As I am on my quest to find the perfect camera backpack many peers have recommended that I check out F-stop Gear’s packs. F-stop Gear is a company that believes your camera bag should assist you in getting the perfect shot; not hold you back. They work with professional outdoor photographers to engineer camera bags and transport systems to both protect and organize your gear in the most hostile of environments. At least that’s what their marketing proclaims!
|Material||DWR treated, 330D double Ripstop Nylon with 1500mm Polyurethane coating|
The LOKA consists of one big main compartment that opens from the back. It’s designed to fit a variety of internal camera units (ICU) available on the F-stop Gear store. Think of an ICU as portable camera insert.
This open space gives individuals the option to specifically customize packing and organizing to his or her own needs.
Unfortunately I didn’t have one of F-stop Gear’s ICU units accessible for this review, so instead I improvised by neatly packing the following items into the pack.
- Sony A7r II with 35mm/1.4 attached
- Sony 90mm/2.8 OSS macro
- Crumpler Haven Camera Pouch
- Pelican 0915 SD Card Case
- Tenba Tool Box 4
- GoPro HERO 4 + accessories
- Polaroid Variable ND Filter 77mm
- Bose SoundTrue Headphones On-Ear Style
- Levin 12000 mAh Solar Charger
- “The Beanie” by Everlane
- Water bottles 2x
- MeFOTO Carbon Fiber Roadtripper Tripod
- ASUS T300 Laptop
- Extra batteries
The pack includes a build in hip belt to help put the weight of your gear onto your legs and off your shoulders. The belt also offers options to attach lens pouches and other external pockets (both sold separately.) Usually I detest the idea of accessing gear from the back of the pack because of the inconvenience. F-stop Gear, however, did something pretty cool. They suggest that if you need to access your equipment while on the go instead of dropping the pack you can instead take off the shoulder straps and then twist the pack around so that you’re looking down at it. This way you retrieve your gear easily.
It’s such a time sucker having to drop your pack each time you want to do something as simple as switching a memory card or battery. This little twisty method comes in handy. Although I have a feeling if you were to carry heavier gear such a 400mm lens and an ice pick the hip belt might not hold up, but for the amount of gear that I packed it worked fine!
Inside the opening flap of the main compartment are two small pockets and two zippered pockets.
On each side of the Loka camera backpack are two mesh pockets for storing things like water bottles or even a tripod.
Personally I prefer to strap the tripod onto the middle of the pack using their series of buckles and elastic bands. It makes the weight feel more balanced when you’re walking around.
Underneath the area where I mounted the tripod you have a standard large zip-up pocket.
At the bottom there’s another flat pocket with a zipper on it. I assume this is where you would store a rain cover (sold separately) for the pack in case foul weather catches you off guard.
Up on top is a pocket that has two internal pockets and a dedicated spot to connect your keys to. I found the internal pockets to snuggly hold my wallet securely.
The LOKA has a dedicated pouch and outlet for you to take a sip from your water bladder while on the go. As an avid hiker I find this highly convenient because this means that I’ll spend less time stopping, dropping my pack to quench my thirst, and then putting my pack back on.
Since I didn’t have my water bladder during my visit to the Bay, I instead used the water bladder pocket to hold my 12.5in ASUS T300 laptop. It fit like a glove!
The LOKA camera backpack is the first camera pack I’ve encounter that has an internal aluminum frame. This was a nice touch because the frame kept the shape of the pack and I didn’t feel any of my equipment poking or jabbing into my back while moving around.
As mentioned earlier the LOKA does come with a hip belt and to complete that setup it also includes load lifters at the top, which are meant to pull the weight off your shoulders.
There is also a sternum strap to keep the shoulder straps close to your center of gravity and it has a built-in whistle.
I was very excited to try out this pack, in fact I’ve been trying to get a hold of F-stop Gear’s through their Twitter for some time now. I was and still am interested in seeing if their Kashmir UL backpack would be a good fit for photographers like me.
@fstopHQ Hey guys! I’m interested in picking up your Kashmir UL 🙂 Just wondering how long does back orders take?
— MELLY LEE (@MELLYLEE_) October 7, 2015
Unfortunately I haven’t heard back from F-stop Gear and from what I read from other reviews and blogs online backorders should be expected.
The LOKA did take me and my electronic gadgets up to the infamous pipe at the top of Mission Peak. It did its job, but I strongly felt that it could have done better. Or next time around F-stop could offer this pack in different sizes like small/medium and medium/large (they do this with backpacking backpacks.)
I’m 5’5”, 32” bust, 25” waist, weighing in about 123lbs and I found that the LOKA doesn’t quite fit my frame. The hip band was too loose even after I tighten it to its minimum. This meant that most of my gear’s weight was sitting on my shoulders instead of on my legs. The torso of the pack was also too short for me, this made carrying weight uncomfortable on the lumbar area of my back. Since the pack didn’t properly fit me it negated all the built-in support features of the backpack. Perhaps this pack is better suited for those slightly wider and shorter than me.
I have a hate/love relationship with the organization of the LOKA. I love how many different options there are for storing and organizing equipment. I hate that you have to buy all the options! For me the price point doesn’t make sense. Going off a similar pack to the LOKA, the TILOPA (I can’t find the LOKA on their website,) for what the pack is the pricing doesn’t make sense to me.
The base price of the backpack alone will set you back at least $200, throw in the ICU unit to hold your basic camera equipment and you’re looking between $300-400. Most of the other accessory pouches cost between $20-75. Personally I feel that if you’re going to be paying over $200 for a pack it should at least come with a rain cover.
However if you have cash to spend and are of a bigger frame than me this potentially could be the pack that ultimately perfect for you. If you are of my size perhaps future versions of F-stop Gear would be much better.
What I Liked:
- Build Quality
- Travel friendly size
- Organizational options
What I Didn’t Liked:
- Price point
- Customer Service (or lack there of)
Who Would Like This:
- Adventurers/Outdoor Enthusiasts
- Organization Lovers
- People whose frame is slightly larger than mine
Who Wouldn’t Like This:
- People of my frame size
- Bargain hunters
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