Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Naneu Pro K4L Adventure series travel backpack

Received the K4L backpack on Saturday and upon inspection it's definitely a positive first impression. I normally like to take some time to discover if a product has shortcomings, because they don't always manifest themselves immediately.

Generally I like to spend some time looking at all aspects of the product:
1) materials used
2) workmanship
3) fit
4) function
5) areas of product strength
6) areas of product need

This is the first time I've tried a travel backpack, as opposed to a pure camera gear backpack. I was in a new realm and it presented me with a number of questions (camera compartment configuration, gear storage, etc.) that were slowly answered as I familiarized myself with the product. I will start off by confirming the materials/workmanship is definitely top shelf - excellent quality! I will try to post some images if time permits.

I can see why both Naneu Pro and a certain competitor offer limited lifetime warranty on their products. I do like and appreciate the adjustable sternum strap setup that allows multiple positions across the front of the chest. The shoulder straps are some of the most comfortable I've ever setup on any backpack, sweeping in as they go over the top of the shoulders. The backpack strap positions high (shoulder) and low (waist) enough to fit me correctly without issue. For reference, I am taller than average (6' 3") and have fairly wide shoulders: 4" wider than normal (according to a tailor). It includes a now industry standard rain proof cover in case you are caught outdoors with your gear. The rain proof cover is folded up coveniently in a water bottle holder. The holder is designed to handle smaller bottles. I tried a Polar bottle and it's a very snug fit. I also own another brand mesh bottle holder that is actually too large for a standard cycling style 24 oz. water bottle, but it has a drawstring to cinch it in. More testing in Utah will tell!

Initially, without pushing it's limits, I was able to store a good portion of my landscape-specific camera gear in the bottom compartment. Of course, one always wants more capacity and that would change the design, so I will hold off on stating that more is needed. In the upper compartment: my 200/4 macro in a padded pouch, flash, extension cable, diffuser, 5 ND Grad filters in the zippered pouch + adapter ring, Cokin Z filter holder plus multiple smaller items. I added the Wimberley Plamps and diffuser discs into the side zippered compartments. There is still enough room to anticipate inclement weather - it will handle my raingear plus a polar fleece and still have room left over.

Balance: despite the appearance of being very bottom heavy (protruding a great deal from the bottom of the pack), this is actually a good thing - the weight is lowered, closer to the hips and thus the well padded waist strap is even more useful. One problem I had with several pure gear backpacks for someone my height are the tripod holder setups: if you don't have it attached on the side, the backpack is unbalanced, since the entire tripod sits vertically, furthest away from you. This makes the backpack rear heavy along the entire height and harder for proper balance in more technical terrain. It also places a strain on your shoulders and back to some degree.

Another issue is that if you are not careful with securing the tripod, a potentially uncomfortable knock to the head or neck can result with a sudden forward movement when jumping or stepping forward and upward onto another surface. I was unsure as to the zippered pouch holder for the tripod: durability, etc. since it's not a dedicated heavy duty holder. Turns out the tripod attached to a 2/3 filled K4L is actually quite comfortable to walk with and very well balanced once you have cinched the shoulder and waist straps correctly.

More to follow... I'll have more insight during airline travel (fitting into overheads) to and from the Utah Photography workshop in 2 weeks - the K4L Adventure series backpack will be will be used for 10 days in Utah.