Backpacks take a beating and are out in all weather conditions. They need to keep our gear safe, need to be versatile, usable, and be comfortable for long hikes. So, how does the new incarnation of the Tilopa, the Tilopa Duradiamond, fare on this?
F-stop has been making camera backpacks and accessories for 15 years now, so you could say they've had plenty of time to adapt, react, re-invest and create a product worth investing in. Well, with this backpack, they've done it again.
I'm an F-Stop user and have been for many years now. I own a couple of the internal camera units (ICUs), the Navin Camera holster, and the Ajna-40L Backpack. So, when I had the opportunity to review one of the newly released backpacks, I jumped at the chance.
So, if you are thinking "another biased review," it's a no. I've used F-stop for years simply because, probably like the rest of us, I've gone through plenty of camera bags and backpacks in my time, and the only one that has lasted, without rips, tears, threading coming loose, or zips breaking, for me has been the Ajna. It's been on many journeys to different countries and climates, and it's still going strong. It's a trust issue for myself and my equipment.
The photographs for this review were all taken in the first few days of using the backpack, so it looks all new and shiny. And I guess it will stay that way for a while yet. not due to non-use but due to the wiping down after each outing. It's the shiny new car syndrome, but we'll see how long that lasts. However, the backpack looks great and feels great to wear. It's comfy, and with a 50-liter capacity, it's surprisingly not big, yet it holds quite a bit.
It's available in 3 color options, black, magma, and cypress, and has storage options and configurations aplenty. The exterior of the Tilopa has a multitude of adaptable suspension straps, made up of both aluminum and plastic hardware points. Some of these are easily removable, such as the gatekeeper straps, depending on your requirements. It has secure attachment points galore, but they are discreet at the same time, so they don't distract from the aesthetics of the backpack. For your tripod, there's a strong and durable banding at the bottom on either side of the pack with a secure fastener at the top.
Plenty of exterior pockets are available with good storage. The zips on these are weatherproof and woven in, which again, kept my mind at ease. The zipper itself has black tubing sealed around it, which is a nice touch, being easily gripped. There are five of these types of sealed zippers on the outside of the bag. The one at the top, to access the food storage point, as I like to call it, is shielded by the fabric, the same as the Ajna.
I put my pro large ICU (internal camera unit) in it, and there was still plenty of internal space remaining for storing anything else I needed for a longer hike. The interior back panel has been completely redesigned. There's space for a small laptop or a tablet and two larger pockets, one of which is padded and the other one sealed in a clear plastic mesh with a zipper. Above this one are four smaller pockets, perhaps for memory cards, and again, these are mesh sealed. Both the bottom padded pocket and the four smaller pockets have magnetized latches for easy access and closing, which produce a nice audible click when closing. There's also a clear identification pocket for your information.
If you hike for hours on end or are traveling for long distances with all your gear plus supplies on your back, comfort is right up there for priorities when it comes to choosing a backpack. And the Tilopa didn't disappoint. It felt so comfortable, and once set up, I never had to adjust it. I've not completed any long hikes since I've had it, but I have worn it for a few hours at a time with no issues whatsoever. I would say it is more comfortable than my current Ajna.
At 23.5 inches long, the backpack fit perfectly, and the padded hip belt sat over my hips rather than above, making it more comfortable. The mechanism for the hip belt has been replaced with an aluminum clip, which is ultimately stronger than the usual push clips and feels more suited to the overall use of the backpack. It's also a single-hand release mechanism.
The shoulder straps are padded with the same padding as the hip belt, a dual-density algae-based foam, and again are comfortable and easily adjusted. Once you've adjusted the backpack to the shape and the weight you are carrying, you are good to go. It's the same as any other backpack in that respect. This did feel more comfortable overall, however.
So far, it's only been on one workshop with me, which had rain showers off and on all day, with some quite heavy at times. It's been laid down on the wet ground to get the gear out, and I found no instance of the water seeping through. I was never worried about my gear getting wet. This new Duradiamond fabric, as the advert says, is stronger, lighter, and more weather resistant and is exclusive to F-stop. I'm not saying it's impervious to continuously heavy or torrential rain, but it fared well in the conditions I had at the time. In those conditions, I would have covered my current Ajna bag.
The new Hypalon patch on the front offers more protection from abrasions, which is a great addition and keeps my mind at ease due to the number of times the backpack will lie front down on the ground. That's another thing I enjoy about these types of backpacks, back opening. I could never get the idea of the front opening camera bags, where you have to lay the pack down on the area that's then going to be against your clothing when you put it back on, letting mud, grass, and dirt the cover your back. The base of the backpack also has a large and thick strengthened area.
It features a sturdy aluminum frame, and overall, the weight without anything in the backpack is light, at 2 kg. I reckon it could hold quite a bit of weight without putting any undue stress on the pack itself.
What I Liked
The new additions of upgraded material, Hypalon patch, aluminum hardware, strengthened and weatherproof zips, and redesigned back pane, all make for a very versatile bag that screams of a highly durable product.
What Could Be Improved
It doesn't come with a rain cover included in the basic package. This can be purchased separately for a very small fee. To be honest, I'm used to that with the Ajna, so I never expected any different, but it would be nice if it was included in the basic package.
I did mention at the beginning I'm a fan of F-stop gear, so I did expect good, if not excellent quality from the backpack, and I haven't been disappointed in any way whatsoever. So, if you are in the market for a new backpack to keep your equipment safe and one that is durable and comfy, I would say it's worth checking out the new range of backpacks from F-stop.
And remember, for your peace of mind, they come with a 20-year warranty.