Review of the F-stop Ajna
I have long been a fan of f-stop Gear. I waited close to a year, through an extensive development phase to get my hands on the Kashmir, a 30L mountain pack especially designed for a womens' smaller frame as seen in this image. It has been a workhorse for me for close to 6 years. Although every component still worked like new, having been all over New Zealand multiple times and on many international adventures it was starting to look a little tired.
When f-stop talked to me about an upgrade the decision was an easy one.
Que the f-stop Ajna.
A DuraDiamond® Travel and Adventure Camera Backpack. DuraDiamond is stronger, lighter and more weather resistant and is propriety to f-stop. I chose Magma (red/orange) but it also comes in black and Cyprus (green).This is it looking all shiny and new in my garden!
A key consideration was the weight. At only 1.7kgs empty, this was going to work, as following a shoulder injury I can’t carry as much weight as I used to on the long hikes. The Ajna is a step up in size to 37L and although I was happy with the smaller Kashmir size there are occasions, particularly when the cold starts to seep in or it looks like rain when I could do with a little more room for extra clothes and jackets. And for my supply of snacks of course!
I chose a Pro-large ICU (Internal Camera Unit) which fits perfectly and I swap it in and out with a medium slope depending on what I’m doing.
I really love the ICU system. So much easier to swap the whole thing out than to have to repack with the days essentials every time.
It arrived just in time to take it on its first big adventure. I was to be away from New Zealand for a month with only the first 10 days planned but the idea was to spend as much time in the Dolomites, Italy as I could. I did manage to sneak in a quick side trip to Slovenia, which has now been added to my list of places I want to return to. A story for another day.
When travelling, nothing terrifies me more than the possibility of something breaking. I took all my gear on this trip as always, with a back up of almost everything and carried the vast majority of it in the pack through multiple airport customs. It's a lot to carry plus medical supplies and a change of clothes in case of lost luggage but I was good with it. No weight problems there. The 70-200 lens went in a checked in hard case (there are limits and that thing weighs a ton).
The foam shoulder straps and hip belt sit comfortably. Comfortable shoulder straps are critical for me and these are so good! No dragging on your shoulders.
Photo credit to Cassie Chivers
The aluminum buckle for the hip belt is much easier to use, although the straps did slowly loosen on occasion when hiking and when I had the bag really loaded up but is quick to tighten and was rare. f-stop have absolutely got the aluminum frame right. Comfortable all day.
Nothing worse than buying a bag and it doesn’t have a drink holder or the holder is too small for the bottles so the large mesh side pockets are great. There is a strap above and this is where I like to carry my tripod. Fits perfectly in the pocket and stays securely strapped in. There is also allowance for those who prefer to carry a water bladder.
The back gives much needed protection, and actually extra warmth on those cold days and I like the pocket areas inside this. I keep my headlamp, batteries and remote here. A bonus I didn’t have before.
There are also spots for SD cards with magnetic catches but I use the f-stop card wallet.
I was happy to wear the Ajna hiking all day. We did some big ones up mountains. The longest was 5 hours and I was comfortable the whole time. I mostly carried one body, 2 lenses, all my filters, drone and controller, spare batteries, beanie and gloves. There was tons of room for all my snacks, drinks, rain gear and extra jacket. In fact there are so many places to put things I did spend a bit of time finding what I needed to start with but soon got it all clear in my mind. I am fastidious about everything being put away exactly where it should be. Comes from shooting a lot of astro photography in the early days. A friend said to me 'if you can't go straight to it in the dark it will drive you and everyone else crazy'. So true!
Rain… we all get caught in it. We didn't really have any on this trip other than one drizzly morning but the new zips are woven and weather resistant so no problems there. Even the toggles have had an up-grade and are a little longer and grippier so easy to use when you have gloves on, which let's be honest is most of the time for a landscape photographer. We seem to be drawn to sub zero temperatures!
The Ajna made an impact with others on the trip. One already had this pack on order and I completely emptied it one morning so another experienced, professional photographer could load it with his gear and try it on. He's going to buy one was well he was so impressed.
Here would be a good place to give the other photographers on this trip a quick thank you. You didn't tease me (much) when I didn't want to put the new Ajna on the ground in case it got dirty...... I'm over it now, these things can never last, but appreciate you all so much!
Totally recommend the Ajna. Everything I could hope for and looks super stylish! See all the specs here
Oh ........ yes! I did get some great photos on this trip. See below
St Tomas Church