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11-20-2014, 02:30 PM   #1
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Any experience with f-stop backpacks?

I'm currently in the market for a new camera bag (my current messenger bag is getting too small for my gear). I travel a lot and will start regular hiking soon and the f-stop Loka seems to offer everything I want, except for not having quick side access to the camera. I'm still on the fence between the traditional Loka and the Loka UL.

Does anyone have any experience with the Loka or Loka UL (or any other f-stop backpacks) and would like to share them with me? Is the quality what one would expect from a $300 backpack? Are there significant drawbacks in regard to the Loka UL over the traditional Loka?

11-20-2014, 11:09 PM   #2
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I've had my Loka for about two years now. It is a bit pricey, but is a good balance between a photographer's bag and a hiking backpack. The removable ICUs mean you can customize internal storage for your camera(s) and lenses. The waist belt really does help distribute the weight so your shoulders aren't aching at the end of the hike.

Like you said, there is no quick side access, which can be a bit of a pain. It is sometimes inconvenient to unstrap the pack and take it off to get inside. A solution that works for me was to get a clip from Peak Design that attaches to the waist belt straps where i can clip the camera in using the quick plate. The camera is exposed, riding on the belt like this, but it is very handy in case you need it for a quick shot. If I know I'll be hiking through some rough spots I'll simply pack the camera away into the bag for safety. On the other side of the waist belt I've attached a couple of lens cases. That way, I've got three different lenses that are very easy to swap out without having to remove the backpack.

It's easy to strap a tripod to the backpack, as well.

Construction is rugged. I haven't had any issues with it in two years. Plenty of configurable cargo space means you are good for all sorts of trips, too.

Don't have any experience with the new UL version.
11-21-2014, 05:28 AM   #3
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The f-stop Loka is probably one of the best hiking backpacks you can find. When I was looking for a backpack some time ago to fit my gear in, I was torn between Lowepro and f-stop Loka since I was also looking for the flipside feature, where your gear was stored in the compartment which is closer to your back, for maximum protection and ease of access when hiking.

I did end up buying the Lowepro flipside 400AW however since it was much much cheaper than the Loka. Its also an excellent backpack and they also have the 500AW which is even bigger. You might want to have a look at that as well
11-21-2014, 06:37 AM   #4
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I have the Loka UL, and do not recommend it for hiking. It is fine for non-strenuous activity, although IMO the UL is pretty spartan compared to the others.

The main flaw of the Loka is that it sits flat on your back, making it hot, it doesn't have true weight-transferring shoulder lifters, and the support for water packs on the front of the pack lead to balance problems.

So if you're not doing strenuous hiking, it is fine. Once you get out on a warm-weather hike, you'll regret it. Not worth the money IMO.

11-21-2014, 07:05 AM - 1 Like   #5
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If you're serious about hiking, why not get a proper hiking backpack, which will be better fitted to you AND less expensive, then get an insert for your gear?

My own day bag (28 liters) has a lower pocket which carries a perfectly fitted insert, and a top pocket for the rest of my stuff. The bag also has a water bladder, a mesh back for ventilation, good support, is perfectly fitted for me, it has a metal back frame for rigidity, it's not too heavy, has a rain cover, side pockets and hooks for carrying a tripod. I have never, ever seen a camera bag that is half as well made as a true hiking backpack.
11-21-2014, 09:00 AM   #6
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If you do not need a really big backpack like the UL or flipside 500AW that i mentioned, the lowepro flipside sport is also very good. Their largest size is 27 litres i think. Very light too. Seems like bderys post above is about the same one
11-21-2014, 09:21 AM   #7
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Well, I've looked at a lot of backpacks and am pretty much fixed on the Loka - either standard or UL.

QuoteOriginally posted by St_PatGuy Quote
A solution that works for me was to get a clip from Peak Design that attaches to the waist belt straps where i can clip the camera in using the quick plate. The camera is exposed, riding on the belt like this, but it is very handy in case you need it for a quick shot. If I know I'll be hiking through some rough spots I'll simply pack the camera away into the bag for safety. On the other side of the waist belt I've attached a couple of lens cases. That way, I've got three different lenses that are very easy to swap out without having to remove the backpack.
The lens case thing sounds like a good idea for another frequently used lens, like a standard zoom on the camera and a lens case for a tele.

QuoteOriginally posted by schnitzer79 Quote
I did end up buying the Lowepro flipside 400AW however since it was much much cheaper than the Loka. Its also an excellent backpack and they also have the 500AW which is even bigger. You might want to have a look at that as well
As mentioned above, looked at a ton of backpacks, Loka is the one for me

QuoteOriginally posted by carpents Quote
So if you're not doing strenuous hiking, it is fine. Once you get out on a warm-weather hike, you'll regret it. Not worth the money IMO.
That's interesting to know - I'll probably do most of the hiking here in Scotland, but I do travel a lot, including tropical countries.

QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
If you're serious about hiking, why not get a proper hiking backpack, which will be better fitted to you AND less expensive, then get an insert for your gear?
I already have a large trekking backpack, what I need now is something for a one-day or weekend trip that is easy and quick to access.

11-21-2014, 11:01 AM   #8
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I'm going to concur with bdery: For any sort of real hiking/backpacking the F-stop bags are not for me. Even though they have an aluminum frame, the shoulder lifters don't work magic like in real hiking packs. More importantly, because they are back-access panels, the water bladder sits in the front/away from your back. This has a huge implication for weight balance.

