Rating:

The Kata DR series of DSLR camera-backpacks has received a number of very good reviews: high-quality materials; designed by ex-soldiers (must be good); rugged. I was expecting a lot -- pretty much can't go wrong, right? Unfortunately the overall impression is one of a company that tried hard, but had to cut corners, and made some poor choices. The bag is close to being very good, but until some design changes are made to ensure separation of the top and lower sections, and to use something other than thin nylon, I would not recommend it.

Compared to a Crumpler 5 Million Dollar bag.

The Kata DR Series

The packs are designed to carry a DSLR camera and equipment in the lower padded section, and Other Stuff in the upper section. This should make it ideal for hikes, or day trips where you might want to carry lunch, guides, and day supplies. The DR-466 and DR-467 can also hold a 15" laptop, although a 17" will fit.

The DR series includes the DR-465, DR-466, and the DR-467. They are all very similar, except the DR-465 doesn't include a laptop section, and the DR-467 has a slightly squarer face. In terms of size, they are close, with the DR-466 being deeper, and the DR-467 being slightly taller.

  • DR-465: 13.4" x 6.3" x 16.9"
  • DR-466: 13.4" x 9.3" x 16.9"
  • DR-467: 13.4" x 8.3" x 17.6"

DR-466 Exterior

Rating:

The DR-466 is made of two different types of 'Super Nylon'. The upper front facing part of the body is fairly thick, with a patterned texture; the lower and top of the bag are much thinner nylon.

The back part of the bag, is rigid 'TST Rib' -- basically ribbed foam, around 1/2" thick.

Both the TST Rib, and the thicker 'Super Nylon' ensure the bag retains it's shape even when empty, giving a kind of turtle form. Unfortunately this means the bag looks loaded up, even when empty.

The external construction of the bag is pretty high. The bulk of the bag is the thicker nylon, which feels sturdy, and looks tough.

The top carrying handle is pretty robust, nylon covered foam; top of the handle is covered in an odd feeling rubber material -- not bad, just odd. The handle itself is attached to reinforced padding on the inside of the bag, which feels sturdy. Note though that the entire top of the bag is made of the thinner nylon. While it doesn't feel inherently weak, it does seem an odd choice of material for such a load bearing part of the bag.

Just under the handle, towards the back of the pack, is a hole, probably for a headphone wire. This is very badly designed. It's way too open. Any drops of water, either from rain, or simply drops from trees, will find their way in here. That on it's own wouldn't be a disaster.

However the total lack of isolation between the top and bottom sections, basically mean your camera equipment is just two unprotected steps away from water. This is unacceptable, and not even necessary. For the purposes of carrying expensive camera equipment, this ruins what would otherwise have been a pretty good exterior design.

At the front of the bag are three easy access compartments. The left and right compartments are fairly spacious, but basically flat -- good for memory cards, cleaning cloths, and even lens caps.

The central compartment is larger, but is basically a nylon container taking up space in the top section of the bag. Not a great design, but might be useful for a phone, lens cleaning solution (except for the danger of spillage), or spare batteries.

On the right-side of is a zippered compartment that contains a mesh pouch.

You can probably get a very small bottle of water in there, or alternately a monopod (maybe a small tripod) held in place with the cinch strap. I'm not sure how the mesh will stand up over time when used like this, but it's about all it's good for.

The bottom material of the bag does not wrap around the sides and front, so there are seams right around the bottom of the bag, which will be a problem when you put the bag on any wet or damp ground.

The back has a trolley strap which loops over the pulling handle of a wheeled trolley. Not sure how useful that will be.

The zips are unbranded, fairly fine toothed, and semi-covered when closed. They feel fairly robust for a fine-toothed zip. Each zip has a cloth pull, which is easy to grab hold of.

An included rain cover is made of rip-stop nylon, and looks like it should stand up to most normal showers pretty well. There are single stitched seams though, so I'm not sure I'd trust it to any prolonged rain.

DR-466 Interior

Rating:

In general the interior construction and design of the bag is pretty poor, compared to the outside.

All interior sections are bright yellow, which looks neat and makes it easy to locate smaller loose items.

The lower section

The DR series is designed to carry DSLR equipment, and this all goes in the lower section of the bag. The lower compartment opens outwards, presenting the equipment pouch.

The pouch is pretty well padded, and can be completely removed. This lets you use the bag as a general purpose back-pack, if you don't need to carry camera gear.

