Kata Photo Bags

On my last trip to South Georgia I felt like a change and decided to take a few items from the new Kata range to put through their paces. I have a loft full of rucksacks from all manner of manufacturers and am always looking for new and innovative solutions to the age old problems of carrying what you need to the place that you need it! It seems that Kata is rapidly providing everything that I need.

Kata SB502 in use

Kata rucksacks are tough and this is hardly surprising given the background of the company. They are made (by default) to be deep enough to accommodate even the biggest professional DSLR and have clearly been well thought out with lots of small features that add together to make a product that will last. The best feature of them, and one which is not immediately apparent when looking on the web, is how they feel on your back. The bottom line is that they don’t feel on your back; they are made along similar principles as climbing and military rucksacks where comfort for long periods is a paramount concern. So far I have used three different pieces of Kata equipment and I will try to review a few more pieces for you over the coming weeks. One thing is for sure that Kata is offering a real alternative for photographers and is providing the kind of quality product that it has become known for in the video industry.


Kata W92 GDC
Kata W92 Waistpack
Kata BP-502
Kata BP-502 Photo Backpack
Kata SB-904

Kata SB-904 Shoulder Bag
Kata HB-205 Kata R-102
Kata HB-205 Kata R-102


Kata W92/94 GDC Waist Pack

Kata W92 WaistpackOver the past year I have started to work very light and only carry the minimum to shoot with. This is usually a 70-200 f2.8L with a 1.4x teleconverter, a 1DS Mk2 body, a wide angle lens, some spare batteries and cards plus sometimes a flash. Working light in this way allows me to react to situations that I find and nail the shots as they happen. For this kind of shooting a traditional rucksack is not that good, as it tends to be in the wrong place (i.e. behind me) and takes an age to get anything out. So I have always been keen on having a waist belt and experimented for a long time with various combinations from different manufacturers. Finally I found one that works, the Kata W92 GDC Waist Pack, (which has now been joined by the larger W94).

Andy Rouse wearing the Kata W92 GDC Waist Pack

It is a simple pack, with a long central compartment and two pockets on the end. The central compartment in the W92 can take a 70-200mm F2.8L lens with a few extras stuffed around it, or a wide angle lens with a camera body attached (I used a 5D with 70-200 f2.8L). The W94 is slightly longer and can take the 70-200 lens with the camera body attached which will be great. I found the end pockets very useful for stuffing with wide angle lenses or flash units, which kept the middle free as the main work area. Inside the lid is a double pocket which is useful for batteries / cards etc.

When on the waist they are a snug fit but is slim enough to not be a burden when walking with it fully loaded; I do suggest however getting a shoulder strap (the Kata APSS is the one I used) to ease the burden and spread the load if you have heavy lenses. The only negative comments I have about it is that the W92 fits so well that it can difficult to open the compartment if you have the belt done up too tight (solution – loosen the belt when working), the front access pouch is too small to be useful for anything bigger that a compact and the belt could be chunkier. The W94 does not seem to have these problems.

I found the Kata W92 a good piece of kit that would be useful for the photographer who needs to travel light and have everything easily to hand when shooting. The new W94 (which I have just ordered) will be good for photographers who generally shoot with two camera and two lenses as it will allow house the one that is not being used. Having the APSS strap allows you to easily swing it round your back to get it out of the way if you are shooting and like all Kata gear it looks the part and is made from tough, uncompromising quality materials.

Kata BP-502 Backpack

Kata BP-502 Photo BackpackCarrying a big lens like a 500mm is a real chore. The problem is that although there are many rucksacks out there, they are either a box with straps or are made just for the 500mm and nothing else. Usually I need to transport a 500mm somewhere on my back and so the considerations that I have for a rucksack are not only that it can hold the 500mm lens, but that it feel good on my back and can take a bit more kit besides.

