The WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel is one of the most uniquely designed new travel bags for photographers out there, so I was excited to get my hands on the 45L pack to try out for myself.
Having already reviewed the WANDRD PRVKE, I wondered how the duffel would compare. I love WANDRD, but had a few gripes with the PRVKE, and was curious to know how the HEXAD Access would stack up.
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IF YOU'RE IN A HURRY,
The WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel is both a camera backpack and duffel, with tons of organizational compartments and multiple access points. Everything is designed to keep your photography equipment safe and secure while you travel.
The HEXAD Access Duffel is a heavy-duty duffel/backpack hybrid built for photographers. This bag is literally made with bulletproof material—that’s about as heavy-duty as it gets!
But how good is the bag, really? Is it over-organized? I’ve got all the answers to your questions about the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel below!
WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel Review 2021: Quick Answers
- The sturdiness of the bag, the organization, the compartments, and the accessories are all designed to keep your photography equipment safe and secure while you travel.
- The airline-friendly dimensions of the HEXAD Access Duffel also mean that you can keep your equipment close to you in the cabin.
- Designed for traveling professional photographers
- Works as a backpack or a duffel
- Sturdy materials with quality zippers
- Good in any weather
- Quick access from all angles
- Handy clamshell access for the main compartment
- Compatible camera cubes and other accessories
- Tons of protection for camera equipment
- Waterproof and highly durable
- Easy access to the main compartment compared to your standard backpack
- Lots of organizational design
- Just as comfortable as a backpack
- Great accessories that really enhance the bag
- Too many straps—they get tangled very easily
- Might actually be too organized; all the additional features get confusing
- Not enough ventilation
- Heavier than your standard backpack
Who Is the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel For?
- Travel Photographers: This is absolutely the bag for you. WANDRD designed this bag specifically to help photographers travel with greater peace of mind by designing a camera bag—not just a bag that also happens to carry cameras.
- Working Photographers: If you are looking for something to take your equipment from shoot to shoot, you will definitely appreciate many of this bag’s features. The two compartments of the bag can be adapted to hold two sets of camera gear instead of just one, with plenty of options for holding other gear such as tripods on the outside. It will be especially useful if you do a lot of outdoor shoots, as the bag is sturdy and weather-resistant while still maintaining a stylish, professional look.
- Organized Travelers and Digital Nomads: If you are someone who wants a pocket for everything when you travel, you will love the organizational design of this bag. With several different access panels, two separate compartments, and extra pockets for special items, you will never again have to empty your bag all over your hotel room floor to find your clothes.
Who Isn’t the WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel For?
- Commuters: At 45L, this bag is just a bit too large for most commuters. While the durability and organization factors are certainly useful, this is not a bag you want to try to tuck under your seat on the train or lug around the city on your bike. If you’re a commuter, I recommend the WANDRD PRVKE.
- Hikers: This bag isn’t built for hikers. The weatherproofing and the durability are great, and you might appreciate the organization, but this is not a backcountry bag. A laptop sleeve and a camera cube aren’t going to be much use on a multi-day hike, and the compartments will prevent efficient storage on the trail. A backpack is always a more comfortable fit for hikers. For better options, read my full article about the best camera backpacks for hiking.
Who Is WANDRD?
WANDRD began in 2015 when three brothers decided they were tired of relying on shoddy bags to transport their photography equipment around the world.
They decided to take matters into their own hands, and after a few Kickstarters and five years of development, the WANDRD brand now leads the field in innovative, stylish photography bags.
One cool thing about WANDRD is that they aren’t a massive corporate behemoth. The company is still owned and operated by the three brothers that founded it, so they remain committed to their goal of providing quality gear and excellent customer service.
Best of all, they still rely on crowdfunding instead of angel investors, meaning they’re backed by their consumers, and they only end up making bags that people really want.
