Like many hikers who are also keen photographers I am constantly on the quest for the perfect backpack. We are constantly looking for a camera backpack that we can use instead of our regular hiking backpacks. A backpack with all the features a multi day hiker needs but with the classic back access to the camera gear. So the question is, Is the Sukha the answer?
The Sukha is a 70L bag which takes the F Stop Internal Camera Unit (ICU). I tried the Medium Slope ICU as I don't have a huge amount of equipment. Typically I would only take a drone, 2 lenses and a body with me on a long hike, otherwise the weight just gets unbearable.
The bag has plenty of storage, with a large pocket on each side and a large full pocket on the front. The top has a main pocket inside and a thin zip pocket on top. Most inside pockets have zips or velcro for the mesh to keep those small items secure. There is also a key ring inside the lid that can attach to the pack.
Inside the bag, the main camera access panel has some webbing which I think is pretty useless and a small pouch which is useful.
The ICU sits behind the access panel and is removable but can be held in with a couple of velcro straps, but it is a bit fiddly to secure them. I like the idea of the swapable ICU, you can go small or large depending on photography to non photography gear ratio but there are a couple of issues. The first issue is due to the size of the opening the edges are partially blocked by the frame. Secondly, is that items placed in the backpack can slip down behind, by the side and in front of the ICU. There is no way to block off the ICU section from the main bag so items can end up in the camera section and worse stuff behind your back. You have to stop, take it off, open it up and remove the items that have migrated. I think this is terrible you could end up damaging expensive camera gear.
The straps on the hip belt and the shoulder straps have loops to secure the spare strapping, but they have a double back sewn end so the end doesn't go through the loop. The issue with this, is they rub on the inside of your arms. This drove me mad.
The bag seems to be made of water resistant material although I never trust any bag. I didn't have the chance to put it through its paces in bad weather. The zips are a little stiff but I suspect it is down to the zip choice being weather resistant.
The shoulder straps are reasonably well padded but when it comes to the setup, that is the only plus point. This is where the bag just goes downhill for me. The hip belt is terrible, just one size with the padded area ending very quickly. The shoulder straps cannot adjust for different torsos. The bag is made for a medium so if you are over 5" 10' then forget this bag, it is very uncomfortable if you have a long torso. Your choice is, have the hip belt high and take all the weight on your shoulders or have the hip belt on your hips but then the pack is so low on the back the straps start in the middle of your shoulder blade. After just a few hours it becomes unbearable, even worse than LowePro packs and that is saying something. So for me just not even a viable option with a long torso.
The hip belt is sewn in, again one size so you can't vary it, it is what it is. The buckles are tight on the hip belt, too tight to use. I appreciate they are tight so they don't slip but the design is poor. Also to tighten the hip belt you pull the straps backwards which is difficult. Most other good backpacks you pull the straps forward and across to tighten the hip belt.
Ridiculous Water Bottle
The water bottle holder is ridiculous, it costs an extra £31, yes that's right £31 for that and it is too small for short dumpy bottles and not tall enough to keep taller slimmer bottles secure. The bag itself has no pockets for easy access water bottles so you are limited without the extra accessory. For me the complete lack of thought for water bottles is a real turn off for a hiker.
The tripod is designed to go in one of the pockets or you can strap it to the back centre to even the weight if you prefer, but you will need another strap at £15 to do that. For myself having a 2kg carbon fibre tripod on one side was not comfortable, especially when the pack did not fit in the first place.
Well I won't make you wait too long, I am sure you have already guessed. The answer to the question, "Is the Sukha the long lost bag I have been searching for?", is NO. I had high expectations for the bag, certainly at the price, over £400 for the bag, case and accessories. I expected it to be nothing short of revolutionary, but alas it wasn't. F-Stop have had a lot of success in the past making outdoor/adventure backpacks, but many companies now make camera backpacks aimed at the more adventurous amongst us. But from what I can see F Stop are being left behind now by other companies Shimoda, Atlas Packs, Mindshift and even LowePro with a couple of more adventurous bags now such as the Powder Pack.
Basically unless you are a medium height, do NOT even consider this bag. If you are a medium height (5" 8' to 5" 10'), then the bag may work for you. For me, even if I was medium height it still has too many issues and is not a hikers pack. In fairness to F-Stop they do state the torso size on their website, but I missed this. 16.6" torso is small.
This bag in my opinion in its current form is not for hikers with larger or smaller torsos, I would say it is one of the most uncomfortable backpacks I have ever used.
I have been working with F-Stop on these issues, they were receptive, but due to an error by F-Stop I still only got 75% of the cost refunded. The whole customer experience was not a pleasant one and in the end I was glad to be rid of the pack and the company.
My score for this item is 2/5