George’s big purchase for our next trip was the Kata 3N1-33 laptop and camera backpack. While I’m carrying our clothes, he will be carrying his gear, which is much heavier, anyway! His old camera bag didn’t have a pocket for a laptop and it got rather smelly in Cambodia :), so it was time for an upgrade. George thoroughly researched online and we checked a few camera stores. The Kata 3N1-33 seemed to fit his needs best, so he went ahead and ordered it without being able to see it in person first. So far it looks like it will do the trick!
On the back of the bag is the laptop compartment. The lower two thirds of the bag is for camera gear, with padded separators, and the top third of the bag will carry his light weight jacket and other odds and ends. The special feature of the Kata 3N1-33 is that it can be worn as a regular backpack, a backpack with the straps crossed in front, or as a sling. When worn as a sling it swings around to the front to allow easy access to the camera through an opening on the side. The backpack configuration will be good to get through long days, and the sling configuration will be good when we’re at a sight where he wants to take lots of photos.
I’ll let George add some more to this post, in case I’ve left something out ;).
Update [September 4, 2010]
Real World Usage of the Kata 3N1-33
After over 3 months of wearing the Kata 3N1-33 camera and laptop bag on my back through a variety of conditions, which included the hot desert sun of western India, the hot and humid climate of south India along with all the other elements that India has. Then in much cooler wet weather of Gdansk Poland to trekking in beautiful Montenegro. Overall the bag survived very well. The main issues I had with the bag are: 1) The bag is bulky – thicker than most other camera bags of this size, 2) The sling configuration doesn’t really work if your bag is full, 3) Overall comfort level can be improved.
While the bag can hold a lot of gear, it gets very heavy and bulky. For our journey my Kata 3N1 contained a Canon 40D with 24-70, 70-200, 24 lenses, and 2 canon 580 EX flashes, a gorilla pod, 15″ macbook pro, batteries, 2 pocket wizards, flash cards, lense cleaner and some other miscellaneous stuff. Yeah, that’s a lot of gear to lug around and I was amazed at how much fit in the bag! The laptop compartment is the culprit for making the bag extra thick and there probably is no way around that. We traveled in many crowded places and I was constantly hitting people whenever I would turn and most of the time I didn’t even realize it. Also, since there are so many zippers on the bag it is probably a good idea to wear the bag on your front side when in crowded areas to reduce the risk of theft.
In all the bag weighed near 14 kg (I weighed it at the airport). Of course I didn’t carry all the gear all the time. I would only take what I needed when out shooting and leave the laptop and maybe a lense in our guest house. I would also like to recommend the Pacsafe 85 mesh backpack protector. It is a steel cage that packs down very small to transport and turns into a cage where you can leave your valuables in your backpack and lock it to something in your room while you are out. It also works great when sleeping on trains. Nice peace of mind ;).
Ok, back to the Kata 3N1-33 bag. Now that I reduced the weight of the bag it made it a little easier to carry, but the straps don’t tighten well to a person of my size 5’4″. Also, the straps are extra long and dangle a lot. But the main problem was the lack of a chest strap. Without that the shoulder straps tend to pullback causing the weight distribution to be off which makes the bag feel heavier than it really is. And walking for hours with the backpack gets to be tiring very fast. I realize that one of the purposes of the bag is for easy access with the sling configuration, but it still would have made a huge difference if they added this chest strap and made it removable when wanting to use the sling configuration. Also, the waist strap doesn’t do a very good job either of resting the weight on your hips. But this might also be due to my height. If this is the case, then this bag is not recommened for someone with a shorter torso. I tried all the configurations of the bag and most comfortable was the 2 strap.
More about the sling. You can configure the sling to work for either a left-hand person or a right-hand person which was a big selling point for me since I am left-handed. The idea of the sling is cool in theory, but in practice I found it nearly impossible to use unless your bag was practically empty due to the weight of the bag. With the bag full you need to use both your hands to sling the bag around then you can easily unzip the bag to pull out your camera which was nice compared to my Lowepro Mini-Trekker. You don’t want to open the bag too much otherwise you risk some of your gear falling out! The single sling configuration was the least comfortable and is not practical at all when your bag is full of gear.
While the bag survived in great condition (with the exception of some rust) through rain, heat, humidity, a gallon of sweat and other elements I would not take this bag on any trip of length again. If your bag is full, it doesn’t do your back and your body any favors due to the lack of a chest strap and the way the straps are configured. The only benefits of the bag were that it held all the gear I wanted to carry (including my laptop) and I could reach my camera without having to set my bag down. So I guess that is the issue. This bag was made to carry a lot of gear, yet it doesn’t quite work as advertised.