There are many things to consider when you buy a new camera bag; capacity, price, waterproofing, and even style, to name a few. But now sustainability is just as important to many photographers when it comes to buying products, not to mention ethical credentials.
We know that the best camera bags can truly enrich your shooting experience, and most of us have several camera bags for different situations – one day you might need a high-capacity backpack for squeezing everything in, while the next you'll use a smaller sling or shoulder bag for a few bits of gear. And while it makes sense to have a variety of options, there's an environmental cost to constantly buying new bags – a cost that female-founded company GroundTruth hopes to reduce by making products that are truly built to last. A buy well, buy once, sort of philosophy.
GoundTruth was set up by three sisters from the documentary film company GroundTruth Productions, when they saw the opportunity to create travel products such as bags that drive positive change: reducing plastic waste and improving people’s lives. The GroundTruth RIKR backpack is manufactured from 120 plastic bottles, and it will appeal to those who factor the "greenness" of a product into account when making a purchase. It's already been used by many photographers and content creators, but can it be as rugged and stylish as the best camera backpacks on the market?
Weight empty: 2.2kg
Materials (exterior): Ballistic 1200D recycled PET
Materials (interior): Recycled PET fleece
Holds: GroundTruth RIKR 3L camera bag, plus room for extras
Laptop compartment: Holds 15" Laptop
Grountruth is proof that sustainable products don't have to be uncool or unfit for purpose. The GroundTruth RIKR camera bag has been so carefully thought out, and the experience is made even better by the fact that the bag's packaging is biodegradable and plastic-free, and there are cardboard labels attached to tell you exactly what it's made from. Like the RIKR 3L camera bag, 100% recycled materials make up the main bag material, the padding, the linings, and even the zips. The GroundTruth website states that each product is ethically manufactured by Global Recycled Standard manufacturers, and every product is carbon neutral, but you can opt to make your purchase carbon negative at checkout, should you want to.
The bag features a secure clamshell opening, a separate padded laptop compartment for a 15" laptop, and side access – which is where you can access gear quickly, or even add in the RIKR 3L camera bag like a pouch. Design-wise, you'll find so many details on the bag itself, including how many bottles went into making the bag (120), a constant reminder that serves to make you feel somewhat smug at your eco credentials.
The build quality is stunning, which is what you'd hope for the price ($340/£290). The outer ballistic PET material is tough and thick and turned out to be incredibly waterproof in the rain, while internally there's a soft lining to keep your items free from scratches. Inside the main compartment there's another mesh pocket, and on the side of the bag, a pocket that could be used for a tripod or water bottle.
Capacity & usability
The capacity of the RIKR 24L backpack is substantial, and there are hundreds of ways that you can customize the inner and outer to suit your needs (see below). For example, the hip belt can be unclipped from the bag, which means it won’t be left dangling down like some bags. Want the hip strap but not the padding? The padding pops off too.
It's worth noting that this bag isn't designed purely for camera gear, so there are no padded dividers to keep your kit secure like in many dedicated camera backpacks. GroundTruth's RIKR 3L bag can fit into the side access of the bag, transforming it into a convenient camera bag, but of course, this ups the cost considerably as you're essentially having to buy two products – which aren't cheap to start with.
Inside the main compartment, there's plenty of room to hold cameras loose, but this is something I'm never keen to do without a camera wrap. I always prefer bags with rear access, so that the camera kit is inaccessible to others when you’re wearing the bag. This is perhaps my personal preference, but I did have to get used to taking the bag off fully, unclipping the top flap, and then unzipping the bag to get at what I needed – extra time spent which could have meant missing a shot.
My major complaint about the bag is its weight and heft, which is also substantial. While the padded camera straps were comfortable to wear, I did notice how heavy the bag was to carry even when empty, which is something I don't tend to do with other backpacks. While weight can be synonymous with quality, this is something to bear in mind if reducing overall gear weight is important to you.
I carried around the GroundTruth RIKR backpack for several days at a photography event, back and forth to the office with my MacBook Pro inside, and on a landscape shoot. The bag is comfortable to wear for long periods, but it IS heavy – a kilogram heavier than the Tenba Fulton v2 16L backpack, which admittedly offers a lower capacity but seems to hold a similar amount. Designed by women, GroundTruth products aren't just for women, but the padded straps are certainly comfortable if you're a female shooter with a smaller frame.
The GroundTruth RIKR backpack will suit photographers who need a stylish yet sturdy everyday bag that can hold a myriad of items – whether that's for photo shoots, work commutes, or even traveling. It's an ideal choice for creators who want to be more eco-friendly, but need a rugged construction and rugged. We've written a guide on camera bags that don't scream "I'm a photographer", and GroundTruth's RIKR could be in there.
The GroundTruth RIKR backpack isn't a dedicated camera bag, but it's still a good everyday choice for photographers who are also eco-conscious, as it's made from 100% recycled materials, carbon neutral, sturdy, waterproof, and capacious (and did I mention stylish?). If I was dubious to begin with, consider me converted and in love with the GroundTruth brand ethos.
There are many ways to configure the bag to suit your needs, and there's plenty of room inside for several cameras, lenses, and personal gear – if you don't mind the lack of internal dividers. This bag is a premium product with a premium price, but with a 10-year guarantee, it should be built to last (and admire).