Entries in kenti (5)


One (plus one) bag travel

As I head out to my conference in Australia, with a stop in New Zealand on the way, I've been planning for how to pack for the trek. Some caveats as a starting point:

  • Although part of my trip involves attending an academic conference, I tend to dress at the causal end of the spectrum for these sorts of things (maybe even outside the range of what is normative). No suits, ties, shiny leather shoes, etc.
  • There will be lots of walking and exploring in the cities, as well as some hiking in the countryside. Much more on the activewear side of things rather than anything formal.
  • I tend to be low maintenance when it comes to toiletries, and am perfectly fine using whatever is found in the hotel. And I don't mind being scruffy and going without shaving for a few weeks.
  • Admittedly, there's likely going to be more photography gear than most would bring. In particular, a second body is a total luxery. But I'd be crushed if I had a problem with my camera and didn't have a backup on a trip like this. And it's not like I'll be carrying two DSLRs...
  • I need to have a pack for day trips with my photo gear and small messenger bag for the conference and walking around Sydney and Melbourne.

I've been reading about "one bag travel," where the goal is to fit everything into a carry-on bag. Given that I'm an avid photographer, I know there's no way I can do this, unless half of the bag is camera gear. Even though I travel with the small(ish) Fuji X-sytem which is lighter than the Nikon DSLR I used to travel with, it's still more gear than most "one-baggers" would carry. Couple that with a (small) laptop and iPad, I know one bag isn't going to happen. But if I could get to "MLC" (maximum legal carry-on; ~40 liters) bag plus a small bag or backpack (i.e., "personal item" on the plane), I'd be going much lighter than the 90+ liter Gregory Whitney backpack I previously traveled with. So here's the plan...

Click to read more ...


F-Stop GateKeepers: Alternatives

An interesting feature of the F-Stop backpack system is that GateKeeper straps can be added at various positions on their bags to enhance the functionality. I ordered a few of these to go with my Kenti and Loka packs, however they are chronically backordered and I'm not sure when they will arrive (see update at the end of this post).

I ran across this strap from Tom Bihn (below) that looks to have very similar clips as the GateKeeper straps; it likely would work, although the webbing seems significantly longer than necessary and would probably require some modifications to get the length right (i.e., so that there's not too much excess strap).

Update (June 26, 2013): here's another alternative from MindShift:

Then recently I was at my local REI and found these Gear Aid Quick-Attach Tri-Glide Buckles (also available at EMS), which looked like they would fit nicely into the GateKeeper attachment points on F-Stop packs.

Paired with some 1" webbing straps, I figured they would work as an alternative to F-Stop's own GateKeepers straps. The webbing straps at REI were by Redpoint and come in different lengths (24", 40", and 60") and colors.

Here's a shot of the clips attached to the Kenti...Not sure that green was the best color choice, but it illustrates this alternative system pretty well. The total cost was about $15 for these two straps (two 2-packs of clips and one 2-pack of straps). 

Update #1 (July 29, 2013): The F-Stop website has shown Gatekeepers as "in stock" for a while now. I was on vacation and assumed that my backorder would ship and be waiting for me when I returned. However, they weren't, and an email on July 22 from F-Stop support confirmed that they handn't shipped. Somehow my backorder got lost in the shuffle and didn't ship; I wouldn't have known this if I wasn't periodically checking their page to know that they were in stock. The nice person at customer service said they would ship ASAP...But they didn't. A week later and still no Gatekeepers. With a follow-up email I learned that they bungled the shipping again. Hopefully they shipped today; I'll update if/when they arrive.

The interwebs are filled with similar comments, but I'll restate what others have observed: F-Stop makes an awesome product, but their availability, (back-)ordering, and shipping reliability leaves much to be desired...

Update #2 (August 2, 2013): Although the person I emailed with on Monday (in Update 1) said "they will ship today," just now (Friday) I got an email with shipping details. According to UPS a "shipping label has been created" and (maybe?) the are actually shipping today...five days after F-Stop said they had shipped. Well at least hopefully this is out of F-Stops hands and I only need to rely on UPS now...

