Customer Reviews: Kata R-103 GDC Rucksack
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on April 15, 2006
I settled on the Kata R-103 after looking at the Lowepro Computrekker and Tamrac Cyber 6 and also considering Crumpler "Whickey & Cox" and the Tenba PB-15C. Having a backpack with room for both laptop and camera gear is great for taking a business trip with a rolling suitcase without also dragging a third piece of luggage for the camera, a load that puts you at risk for having to check your luggage

I have a DSLR, 3 lenses, flash, tripod and the usual assortment of cables, plus a Dell D-600 laptop, charger and cords. The Dell is 15" wide (long?). That assortment would fit any of the five backpacks noted above. If you have more gear than that, you need a bigger backpack, and all of the above makers have bigger models.

The Kata R-103 has several unusual features that give it an edge, but most important, it has a very comfortable harness that can be adjusted to fit both short and tall people. Another reviewer said it fits people 170-180cm tall (5'7" - 5'11"). I'm 167 cm tall (5'6') and it fits very well indeed - a lot better than the Tumi laptop "business" backpack I use when I'm not taking camera gear around.

Kata Features: (1) The zippers for the main (camera) compartment go around the outside edge and down under the bag, allowing it to open compeletely for easy access. (2) There's a smaller zippered flap on the main compartment that gives you easy access to just the camera and lens without the risk that any other gear will fall out. That flap is also zippered all the way down both sides to the bottom. (3) The laptop is accessible from the side, which seems better than access from the top if you want to get at it on a plane (although the zipper could be an inch or two longer). (4) It fits a full-sized 15" laptop. (But get Kata's next size - Model HB-207 -- if you have a 17" laptop!) (5) It has a sternum strap, which makes the bag more comfortable to carry and secures it so you can bend or lean over without the load shifting. (6) It comes with a unique set of straps that replace your regular camera strap so you can carry the camera around your neck, as usual, or hang it from the straps of the backpack. That reduces strain on your neck. It makes you look irremediably geeky, but hey, if you travel with a pile of lenses and a laptop, you are a geek, so why not look like one? (7) It comes with a clip-on waist strap and a strap-on tripod carrier that's much easier to use and less ungainly than the one on the Lowepro Comptrekker. (8) There's a fairly large pair of zippered pockets hidden under the main flap - ideal for cables and small items. (9) And finally, it's not as deep from back to front as the Lowepro Computrekker or the Tamrac Cyber 6, which makes it better balanced everywhere you go and easier to maneuver in tight spots like airplanes and subways.

When new, the zippers feel stiff and so does the harness, but once the zippers have been used a few times and you've walked a couple of miles, the bag loosens up just enough -- kind of like breaking in a good pair of hiking boots. The materials and construction appear to be first rate -- tougher fabric and beefier zippers than the Lowepro bags of the same class. And before buying, I asked Kata a question via their web site and got an immediate and comprehensive response, which is a good sign.
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on December 12, 2005
Still haven't bought a bag for your camera?

Want a -really- good way to protect your investment?

Get a Kata R-103.

I have it since October 2005. I've travelled through south india for 11 days - in 'sleeper class' train compartments, crowded streets, trekked through the jungle surrounding the periyar lake with the following stuff in this bag -

Canon EOS 350D, a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, a Canon 75-300mm telephoto lens, a Tamron 18-200mm lens, Canon Speedlite 580EX flash, 4 rechargable 2500 milli-amp-hour NiMH AA cells, Nokia cell phone charger, NiMH battery charger, an IBM T42p Thinkpad laptop, laptop charger, my ebook and music library on a spool of 10 DVDs, a charger for the Canon camera NB2LH battery, a Sony portable Discman, an Apple iPod nano 4G (there were 9 more people in our gang, so we needed multiple music playing devices), a portable travelpod for the smaller Kodak DX6490, a larger Hansa tripod for the 350D, Apple earbuds, Shure e3c canalphones, Shure e2c canalphones, a full set of sleeves for the e2c and the e3c, cables for hooking the ipod to the laptop, a 25-in-1 memory card reader, a Nokia 6600 cellphone for continuous bluetooth->GPRS connectivity on my laptop, a kensington laptop cable lock, ethernet cables, a couple of paperbacks and a bunch of other small knickknacks like chewing gum and mints ..... so, the bag although devoid of all the equipment in this snapshot, has much more room than you can see!

The bag is made from military standard nylon that is ACTUALLY dust resistant! I've lugged it through a jungle - and not a speck of dust on it yet. It seems to be very shock resistant - Kata should know this kinda stuff well - they make bulletproof vests and other such equipment for the Israeli army!!!

The ergonomics is superb for a person who is 170-180 cms in height. It has full 5 point adjustment, external straps for lashing up tripods to the backpack shell, a really comfortable shoulder 'wrap' underneath the shoulder straps.

The bag is the most ruggedly built bag I have ever seen - perhaps with the exception of the Lowepro Dryzone (but who needs something that -heavy- unless one is going kayaking with camera equipment and there is a danger of submersion.) The Kata R-103 comes with a all weather raincoat that is reflective on one side for sun protection and is black on the other for the rains.