The BP-502 is the daddy of all the Kata rucksacks and is designed to take a 500mm lens with the camera body attached. The hood has to be stowed on backwards of course but having the camera on the lens already saves stress in dusty / wet environments. The beauty of the 502 is that the top opens and allows you to remove the camera lens without the need to lay the bag down and open it; I have lost count of how many times in the past I have been forced to put down a rucksack on wet ground to open it and get my gear out. This usually results in a soaking wet back when I pick it up again, which can lead to backache and feeling a lot colder than you need to. The 502 can stand upright and the TFT fabric and toblerone “feet” on the bottom protect it water when sitting on damp ground. The 502 top entry pouch is well designed and opens out with a big pocket too that can be used for storing various bits that you might need. Getting the camera / lens back in is not as easy as getting it out but it just a question of practice and I found that I quickly got the hang of it.

Kata BP-502 Photo BackpackThe inside of the rucksack is divided into three compartments, all which can be changed. I managed to snugly fit my 500mm F4L lens with a EOS 1DS MK2 body and my 70-200mm f2.8L lens on the 5D body right alongside each other; they were both accessible from the top entry pouch as well. Of course if you do not have a 500mm lens then this rucksack may seem overkill, but it will take a 300mm f2.8L lens with the camera body and lens hood attached; few rucksacks can do that. The compartments inside are kept in order with two folding sleeves that keep everything tight and there are four useful pockets built into the inside of the flap that can take the rest of your junk! The outside has plenty of hooks for small pouches and can take a tripod sleeve if you are that mad. Last week in Scotland I actually fitted the following into it:

  • 500mm f4L IS lens
  • 300mm f2.8L IS lens
  • 70-200mm f2.8L IS lens with 1.4x teleconverter
  • 2 x 1DS MK2 DSLR bodies
  • 4 x spare batteries
  • 1 x Gitzo GT3540LS tripod on outside
  • Aquatec waterproof covers, camouflage nets, water, sandwiches, cable releases etc etc

Clearly it can take a lot of gear but the question is how does it perform on the back? The best thing about the 502 is the way that it feels on the back, even when fully loaded with all the rouse kit. It is no secret that Kata photo rucksacks have been designed with the experience built from years of experience in the military and it shows in the way that their rucksacks fit the contours of the back. The 502 feels very comfortable and I trekked with it for a few miles in the pouring rain without having to make any adjustments. The rucksack harness can also be stored away in an integral zip pocket, which is useful if you are going to take it on a flight. The BP-502 is not cabin baggage size, it is a big rucksack that will take up space but then again you are asking it to hold a lot of big, expensive gear. I am taking it to Norway next week and it will be traveling as checked baggage since it is a) very tough and b) only 4Kgs. When I get there I will have a great rucksack that can take a huge load, on the way it acts as padded baggage to protect a lot of my gear, now that is what I call a versatile rucksack!

The Kata BP-502 is not for everyone of course but I suspect will be very useful to those photographers who shoot wildlife, sports or who lug around large format plate cameras.

Kata SB904 Shoulder Bag

Kata SB-904 Shoulder BagI have never been a fan of shoulder bags but with the recent problems with air travel I decided to take one with me to South Georgia as my carry on bag. The Kata SB-904 Shoulder Bag is a very deep bag, well within cabin baggage size, that comes with two padding kits and extra dividers. I tried these out and whilst they would work for most photographers for me I needed to be a little more flexible; so I removed the padding kits and divided it into two sections using the rest of the supplied dividers. The bottom section held my 300mm f2.8L, 70-200 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L, Jobo GivaVu Evolution Pro downloader and all my CF cards. The top section held both my camera bodies and spare batteries. The pockets (of which there are many) held my satellite phone, flashgun, remaining wide angle lenses and my Jobo GigaOne backup drives. In short I managed to pack a lot onto the SB904 and I loved the versatility. Yes it was heavy of course but I used the APSS heavy duty strap which spread the load onto my shoulders; it has an attachment for a belt too if necessary.

Kata SB-904 with Canon 300mm f2.8 L and 70-200 f2.8 L AND 24-70 f2.8 L Lenses

I did not just use the SB904 for transport either. It has a great top access flap which allows fast access to the cameras / lenses inside and I used this combination when working from a helicopter. I had all of my camera / lens combinations ready to use inside the bag and could get to them when needed without them tumbling out of the open door.

Kata SB-904 Top compartment

The SB904 is a great shoulder bag; it can take a lot of kit, is flexible for many different uses and is built with the usual Kata quality and attention to detail.