HEXAD Access Duffel Features
The HEXAD Access Duffel has a ton of excellent features, with most of the design intelligence going into organization, durability, and versatility. Let’s take a look at what you will find, inside and out.
Dimensions & Specifications
The dimensions of the WANDRD HEXAD are a perfect fit for the carry-on allowance of almost all airlines around the world. However, I recommend double-checking this when you book, as some airlines have slightly smaller allowances. If you want a smaller backpack, I’d recommending taking a look at my complete list of carry-on backpacks.
With 45L to play around with, you can be sure that you will have plenty of room for your belongings, whether it’s camera gear, clothes, souvenirs, or all of the above. The 45L of packing space is enough to travel with indefinitely if you are prepared to be a bit spartan about your wardrobe, or enough for 1-4 weeks of traveling if you want to be more comfortable.
The weight is a bit of a drawback here. If you are looking to travel super light, this isn’t the pack for you. However, the weight is the price you pay for the many other features. The ergonomic design means that the weight sits very comfortably on your shoulders even when it’s full of camera equipment, so it’s a fair trade-off.
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WANDRD kills it in the organization category. All their bags are designed for the hyper-organized traveler, so you never have to worry about misplacing anything ever again—no matter if it’s your clothes or your laptop or your camera gear.
I’m a big believer in the idea of mise en place—a French phrase meaning, in essence, “a place for everything.” I especially appreciate this phrase when it comes to packing, and WANDRD has done a stellar job creating an organizational system even for the most disorganized traveler.
It’s simply phenomenal how much gear fits into this thing. In fact, I’ve never met a bag in the 40-45L class that can fit this much stuff. With the two main compartments, the side compartment, and the many pockets, it feels like you can fit your entire life into this bag.
Inside, you have several different organization features. First thing to note is that this bag opens with a clamshell design, giving you suitcase-style packing in a duffel/backpack.
On one side of the clamshell you have a single large compartment and on the other side, the main compartment is split in two. You can put a camera cube in one compartment (like the image above), or both if you have a lot of equipment to carry.
The clamshell opening adds to the organization aspect by letting you see all of your gear in one glance. The zippered mesh compartments keep it all in place, and the solid construction means that your luggage doesn’t get jostled around too much.
On the outside, there is a pocket for storing shoes or dirty clothes (which encroaches upon the internal storage in the large compartment), and a hidden RFID-protected zippered pocket for your passport and credit cards.
Finally, there is a smaller side compartment that contains a padded laptop sleeve.
While there is a lot of good organization here, the laptop sleeve access is a bit of a negative. It can be really difficult to find the laptop zipper from the outside, plus, opening the laptop compartment can be a cumbersome task as the shoulder straps tend to get in the way.
If the bag is in full duffel mode, you won’t have shoulder straps to contend with, but if it’s in backpack mode (like mine usually is), this can become a bit of a challenge.
All-in-all, though, this bag is an organizational beast and it can carry more gear that I’ve seen in any other bag in its class.
Part of what makes this bag so versatile is its multiple access points. The “quick draw” access panels on the side of the bag let you whip out a camera in a few seconds. These panels lead straight into the main compartments (or camera cube if it’s installed), so you don’t need to put the bag down to get in and grab your gear.
Side access is a non-negotiable when it comes to camera packs, and even though this bag is a giant in comparison to other camera bags, WANDRD has managed to make it work.
As mentioned above, laptop access can be a bit difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad. The top pocket, or the “junk drawer,” so to speak, is the one pocket that still confuses me, though—it’s a zippered pocket inside another zippered pocket, so finding the right zipper is sometimes a challenge.
But, to that end, WANDRD sends out this bag with bright red zipper pull replacements, so you can replace the standard black zipper pulls with bright red ones to help differentiate which zipper is which.
Part of what makes this bag so handy is the multiple carrying options. But that’s also one of the bag’s primary drawbacks.
For starters, you have the backpack straps which double as the duffel straps. They’re shaped in a way that works double duty for both shoulder comfort and duffel carry.
