Gear Review: Vanguard Endeavor Bags

The Endeavor Series by Vanguard -- bags designed for birdersPros: Designed with the birder / nature enthusiast in mind. Neutral olive colours and robust, non-rustle fabrics, thoughtful design. Insulated food pocket inspired. With three sizes in the range there’s a bag for every occasion

Cons: Hard to find anything specific to fault here… a couple of spurious features I’d question the usefulness of, but none that would detract from the general suitability of the bags

Price: Three bags in the range:

  • Endeavor 400 Waist Pack GB£59.99 (c. €65.00)
  • Endeavor 900 Shoulder Bag GB£109.99 (c. €120.00)
  • Endeavor 1600 Backpack GB£159.99 (c. €175.00)

Rating: Recommended

Before venturing into the optics field (see reviews of Vanguard optics here) Vanguard always specialised in photographic accessories — particularly bags and tripods. With the new Endeavor range they introduce three bags specifically designed with the needs of the birder and wildlife enthusiast in mind.

From a small and handy waist-pack for shorter walks and outings, to a handy shoulder bag for general purpose birding and wildlife watching, to a larger backpack that will carry all your optics, camera gear, field guides, tripod, waterproofs and more. Whatever you’re looking for in a wildlife / birding field bag the Endeavor range pretty much has you covered.

Check out the Endeavor Bag series on the Vanguard website here.

Buy Vanguard Endeavor Bags on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

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Vanguard Endeavor Series Bags: Full Review

Watching wildlife is a wonderful pastime… but whatever you’re into — be it birds, bugs or badgers — one thing is for sure: you’re going to need to carry some gear around with you. Choosing the right bag for the job can be so important, because while you need to be able to carry your gear around comfortably in the field, you also need it to be protected, and to have access to it quickly.

Whether it’s grabbing your camera for that opportunistic shot, or checking your field guide to help with identification, being able to put your hands on what you need is paramount.

Until recently nature enthusiasts were pretty much stuck with re-purposing camera bags and sports bags to fit their wildlife watching needs. But with the release of it’s new Endeavor (American spelling — their choice, not mine) series, Vanguard claims to have delivered bags designed specifically for the needs of nature watchers.

There are three different styles / sizes in the range. The Endeavor 400 is an all-purpose walkabout waist-pack that provides handy storage for lightweight essentials while out on short wildlife or birding walks. The Endeavor 900 is a larger, more utilitarian shoulder bag designed to carry much more gear; including a tripod, spotting scope and camera equipment. Finally the Endeavor 1600 is a medium-sized backpack with space for masses of gear, plus additional layers of clothing, waterproofs and more — making it a suitable for more serious / longer term wildlife expeditions and overnight trips.

Endeavor Bags: What they have in common

All three Endeavor bags share a number of characteristics — so it makes sense to cover those aspects first, before looking at the specific features of each bag in turn.

  • Neutral coloured, tough, water-repellent, rustle-free fabric: unobtrusive and silent… the outer fabric of the Endeavor series is perfect when you’re trying to stay undetected. All three bags are extremely well put together and feel like they’re made to last, even in the most demanding of applications.
  • Durable, waterproof base: the bottom of each bag sports a rugged and completely waterproof plastic coating that is impervious to wet and muck, and simply wipes clean… so you can put your bag down anywhere.
  • High build quality: all three bags are extremely robust and well put together. The finish is good, and the materials used throughout are durable, lending the bags a quality feel.
  • Easy to operate zips: oversized silicone zip toggles make it easy to open and close all zips when you’re in a hurry, even when wearing gloves.
  • Waterproof pockets: each of the bags has at least one fully waterproof pocket, so you can keep essentials like your phone and important documents dry, even if the weather turns nasty.
  • Integrated Rain Covers: and if the heavens really do open up, each of the endeavour bags has a built-in, fully waterproof rain-cover that folds out to encase the entire bag and keep your precious belongings completely dry.

