|Naneu K4L Review: Marc Langille|
|Naneu K4L Review: Marc Langille|
|Monday, 23 November 2009 21:22|
Before I begin the review, I'll rewind back to covering a few of my first impressions and what I look for in a backpack:
1) Materials used
In September 2009 I spent 10 days in Utah, scouting/hiking and prepping for 2 of my photography workshops. I spent the majority of time at close to 6000 ft. elevations around south-central Utah.
The backpack with all of the above (and a fair bit more) plus a 15.4" Dell E6400 laptop weighed in at 33lbs. For reference the K4L weighs in at approximately 5.5lbs. The loaded K4L was surprisingly well balanced yet light, considering the total weight. As surmised in my first impressions, the heaviest part of the load is at or near your waist. That weight distribution translates into little or no back strain, even with a tripod attached. The tripod slopes in towards the top of the pack so the heaviest part (base plate + tripod head) rests just below the top of the pack. This also ensures your head doesn't get a hard knock if you jump up onto another surface. That was a common complaint with tripod carrying packs that center mount in a vertical position on the back surface of the pack.
Without a doubt, this travel backpack was much more comfortable carrying a full complement of landscape gear than anything previously used.
Caveats for the airline traveler:
Canadair Regional Jets (CRJ) and Embraer Regional Jets is the mainstay of smaller airports and lower traffic routes. All of those smaller jets/turboprops have smaller overhead luggage compartments. Therefore you must store the K4L under the seat. With your laptop stowed in the K4L, it works reasonably well due to the wedge shape of the backpack, although a min. of 2-3 inches sticks out beyond the back of the seat. That's a close call; just once in 4 trips I was asked about plane side checking of the backpack. After a quiet conversation with the attendant and informing him of it holding camera gear, he agreed to stow it in the attendant's locked closet just aft of the cockpit/cabin/galley area. It will not fit in the frames used for dimension checks, so be advised. I've never been asked nor challenged about this, but if the attendant or luggage handler at plane side ever put down their foot that could be a problem.
Of note, when I gave a presentation on my Utah trip to the photo society in early November, there was a significant amount of interest in the K4L and the newly arrived K5 that Naneu was so kind to ship to me on short notice. I believe it's important to have packs that are compliant with the overhead luggage dimensions of the RJ series aircraft. I also let the audience know that I'm working with Bombardier Aerospace to confirm all dimensions and hopefully come up with the under seat storage capacity and hopefully come to a solution on this matter in the future. There was a high level of interest amongst the attendees for a future pack with this compatibility on regional jets.
Using the K4L in Utah:
Without a doubt, I have no regrets using this backpack for hiking at altitude. I was carrying close to 38lbs at altitude (6,000 feet) and I was comfortable with this setup. Since then I have lightened my selection a bit by being very strict on the lenses, etc. and upgrading to a new Gitzo GT3541XLS carbon fiber tripod (thank you NatureScapes!). The only caveat is that a tripod with a rapid rise column is generally much easier to attach, due to a smaller top plate and resultant diameter.
Giottos MT9360 tripods fold to 22" and packs very well on the K4L. By comparison, my Gitzo GT3541XLS folds to 27" and the size of the base plate plus legs at the top is 5.5" across, which means it barely fits within the top tripod strap if you try to secure all 3 legs. The solution is to only wrap the strap through 2 legs. Bare carbon fiber is quite slippery, so LegCoats or the Giottos‚Äô factory installed sponge rubber sleeves (AKA leg pads) is quite useful to better secure the tripod straps so they have purchase on the tripod legs. Therefore in my mind the K4L is best suited to handle a tripod with upper leg section pads, a smaller base plate, rapid rise column and folds to 22" - 24".
The shoulder, back and waist padding is very comfortable & it has a reasonably good amount of airflow (even with no breeze) across the back when the pack is loaded up. The K4L is quite comfortable to walk/hike with a full with and very well balanced once you have correctly cinched and adjusted the shoulder/waist straps.
The access method for the K4L to the camera compartment is relatively straightforward: it is a zippered section with a heavy duty buckle to reduce strain on the heavy duty zippers. That is a very nice touch if you are traveling in a vehicle: the buckle can be quickly attached without having to close the zippers immediately, yet you can secure the camera compartment quickly this way. I would not recommend using only the buckle and not closing the zippers when carrying the K4L though. There is another zippered compartment outside the width of the camera compartment, which can be used to hold smaller items such as batteries, memory cards, business cards or any similar sized item. That includes mesh pouches to simplify organizing this compartment. This is specific to transport in the vehicle, nothing more. The laptop compartment is very well padded and can hold a 17" widescreen laptop quite nicely. My 15.4" laptop had plenty of room to spare.
The D-rings on the shoulder straps are very useful for attaching keys, compass and smaller items yet keeping them readily accessible. Nicely done and well thought out. The upper compartment is also readily accessed, as are the side pockets. I liked the zippered pouch inside the upper compartment in which I put my GND filters - very secure and against the padded back. The water bottle holder is the default location for storing the rain cover for the pack when it was received. I never ended up needing the cover but the holder is only suitable for the smaller bottles. I had a mesh bottle holder that I attached and it proved to be used regularly, especially is the drier climate at altitude in Utah.
At both the Utah trip presentations to the local photo society and the workshop attendees, several of the participants at both events were very interested in the K4L. I gave them the opportunity to try it on with the normal gear load and they were pleasantly surprised at the level of comfort. My understanding is that two of them will be giving up their current packs for the Naneu K4L when pursuing landscape photography. The K4L is now firmly entrenched as my pack of choice when I'm headed out for landscape/hiking photography.
|Last Updated on Monday, 10 January 2011 17:07|