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  1. #11
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
    New Hampshire, USA
    Ok, with the ICU selected and those being from F-stop, you'd think I'd pick an F-stop bag, right? The short answer is no. I could get into details about each bag I considered, but, the short of it, their Mountain series was too "adventure" and their Urban series was too "Urban." That may seem odd, but really the aesthetic of most camera bags (Mindshift, Thinktank, Gura Gear, Lowepro, etc) strike a balance that really is not struck, IMO, as soon as you go to packs with ICUs.

    I would very much like to be able to consolidate my computer in with my camera gear so I am down to one carry on bag. For personal travel, I could see an adventure like pack but not work trips. I just do not see walking in for a client presentation with a Tilopa. That, and when you look at the different dimensions, technically, a lot of backpacks are not carry-on compliant. I called and talked to two different companies and basically the response was somewhere between "airlines do not really check" (incorrect in my experience) or "just fill it part way, use the compression straps, and then it'll be compliant," which is technically true, but, I'd rather have a carry on compliant version that can be expanded so the guess work is eliminated rather than a non-compliant carry-on and compression straps.

    So, let's look at some of the dimensions (again, this is if anyone might be interested in a similar pack as me):

    Name:  backpack eval the backpacks.jpg
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    There is a lot to digest there. But a couple of quick thoughts I had while comparing these packs:
    • Why are they so narrow? Carry on compliant bags can be 14" wide. Some of these are 2-3" shy of that. Why? And it isn't like other bags aren't wide. Larger F-stop bags are wide, several hiking packs are Kiboko 22L is 13.4" wide. Most of these manufacturers, IMO, left volume on the table when they didn't have too.
    • The calculated volume based on provided dimensions is often very different than the reported volume. For bags with smaller reported volumes, sure, bags are not perfect boxes, so I would expect them to be a little off. But sometimes they are a lot off. Then, what about the bags where the calculated volume is smaller than the reported volume?
    • There is a pretty serious weight difference between some of these bags, ex. 2.6 lbs between the 45L Elite and Shimoda 40L? That is a telephoto lens.

    Anyway, very quickly, a few rapid eliminations:
    • Fstop: Already mentioned.
    • Atlas: No ICU, the camera compartment is fixed. The Athlete's camera compartment is also nowhere near deep enough. The Adventure is not deep enough for the 70-300L upright and bag itself is too big for what I want.
    • Boundary Systems. I love what they have done from a work perspective. But from a camera perspective …..just too small.
    • Mindshift Elite 45L. Extreme adventure. Kinda ugly (IMO). Also, really only 1 camera cube option. They say they have a second option (the Stashmaster), they have a video showing it in the bag, but I do not like how the dimensions do not line up. But if I was an "adventure" only photographer, this would have been a finalist and maybe my selection.

    A quick rundown of my finalists. All of these had internal frames,
    • Peak Design 45L. Could be a perfect travel bag....for someone with a lighter camera set up. Several travel youtubers are using it or other Peak Design bags. Highest rated bag on
      • Pros: Amazing design. Standard size is carry on compliant but it is expandable or collapsible (3 different sizes). Pockets everywhere. Quality material. Great laptop sleeve. Great compartments. Great camera system. Love the "ecosystem" of different cubes (camera, travel, etc). Handles everywhere. Bag geeks really geeked out about this bag.
      • Cons: Probably overdesigned. A bit of trying to do everything rather than one thing well. Do not like how sternum strap is detachable and that the shoulder straps would fold down into the dirt when opening the "back access." The belt seems inadequate for heavy loads, but mostly, multiple comments on how the support system just isn't as good as other bags. Sure you can transform it into a duffel bag, but I want a good backpack where I can comfortably carry a good amount of gear (~30 lbs). Even reviewers carrying far less camera weight than I would commented how other bags where more comfortable. That is really it. I thought about bringing it in to try it, but saw enough consistent comments on comfort that I decided to pass.

    • Shimoda 40L or 30L. First, how are these dimensions so similar? I asked Shimoda and they muttered something about different styling, but the pictures do not really show that much of a difference. That said, I am still tempted to bring this in to see if the F-stop ICUs fit inside it. It would only be for personal use....
      • Pros: So many people are switching to these bags and all of them cite one big reason: comfort. I like comfort. Comfort is nice. Especially with gear. That is a big "pro." Good number of pockets. Materials is also cited as being essentially waterproof even though you still have a rain cover. Great back access. Nice computer sleeve. Good compartments. For the 30L, I like how you can remove the waste belt.
      • Cons: Ugly. Really, that is most of it. I am not walking into a client meeting with an emergency whistle on my shoulder strap. I could get the dark blue if it was just non-work activities, but the shoulder straps just look super gadgety (which is fine for the woods), there is an odd sheen to the material, and it is boxy.

    • PacSafe Venturesafe x40.
      • Pros: Based on size of "PCIs" looks like F-stop ICUs should fit. Well designed, but subtle. Good compartments. All the safety features are nice. Not really necessary IMO, but it has all these ways of securing zippers, this exOmesh to minimize slashing of packs (is that really a thing??), an RFiD protected compartment (again, not a big concern). But it does what I want. It has a nice main compartment for the ICU, gear can fit on top of the ICU, it has a nice mid-sized secondary compartment, back entry, and plenty of straps to secure jackets, tripods, etc to the outside. People talked about how comfortable it was, granted, not as much as the Shimoda. Nice reinforced base, I think it looks nice (the black one, not the Hawaiian blue one).'s basic dimensions are carry on compliant.
      • Cons: Fabric is thinner than most other packs (200 something vs 400 something) This is in part to add the exOmesh. The laptop compartment is not in the back flap and gets squished by the ICU thus needs to be in the outer smaller compartment. PacSafe? Really? PacSafe Venturesafe x40 showed up today. It really surprises me that I ended up with a bag from PacSafe. But, mulling this all over, it really didn't have a fatal flaw. If the fabric wears out, it will likely be in a couple of years and the fabric certainly does not seem cheap. Maybe by then, I'll want something else. Looking it over, it is about what I expected and seems to do what I would want. I wish it was an inch or two wider. I wish its handles were a bit better and there was more than one handle. Both my f-stop ICUs do fit into it. But, overall, initial impressions, I am happy with it.

    That said...the f-stop ICUs. Not so much. First off, the quality is likely good enough to good, but I was really hoping to be impressed considering they each cost as much as some camera bags. So, good enough, but definite room for improvement. But then I put them to the 70-300L test. The whole point was to stand it up vertically and I had a fail. Breaking out the measuring tape, the f-stop Pro Small is an inch more shallow than adverstised and the F-stop Pro Large is a half inch more shallow. I am in contact with F-stop about this. The length and width dimensions are about right. But the depth is off. We'll see what they do. I may keep the large, as it seems to work.

    And...that is hopefully it. Get the ICU situation resolved but I think I have my new travel backpack.

    Thanks for those that even came close to reading this all. Hopefully it was interesting.

    Last edited by Kayaker72; 08-15-2019 at 10:16 PM.

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