The F-Stop Tilopa Backcountry bag is built for photographers who want to keep their gear safe while they hike. The bag’s extensive features easily match the comfort and storage of a standard backcountry or hiking pack, with photographer-specific compartments.
I tested this bag while hiking and wading through a slot canyon in Zion National Park’s backcountry. I’ve been skeptical of most camera bags in a situation like this: typically they don’t have enough room to store my camera, lenses, gear, lunch, shoes, towels, and tripod without creating an uncomfortable, unbalanced load or rubbing/chaffing after a couple of miles.
Setting out from the car, I already started warming to the bag—the thick waist and shoulder straps had perfectly balanced my load and it didn’t feel like I was carrying 30lbs. As I hiked, the Tilopa’s low profile kept it (though not my tripod) from snagging on branches and it sat high enough on my back to allow me to slide and climb on rocks comfortably. It has a pocket for a water system, so you can easily store and access water. At one sticky point in a section of narrow canyon where the water was waist-high and running fast, the waterproof bottom kept my cameras and lenses perfectly dry. After five miles of scrambling, wading, walking and climbing up log ladders, my back was very happy, my gear was safe, and I had fallen in love with the bag.
F-Stop’s bags can come with insert zip-up bags, called ICUs, which store your gear with configurable padding like normal camera bags. The one I used tucked into the bottom of the bag and held my Nikon D700, three lenses and a filter case. You can order multiple inserts for the bag, depending on how much gear you want to carry. The ICU can either be pulled out through the top of the bag, or (my favorite) accessed through the pack’s rear padding which handily unzips. This limited access makes sense for travel in crowded areas, where your gear cannot be easily stolen with a quick un-zip of a pocket.
The construction of the Tilopa Backcountry is top-notch, with rip-stop material, strong zippers and an internal metal frame to keep its shape and carry a heavy load. It is amazingly light when unloaded—so nice to know the weight you’re carrying is from your gear, not the bag. There are many handy pockets for quick access to accessories, and it’s easy to keep things sorted and accessible. It even has attachments for a tripod, snowboard, shovel, skis and camping gear—also useful for many other things you might need on a shoot. Rain covers are available, though I have not tested them.
In summary, the Tilopa Backcountry is an excellent bag. Great thought was obviously applied to the demographic of the hiking, adventurous photographer who wants a quality product that carries gear with grace, comfort and safety. Highly recommended.
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