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Thread started 30 Sep 2009 (Wednesday) 22:11
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F-Stop Tilopa Review

 
sodalis
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Sep 30, 2009 22:11 |  #1

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).

IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

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.

IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

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:
IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

Loaded with gear:
IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

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:
IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

The main compartment, above the ICU. There is also a mesh pouch here with a clip for holding your keys:
IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]


Closeup of the mesh pouch:
http://shadowhillsphot​o.exposuremanager.com …ries/6&touched=​1254351485 (external link)

Another view from above, you can see the laptop sleeve behind the ICU:
http://shadowhillsphot​o.exposuremanager.com …ries/6&touched=​1254351488 (external link)


The smaller of the two back pockets, 100mm macro for scale:
IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

Rugged, heavy duty, YKK zippers are used for the main compartment (at the top and at the access panel).
IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]


Smaller, but weathersealed, zippers are used elsewhere.
http://shadowhillsphot​o.exposuremanager.com …ries/6&touched=​1254351477 (external link)


A couple more shots of the bag:

http://shadowhillsphot​o.exposuremanager.com …ries/6&touched=​1254351467 (external link)

http://shadowhillsphot​o.exposuremanager.com …ries/6&touched=​1254351462 (external link)

And a shot of the "freebies" sent to those who preordered because of the delays (next to my 100mm macro for scale):

http://shadowhillsphot​o.exposuremanager.com …ries/6&touched=​1254351492 (external link)

***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

Hits:

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.


Misses:

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


Conclusion:

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.


  
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Mocows
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Oct 01, 2009 10:15 |  #2

Great review, my buddy ordered one as well and I can't wait to see it for myself.


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longsight
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Oct 01, 2009 11:09 as a reply to  @ Mocows's post |  #3

Very nice backpack.I've never heard of the make though is it available worldwide.


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jubu
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Oct 01, 2009 11:43 |  #4

Love it...I need one of these...Xmas can't come soon enough. :)

Thanks for the the review!


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jcothron
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Oct 01, 2009 12:32 |  #5

I got the Satori monday in the same color. :D Looking at yours, you seem to have far more room outside the ICU. What size ICU do you have? large? (mine is the new x-large). Nice review.


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jubu
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Oct 01, 2009 16:00 |  #6

Do you guys get a choice of ICU size when ordering? Or is there a set size it comes with and then you have to buy a different size separately if you wish?


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highv0lt6ge
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Oct 01, 2009 19:43 |  #7

anyone have any pictures of the green or black? I'm trying to decide on what color to purchase


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JohnJ80
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Oct 01, 2009 20:12 |  #8

After seeing the red, I'm conflicted. I'll have to decide between red or black.

I would like to see the black too.

J.


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corosario
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Oct 01, 2009 20:31 |  #9

@jubu,

I ask Ian, from FStop, about getting a different ICU size and he informed that they will be selling ICU's as single units. I don't know if you can change the size of the ICU included with the bags.

@JohnJ80,

Here are some pictures (external link) taken by FeedTheJoe of the black/gray Tilopa.

I had a Black/Gray Tilopa pre-ordered but changed the order to a Cranberry bag after seen the pictures from one of the emails from FStop. I finally got my tracking number today...can't wait for the bag. Thanks Sodalis for a great review!


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Hogloff
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Oct 01, 2009 20:50 |  #10
bannedPermanent ban

Can a tripod be safely and securely attached to the pack?




  
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sodalis
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Oct 01, 2009 20:58 |  #11

I hiked several miles today with the pack. I wasn't loaded with as much camera gear as my post above, but I was also carrying water, food, a couple extra layers, and some caving gear. The pack carried very well and remained comfortable both on the trail and below ground as well.

jcothron wrote in post #8741535 (external link)
I got the Satori monday in the same color. :D Looking at yours, you seem to have far more room outside the ICU. What size ICU do you have? large? (mine is the new x-large). Nice review.

The Tilopa is only two inches shorter than the Satori, but the Large ICU is four inches shorter than the X-Large ICU, so the Tilopa ends up with two inches more space in the main compartment above the ICU in the default configuration. I think I could manage an overnight with the Tilopa as is, I might pick up the small ICU for longer trips or transfer the ICU I have to a larger hiking pack.

Would you mind commenting on the features that I mentioned that were on the prototype Satori but disappeared from the final Tilopa? Did your Satori retain these? (drain hole grommets, bungee loops, and the extra set of quick release straps)



  
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sodalis
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Oct 01, 2009 21:06 |  #12

Hogloff wrote in post #8744332 (external link)
Can a tripod be safely and securely attached to the pack?

I wasn't carrying one today, but the quick release straps on the back seem to be able to hold my 55XPROB with no trouble.



  
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colbyb25
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Oct 01, 2009 23:35 |  #13

I have one of the new Black Satori bags and I have to say I love it. Is any bag perfect? No! But the Satori is, atleast for the work I do (Adventure/Travel Photography in distant areas) the best purely camera bag I have had. I will be posting a review soon on my website.

I am also part of the F-Stop Gear Brigade Team and looking forward to showcasing more of their products while on assignment all over the world. I will try to keep everyone as updated as possible...


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JohnJ80
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Oct 02, 2009 08:43 |  #14

I'd like to also get the small ICU. Then for other trips, I could pack more stuff in the pack and a smaller camera set. That would be huge.

Also, is it possible to open the back and get at the camera gear WITHOUT taking the pack off?

J.


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highv0lt6ge
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Oct 02, 2009 13:43 |  #15

Any pictures of the green anyone?


Greg
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