A few weeks ago I sent out a question on Twitter asking people if they could recommend a great camera backpack. I was specifically looking for a backpack to use on my travel shoots. It had to be big enough, strong enough, fit in overhead storage on an airplane, secure, comfortable and customizable. It had to have room for a laptop and an extra layer of clothes. I also wanted it to be weather proof and have the ability to put it down in the snow, on sand or a wet surface. All in all this was a pretty tall order and I had already browsed through many of the best known bag manufacturers sites to see what they had. I got some good replies on Twitter and then I got a phone call from Colby at F-Stop.
I had never heard of F-Stop to be honest, but then again they are relatively new on the market so that’s only normal. While they are new, they most certainly know what they are doing. What they are doing is making some of the best camera backpacks on the market today, if not the very best. The only reason I can’t say that they are the absolute best if because I don’t have one of every kind of backpack on the market. Now, after using a Loka bag, I see no need to try any others. These bags are exactly what I was looking for.
I would never endorse a company that I didn’t believe in or product that I did not use. Let’s face it even if someone gives you something for free and you do not like it, it is not going to get much use, right? So I’ll be upfront and say that F-Stop provided me with a bag for free so that I could test it out. There was no guarantee that I would like it or use it after trying it on a trip. It is now my main bag and I can’t say enough good things about it.
F-Stop shipped the bag to me while I was on the road in New York City and this was a great place to test the bag. I had to walk 20 to 30 km a day for 5 days, so I needed a comfortable bag that was easy on my back and shoulders. It had to be safe to carry on my back in crowded areas like the subway and Times Square. Since it rained quite a bit the week I was there, it was a good test of the Loka’s rain proofing. I’m sure that most photographers are like me and are always eager to try new gear. Any little bit of equipment that makes your life easier is a good thing, especially when you use this stuff to earn your living.
I ordered the Loka along with a medium and a large ICU (Internal Camera Unit). These different sized ICUs are removable and form the core of the bag. As you can see in the images below, the ICU comes in 3 sizes to fit all kinds of different shooting situations. What I like about this system is that you can pack a full kit of gear in a large ICU to take on the plane. Then once you arrive at your destination you can use a medium or small sized ICU to pack just what you need for that day. With the extra room above the ICU, you can pack extra layers of clothes, rain gear, snacks, and other loose accessories. The equipment in the ICU is only available by taking off the bag and unzipping the main zipper on the side of the back that rests on your back. This is perfect for anyone who worries about pickpockets and security in general. The other accessories are available to you from the top of the bag or from the back just above the ICU.
Like any good camera bag the Loka had many smaller pockets, both inside and out. I features an aluminum frame to support the weight of the bag evenly, well padded shoulder straps, and a wonderfully thick padding on the part of that bag that rests on your back. While I usually like to carry my laptop in a separate bag, my 15″ Macbook pro fit snugly in the Loka. It is airline carry on safe, below the legal size limits for airlines. The exterior and interior fabrics are made of Ballistic Rip-stop Nylon, Abrasion Resistant Nylon Webbing, High Density foam, Heavy Gauge Zippers, YKK Waterproof Zippers and Waterproof Urethane coated mesh.
If you’re looking for a perfect bag for travel, adventure or action photography, F-Stop has you covered. For more information on their whole line of bags and accessories, please click on the logo at the top of this review. If you have any questions please leave them in the comment area and I will be happy to answer to the best of my ability.
Please note that while I do think that the Mountain series of bags from F-Stop are excellent in quality, I am no longer able to recommend the products due to the poor customer service that the company provides. There are also significant delays in production and delivery times can take several months.