If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for the perfect camera bag. One bag that fits all of your vital gear and, often, a laptop so you can stay mobile for weeks on end. I have a couple of bags which work well for one task or another, but I have yet to find that perfect camera/computer travel bag. In that quest I occasionally raid camera stores seeking, looking, hunting for that bag.
And also occasionally I get sent a bag for review. Such is the case with the Naneu Adventure K4L camera/computer bag in this review (MSRP $229 US). Naneu was nice enough to ask if I’d like to review a demo model (and send it back). I took a look at their line of bags and while the hefty K5 overnight backing bag caught my eye, it was on the K4L that I settled. My reasoning was that I already had a Lowe Pro bag that I enjoy similar to most of their other sizes, so I wanted to see if this slightly larger bag, with its handy flip out camera compartment, would do the job for me as a photography, computer and overnight bag.
The Camera Compartment
Let’s start at the heart and soul of this bag, the camera compartment. First, the compartment is well padded and like most camera bags, comes with an assortment of removable Velcro dividers to arrange gear. Some are half height with a fold over top, making them ideal for storing smaller lenses on top of each other (with padding in between). The storage compartment is deep enough, at 7.75″/20cm, to hold a full size DSLR with battery grip included (A Canon 5D is pictured here) but taller lenses may have a problem. For instance, in this image there is a Canon 28-300mm L lens, about the same height as the more standard 70-200mm L. When used with this bag, the lens is taller than the compartment area, forcing it to push up on the floor of the compartment above. This isn’t too much of an issue as the floor of the compartment above is fully padded, but it can make opening the compartment a bit trickier.
I found I was able to easily carry the camera and lens pictured here along with two strobes and still have room for filters. While the compartment was not large enough for me to fit the camera with lens connected (unless I removed all of the padding) it worked for most trips. I also would have liked to see hinged dividers be used in areas so a DSLR and attached lens, say a 50mm, could be stowed, ready for shooting. I did like the flip out idea for this section which leaves the bag flat on the ground while accessing the camera gear.
Behind this main compartment is a nice hidden zippered pouch. Just big enough to fit some papers or for finished flash memory, it is not readily obvious to a thief with little time inside the bag.
Camera Accessory Pouch
Now that the camera is stored, what about all the accessories? The batteries, the cards, remote controls, etc… The K4L does an excellent job of accommodating all the little items that go along with digital photography with a zippered section in front of the main camera compartment. (Note: Both of these zippered areas are further held fast by a very large buckle) There are three pouches in this area that are perfect for keeping various sized cards, readers and smaller items. On the opposite wall is a mesh zippered pouch that runs the width of the compartment, making it ideal for longer items or multiple batteries.
In between the two is an open space for anything that might have been missed. This area can get a bit cramped when packed full of batteries and cards, but I found the organization within this compartment to be just what I needed.
The computer storage is accessed on the right side of the bag (back looking front). The weather resistant zipper runs the entire height of the bag and functions well when only using one hand. There is not a lot of fabric around it to cause catching. The compartment has a decent amount of padding and easily handled my 13″ laptop, with the included literature mentioning a 17″ laptop will be no problem. I never felt the hardness of the laptop against my back (thanks in part to the awesome padding described in a moment) and also I didn’t fear it being crushed from inside the bag.
Special Note: If you look closely at the picture, you may notice the computer and iPod icons at the top of this section. These were originally introduced to help owners know what goes where. But after my initial use of the bag, I no longer had a need for them and felt they were advertisement to thieves as to what lay inside. I brought this up with Anthony, my contact at Naneu, via email half way through my evaluation of the bag. By the end of the evaluation he mentioned they had had received other requests from other owners to have the icons removed. He assured me the designs would be removed from future bags. If Naneu does indeed follow through on this feedback, I give them kudos for listening to sane customer desires.
The Main Compartment
While the camera compartment is the main reason for this bag existing, the largest compartment is the upper section that hinges away when accessing camera gear. The compartment is simple and clear, just the way I like areas meant for things like overnight clothes or hiking equipment. There is one zippered mesh pocket as seen in the picture and a smaller holder on the right side for a digital music player (and a corresponding pass through hole above it for easy headphone routing).