The backpack straps are also quickly removed/modified so that you can carry the bag duffel-style.
On the side, there is a suitcase-style handle so you can carry the bag sideways.
And finally, there are the cinch straps all over the bag which are handy for tightening things into place and adding a layer of extra security over the quick access pockets if you are worried about someone getting in through the zippers.
Overall, there is a lot to like here, but it is also a bit messy. There is such a thing as over-organization, and with all the outer straps, this bag falls.
Then again, is it worse to be over-organized or under-organized? It comes down to personal preference in this case.
Camera Cube (4/5)
If you’re planning to use this bag for photography, the camera cube accessory is essential. The cube is custom designed for the bag so it fits straight into the inner compartments, and the opening of the camera cube lines up with the side access zippers for an easy, quick draw.
The camera cube is also cross-compatible, so if you want to use your camera cube in another WANDRD bag, like the PRVKE, you just plug-and-play.
The camera cubes are useful little things on their own and are also designed to be used independently from the bag. They have the capacity for a DSLR or mirrorless camera and three medium to large lenses. As is standard for camera cubes, there are velcro separators that can be moved around to secure your camera gear. You can configure the camera cube to almost any set you’d like.
My one beef with the camera cube—and this holds true for most of WANDRD’s bags—is the way it integrates with the bag. It requires a fair bit of work to get the camera cube in and out of the bag, so if you’re planning to add and remove the cube regularly, you’re likely to have some trouble with it.
Then again, I haven’t found a single modular camera bag that does this well, though the Peak Design Travel Bag might have a leg up here.
A backpack that is built to carry your very expensive camera and photography equipment has to be made from the toughest materials. You want to make sure it will keep your gear safe and secure without falling apart along the way.
And at this price point, you’d expect it to be long-lasting.
Well, on this front, WANDRD spared no expense. The bag is mostly made of 1680D Ballistic Nylon, a material used in flak jackets. Something that can stop a bullet is the perfect protection for your lenses and camera gear! It doesn’t rip, scuff, or erode even with sustained use, and it can take a lot of abuse without looking tatty.
There is also a layer of tarpaulin fabric beneath the Ballistic Nylon to add some waterproofing. tarpaulin material is pretty much essential if you want to make a bag weatherproof without adding too much weight, and that’s exactly what it brings to the table here.
The tarpaulin can be a bit noisy and crinkly, but unless stealth is a big deal for you (tracking animals in the wild, maybe?), I don’t see this as a huge drawback.
Finally, the zippers. In any bag that claims to be waterproof, the zippers are always the weak point. However, WANDRD has made sure this isn’t a problem by using high-quality, weatherproof YYK zippers.
Style & Aesthetics (4/5)
Some may not love the boxy design but I think it’s great. They’ve definitely given functionality and organization preference over style, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a stylish bag.
In fact, it almost has a “tactical” look to it.
The main issue is that there are zippers and pockets all over the bag, and the extra straps can end up looking a little sloppy.
However, that is not to say that this bag is ugly. Far from it, in fact! While it might not be the most stylish camera bag on the market, it certainly works with what it has.
The rugged, black features have street-cred and make the bag look solid and high-quality. You can tell from a distance that this is a pack that can take a beating, but it’s not flashy enough to draw much attention (that’s a good thing).
One of the big scores for the HEXAD duffel is its comfortable shoulder straps. Despite being removable, they’re well-designed. When used with the chest straps and the optional waist straps, this becomes a well-supported backpack.
The only downside is the ventilation on the back of the bag. The padding is quite solid, and there isn’t a lot of airflow. Back sweat is definitely an issue here! It’s hard to find a bag that doesn’t make you sweat, though—the Tortuga Outbreaker is the only one I’ve found, but unfortunately, that’s not a camera bag.