Endeavor 400 Waist Pack

Endeavour series 400 waist packFor me this is probably the least useful of the three… simply because I tend to have more gear with me on a typical day in the field than will fit in this little bag. However, according to vanguard it’s a popular option with their customers.

The 400 has a roomy 6 litre main compartment that can be used with or without the padded dividers to create a tailored storage solution to suit your needs. So if you’re like me you’ll use all of the space and simply chuck in whatever gear you need on any given day. If you’re a bit more organised you can use the dividers to create separate compartments for your camera, lens, field guide, binoculars, etc. There’s also a zipped pocket inside the main compartment ideal for things like passports, a notebook or small field guide.

As well as the main compartment the Endeavor 400 also sports two front zip pockets — the larger of which has another zipped inside pocket.

A novel feature is the integrated removable hand-warmer, which has yet another zipped pocket — this time to accepts those rechargeable hand-warming packs. It’s not something I’ve used… but could potentially come in handy in very cold weather I guess.

Here’s a list of key features for the Endeavor 400:

• Water repellent and durable fabric
• Modular hand warmer with built in pocket for warming pads and pocket for personal belongings.
• Ergonomically shaped and well-padded waist belt
• Sturdy carrying handle
• XXL Silicone zipper pullers
• Modular dividers and dedicated pockets for ultimate set-up freedom
• Water tight pocket to keep essential personal effects secure, clean and dry
• Water resistant, easy to clean, anti-scratch and durable material on the bottom
• Total coverage rain cover

The permanently attached padded waist belt is very comfortable, and both sides are adjustable for the perfect fit. A detachable shoulder strap is included, so at a push you could use it as a shoulder bag, but as there’s no way of detaching the padded waist straps, these swing about annoyingly and get in the way, making the endeavor 400 fairly impractical as a shoulder bag.

Which brings us neatly to the…

Endeavor 900 Shoulder Bag

Vanguard Endeavor Bag ReviewIf you’r looking for a bigger bag that’s more practical across a wider range of wildlife watching scenarios, the Endeavor 900 shoulder bag could be the better option. For everyday use this was the one I found most useful.

The main storage compartment is a roomy 16 litre space with room for gear like camera, field guides and possibly an extra layer / waterproof shell — depending on how you configure it. Again, I tend to prefer one big space I can chuck stuff into, but as with the Endeavor 400 there is a selection of padded dividers so you can customise the space to provide whatever configuration you need.

There is an assortment of pockets with room for all the bits and pieces you need “just in case”, a completely waterproof pocket to keep essentials dry, and even a thermally insulated food pocket to keep your lunch cool… or warm. Genius!

Endeavor Series insulated food pocketA flap on the front is useful for carrying bulkier items like a tripod or spotting scope, and doubles up as a handy location for carrying your jacket / coat if you’re not using it to for anything else.

The carrying strap is wide, and ergonomic padded shoulder strap is very comfortable… which is good, because the bag is a smidgen heavy even before you pack your gear in — but then it does have a rigidity to it, and is well padded to protect your gear. Overall I’d probably prefer the bag itself to be a little lighter… but there are certainly benefits to the extra reinforcement and padding.

Here’s a list of key features for the Endeavor 900:

• Water repellent and durable fabric
• Ergonomically shaped and well-padded strap
• Sturdy double sided, well balanced carrying handle
• Attachment for spotting scope/tripod/monopod/any other gear
• XXL silicone zipper pullers
• Modular dividers and dedicated pockets for ultimate set-up freedom
• Water tight pocket to keep essential personal effects secure, clean and dry
• Heat insulated pocket specially to keep snacks fresh and tasty
• Large divider horizontally locks into place to create working platform for sketching, taking notes, checking a guide, etc.
• Water resistant, easy to clean, anti-scratch and durable material on the bottom and anti-shock elevation feet
• Total coverage rain cover

Endeavor 1600 Backpack

While the Endeavor 900 is a superb all-rounder, for those who regularly head off into the wilderness for full-day or longer wildlife and birding expeditions, and who need to carry correspondingly more gear with them, the Endeavor 1600 is perhaps the ultimate wildlife backpack. It offers space for masses of gear in a custom designed 26 litre main storage area, complete with an integrated padded pouch to hold a spotting scope or long telephoto camera lens securely.

