whistles.

It’s very easy to get lost amidst the hundreds of equipments and accessories available nowadays, and you can easily think you really need something you don’t, ending up with a backpack filled with too much gear and excessive weight. This can turn an interesting photo trip into a torture, where you will spend most of the time concentrated on the parts of your body hurting, figuring out how to operate new gear of wasting time constantly switching lenses.

When you are hiking on a place like the gorgeous Algarve cliffs, in the south of Portugal, you should go light and keep things smooth. The terrain is extremely unstable and erodible, and to get the best view you will always need to come very close to the edge. The access to these cliffs is quite easy, and you don’t need to do any kind of long hike to get there. As such, keep your equipment light and simple to make the most of a place like this.


Following this philosophy, I decided to take the Manfrotto Bug 203-PL backpack to this photo session.

There are some things which I consider to be essential in a backpack for these photographic trips, and this model fulfilled them all. It’s quite amazing for a compact backpack to offer so many important features in such a compact size. First of all it is lightweight and offers fantastic comfort, due to its padded back contour and soft shoulder straps. The tripod attachment is quite versatile and efficient, allowing you to mount the tripod on the back, when you need a stable and centered weight distribution, or on the sides, to allow quick access to the backpack interior. Attention to detail and manufacturing quality is very high, and there are so many details which will make your trip more secure and pleasant, like the included rain cover, removable hip belt, chest strap, quick access front zipper, reinforced main structure to protect camera and lens, among other things. The interior is fully modular, so that you can adapt it to your specific gear, ensuring everything fits properly, also allowing you to carry other items like food, spare clothes or a lantern. There is even the possibility to carry a laptop or tablet, as Manfrotto managed to place a separate padded compartment for these items.


I know I have started writing about important aspects related with an almost mystical approach to the outdoors, but I think I can spend a single paragraph praising something more down to earth and ego-related about this piece of gear: its great looks! Aesthetics should be important in a photographer’s life, especially regarding artistic creation, but a beautiful piece of gear will always cause pleasant impact during its use. The black and red combination of the Bug 203-PL, along with its contoured edges and space-age shoulder straps definitely set it apart from the classic boxy backpack you usually see on a photographer’s back, which is a great plus to me.


If you do really want to create great images, and still enjoy the outdoors during this process, try to become one with your surroundings. This is not meant in a “clichéd” new-age sense, but as a path towards creating a space where you can exercise your individuality and creativity while photographing. This involves selecting the gear which will clearly aid you in this process, not increasing complexity, but rather enhancing the experience of “flow”.