For quite some time now I’ve been looking around for the ideal conference bag. For me that’s a camera bag with laptop compartment and space for some goodies (like conference t-shirt, pens etc.). Up until now I used my trusted Jack Wolfskin Torrent 24 backpack with some separators salvaged from an older camera bag. The problem here was, though, that this only offered a mediocre level of protection for the camera while making it completely in-accessible the moment I put something besides the camera and the laptop into it.
A couple of years ago I bought the Crumpler Match Maker for exactly that use-case but after only one try I sadly had to put it into the cellar. The laptop compartment was simply to tight to protect the camera and laptop from each other and the bag didn’t offer any kind of space for the aforementioned goodies.
While not being really a priority I kind of always looked for such a combo bag whenever I come across a bag manufacturer that I hadn’t known before. So when I stumbled upon Kata I started looking once again for a camera + laptop bag that might be usable for my conference-use-case. Meet the Kata 3N1-33 :-)
The Kata 3N1-33 is a combination of a sling-bag and a backpack and can be transformed from one into the other within a couple of seconds. It sports detachable straps for both shoulders which can be attached separately either in the usual backpack configuration or criss-cross. And since they can both be tugged away in the back wall of the bag you can also get a one-shoulder sling-bag out of it.
On the inside the bag is split into 2 larger compartments (+1 on the back for the laptop) and 2 outside compartments for smaller things like your purse, keys, filters etc. The larger of the two main compartments includes a couple of hook-and-loop separators which allow you to customize where you want to put your camera, lenses, flash etc. in there. The space available for your camera gear is really huge: I could easily fit it my Nikon D90, a flash, a 200 mm super-zoom, a 50 mm prime, all my laptop cables and my Gorillapod without having to apply any kind of force ;-)
It is also worth mentioning that the main compartment has side-accesses on both sides which, combined with the flexible shoulder strap system, allows this bag to be configured as a sling-bag for right- and left-handers.
Similar to sling-bags produced by LowePro the Kata 3N1 series also features a smaller compartment for personal items on top of the camera compartment. This is what should set this bag apart from the rest of the bunch for me and it certainly does. On a recent 2-day trip to Switzerland I only took this bag with me and was able to comfortably fit a complete set of spare clothes (except pants) as well as some night clothes, some snacks and travel documents in there. I still had some space left in the camera compartment so this was where my razor and tooth brush went, but otherwise they would also have fit in the day-pack section. If you want you can even remove the wall between the two main compartments to end up with one enormous.
I had two complaints with the Crumpler Match Maker: (1) it lacked any kind of day-pack compartment and (2) the laptop compartment was barely usable when the bag was already loaded with camera gear. As already mentioned, the 3N1-33 solves complaint #1 and also the laptop compartment here is great. I could easily fit my 15” Macbook Pro and an iPad in there. At first I wanted to put a neoprene sleeve around the laptop but then I would have had to leave my iPad at home.
The bag itself has a good feel to it. The shoulder straps could be a little thicker to make it more comfortable on longer walks but it’s not painful or anything like that. Also the outer fabric has a nice feel to it, somehow comparable to what Crumpler uses, although I have no idea how water resistant it is in practice. But that’s what the rain-cover is there for ;-) The only complaint I have with this bag are that some of the seams don’t look all that solid, but they still hold and that’s what a warranty is there for.
As I said, so far I’ve only used this bag on one business trip but there is proofed itself and so I’ll use it as my carry-on bag for 2 upcoming trips (to PyCON DE and another one over the ocean ;-)). And perhaps I will also get the chance to test the rain cover. But for now I can absolutely recommend the Kata 3N1-33 to anyone interested in a solid Camera + Laptop bag and who doesn’t need it for hiking or similar activities.
Besides the pictures shown above I’ve also taken a couple of others showing some other parts of the bag. You can find them in the slide-show below or here.
If you want to see the bag from other perspectives just let me know :-)