Unlike the Crumpler Million Dollar bags, which use textured nylon internally, the Kata uses smooth nylon. The smooth nylon does not feel like the kind of material you want your DSLR nested in.

The lower section is pretty roomy, although the limited configuration options limit the utility of all this room. The compartment is around 6" tall, so lens 6" or less will fit nicely. Despite the limited configurability, it was pretty easy to find locations for most equipment. I wouldn't normally carry this mix of gear, but I managed to get:

  • Olympus e520, with a 12-60mm lens (around 7" deep, and 5.5" wide)
  • 70-300mm lens (around 6" deep, 3" diameter)
  • 40-150mm lens (first version, around 5" deep, and 2.75" diameter)
  • 14-42mm kit lens (around 3.5" deep, 2" diameter)

There were two empty spaces, which would probably accommodate an FL50 flash, or perhaps a FL36 and a small lens.

The equipment pouch is sectioned using dividers which use Velcro to attach to fixed Velcro patches sewn on the inside of the bag. This restricts the layouts that you can achieve with the dividers. The dividers can be moved around in limited configurations to suit the equipment you want to carry. The dividers themselves are part smooth nylon, and part textured nylon, which sticks to the Velcro. Kata would have been much better using the Crumpler style textured nylon throughout interior section of the bag.

The upper section

The bag is divided into top and bottom sections with a 1/4" section of foam covered in nylon, and sewn directly to the inside of the bag. Unfortunately this is the worst part of the Kata design. The way in which the divider is attached feels very flimsy, and over time probably will not stand up to too much weight.

The top section is fairly roomy. You could probably get a lunch in there, some snacks, and a 700ml bottle of water fits, although you're not going to want to put either a lunch or water in there, due to the total lack of isolation between food and your camera gear.

Making matters worse, there are two fairly large holes in the back corners of the divider. This means that there is very low isolation between the top and bottom sections. Any dust, crumbs, liquids, or other Contaminants easily fall from the top section to all your expensive equipment below. Big fail.

On the back of the top section is a single stitched piece of nylon, which serves to add pouches for two pens, a small phone, and perhaps a cleaning cloth. It's pretty much an after-thought, and not particularly robust or well executed.

Laptops

There is plenty of room for a 15" laptop, plus magazines. Apparently a 17" laptop fits pretty well, which I can believe. There is 1/2" foam padding on both sides of the laptop, and a strip of padding sits at the bottom. The only down-side here is that the bottom strip is not fixed. It's free to move around. So there is a chance that when you slide your laptop in, it'll squish the bottom padding to one-side.

In use

Rating:

The bag is pretty comfortable in use. The only real downside is that the width of the bag, and the relatively stiff back part make the pack sit strangely on the lower back. Not a big problem though.

The contoured straps make sure the bag stays put even when carried on one shoulder. I've never seen the need for chest straps on small bags like this, but they are there, and work okay.

Rather than being connected to the back of the bag, the straps are connected to the top of the bag, and go over the laptop section. This is a little unusual, but actually makes the bag stay put, and more snug on the back.

Verdict

Rating:

This bag is a mixed personality. The interior of the bag detracts from the relatively robust exterior. It's almost as if the designers of the inside didn't realize we'd be carrying around potentially thousands of dollars of equipment.

The divider between the top and bottom section where all you store all your camera gear, is very flimsy, and provides no isolation for the expensive equipment below. This is a particular problem given the headphone cable opening provides such great access to the elements.

The material used inside the bag is basic grade nylon, something you'd see on a cheap supermarket brought bag, simply not the quality you'd expect of something carrying thousands of dollars of camera equipment.

In the end, the interior prevents me from being able to recommend this bag as a DSLR camera carrier. As a general purpose bag, the DR-466 might just squeak by with a 3 Star rating, but as a DSLR camera equipment back-pack, it has to get a 2 Star rating.

Pros

  • Doesn't look like a camera bag
  • Looks rugged, and well made on the exterior
  • Plenty of room for camera gear
  • Holds a 17" laptop
  • Comfortable to wear, even when loaded
  • Light-weight

Cons

  • Very poor interior construction, and materials don't match the quality of the exterior
  • Flimsy top/bottom divider, provides no isolation for camera equipment
  • Limited flexibility with equipment dividers
  • Top opening for headphone cable is a direct entry point for water and dust
  • Seams along the bottom of the bag provide no protection from ground moisture
  • Bag holds it's shape even when empty