by Phil Temple-Watts
Having decided to take a trip to Iceland to shoot the northern lights, I was planning to get a new camera and 3 lenses. I knew my [then] current bag wouldn't carry that much gear. I enlisted the help of my good mate Morgan, who suggested I get the Crumpler Karachi Outpost. I had a look at it online, decided I quite liked one of the 3 offered colours, but that I might have to take a black marker to some of the bright orange trim. Another of my friends had recently purchased one of LowePro's Flipside offerings. The Crumpler looked better all round, and definitely more solidly constructed. I lined up a time to check out the bag with Morgan in person.
The green is quite understated, but the orange trim does give it a bit of flair. The rain cover however, is a very bright blue, with silver highlights and Crumpler written across the middle of it. It is in no way inconspicuous. As I was planning a permanent move to Lima, Peru after the Iceland trip, I was hoping for something not quite so loud. Lima is in a desert though, and is the second driest capital city in the world. Needless to say, I'm yet to use the cover here.
Nikon 70-200/2.8 II
Nikon D7000 + 35/2.0 DX
2x WD Passport external HDDs
Asus R552JV 15.6" laptop (383 x 255 x 27.7mm)
The laptop won't fit in the dedicated laptop/tablet sleeve (designed for a 13" Macbook size machine), but can comfortably be slipped on top of the internal equipment cradle. I padded it with a T-shirt underneath, and my mousepad on top.
Being Crumpler, the bag comes with a lifetime warranty and appears to be made well enough that I won't be needing to avail of it any time soon. (we'll let you know when we open a store in Peru mate... - ed.) The zips are all solid, and the stitching looks more than adequate too. The bag weighed ~17kg on a number of occasions during the Iceland trip, and it felt like it would handle that no worries on a more regular basis. Whether I would handle it is open to debate.
One of my favourite features of the bag is that the main compartment opens from the face that's usually against one's back. This, coupled with the ability to leave the waist strap done up, slip one shoulder strap off and sling the bag around in front of you with easy access to your gear is great. Added security, and great if the surroundings don't lend themselves to being able to put your bag down. I did find in order to be able to undo the zip completely I needed to slacken the waist strap a little before beginning the manoeuvre.
For those occasions we spent a while on the ice or snow and I didn't want to carry the bag the whole time, the rain cover served well as a snow cover, keeping the bag free from moisture. It worked just as well for rain.
The side pockets each have a meshed eyelet at the bottom to drain out any stray liquid, perhaps from a leaking bottle. Each pocket has some straps above it designed to secure a tripod or similar. These do work, however I would recommend a light, compact tripod. On one occasion I put a Manfrotto 055XProB in one of them and unsurprisingly it felt decidedly lopsided.
I'm still experimenting with gear layouts in the bag - I'm yet to find one that's completely comfortable to have on my back for long periods. The Velcro inserts allow you to customise the partitions however you please, but I would have made them ever so slightly longer - the length would be fine if the inner compartment was perfectly rigid, but there is a tiny bit of play to it, and I found the length of the inserts a little lacking.
All in all however, provided the colours won't be an issue for you (I would have got it in black if I could), I'd strongly recommend this bag. It'll fit in overhead no worries (though you'll likely have to hang some gear around your neck to get it under 7kg) and carries a good amount of gear. The inner compartment can be removed should you want to repurpose the bag for a trip sans camera. At no point was I concerned about my gear while it was in the bag - the inner compartment is rigid, and the insides are well padded.
If you have a fair bit of gear, and you need to cart it around like this - snow, dust, rain, whatever, this bag comes highly recommended.