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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville


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Adventure Travel

Apr 19, 2018

F-Stop Lotus Gear Review: One Bag to Rule Them All?

F-stop’s photo backpacks for adventurers have something of a legendary status amongst serious adventure photographers.

WRITTEN BY

Apoorva Prasad

But they’ve also received some bad press for company troubles. We recently spent some time testing the mid-range F-Stop Lotus backpack, and found it to be one of the best, most versatile photographer’s backpacks ever invented.

I have a lot of bags, of nearly every color, size and brand. Nearly all of them have failed me in some situation or the other. One of the trickiest use cases for backpacks is a dedicated outdoors and travel photography backpack. Now here’s the situation: you need to be able to carry it on an airplane. You need to be able to safely carry your fancy camera gear and lenses, potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even more.

You need to be able to travel, walk, trek, or possibly even climb or canoe with it. That means not just carrying your camera gear but also some clothing, water, food, additional gear, maybe even be able to clip skis or ice tools.

The Legend of F-Stop

For many years, F-Stop Gear, a small company, has acquired a nearly legendary status amongst adventure photographers for making some of the best adventure photo backpacks ever. However, they’re relatively expensive, and it’s always been pretty difficult to get your hands on the exact one you want because of long wait times.

Recently, a disastrous Kickstarter campaign also resulted in a lot of negative press for the company. Despite that, when F-stop reached out to us we were very excited to test out some of the their backpacks because of the reputation of the product (one of our team members already owned one and always raved about it).

Meet the Lotus

It is very, very well built, clearly designed by people who actually travel for a living.

The smallest pack in the Mountain series, the F-Stop Lotus is a 32L full-feature pack starting at $229, without the ICU and other accessories. I took it hiking in Germany, on my travels to Tahiti, and snowboarding in Austria, and at the end of it, I was convinced that that was probably the best travel / photo backpack I had ever used in my life. I wasn’t the only one – a famous photographer friend took one look at the bag and asked me if I could get him one as well.

Unpacking the Internal Camera Unit

First things first. This is an “ICU” (“Internal Camera Unit”) system backpack, which means that there are different units, or zippable, internal camera cases to choose from and use, depending on how much camera gear you plan to carry. This is a different system entirely from more traditional photo backpacks that average consumers are used to – and much, much better.

The padded photo-dedicated unit can be entirely zipped up and removed entirely from the backpack, leaving you with a fully usable hiking or travel backpack. It is very, very well built, clearly designed by people who actually travel for a living. Over my career as an adventure journalist I’ve received and/or used many dozens of packs, and it’s quite clear when something is truly well-made for a specific purpose by designers who know what they’re doing, with no useless features or gimmicky designs. That’s truly rare.

Deep Dive into the F-Stop Lotus

The bag arrived inside a protective sack!

The F-Stop Lotus is, thankfully, not a heavy backpack – one of the drawbacks of many competitors. Let’s start at the top, which zips open like the top of a can, instead of longitudinally like many zipped packs might. This lets you easily reveal your pack’s entire contents and grab what you need, without attempting to rip the damn thing like a clamshell and spill stuff out; or desperately digging through an annoying, draw-stringed opening (the two most common top-opening designs).

But wait, there’s more! The pack also zips open completely from the back when you want to access camera gear.

We’re not done yet – let me list out the features I found useful: There’s a large front pocket which I used to stuff a rain jacket; a hydration bag compartment, ice ax loops (haven’t used those yet, but I can imagine using them), ski-or-other-gear side compression loops (used ‘em for quickly clipping my fleece after overheating during the hike, but also for quickly packing away a tripod).

The very well designed shoulder harness is not some overly padded, heavy, open-cell foam, but very lightweight, S-shaped closed-cell foam. A full list of features can be found here.

For instance, I recently used another backpack from a well-known, larger brand for some travels, only to discover within two trips that poorly designed curves in zipped pockets are a terrible idea, because burly zips will either destroy the fabric, or just come off the rails (both have happened). F-Stop betrays none of these problems.

Don’t Forget the Essentials!