So, you lose the lightweight advantage of the pack because it doesn't distribute weight properly. And you add a potential risk point by changing your balance. Not good IMO.

The flush back is fine for cold/cool weather hiking. There is no ventilation for heat though.

FYI - when I'm talking about hiking, I do only day hikes but most in the 12-20 mile range, with average of 3,000 vertical feet, sometimes much more. Sometimes my idea of a 'trail' is another person's 'back-country navigation'.
11-21-2014, 11:08 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by FantasticMrFox Quote
I already have a large trekking backpack, what I need now is something for a one-day or weekend trip that is easy and quick to access.
I also have a large backpack (75 liters I believe) but I was refering to a day pack. for reference, without saying you should get that particular bag, here's what I have:



From what I can tell it's a copy (or an inspiration...) of a Deuter bag. It cost me 50$. It exists in orange and black too (search Mckinley Lynx 28).

I use this insert in the bottom pocket:

http://www.amazon.com/Ape-Case-Cubeze-Interior-Cameras/dp/B009GA6D2Y

The 9.75 x 7.5 x 4.5 Inches version. It looks like it was designed to go in there.

So for 65$ I got a bag much, much better than any official camera bag.
11-23-2014, 02:16 PM   #10
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I was also in the market foor a good backpack for photogear, and for me it was between the F-stop bags or Clik elite Clik Elite | Adventure Camera Backpacks, Photo Bags, and SLR Cases . I did go with the Clik (the escape) as it did fit me better than the F-stop ones. It just does not have much space for personal gear. But the Venture does, and it does have an fully adjustable harness.
But from what I did feel, the quality of the f-stop bags is excellent.
11-25-2014, 01:43 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by FantasticMrFox Quote
I already have a large trekking backpack, what I need now is something for a one-day or weekend trip that is easy and quick to access.
How much gear? Lowepro makes a Photo Sport 200AW or 30AW, which have decent harnesses, the side access you want, are relatively lightweight and are much less expensive than the Loka. I used a 200AW for dayhikes and its performed well (did a review in the sticky thread). Get the 30AW if you need more gear or have a bigger chest.

As Macario mentioned, also check out the Clik Elites. If I bought one of those today I'd probably go with a contrejour 35 or obscura,

QuoteOriginally posted by carpents Quote
FYI - when I'm talking about hiking, I do only day hikes but most in the 12-20 mile range, with average of 3,000 vertical feet, sometimes much more. Sometimes my idea of a 'trail' is another person's 'back-country navigation'.
Yep. When I go camping I'm usually hiking 20+ miles in over a couple/few days and really have to have a proper backpacking pack. In that case, I'm more concerned about weight with all my other crap, so I'm only taking my K3 + 18-135WR and carrying it on a Peak Design Capture Clip, as someone else mentioned.

Last edited by gooberlx; 11-25-2014 at 01:56 PM.
11-25-2014, 02:24 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by gooberlx Quote
How much gear? Lowepro makes a Photo Sport 200AW or 30AW, which have decent harnesses ...
Currently a K3 with 18-55 kit, SMC-A 50 f/1.7 and DA 35 f/2.4, aiming to replace the kit with something like the new DA HD 16-85 WR, add an HD 55-300 WR and some ultra wide-angle in the future. For mountaineering the backpack should ideally fit additional dry clothing and crampons, I'll want to attach my tripod (Manfrotto 055XPROB) and an ice axe etc.

The Photo Sports are too small.

QuoteQuote:
As Macario mentioned, also check out the Clik Elites.
Hideous and even more expensive than the Loka

I'm set on the Loka, I was just interested in some hands-on experience and whether there is anything that reviews don't mention and that could put me off
11-25-2014, 03:21 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by FantasticMrFox Quote
and even more expensive than the Loka
About the same after you buy your ICU.

QuoteOriginally posted by FantasticMrFox Quote
I'm set on the Loka, I was just interested in some hands-on experience and whether there is anything that reviews don't mention and that could put me off
Honestly, the Loka looks like a great pack. I guess my only reservations would be, as carpents mentioned, the placement of the water reservoir and the load lifters (though that's simply going to depend on how well the pack fits your frame).
11-25-2014, 06:52 PM   #14
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I also have the loka.
If I was buying again, I'd pay the bit extra and get the UL version.

I'll agree it's not a perfect hiking pack, but I find it to be around the best compromise for a day out.

For access, if you leave the waist belt done up and take the shoulder straps off, you can swivel it around to access your gear.
(there's a photo on the lowepro flipside sport 15 webpage showing the basic setup.)

I don't use the water reservoir (I carry a water bottle in one of the side pockets) and I've never been worried about the rain cover, so I can't comment on them.

Cheers
11-26-2014, 06:02 PM   #15
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Agreed that shoulder lifters would be a nice touch. However, so far I don't regret buying the Loka. For me this is strictly a day-hiking pack so I'm not going to be carrying 20 kilos in it, where the lack of shoulder lifters would be painful. However, I haven't used it in hot weather yet. I decided to splurge on this expensive bag after reading reviews suggesting it would be a good fit for taller people. Side access isn't really a factor for me as I am not a run-and-gun photographer, and anyway I don't see how you could have side access while maintaining the configurability of the Loka. It's just right as an airline carry-on, and I like the ICU system (I have 2 of the "Small Pro" units). Bottom line for me is that I find it comfortable and, so far, I don't really have to think about it on photo hikes. That is, it doesn't get in my way or frustrate me with, e.g., hard-to-mange zippers or oddly placed pockets.
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