Over the last 5 years as an amateur photographer, I bought more than a dozen Camera bags to carry safely my gear.  If this sounds familiar, please read on to find out what I discovered and how you could avoid costly mistakes.

My most important camera bag is the one I use when hiking in the wild.  When I go on such an expedition there are multiple considerations that sometimes are in opposition with each other’s.  Let’s review some of these considerations:

  • When I leave, I don’t know what subjects might scream for a picture.  I have a tendency to bring more gear than needed.  A good tripod is an absolute must.
  • I don’t always know how long I will be gone, so I need convenient access to water and foods.
  • In order to get on site either at sunrise or sunset I have to be prepared for weather and temperature that will likely change.  Clothes, headlamp AND headlam backup are a mandatory.
  • All this in a very light and easy to carry package.

Up to recently, my bag was a Lowepro Trekker 300 AW.  Although this bag was OK, I was looking for a better bag.  A bag that would fit me like a glove.

Based on recommendations received from Colby Brown, I bought the f-stop Satori EXP.   Is this the ultimate bag?  After two long treks here is my conclusion.

Pros:

  • Very light when empty at 4.08 lbs compared to 6.8 lbs for the 300 AW.  Even when putting the Large Pro ICU, this bag clock in at 5.78 lbs.
  • Aluminium internal frame support heavy loads and help distribute the weight more evenly.  I have loaded that bag to 30 pounds and walked up and downhill for 4 hours.  It felt great.
  • Narrower by three inches than the 300 AW.  When walking in the wilderness I was used to have my 300 AW brushing against trees. I prefer Satori slim design.
  • Water opening and water hydration pack.
  • Separate modular internal compartment unit (ICU) to configure the bag the way you need it.  This is more than great!  You can zip close these compartments and take these units out of the bag with all your gear remaining in the security of the ICU.  This also enables you to bring all what is needed in the remaining space of the bag for longer trek.
  • External pockets, openings and mounting points are of high quality and numerous.

Challenges:

  • The hydration system is designed to be inserted between the ICU and the side of the bag.  Typically you would put your gear in the ICU the night before a early morning departure and fill your hydration bladder just before leaving.  Should you do so, inserting the bladder will prove to be near impossible.  An external pocket for the hydration bladder like the one on the 300 AW is preferable in my opinion.
  • Pricier than the 300 AW.  In fact, if I add up all the money I spent before buying the Satori, I can tell you that I should have spare the money and wait to buy this bag.

I also like to be able to get access to the gear without removing the bag from my hips.  The large and comfortable belt strap enabled me to rotate the bag in front of me and get access to the gear through the back door.  When wearing the bag, thieves would have a hard time to get to your gear without you noticing it.

Should I need to place the bag on the ground in dirty area, I would put the bag with the opening facing me and this will ensure that any dirt on the ground does not get on my back when I pick up the bag afterward.  Well thought of.

Mounting a tripod (or two) is easy and such tripod will be firmly secured on the side of the bag.  I am using an Induro CT214 and with its BHD2 ball head.  This combination reaches to 24 inches minimum height.  The Satori being 26 inches in height my tripod fit well on the side of it.

I use my Satori EXP bag mainly with the Large PRO ICU.  This leave places, on the top of the bag, for food, clothes and all other necessities that might be needed on a long trek.  Should you decide to buy, take the time to review Gatekeeper.  This optional accessory could help secure a sleeping bag a rolled mattress or any other needed stuff.  The separate Hydration Sleeve and Rain cover are also a must.

I understand that this will represent a bigger investment than the Lowepro 300 AW bag.   However, selling a used bag like I had to do with my 300 AW is a losing proposition should you need something like the Satori EXP.

My only complaint has to do with the Hydration sleeve.  An external expendable pocket would have made this bag the ultimate one.  I guess that there are always places for improvements…

Should you be considering the Satori EXP, please consider also the Literoom roller.  ICU would go from the Literoom roller to the Satori EXP and vice-versa allowing you the best of both worlds. Rolling in airport and city and backpacking in the wild.

Additionnal info on December 6th 2012.  I just discovered that Ken Kaminesky share the same enthusiast for f-Stop Camera bag than me.  Read on his great Loka bag review to get another version of the truth.

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