The back flap folds completely out of the way, making this compartment very easily accessible. Again, the floor is padded as it sits upon the lower camera section. There are two zippers for this section, both easy to use.
Other External Items
One of the more well thought out features of this bag is the tripod carrying system. This area is folded away behind a zippered flap on the back of the bag when not in use (you might not have even noticed it in the first photo if not for the icon which will soon be removed). When opened up, the section reveals a second attachment loop to match the one visible when closed. The lower section is now a large bag perfect for accepting the legs of your tripod.
The two attachment straps (included) are well placed to keep a tripod close in to the bag and under control. I found if the bag was not completely full (the Main Compartment), the tripod would have a tendency to angle forward, but not so much that it would hit me in the head or interfere with bag use. When the bag was more fully loaded with hiking gear, the tripod stuck more parallel to my back and stayed well out of the way.
By creating a storage boot that hangs lower than the bag bottom, I found my tripod did not hit nearly the amount of branches it has with other bags. That lower attachment also made the two straps holding the legs of the tripod more effective at keeping the tripod close to the bag and under control.
Not mentioned so far are two side zippered pocket perfect for a smaller water bottle or other accessories. There is a strong carry handle at the top with a moderate amount of padding (I would have liked to see more, but it is much better than just plain webbing). One more small pocket just above the tripod compartment completes the external storage. Lastly, a waterproof cover is included (not pictured) in a small water bottle sized holder. If the cover is stowed away elsewhere, the holder conveniently straps onto the waist belt for a bottle holder.
Frame and Fit
I’ve been into backapcking for the past 20 years and have become accustomed to sussing out packs with claims of revolutionarily new padding and designs when it comes to fit and comfort. While this pack is what’s known as soft framed, meaning it lacks the ridged frame of larger packs, Naneu has done a great job in creating a comfortable solution. Most camera bags treat fitment to the owner as an after thought, hoping they won’t care too much. But Naneu seems to take a serious approach to making sure this bag will be comfortable for hours on end.
This picture shows the ventilated sections amply applied to critical shoulder and lower back areas of this pack. The arm straps and hip belt also have this comfortable padding. While this pack does lack the upper arm strap adjustment capabilities of dedicated backpack, the lower points and hip belt are very easy to adjust for an average sized torso. I wouldn’t go for this bag if you are a smaller size without testing it on first, though.
While the padding and fit was great for me, and comfortable enough to wear all day out shooting, the balance of the bag was a challenge. This is due in part to the weight of the gear I packed and how it is handled. The bag conformed to my back well and kept the weight as close as it could to my center of gravity, but because I had over 20lbs (9kg) in that compartment down low, I felt pulled backwards at times. This became less apparent when the Main Compartment was fully loaded as well, but if just the lower Camera Compartment was full of heavy gear, the lower back pull was noticeable after a couple hours of use. There is not much to be done about this, though, as conventional backpacking wisdom dictates placing heavy items higher up and close to the shoulders. And that’s just not possible in a camera bag at the present time.
I enjoyed using and abusing the Naneu K4L Photo/Computer Bag for the time I had it. I can’t speak to its build quality other than examining after a month of use (no tears, loose stitching….although I did manage to lose one half of the sternum strap) but from my use, I found the pack to be comfortable and easy to use.
- Extra padding where you need it
- Customizable, deep camera compartment
- Swing away camera compartment with easy access
- Easy access computer compartment, even when bag is fully loaded
- Rain cover included
- Handy tripod attachment for great control
- Hidden pocket for valuables (not that your camera is not valuable)
- Ample storage for overnight needs
- Sternum strap can go missing
- If packed with heavy camera gear, center of gravity shifts further back
- Hard to fit a 35mm with battery grip and attached long lens
- Most gear gets stored vertically, so a lens longer than 7.75″ protrudes, making opening and closing compartment more difficult
Amazon Currently sells the Naneu Adventure K4L Bag through a couple of sellers starting from $199.99.