My new F-Stop Tilopa arrived on Monday. The weather was finally clear enough when I got home this afternoon to go out and walk around with it a bit and takes some photos. Initial impressions are that this is a significant upgrade from my previous pack (Burton Zoom).
The bag features a main compartment with an internal camera unit (ICU), an internal laptop sleeve, a small pocket in the lid to the main compartment, two pockets (one over the other) on the back of the bag as well as a third smaller pocket on the back that opens from below (the opening is well concealed but the pocket itself is under the MOLLE loops at the bottom of the pack), and two large side pockets with elastic at the tops. There are also several quick release straps on the back and sides for holding things in place, as well as numerous MOLLE loops.
The harness system as seen in the above photo is a huge improvement over my previous pack. It fits perfectly with the waist strap riding on my hips, and the load is distributed very well. This bag feels like a proper hiking pack.
The access panel open to show the ICU:
Loaded with gear:
Loaded in the bag in the above photo- 1DsII, 100mm macro, 24-70mm f/2.8, 400mm f/5.6, 70-200mm f/2.8, and 17-40mm f/4. My 50mm f/1.4 fits in the empty space on the bottom left but I was using it for the photo. I also had three flashes in the main compartment above the ICU, with a good bit of room to spare. I changed out the two long dividers that came with the Tilopa for ones from another pack, I'll get to the reason why below.
The very top pocket has room for a flash and some other small items:
The main compartment, above the ICU. There is also a mesh pouch here with a clip for holding your keys:
Closeup of the mesh pouch:
Another view from above, you can see the laptop sleeve behind the ICU:
The smaller of the two back pockets, 100mm macro for scale:
Rugged, heavy duty, YKK zippers are used for the main compartment (at the top and at the access panel).
Smaller, but weathersealed, zippers are used elsewhere.
A couple more shots of the bag:
And a shot of the "freebies" sent to those who preordered because of the delays (next to my 100mm macro for scale):
***Mini-review*** - The Barrel lens case seems quite nice, it has thick padding and is well constructed like the Tilopa. The Glug mini-dry bag will come in handy for holding a few small things when I'm kayaking or wading in a marsh but I'm not sold on the waterproof claim. The material seems too lightweight and loose to form a good seal at the top no matter how many times you fold it over. If I had paid the $30 for it that they list on the website I would have felt ripped off.
Back to the Tilopa
The pack is well made and can carry a large amount of gear comfortably.
The ICU is very sturdy, it should provide plenty of protection and could easily be transferred to a larger expedition type pack if needed.
The dividers in the ICU have the typical velcro on either end for attaching to the ICU walls, but they also have velcro on the bottom edge which keeps everything in place and contributes to the ICU feeling very solid and secure.
The MOLLE loops should provide a lot of customization options.
The long, central dividers in the ICU. Why do so many companies get this wrong? The stock dividers are a soft material on one side that can be velcro'd to, but the opposite side is a sheer nylon type material. This really limits your layout options. Ironically, the solution I used was to take the central dividers from the cheapest bag in my house (the Canon backpack) and use those instead because they are a felt material on both sides.
The ICU is a bit too rounded in the corners for my taste, and it's rigidity works against it here. It makes it hard to effectively uitilize the space in the corners because the ICU ends up being narrower on either end than in the middle.
The lid of the ICU has no padding, not sure about that. Not a problem when it's in the pack, would have been nice for using it in other packs.
There is a velcro latch that goes over the top of the laptop sleeve to secure your laptop in place. The problem is that with a loaded ICU in place, it is pretty much impossible to actually put this strap into place as the velcro that it is supposed to attach to is wedged too tightly against the bottom of the ICU.
There are also a couple of features that were listed in the inital bag design that didn't make it to the final product. This isn't a huge surprise, but the odd thing is that some of them are clearly on the prototype version of the Satori that was shown so I don't know why they were removed. These include:
- grommeted drain holes on some of the pockets, the back pockets have a drain hole but no grommet, the side pockets got no drain holes at all
- bungee loop straps on the back, these were clearly on the prototype, wish they were on my bag
- a pair of quick release straps at the bottom of the bag, this is the one that bothers me the most as it would have been the perfect spot for a sleeping pad or similar, and again it was on the prototype bag
Overall I am very happy with the bag. I will update once I've had a chance to wear it for a prolonged period (should happen tomorrow actually), but so far it appears it will handle quite well. The bag seems to be of a high overall quality and I expect to get a lot of use out of it. The few nitpicks I have are outweighed by the positive features. I think the pack was worth the money I spent on it.
I will add some photos of the ICU out of the pack in a day or two, I just ran out of light today.