The days of waiting for a roll of film to get developed is over. Digital has taken the helm of the photo world. The accelerated learning curve digital cameras provide, is the driving force behind an increasing number of budding photographers in the climbing community.
Digital is the cool kid, but until recently, new digital cameras were forced into the dated bags of its predecessors. These drab, cumbersome bags seem more fit for a Boy Scout day trip, than a home for a new digital image collector/soul stealer.
Enter F-Stop, the new kid, the pusher, the forward thinking adventure-bag company that has entered the market with a line of camera bags that fill the market niche. F-Stop brings tech fabrics, functional designs, and a look that will allow you to blend into the urban sprawl or bring some steez to the deep woods. DPM had the opportunity to do some shooting, hauling, lugging, stuffing, thrashing, and dragging of F-Stop’s Mala hip pack.
Here is what we thought:
Our first impressions of the Mala were based solely on its looks. 3 Seconds to a bad pun....As far as fanny packs go, the Mala was pretty “hip”. The Mala would make a an American tourist in Europe look cool as long as they remembered to untuck their polo shirt from their khaki shorts, and pull their socks down from the middle of their shins. The exterior of the Mala is built from fabrics you would expect on high-end expedition packs. 420 HT ballistic nylon is light, yet feels more rugged, and proved to be more resistant to wear than conventional Cordura. The lid of the Mala was eye-catching. It is built of a clear urethane that allows a visual on what is contained in the pocket. We loved this feature. The lid was surprisingly roomy, allowing multiple memory cards, lens cloth, batteries, and there was still enough room for a wallet. The inside of the lid also had two smaller mesh pockets for filters or additional cards. On the front of the Mala is a dumpster of a pocket for anything else you want to carry. It could potentially hold a well-packed lunch.
It is obvious the designers at F-Stop are shooters. The lid opens away from where the Mala rests on the hip, allowing the shooter to easily access equipment in the bag without wrestling with a lid that obstructs view. Another company not familiar with photography would overlook this feature. F-Stop used YKK waterproof zippers to secure the lid. This was fine, but we found when we were hauling and moving fast, we wished the Mala had a buckle to secure the lid between quick lens exchanges.
Aside from the lack of a buckle, the Mala was fantastic for hauling. We had our doubts at first because the shoulder strap seemed to be mounted to low on the Mala, allowing it to flip upside down, but we found that when it was loaded, this wasn’t a problem. This is due, in part, to the incredible deep wells that the Mala houses for lenses and other camera gear. That extra depth made a huge difference in how secure the equipment felt. On the wall, the Mala’s small shoulder strap buckles looked sketchy, but they too, proved to be more than secure. One thing we would certainly add to the Mala is the addition of a wider piece of padding on the shoulder strap, and we would offer more divider options. We spoke directly with one of their representatives about our suggestions. He assured us they have addressed the changes and that next year’s line is, “Going to be sick!” We look forward to it.
Overall, the F-Stop Mala excelled beyond its sleek exterior looks. For a new company, like F-Stop, to enter the market with this level of refinement shows F-Stop has core roots in adventure photography. Check out www.fstopgear.com.