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In my 10 years of photography I have owned three backpacks, one sling bag and several different strap options. None of these have provided the perfect bag for every situation but as a landscape photographer, the best option so far has been the F-stop Kashmir UL Backpack. One of the main reasons, for me, is that it is one of the few bags that has been specifically designed for a woman’s physique.
Most backpacks are designed for men who are around 6 feet tall. This means the bags are usually too long, the straps are set too wide on the shoulders, and the chest straps are not long enough. The waist straps are also not in the right place and generally they just don’t fit properly. If you are loading up several kilos of camera gear with the intention of hiking for 2-3 hours, then a properly fitting and comfortable bag is a must.
One of the main issues I have with other bags marketed to women, is the assumption that looks are important, and that less gear will be carried – in other words, it’s a glorified handbag. If you are a woman who carries a fair amount of gear (for example, one camera body and 2-3 lenses, a tripod and other accessories), who walks for several hours, and wants a proper bag to carry it in, then read on.
F-stop launched a Kickstarter campaign a couple of years ago which is how I got my bag but you can get yours via Amazon.
My main requirements in a backpack are fit and functionality. Does it fit comfortably, and does it carry everything I need it to easily. Let’s assess the design of the Kashmir backpack:
The F-stop Kashmir backpack is black with cobalt blue straps. There is subtle branding on the back, front strap, and back support which cannot be obviously removed. Shoulder straps are slightly narrower than usual, cut in a curve for a better fit, and are well padded. An adjustable chest strap that has a lot of play sits comfortably quite high on the chest. The waist support features two large hip mounted panels that bend around the waist with a wide adjustable strap in front.
An abundance of pockets is a key feature with the Kashmir. Pockets in the hip supports, large mesh side pockets, top flap pocket, back pocket, laptop, and a hydration bladder pocket internally all mean there are plenty of options for packing stuff away. There are also several loop attachments provided to allow tripod or other hardware to be attached with optional gatekeeper straps.
Zippers are good quality, slide easily and don’t catch. They have good long tags attached for easy grip.
Camera gear is stored in a separate ICU (Internal Camera Unit) which are available in several sizes. I got the Medium Shallow ICU which holds my 7D Mark II, 17-55mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4 IS L, 10-22mm UWA and a Mind Shift Filter Hive full of Lee Filters.
As someone who is five foot six inches tall (average height for a woman) and around a US size 12-14, I have struggled to find a backpack that would do two things, fit both me and all my gear. A bag that was small enough to fit me comfortably, was often too small to hold all my gear.
The Kashmir backpack manages both nicely. The shoulder straps are a good width and the narrower curved cut means they fit around my shoulders and body better and don’t chafe. When the bag is fully loaded it rides on the back of my hips, and the hip straps take up a lot of the load when they’re tightened. I can walk with this backpack for several hours and still feel pretty comfortable when all the straps are properly adjusted and tight.
My personal reason for using a backpack is due to a car accident that injured my neck several years ago. My neck and shoulders will not support the load of one strap. So a backpack is the best option to balance the heavy weight properly, and the Kashmir is quite comfortable for me to wear this way.
The Kashmir backpack is designed to be used while on the ground. The back flap zips open to give you access to the camera gear. While you can swing it around and access it while hanging onto the bag, its not particularly easy to do so.
Someone wanting a subtle, quickly accessible bag for street photography is not going to want the Kashmir. Landscape or wildlife photographers who need to carry a lot of gear, a variety of clothing options and a tripod should be interested in the Kashmir.
The Shallow Medium ICU holds a lot of stuff, any more and it would be too heavy for me to carry around for too long. Plus the bag itself has loads of room for things like extra clothing layers, a hydration bladder, a laptop or tablet, hat, gloves, and accessories. With a 30L capacity, it is a good day pack option.
Not all backpacks come fully loaded with a range of features, so here are the highlights of the extra features on the Kashmir backpack:
No, but for my purposes it’s pretty close.
If you are a woman looking for a backpack to load up and enjoy a day out shooting then I highly recommend the F-stop Kashmir Backpack. It isn’t perfect, but with the exception of the issue with the top pocket losing its contents all over the place, most of my issues are design tweaks. Nothing to seriously interfere with the comfort and wearability of the bag.
Yes it can be heavy when well loaded, but the better fit of the straps and the shorter design, coupled with the good hip/back support means its not too tiring to carry around a decent load. I regularly lug 5-8 kg depending on what I am shooting, and can easily carry it for a day out (probably 2-3 hours walking).
It is well made, of quality materials, and caters to the serious outdoor shooter with comfort, safety and style.