I can’t reiterate this enough, but this is really a pack built by someone who has actually hiked for miles carrying gear; or has spent some years in wilderness or outdoor areas. For some reason, photo-backpack manufacturers usually build crappy packs without realizing that people carrying serious gear will probably need to carry some clothes, water and other stuff if they’re lugging so much damn camera equipment anywhere; while the outdoors industry always spends too much time making microevolutionary changes (or new colors) instead of coming up with a really useful photo backpack or innovations for professionals.

We reviewed the Columbia Ex Mogul Titanium Jacket as well, which would be a nice pairing with the F-Stop Lotus.

First impressions: The F-Stop Lotus is very well built, high quality, well-packaged, and the bag even arrived inside a protective sack! It has good quality materials and build, at first glance. Very water resistant, YKK Zips.

Feature Image © Olga Kakhankina

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Adventurers & Explorers

Jun 29, 2018

Nixon Regulus: Timekeeping on the Engagés Greenland Expedition

During May of 2018, The Outdoor Journal reported on five French entrepreneurs who were traversing Greenland’s toughest terrain.

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WRITTEN BY

Maxime Lainé

Their goal was to complete 700km in 30 days. In the face of much adversity, the expedition finally made it home to Paris, having being trapped at the finish line without food, and unable to extract themselves due to bad weather.

You can read about those final few days here, and how Maxime Lainé reflected on the journey here.

Before leaving, Max and the Engagés team had to make key decisions regarding the kit that they would carry. One of those choices regarded timekeeping, and Max shares his experience of using a Nixon Regulus watch below.

The is the most impactful experience of my life… for now.

I crossed Greenland, from west to east, along the Polar Circle with 4 other entrepreneurs. It took 31 days to cross more than 550 kilometres of ice by foot, experiencing the harshest environment we had never faced. For this reason, we invested 6 months of preparation, mentally, physically, and planning our equipment. We tested and choose every piece of our equipment very carefully because eventually, our lives could depend on it.

We are very touched that some companies supported us in this crazy adventure, all in their own way. This was the case for Nixon, the watch brand. Via my role as co-founder of Weesurf, I have already had the chance to work with them.

I was very impressed by their will to take risk, and to give a chance to a young startup. That’s what I liked. As such, I decided to knock to their door again, this time with the opportunity to share with them another, but a very different adventure.

Juliette, Angélique and Louis from Nixon, provided each member of the Engagés team with the Nixon Regulus 46MM.

This watch was with us throughout our adventure, it faced the same extreme conditions that we faced, and today I’m still wearing it in one piece as I write this article (which isn’t the case for my toes). For this reason, I want to share with you some key points about this watch, and what makes it’s different.

Resistance

This is the most resistant watch I have ever had. As a surfer, I used to have a lot of them, but no other had ever convinced me that it is truly resistant. We were consistently facing extreme temperatures reaching up to -40°C, and still I never had any battery or display problems.

Weight

At first glance, it might look quite heavy, but is actually surprisingly light. For obvious reasons, this was a key point for us, we needed to carry as little weight as possible. The Regulus passed the test.

Features

The Regulus has what you need: a clock, stopwatch, alarm and timer. However, there is one feature that I particularly appreciate, much like the world clock on our phone, you can set two different times. It was very helpful for us to know what time it was in France, when we wanted and needed to think about our friends and family. When we were thinking about what they were doing at that very moment while we were on our side of the world facing the harsh environment. It helped us keep moving forwards, no matter what. It helped us overcome those daily challenges, and make it to the other side of Greenland.

Bracelet

Throughout the whole expedition, I didn’t take it off, when were setting up the camp, when we were walking, when we were sleeping, when we were cooking, when we were fixing stuff… it never broke. There is an extra element that keeps the bracelet well locked, as if it was made from just one piece, so it fits perfectly to your wrist.

Design

The watch might look quite big off the wrist, but the buttons are smoothly incorporated into the watch, so clothes did not stuck when we had to remove or put them on quickly. More than anything, the buttons are easy to tap, even when wearing gloves. This is a huge advantage because that last thing that you want to do is remove our several pairs of gloves when it was -40C.

Style

Robust and modest. It just rocks.

If you would like to find out more about the Nixon Regulus, then you can do so here.

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