As for the size, this is a medium-sized bag designed for medium-sized people. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of adjustment possible for people with longer or shorter bodies, but if you’re that lucky medium-sized person, it’s a very comfortable bag.
The HEXAD Duffel is an absolute tank. You could take it apart and turn it into a pretty serviceable set of body armor if you wanted. The folks at WANDRD have always prided themselves on the excellent construction of their bags, from the seams to the zips, and this attention to detail is evident.
For these reasons, it is no surprise that this bag lasts over long periods. After six months of use, mine still looks as good as the day I got it (and it’s been through a lot!).
Good news! WANDRD offers a lifetime warranty for all of its products. This means that any fault due to factory or production error will result in a refund or a new product.
Take note—this does not cover any damage from leaving the bag too close to the campfire, getting the shoulder straps caught in your car door, or spilling curry over your camera bag.
Yes, it happens.
WANDRD can send the HEXAD Access Duffel around the world, from three strategically located factories in the USA, Europe, and Hong Kong. The company aims to ship all products within two business days, and the shipping is taken care of by a quality third party postal service.
So no matter where you are in the world, you can get your hands on this awesome duffel bag.
Given the backpack market these days, the pricing on this bag is actually pretty reasonable! I’ve seen some bags go for twice the price of this one with far fewer options.
This is a bag that only reaches its full potential with a camera cube (if you’re not a photographer, look into the Tortuga Outbreaker). Unfortunately, you’ll have to pony up some extra dollars for it. That said, it’s not terribly expensive, but it does increase the functionality of the bag by quite a bit.
HEXAD Duffel Accessories
WANDRD provides several interesting accessories, some of which are functional and some of which are nice little extras, like a travel notebook. Let’s take a look at the accessories you will find most useful with your Access Duffel.
With a bag designed around photography, it’s no surprise that the camera cubes are essential for this bag. There are different styles available on the WANDRD website, but the ones you need are the Essential Plus cubes, which are compatible with the HEXAD Access Duffel.
Each camera cube can fit one camera and three medium lenses, so there’s a fair bit of space to play with. They have removable partitions secured with velcro so you can adjust them to fit your equipment. The camera cube can also be taken out and used independently by attaching straps and turning it into a sling.
The Access Duffel can fit one or two camera cubes, depending on your photography needs. Larger telephoto lenses may be a bit difficult, but there are also inflatable lens cases on the WANDRD website which fit larger lenses.
It’s a little bit odd that this bag doesn’t have built-in waist straps, but to be fair, it does cut down on the number of things hanging off this already strap-happy bag. If you are someone who absolutely needs them, waist straps are available as an extra accessory.
Most users have found the waist straps to work just fine once attached, and they do provide some weight distribution to the hips for people who will be carrying a heavier load. If you’re packing light, you probably won’t need these.
It’s a good idea to get these external accessory straps to add to your Access Duffel. If you need to carry a tripod or some extra gear that doesn’t quite fit, these are great for lashing it to the side of your bag.
Each strap has a clip in the middle, so unhooking your gear in one quick motion is super easy. They’re also very easy to attach to your bag, so you don’t have to worry about attaching them incorrectly and then losing your accessories.
While the bag is pretty waterproof, you can give yourself some extra peace of mind with a rainfly (especially when you’re carrying so much expensive gear).
The rainfly is made of durable nylon and can tuck into one of the small pockets on the outside of the bag when not in use, so it takes up very little space. It provides a bit of extra cover if you are going into some particularly wet conditions.
WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffel Review: Final Thoughts
Overall, this is a very solid bag, and for photographers, I don’t think there’s a better carry-on bag out there. As with any bag, it has its shortcomings, but they’re few and far between in the HEXAD Access.
This bag’s main contender is the Peak Design Travel Bag, but quite honestly, they’re so different, it’s almost hard to even compare them.
One thing I can say with certainty, though, is that this is a bag you won’t regret buying. I own a lot of backpacks, and this is the one I always pull out of my closet first.