It comes as no surprise that ONA sells out of their camera backpack ranges so fast; once you pull out the removable mini-compartments inside, you can use the ONA The Monterey backpack as a regular backpack. But it’s more than just this multipurpose usefulness that makes the ONA Monterey so desirable.
For those of you out there who know the ONA brand already, I won’t have to tell you about how their messenger bags, shoulder bags, and backpacks tick all the right boxes when it comes to high-function intuitively blended with luxe, handcrafted appeal. Looks aren’t everything though, especially when it comes to transporting expensive camera equipment around.
With that in mind, we checked for some essential features every functional camera backpack should offer the person who’s toting it:
How Does The Monterey Camera Backpack Arrive?
The Monterey will arrive at your door in a medium-size box with a fair quantity of recyclable packaging inside. The bag comes with a dustsheet and a silica sachet in case you need to store it where the leather could get scratched or nicked from other buckles or studs. The inclusion of a sweet little thank you card from the ONA company is a nice touch.
Many backpack companies often sacrifice appearance over comfort or vice versa. I am happy to report that ONA have not fallen into this trap. The Monterey not only looks cool, but it also fits comfortably on the back and you can carry it easily by hand as well.
This camera backpack is designed to be well balanced by offering even-weight distribution. When the bag is filled with camera equipment, the straps don’t allow the weight to drag downwards either. If you plan on using this bag to carry your camera equipment around in a work environment, it will do a good job of keeping your shoulders relaxed while simultaneously cushioning your camera lens.
The straps are wide enough to support you carrying the weight of a camera kit and 13” laptop inside, however, the padded air mesh material on the back panel of the bag might chafe the skin of someone wearing a tank top in summer. If this happens, I suggest you adjust the brass buckles to make the straps tighter so that it sits closer to your back.
The Monterey is a more compact version of the best selling Camps Bay backpack by ONA. It offers a slimmer silhouette and robust waxed canvas exterior while still maintaining the beautiful symmetry of the all-leather Camps Bay model. The slimmer profile of The Monterey makes it more suitable for a work environment.
Changing the subject to that of the camera backpack’s strength and durability. On closer inspection of the brass buckles on The Monterey, it’s reassuring to discover that the signature ONA attention to detail and strength doesn’t simply stop at the stitching. The buckles, zippers, and straps are hardy and long-lasting. After thorough checking, no fault could be found with the backpack’s interior and exterior crafting.
The stitching all over the interior and exterior is neat and consistent throughout. Even after continuous use, there is no sign of fraying, abrasion, or curling on the stitching, leather top-flap, and waxed canvas sections. Even after having my camera gear pulled in and out on multiple occasions every day, the customizable main camera compartment still supports the equipment with firm cushioning.
Don’t let the full-grain leather top flap make you think that The Monterey camera backpack will be any less durable than any one of the camera sling packs or all-weather backpacks we’ve reviewed here previously.
Full-grain leather has an extremely tight grain pattern, which is the toughest and strongest leather grade available. Because of the tightness of the pattern, full-grain leather resists moisture and bad weather conditions very well. The best thing about full-grain leather is that it develops a rich, touchable patina over time, the more it is used and handled.
ONA produce such well-crafted workplace bags and backpacks, that it’s sometimes easy to forget that they are designated for a specific job and not luggage or fashion, per se. Putting that fact aside, The Monterey still remains highly functional and multipurpose for a lot of other uses.
Besides carrying your camera kit safely around, this bag has two exterior side pockets for water bottles or thermos, albeit slim, compact ones. You can access the camera case section when The Monterey is standing upright or lying horizontally on a surface. The customizable main (camera) compartment has space for a DSLR camera and up to 5 lenses/straps/flashes.
There is one belt buckle strap that seals the top zipper and the front zipper closed and effectively tamper-proof. All 4 color options (Olive, Oxford Blue, Smoke, Black) suit a multitude of seasons and outfits. All in all, the appearance of The Monterey is perfect for work and social engagements.
The Monterey can fit a 13” laptop into the dedicated sleeve inside. There is also an area for personal items at the top of the bag. Being able to customize the camera compartment adds to the adaptability of this backpack.
What Do Others Think?
For those of you who aren’t yet convinced that The Monterey by ONA is the bag for you, it might help to know what other people have been saying after their purchase.
Some of the comments have been:
“Love the look and feel of this one.”
“I’m disappointed the side pockets aren’t bigger. That would have been nice to carry my water for summer rehydration!”
“The camera case section actually does a good job of keeping my sandwiches fresh.”
Are There Any Customer Complaints?
As an avid photographer myself, I can identify with the folks out there who have complained that you won’t find a professional photographer using anything smaller than a 15” laptop. This makes the 14” laptop compartment dimensions a good two inches too small. My advice for all of those of you out there who have the same problem: get The Camps Bay by ONA instead.
The ONA website is the best place to buy or pre-order one of their items. They have seasonal clearance sales and discounts you can use as well. Please let us know what you think of this brand and make in the comments section below.