Update #3 (August 7, 2013): The Gatekeepers have finally arrived, and they are slick. I seem to have ordered two more sets than I need (my guess is that when ordering, I didn't realize they came in pairs), so I have an extra set of both the long and short straps. Next time they go out of stock at F-Stop, they'll be like gold.


F-Stop Kenti: What's in there?

I posted a few weeks ago about the search for a new camera backpack and my first impressions upon receiving the F-Stop Kenti. Today I had a chance to load up the Kenti and take it for a short walk (~2 miles), and I thought it might be useful to list what fit in the Kenti. It's surprisingly big!

  • Left side compartment (divider set with this side slightly larger)
    • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, lens hood reversed
    • Nikon D90 with a mounted 50mm f/1.4G, lens hood reversed
    • Nikon 105mm f/2.8G micro, lens hood reversed
  • Right side compartment
    • Fuji x100 in case
    • Nikon 85mm f/1.4D, no lens hood
    • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, lens hood reversed
  • Top compartment
    • Nothing in there now, but it could fit another lens, my Fuji X-Pro1, and/or a Clif Bar or two.

This is more gear than I'd typically carry on a hike (e.g., the 85mm wouldn't be in there; the 105mm or 70-300mm, but probably not both; maybe add my 10.5mm fisheye), but it's a good illustration of what fits. I'd also likely move one of these lenses to a lens case on the hipbelt for easy access. Speaking of the hipbelt, it does a great job transferring the load from your shoulders.


F-Stop Kenti: First impressions

My F-Stop Kenti arrived yesterday (see my post on deciding to order the Kenti here); here are some first impressions (sorry for the crappy iPhone photos, but my cameras were in the bag!): 

  • It's really well made, and I like that it comes with a storage bag to keep it clean when stuffed in a closet (although hopefully I'll be able to use it often enough that it doesn't get tossed into the closet).
  • The laptop sleeve is advertised to fit a 13" machine, and the 13" MacBook Air that I tried was a perfect fit. A 13" MacBook Pro would probably do okay, but it would be tighter. The slot is well-padded and a 13" laptop in its own sleeve would likely not fit.
  • The back slot that is intended for a hydration bladder fits an iPad nicely.


  • If you take out the interior dividers (two of them, held in place by velcro in a T-shape to create the top compartment and two side-accessed compartments), a 15" MacBook Pro in a sleeve fits in there. Of course, then you lose the well-designed area for camera gear, but in a pinch you can carry a larger laptop in the Kenti if you don't need to carry camera gear (or if you have a small amount of gear in its own padded cases). But it makes me think that the Kenti could have been designed to hold a 15" laptop without increasing the overall depth of the pack by more than an inch or so (at some point I'll post more on why I'm fixated on this point...it boils down to fact that I've got a 15" MacBook Pro although I'm trying to get to the point where I'm traveling with only an iPad and not bringing a laptop. My laptop is only a year old; if it was older I'd plan on replacing it with a 13" MBAir).
  • Although I don't have any trips planned, I wanted to test it out with some gear. In addition to my iPad in the back slot, I loaded it up with my Fuji X-Pro1 and three lenses (35mm attached, 18mm and 60mm in small LowePro lens cases) on one side (with room to spare), and Fuji x100 and Nikon 10.5mm fisheye (with attached Novoflex Nikon to Fuji adaptor, in a lens case) on the other side (with room to spare; nothing in the top compartment) and walked the few hundred yards to work with the pack on my back. The Fuji gear is admittedly very light, but basically it didn't feel like there was any gear in the pack. I can imagine that even with a heavier kit (my D90 and a few lenses like my Tokina 11-16mmNikon 105mm micro, 50mm prime, and the fisheye...what has become my standard travel kit), it would be very comfortable. Update: See my new post on fitting my Nikon gear in the Kenti here.


