F-Stop Bag Review~My bag of choice!
To start of the series of gear reviews I'd like to talk about a brand of camera bags that needs no introduction, that's name has been drug through the mud by thousands of people that had no idea what they were talking about but who's caring employees have stuck by those patient customers while they sorted out their manufacturing issues. F-Stop gear makes camera bags that in my opinion are rivaled by no other, who's bags are designed by photographers for photographers. The Macedonian based bag manufacturer takes to heart the input of photographers from across the globe and applies them to the design.
My dealings with them have always been courteous, kind, and friendly. When I made my first bag order last spring I waited nearly 5 months for my Sexy blue Tilopa but never once did I get upset, despite my incredible impatience. Having worked in the manufacturing industry (aerospace, military electronics and rail car) I am aware of the challenges that can arise at any time. This made me very understanding especially in knowing that I was eventually going to receive a seriously awesome bag.
All that being said, let's talk about the bags!! I've owned the Ajna, and the Sukha and now currently own the Tilopa and Shinn, both in Blue. Traditionally though I am not too into bright colors, BUT out here in the red desert, sometimes way off grid I wanted something that could potentially save my life or the lives of my clients or loved ones if need be. Its not just about looking cool its about practicality for me.
My first F-stop bag was a first gen Ajna that I purchased second hand from another photog, it was the tan, and in great shape although on my 6'2.5" 250 lb frame fit like a toddler backpack. Although I took it on a few 5-7 mile overnight backpacking trips and I somehow managed to fit a large pro icu full of gear, a tripod, camping mat, sleeping bag, JetBoil Sapphire, tent, dog mat, dehydrated meals, and water into and onto it. However this bag is not designed or meant to carry 60+lbs of gear, the shoulder straps just aren't thick enough but a fantastic day pack! The ajna was a great bag and it showed me the quality and care that F-Stop puts into their bags, I knew I would always own one!
Finally months later I received my Tilopa and it was even better than I imagined it would be! It was still a little small for multiple day trips but have done many overnights with it now and with the optional Gatekeepers you can strap all sorts of gear to it, however the Tilopa is a mountain series bag and has very thick and comfortable shoulder straps. It also has TONS of pockets! Weighing in at 40liters and 4.1 lbs it's not an ultralight mountaineering bag, but if you're a strong pack mule like me, you don't whine about it!
Now I'd like to compare the Sukha and the Shinn, F-Stops two largest bags currently available.
I was gearing up for a 20 mile back country trip through the desert and needed a bag capable of carrying two days worth of enough gear, food, and water for my dog and I. I originally opted for the Sukha but once I received it I quickly realized it wasn't going to cut it. I was packing it full with an XL pro ICU, which consumed most of the internal storage of the bag. A quick chat with the always amazing leadership at F-Stop and the Shinn was on the way! When the Shinn arrived it was obvious that this massive 80 liter bag was going to do the job! I packed it chock full, even organized the ICU to accept my DJI Phantom 3 Pro! But I ended up not packing it in after all.
Suffice to say though, this bag is awesome, in fact sometimes I use it just for day trips when I don't want to transfer gear back to my Tilopa. I have flown with it as well, even though its an 80L bag but I wouldn't recommend pushing your luck!
F-stop bags continue to create and produce bags with the photographer, and adventurer in mind, pushing the bounds, and exceeding industry quality standards. The customer service, and management are incredibly friendly and supportive, the company is heading in the right direction and they will always have my support!