RRP $/€ 199.00 + ICU
For the last four years I have been using the Deuter AlpinePak from Trekpak and I have loved using it and still believe the Trekpak system is the best divider-system on the market today however, I recently started to source the market for something different, not because my love for the Deuter had died, I just needed something a bit different, with a bit more flexibility and a bit more space for other things, when traveling.
Throughout the last year I have spent a lot of time in the outdoors together with other photographers and during those trips I noticed the majority of them using bags from a company called F-Stop Gear.
Earlier this year while shooting in London I stopped by one of their dealers in Covent Garden and had a good play around with a selection of their bags and decided to go for the model called Lotus, a 32litre little sexy thing that ideally would fit some one between 5’7” and 6’2” however being 6’5” myself i judged the waist belt and shoulder straps to be ok for my intended usage.. I so far it has been perfect for me due to the many ways you can adjust and tighten the straps and belt!
The lotus comes in four different cool colors; Matte Black (called Anthracite), Blue (called Malibu) Green (called Drab Green) and finally the coolest of them all: the Dirt Orange (called Nasturtium)
Guess which one I went for? (if you made this far, I am sure the photos above has already given it away!)
The Lotus is part of F-Stops Mountain Series of backpack specifically made for adventure and travel photographers and and all their products are made from ridiculously high-quality components, unlike any other bags I have ever owned: Heavy-Gauge Zippers, Abrasion-resistant fabric, ultra-mega-resistant base enforcement that I am sure could withstand anything you would throw at it! Oh, and did I tell you that the material is waterproof too?
In addition to the bag I also bought two different ICU – Internal Camera Units to use with this bag. A Small and a Medium s. The Medium can accommodate an additional 2-3 lenses more lenses where as I can fit 1 body and 2 lenses + misc into the small size. Depending on my objective I will switch between these two.
The ICU slides into the bag through the back panel and is fastened with little velcro loops. With either of these units in the bag there is still plenty of space for more stuff such as a smock, waterproofs, snacks, fleece jacket etc. The front pocket on the pack can easily take an XL sized down wind-stopper jacket, a beanie and gloves plus a few cereal bars. The top compartment is perfect for head-torch, a book plus few extra items. There is also room inside the lid for things such as passport, tickets, wallet etc.
The bag is prepared for a hydration pack with fully re-inforced tube port by the shoulder straps. The compartment that’s reserved for the bladder also fits a 13inch laptop which is a great bonus! some 15inch laptops can just about squeeze in, but it is very tight.. Alternatively the laptop will fit perfectly behind the ICU inside the bag… nice and safe!
On either side of the bag there are pockets, large enough to fit a 1L Nalgene bottle, a mini-tripod or a casual bottle of Jack D!
In terms of sizing of this bag, this is the perfect traveling companion. It fits under seats, on shelves on trains and it is within the carry-on size for most airlines as well. I personally find myself using this bag as so much more that just a camera bag and since I got it I have hardly used my other shoulder and daypacks!
So, are there no flaws, downsides or cons to this bag?
Let me be absolutely honest, there are not many however, one of the cons that I know has been raised by other photographers as well, is the use of velcro on the side pockets! (not for closure but for expanding) I am not exactly, how it is meant to work/function but it is in my opinion it does not ad anything to the functionality of the bag
Another thing that I thing that I believe needs to be addressed with F-Stop Gear is the extremely poor stock control/distribution system they are using. Currenlty 80% of their products are on back order which, in a modern world simply is not good enough!
I fully understand that it takes time to develop and manufacture quality products of this kind but waiting several months for a bag is a disgrace!……. however, as I wrote in the beginning of this review, I actually went to inspect the bags at Paramo in London who are one of very few shops that stock products from F-Stop but I did not purchase it in the shop as the only copy they had of this bag had been reserved for another customer.
In my experience the best way to get your hands on one of these mythical elusive bags is by the use of good ol’ Mr Google. It took me around 45min to searching across the UK, Germany and France before I found a few shops that stocked the model and color I wanted and delivery was <48h door to door.
Overall, I am extremely happy with this bag and there is no doubt: this is the very best camera bag money can buy. the quality, design and overall impression way supersedes any other bag I have owned (which, is way more than 75 different models)
If I could give it 11 points out of 10 I would! but that would be lame so I will rather say, that this is the absolutely best pack I have ever owned!
Lastly, as a bit of a help I have listed a few of the places in the EU where I have found this and other F-Stop bags to be in stock. Consider it Morts’ Public Service.
Thanks for reading
F-Stop Gear EU Shop (the official store for F-Stop Gear in Europe)
cameranu.nl (dutch page with a great selection of bags – pick the english flag in top right to translate page into English)
bergfreunde.co.uk (don’t have the bags but often have good prices on ICU’s and lens cases)
Paramo-clothing.com (UK-based and official distributor in UK)
CVP.com (great selection of ICU’s albeit a bit pricey and they tend to sell quickly)