Backpacks are something that photographers can collect a lot of. Always searching for the perfect one to carry or precious gear from point A to point B. I have a number of bags for various purposes depending on the assignment of adventure. The F-Stop Tilopa 50L Backpack is the newest addition. I needed a backpack that would carry two of my long telephoto lenses, specifically the Nikkor 200-400VRII f/4 and the Nikkor 500 ED VR f/4 either at the same time or independently. After much research I settled on the the F-stop Tilopa 50L given it great reviews and the fact that it is designed by photographers for photographers. Lets go through some of the unique features of this backpack.
F-Stop bills this as a travel and adventure backpack. This pack is great for multi-day trips or longer hikes. It is sturdy boasting a durable yet lightweight aluminum frame to help hold its shape a protect your gear. It is made of weather resistant material and has a fully zippered expanding sides, top, front and back. One unique feature is the top lid. How many time have you you had to set you r backpack down on wet or muddy ground only to find that the side that is against your back is now dirty and that transfers to you or your clothing. F-Stop thought this out.
You access your gear from the back with an access panel. So when you set the bag down, the wet or dirty side is not against you back, but rather the front away from you keeping you dry and clean. Simple idea, but thoughtful. The gear itself is held in what is called and ICU (Internal Camera Unit). The large is shown here, but I have the XL version simply because the Nikkor AF-S FX NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED would not fit into the large ICU. The have straps over the tops that are velcro and removable if need be to hold the gear in place. Little things like that make the backpack very cool to use.
The ICU slides in through the top of the backpack for packing and can be transported separately if need be almost like a separate pack in an or itself. The ICU is very well padded, has industrial strength stitching and can hold a pro body attached to 500mm or 600mm telephoto without a problem.
Knowing full well that this is going to be carried for longer distances with gear packed inside, they made sure to include very well padded straps over the shoulders and around the hips for comfort. Each padded strap has can be easily tightened once on your back with a simple pull from the load straps. The backpack also has multiple accessory buckles and straps to carry anything else you may need like a tripod, ski poles or hiking poles. It also has a spot for a hydration pack for those longer treks.
For those not wanting the ordinary black pack, the Tilopa also comes in high visibility orange and green if that is more your statement style. As noted early the packs are waterproof, but for the heavy downpours, optional rain covers are available and marry to the backpack very well keeping everything dry.
Those are the pro’s of the backpack. I do have a few con’s that are less from a performance and construction standpoint, but rather a marketing standpoint if you will. These backpacks are expensive! More so than comparable models from other manufacturers. The reason I did go with F-Stop gear was because I was offered a discount while viewing their gear at a photographic expo. This reduce the price to that of similar packs from competitors mad the purchase more palatable for me. Honestly, I probably would have sought other options had I not had the discount offered to me.
Another thing that I think would be a nice touch would be to offer the simple things like a rain cover included with purchase given what you pay for these packs. Currently, unless you bundle the pack with and ICU, the rain cover is a separate expense. I would also like to see the pack offered with and ICU as part of the purchase not something that you need to but extra. Offer and ICU as part of the purchase and if someone needs an upgrade fine, that they can pay for, but at least offer a standard ICU with the pack rather than charging separate. Those are my pet peeves about the bag and marketing per se’.
Having said that, I have the bag now and I do find it fills a need that I had when transporting my telephotos. It is comfortable to wear, easy to access and clean along with being built to last. If money is not an option or if this is going to be your forever backpack, I do recommend the F-Stop Tilopa 50L. You can find out more about F-Stop Gear and their line of backpacks and other products at shop F-Stop Gear.com.
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