As well as the ample space in the main compartment, the Endeavor 1600 sports a host of strategically placed pockets to hold all your essentials, and a variety of rings, clips and straps for securing all of your gear. Like the Endeavor 900, it also has a thermally insulated pocket — this one slightly larger to hold more food… always a good thing! The “butterfly”-style flaps at the back open up to reveal a clever storage system designed to comfortably hold a tripod with or without a scope or camera and lens attached.

Another notable feature is the inclusion of clip-on straps that you can attach to your binoculars so that you can clip them on and off rings on the front of the main shoulder strap. While these work well enough, I can’t really envisage a scenario where I’d choose to use them instead of just hanging the binoculars around my neck as usual. Having my binoculars attached to my backpack, and having to remove them every time I want to take the pack off my back to get at my gear, would drive me potty.

It’s one design feature that looks good on paper, but is perhaps a little impractical in the field. However most of the design elements here are both aesthetic and practical. The Endeavor 1600 certainly looks the part, at once appearing sleek and contemporary, yet understated and unobtrusive — it’s a neat trick.

Comfort was obviously top of the agenda with Vanguard’s designers too — the Endeavor 1600 is extremely comfortable to carry in the field for extended periods, with wide padded shoulder straps, padded lower back support and wide padded waist belt to distribute the weight. It also has a clever elastic mesh “Air System” that allows airflow between the bag and your back when in use. In practice it stops your back getting all sweaty and uncomfortable.

All in all it’s a well thought out bag that’s well suited if you tend to carry a lot of gear out into the field with you — but perhaps overkill if you’re just out for a stroll around your local patch.

Here’s a list of key features for the Endeavor 1600:

• Water repellent and durable fabric
• Air System suspended trampoline net structure with adjustable mesh harness and waist belt for optimal ventilation, stability, comfort and weight distribution
• Top and side Hypalon reinforced handles
• Optimal balance, secure tripod butterfly attachment system
• Hang binoculars on harness clips for quick focus and comfortable carrying
• Versatile connectors for attaching tripod/monopod/any other gear
• XXL silicone zipper pullers
• Dedicated pockets for all gear and essentials
• Water tight pocket to keep essential personal items secure, clean and dry
• Built-in water bladder compartment and drinking tube connectors on both shoulder straps (*bladder/tube not included)
• Special heat insulated pocket to keep snacks fresh and tasty
• Waist belt with removable quick access pouch to fit binoculars or other gear close at hand
• Hypalon reinforced compression straps
• Water resistant, easy to clean, anti-scratch and durable material on the bottom
• Emergency whistle on sternum strap
• Total coverage rain cover

Vanguard Endeavor: the official video rundown

The Vanguard video below gives a pretty decent overview of each bag’s key features.

Conclusions

The Endeavor series from Vanguard is a refreshing attempt to design a range of bags specifically for birders and wildlife watchers. Whether that’s strictly necessary is debatable. Most birders and wildlife enthusiasts I know are a pretty utilitarian bunch, and will happily re-purpose camera bags, day-packs or even their old school satchel to carry their gear in the field.

While I can’t see birders and wildlife enthusiasts ditching their current solution in droves and rushing out to replace them with one of the Endeavor series, these are certainly very capable and well thought out bags and would be well worth looking at if your old bag is on its way out.

Buy Vanguard Endeavor Bags on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

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Acknowledgement

I’d like to thank Vanguard for submitting the Endeavor Series of bags for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.

NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer. All reviews on the site are completely independent and objective and carried out in accordance with our terms and conditions. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.

About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of IrelandsWildlife.com. He is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success

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