What’s in my F-Stop Bag? (a landscape photographer’s bag of goodies)

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

One of the most common questions I get is about what gear I use and why. Of course, it does not matter too much about the gear. I get the same kind of photos whether I use my Canon G11, Canon Rebel or Canon 1ds Mark III; the only difference is in the quality of the files and the ergonomics and speed of the camera; the Mark III files can be enlarged to a greater size and is the fastest camera I own.

I have numerous other cameras and I use the one that offers the controls and features that I need based on what I want to shoot. I might use a Holga for mid-day ‘arty’ snaps in the city, the Canon Rebel for backpack trips, the Mark III for action, or a camera phone for everyday happy snaps. There is no perfect camera, just as long as you have one with you!

The same thing goes for camera bags and backpacks. I have numerous bags each one designed to do a different job. I use a different bag when I am biking, hiking or car touring. But over the last month or so I have standardized my  ‘landscape’ photo system into one bag that I am loving whether I use it for car-based shooting, short hikes or overnight back-country trips. My new bag of choice if the F-Stop Sartori EXP. This bag is the big gun of the F-Stop line and is touted as their ‘expedition bag’. For me it’s not too big but definitely can handle a lot of gear from my full landscape kit’ to everything I need for a couple of nights in the back-country.

What I like best about F-Stop bags is that they are convertible and you can put as much or as little camera gear in the packs as you need simply by swapping out the ICU’s (internal camera units). I use a small ICU for backpacking and take my Rebel and one or two lenses; the rest of the pack is filled with essential back-country camping gear. For everyday use I use a large ICU in the Sartori to hold my complete landscape photography kit with room left over for essential snacks, clothes and other useful items necessary for short hikes and messing around in nature close to the road.

If you want to see more neat features and other reviews of F-Stop bags check out these links: F-Stop Bags – High and Dry and Ben Horton’s Review.

For me F-stop bags are the most comfortable and well-designed packs for the active outdoor and nature photographer. I highly recommend them. The only complaint I have about F-stop packs are that they are designed for people with average to longish backs. Most women and shorter guys (under 5’6″) may find the shoulder straps and belt system too long to sit properly on the body. Samantha found this out the hard way when she tried to steal my F-Stop bag only to discover that even for a taller woman like her (5’7″) the strap system is too long. Sam also tried out a Loka and a Tipola pack and tested it on other woman and all the F-Stop packs had the same short-coming — the torso of the bag was too long for most women.

So… F-Stop needs to make some packs in smaller versions for the torsally challenged photographer! Or, at least make a series of packs with an adjustable harness. For me I am happy because all the F-stop bags fit me perfectly (and so I got to keep all the bags Sam tried to steal!). Seriously though,  if you are short or a woman I would hesitate at his point to order an F-Stop bag. But for all you average-backed and long-backed dudes, you’ll likely love this or any of the F-stop packs. For now this a guy’s dream outdoor and nature pack (the perfect purse for the rugged boy in us all!).

Note: F-stop is one of my sponsors; I get to tell it like it is and F-stop in no way influenced this review. I love the packs, Samantha wants to love them but they just don’t fit most women.

UPDATE: Good news, I just heard back from F-Stop and the good news is they plan to release a short torso version of the Loka pack this fall! Also the F-stop packs have really filled a niche and everyone loves them so supplies are a bit short at the moment because the bags sold even more briskly than anticipated!

To learn more about the Sartori Pack and to see every piece of camera gear I use for landscape photography watch the video below:

(warning, in the video I called my cable release a ‘polarizer’ — the mind is the first thing to go — always wear a helmet, the brain is a delicate organ!)

A list of the camera gear harmed in the making of this video:

Canon EOS-1ds Mark III

Canon 24mm TS-E Mark II

Canon 17mm TS-E

Canon 45mm TS-E

Canon 90mm TS-E

Sigma 120-400mm lens

Cokin Z-Pro Filter Holder

Singh-Ray Filters

The Lee Big Stopper

F-stop bags

If you are in the USA and buy from B+H Photo you are supporting this blog with tiny bits of coffee money (I might even buy an occasional beer on special days!). If you are in Canada please buy from The Camera Store simply because they are the best store in the country!

Darwin at the Columbia Icefield with an F-Stop Sartori EXP pack

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25 Responses to “What’s in my F-Stop Bag? (a landscape photographer’s bag of goodies)”

  1. Great video Darwin! (Wonders what Sam thinks of the “sweet and salty call button?)

    Those F Stop bags look great! Very versatile.

    Happy shooting!

  2. Hi Darwin,

    Thanks for the info. I have looked (on-line) at these bags about 3 times now over the last 6 months or so and they are always out of stock (most models and not just the Satori). That means they are selling well or have supply problems but either way, it makes it hard to buy one. Additionally, they seem to only have online sales. It is hard to drop $400 or $500 on a bag sight unseen. Do you know of any retail stores that carry them (assuming stock becomes available)? Thanks, Scott

    • Hi Scott, they are popular bags and they seem to underestimate sales. I do not think there are any retailers in Canada at this point. You can always come over and look at my F-stop bags anytime you want.

      Darwin

  3. Thanks, I’ll do that. I might even bring some Merlot…

  4. Cool Review. I did not realize you had such a good sense of humor :)

  5. I am watching some of your other videos. Snickety Boo…….. TS Lens video is great :)

  6. Hi Darwin,
    In the video you talk about overnight camping. So do you think that using a small internal unit gives you enough room for a tent and a sleeping bag (not to mention food [ah, sorry, I forgot about your salty/sweets gps locator])

    In my personal experience, for just a single night outside you need at least a 70 liter pack. So do you know if these guys are going to release a pack that big?

