Over a year ago, I switched from using the rugged Pelican 1510 roller to the Loka, by f-stop Gear. For the most part, this has been a happy trade off (with a few caveats), which has given me more flexibility for how and where I can take varying volumes of photo equipment.
F-stop Gear’s Loka was the Goldilocks of the manufacturer’s previous generation of its legendary Mountain Series (updated in 2015). At 37 liters, the Loka can hold a serious amount of camera kit, but with a bit of a trade off to comfort. The harnessing system is capable, though much lighter than its big brothers, so I quickly learned that toting the full contents of what I can stuff into a Pelican 1510 w/Lid Organizer was a bit painful over long periods or over rough terrain. This is because the Loka is more designed for versatility and movement, so for hauling massive cargo, the larger bags in the series, like the Satori EXP, are a better bet.
I tend to use the Loka for day hikes or for commercial assignments that are a bit tricky to navigate (such as these).
It should also be noted that all of f-stop’s bags (except the Kashmir UL) are designed to fit a torso height of about 18.5″; I am close enough to that that the packs fit comfortably, but if your torso is longer or shorter than 18.5″ (especially shorter), then these may not be the bags for you.
As indicated above, the Loka is an incredibly durable pack with great abrasion and water resistance. Though I do own a rain sleeve for this bag, I almost never use it (only once for laying the pack in the snow). The Loka’s 330D rip-stop nylon is expressed as a downgrade from the company’s new 420D fabric, though the new material does not utilize DWR (durable water repellant) and I am not so certain that what it does provide for water resistance is an actual improvement (instead of wicking away moisture at the surface, it allows some water to penetrate and relies on a tougher sealant at the “backend” of the fabric shell to keep pack contents dry). While this might be affective against water alone, I have a feeling that it might encourage some stains and possibly mold (depending upon how you store/clean it) to set-in. As for abrasion resistance, the 330D has been plenty tough in my experience, and is lighter weight.
What does 37 liters net you in terms of how much kit you can bring? Short answer: A lot!
Below, I have included an image and a packing time-lapse to illustrate what I typically carry and how I fit it in the bag with a Large LT ICU.
Gear list (condensed):
1. Apple MacBook Pro, 13″ with charger and earbuds
2. iPhone 6+
3. GoPro Hero Session with accessories
4. Nikon D7200
5. Nikon D300
6. Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G
7. Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
8. Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX
9. Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 AiS
10. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX (v1)
11. Lens cloths and rain sleeves
12. Ball bungee
13. Batteries (camera and AA)
14. Shutter release
15. “Survival Kit” (compass, fire starter, First Aid, Multi-Tool, bug repellent, water treatment pills, blinking bike reflector/light)
16. Motorola Walkie-Talkies
17. Altura ND and Polarizer filter set
18. Manfrotto tabletop tripod
A crude packing time-lapse:
Two months ago, I wrote a generalized review on the whole Mountain Series, and in that post, I discussed f-stop’s fulfillment problem. At the time, some customers had been waiting as long as six months to receive a bag that they had already paid for. When I published that article in March, those customers were being told to expect their shipments in April, which became May, which has now become June. Every one of f-stop’s social media channels is filled with negative and frustrated customer interactions.
A selection of those comments from f-stop’s Facebook page:
The company was in trouble when I was laid off along with over half of the U.S. staff in January. Since then, several more long-time employees have left on their own accord. These are key positions in marketing, design, human resources, product photography, etc. Without going into significant detail, there is a leadership problem at the root of what customers are experiencing, which has ignited other issues for the company.
For these reasons, I do not recommend purchasing f-stop products directly from f-stop Gear. If you want to buy an f-stop product, there are plenty of their packs already circulating that can be had through eBay (I know that this seller is legit), Craigslist, etc.
I still have several friends working at f-stop or representing the company as their brand ambassadors, so it pains me to write anything that might negatively affect them, but I cannot recommend my readers to join the legion of customers already navigating the Kafka-esque process of receiving products that they paid for from this company. If this process changes, and f-stop bounces back (they totally could), then I will remove this whole section and rewrite my recommendation. f-stop, the trial is yours to decide.