  • "Foliage green" = medium grey (with very slight green tint). I knew that when I ordered it (based on the pictures online, with are true-to-shade) and really like the color, but I don't think I'd ever say that this bag is green.
  • One thing I wish the that Kenti included was a place for a water bottle, although I don't really know how I'd change the design to accommodate one. I know it has the hydration bladder slot, but I don't have a hydration system (and don't plan on getting one...it seems more trouble than it's worth, at least for my uses). I suppose what I'll end up doing is strapping a pouch for a water bottle somewhere on the pack (either the hipbelt or on the back using F-Stop's Gatekeeper system).

F-Stop Kenti preview

(also see: F-Stop Kenti: First impressions | F-Stop Kenti: What's in there?)

In the lead-up to summer vacation, I figured it was time to look into a camera backpack. In the past I've used:

  • The F-Stop Brooklyn SlingF-Stop's Brooklyn Sling, a nice solution for walking around town with my Fuji X-Pro1, a couple of lenses, and iPad. On recent trips to California and New Orleans this worked really well. But for a bigger kit, laptop, and more substantial hiking (i.e., carrying a bit more non-photography gear; more flexibility and support), this isn't the right solution due its modest size. I should do a proper review of it at some point in the future, but for now see a video of it here.
  • An older 40 liter LoweAlpine daypack that I got in Alaska more than a decade ago. This worked okay, although it's a little bigger and bulkier than necessary, and my gear got a bit soggy when we were caught in a storm in Rome a few years back.
  • A light-weight backpack (the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30) with a Crumpler Haven (large) camera insert when I was in Amsterdam, Bavaria, and Italy last year. This was mostly a function of wanting something light and packable that could be stuffed into my bigger backpacking pack for when I was traveling from city to city, and could be unpacked, filled with gear, and used as a daypack once I reached a destination city. This was an okay solution, although not the most comfortable pack when stuffed with lenses and access to gear was limited due to it being a top-loader.

Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 and Crumpler Haven

Here's what I'm looking for in a pack (at least for this summer vacation, which doesn't include living out of a large backpack and could have some nice hiking opportunites; update: check out pictures from Silver Falls State Park in Oregon here): 

  • Room for and convenient access to a camera body and ~4 lenses (my bigger Nikon kit or smaller Fuji system), along with space for a bit of non-photography gear.
  • A slot for a laptop...Not because I plan on carrying a MacBook everywhere, but for the flight to/from the west coast I'd like to keep all my gear in one carry-on. This is assuming that I take my laptop. I've started to travel only with an iPad...not sure what I'll do on this trip yet. A place for my iPad is also a must.
  • Comfort and load-carrying functionality of a good hiking daypack, including a real hip belt and compression straps for keeping the load strapped down. A rain cover is a plus too, since we're headed to the Pacific northwest.
  • Flexibility to strap a lens case, water bottle, or jacket to the outside of the pack if necessary.
  • After having to gate-check my "carry on" due to overhead space running out on a couple of flights in the last few years (and thus having to scramble to keep my camera gear from going into the belly of the plane), I'd love a pack that's small enough to fit under an airplane seat if necessary.
  • It shouldn't look like an ugly camera bag; an understated hiking/backpacking vibe is preferable.

Given my positive experience with the Brooklyn Sling, I began looking at F-Stop's other offerings. I was very tempted by the Loka and Guru. The Loka meets every one of the above criteria other than fitting easily under an airplane seat (at least when it's fully packed). I love everything about it, but it's a bit more bag than I need (update: okay...maybe I do need it). The Guru seems like a great solution, very flexible and just about the right size. But, and I know it's shallow, I don't love the looks of the bag as much as the rest of F-Stop line and it's currently out of stock anyways. And although it's smaller (in volume) than the Loka, it is not as slim as the smallest bag in F-Stop's Mountain series: the Kenti.

The Kenti meets all of my stated criteria, with one minor exception: it does have a laptop compartment, but it's limited to 13" machines and I currently have a 15" MacBook Pro (but do have access to a 13" MB Air that I could use). But it is perfectly sized for my needs (I hope!), has side access, and is built like "pro" backpacking gear. So I've got one incoming in "foliage green" (the medium grey in the photos below). I'll try to do a review once the Kenti is here next week (or once I've taken it on a trip).

Update: F-Stop Kenti: First impressions | F-Stop Kenti: What's in there?