    Also, where do you attach the tripod? For me, attaching the tripod on the side of the pack is not comfortable at all. It unbalances the pack. The Lowepro solution to attach it to the back of the pack is a bit better but not optimal.

    giovanni

    • For me I can do an overnight with the pack and a small ICU but I will use a bivy sac not a tent and won’t take cooking gear or food that needs to be cooked). You can easily place the tripod in the back pouch where I pulled my flashlight from but I just strap it on the side and put the heavier camping stuff I own on the opposite side of the pack to balance it out.

      I agree an even larger bag might be necessary for those wanting more gear for backpacking, or maybe an extra small ICU for a little less camera gear. d

  7. Ernst-Georg Lorinser Says:

    Hello Darwin,

    thx for showing us that great video, just the right thing I needed when I have to stay in bed because of the flue ;-)

    One question is still open for me – what do you do with your tripod. I would assume that this is one of the most important tools for landscape photographer – right?

    KR EGL

    • The tripod hooks onto one side of the bag using the straps built into the pack. In this case the tripod was used to hold the Rebel camera which was taking the video. d

  8. What no compass D? ;)

    Cool review. Interesting to see what you drag around…

  9. Darwin:

    This was another great video. I just bought the F-Stop Tilopa and used it last week in Yellowstone. I love it and learned two things from your video:

    –the ICU has a cover (it had been hidden underneath itself (go figure) and

    –the pouch on the back of the backpack (go figure, again).

    But I have not figured out where to put a water bottle on this backpack. Any good suggestions?

    Frank

  10. Wondering which filter pouch you are using, the one you attach to the belt strap. Thanks

  11. Hi Darwin,

    I have the F-stop Tilopa BC (Back Country) and I just love how it is very functional and well designed. There is one feature that you didn’t demonstrate in your video and I think it is the single most useful feature of the F-stop packs. When I am shooting, hiking and climbing, I will leave the hip belt fastened, remove the shoulder straps and then rotate the pack around in front of me. Now, the pack is perpendicular to me and I can access the ICU through the main zipper. It is almost like having a small table right in front of me to prepare my camera equipment.

    I just returned from a week of shooting in Pacific Rim National Park and I never had to put my pack down in the sand, mud or when exploring tide pools. I could access my camera, lenses, filters etc. by using this technique. I discovered it in a moment of serendipity. You can tell that the F-stop packs have been designed by experienced photographers. I find the Tilopa BC is a little big when I go out shooting. It feels too large on my back, like I’m going to be hiking the West Coast Trail. I’m thinking about ordering the slightly smaller Loka in the future to nicely compliment my Tilopa BC. I can use different sizes of ICU’s in both packs.

    • Yes you describe a great feature of the bags, I have a link in my post by Jay and Varina Patel where Varian shows in a video exactly what you describe. Thanks for reminding readers about this capability!

      d

  12. Ray Pertierra Says:

    Darwin, I’m a recently follower of your blog and am enjoying both your images and articles.

    I had ready a separate post commenting on the poor construction of the F-Stop backpacks. Do you see any merit to this complaint? Do you believe the quality to be up to LowePro standards?

    Thanks again, Ray

    • I have not had the f-Stop bags long enough to comment on how long they last under heavy use. I don’t really see any difference in quality between the f-Stop and Lowe-Pro bags. In fact my biggest beef with Lowe-Pro is that their zippers fail under heavy use and their warranty does not cover zippers! F-Stop has a liberal 20-year warranty policy and it does not exclude zippers as far as I can see – http://fstopgear.com/en/support/warranty

      d

  13. Thanks for showing us what you have in your bag!

  14. Thank you for doing this presentation. I am very interested in moving to some Tilt Shift Lenses.
    So for landscape photography would your order of priority be:

    1. 24mm
    2. 45mm
    3. 17mm
    4. 90mm

    How are you able to filter the 17mm Tilt Shift? Are you able to use the Z Pro on the 17mm Tilt Shift Lens? If not how do you filter that particular lens?

    Also what percentage of your landscape photography do you do on each lens?

    Thanks, Chris

  15. Hi Darwin,
    Thanks for your great blogs. I really enjoy your good humor and positive attitude.Not to mention your gorgeaous photos! I’ve just strted into the photgraphy biz down under and I want to really focus on the TS lense and composite pano’s. You are the person that inspired me to finally make that jump!
    However,
    My question is, Are you sure there is a loka coming out for us torsoly challenged? I looked at the guru and I need more room.
    I wrote to f-stop but they won’t confirm the loka. Can you sus it out? It is the perfect bag in every other way.
    Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.
    Cheers, Bren

    • Hi Bren,

      good luck on your new photo business. I was told by the marketing guy at f-Stop that there was a bag for short torsos coming out later this year. That is all I was told, this was in response to my review. So hopefully it comes to fruition.

      d

  16. This bag looks great but I need a photo backpack for multi days hikes.I like the look of the Naneu K5 but it needs to be lighter and maybe a couple of choices for chest packs maybe fstop will make a larger bag with a chest pack.Right now I carry my camera and lenses in a Think Tank fanny pack with a 80L backpack it works but can be uncomfortable at times. I just finished a multi day hike to the Walker Rainforest Wilderness south of Kakwa provincial park in BC an area that we are trying to save.It was a 5.30hr hike up to the ridge but two thirds of the way up I noticed two sections of a three section leg of my new carbon fiber Surui tripod missing.I had two legs in the side pocket and one hanging out after hours of hiking the other leg had slowly unscrewed an fell off I never did find it so when you hike dont be a dummy like me all three legs must be in the pocket .Im still looking for the best multi day hike camera backpack.

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