I managed to lose one half of the waist strap as it came off the sliplock when I took it off - so I wrote them asking about what I should do next. I expected a mail giving the part number and a URL where I could order it online. But guess what - I received an email from them within half an hour asking me for my shipping address and phone number - saying that a replacement waist strap would be on the way immediately the next day. Thank you Bellina Israel - Kata should be proud of people like you!

This is some of the best customer service I have seen yet.

I haven't been paid by anyone to write this. This backpack is just a showcase of very good design and engineering. And if Kata is listed on your local stock exchange - you should go and buy some stock. I would.
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VINE VOICEon October 21, 2005
I wanted a backpack with excellent protection, good size and flexibility and one that hopefully didn't scream "Steal me, I have camera equipment"! The Kata R-103 fills those needs perfectly.

1) The protection is unparalleled. Being made by a company dedicated to body armor, this isn't that surprising. Your camera would have to be solidly hit by an almost deliberate hit to do any damage.

2) I fit my XT, four lenses, a flash, my Jobo Giga2 20gb portable HD plus tons of little stuff in this thing. I still have room for a laptop!

3) Nothing on it, unless I have my tripod in the included holder, says camera. It's almost incognito.

I've had Tamrac and Lowepro - simply no comparison.
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on August 26, 2006
I used this bag for a recent trip to St. John. I had a Nikon D70 with a 70-200 f2.8 VR lens mounted, 3 other f2.8 lenses, an SB-600 flash, and many small items like filters and spare batteries. there is also a Gitzo G2227 tripod mounted on the outside of the bag. The bag is well balanced and easy to carry. I had it on my back for a whole day, and I didn't feel much.
The only complaint that I have is the documentation of the bag. I had a hard time figuring out where to attach those belts that came with the bag.

This is an update after I have owned this bag for almost 3 years. One of the buckles on the bag was broken on a recent trip. I emailed their customer service on Sunday, and received a reply on Monday morning. Not only was I told that they would take care of the problem, but also they wanted to know the reason for the damage so that they could improve the quality of their product. I was so impressed by their genuine care of quality and their outstanding customer service. It turns out that the buckle was broken because a hotel doorman slammed a car door on it. Knowing this cause, their customer service still told me that they would send a replacement buckle to me and their R&D department would develop a solution for me so that I could do the repair without using any special tools.
I have never seen another company takes such great care of its customers. Neither have I seen another company pay so much attention to its product quality. I wish Amazon would allow me to rate this product 6 stars.
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on January 16, 2008
I purchased this bag after looking (actually holding and wearing) several Tamrac and Lowepro bags. I needed a bag to carry my Nikon D300 (camera, 18-200 VR lense, SB-600 Flash, batteries, charger, etc) and a small IBM X40 laptop (cord, mouse, retractable cables, etc). I'm 6' 4" and 225 lbs.

There are already several great reviews of this bag on Amazon - be sure to consider them all. I will say that the bag is great - very well made; fits all my stuff with some left-over room; is light weight; things are very easily accessible (zipper to get into everything or just your camera, plus hidden zipper for the laptop); and comes with several great accessories (tripod holder, extra securing straps, a set of camera holder straps, two mesh bags with velcro that attach to anywhere in the bag you want (very nice feature), and an adjustable "rain coat". All of the separators are very easily adjustable (I purchased extra separators which work great). It really is a very well thought out bag, not to mention very well constructed. Oh, it also has a terrific set of adjustments that help you tailor how it fits on your body. People with similar body types as mine will find that it rides well after some simple adjustment. And to top it all off, the interior is orange, which is a really cool idea considering that most of my stuff is black. Finding things is quick and easy. It's also very easy to do a quick visual check to assure that everything is back in the bag before you close it up and move on to the next place.

A few things about the laptop compartment. It's small so don't think you're going to be able to stick a thick laptop in there. My IBM X40 fits perfectly with some length and height room remaining. The thickness is just about as much as I feel comfortable with. I originally wondered how it would work putting a laptop right next to my back - won't that bend / break it? They deal with this by putting a lot of padding between your back and your laptop. They also provide two 12" X 1" X 1" padded separators that are placed above and below your laptop to provide additional protection and support. The bag's interior protection is deceiving - there's more protection than you initially think.

Some really great ideas are in play with this bag.

One thing that I have not seen on these reviews are any experiences with their customer service team. When I received mine and began the process of specifically tailoring the bag to fit my stuff, I realized that I needed an extra mesh bag with the velcro (2 already come with the bag). I checked the kata web site, ebay and amazon but could not find them anywhere. So I emailed their customer service team with my specific bag information and a "hey - where can I buy another one of those?" questions. I received a reply within a few hours, which basically said "you can't buy them directly, but I'll find an extra one and send it to you". Yes, it would be wonderful if those mesh bags were readily available for purchase, but I have to say that Kata's immediate response and customer focus approach was terrific.

By the way, I ordered the bag from Amazon and it arrived within a few days using their supersaver shipping. All around great bag and experience and I could not be more happy with my selections.
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on October 15, 2008
this thing says quality all over! it's really, really tough on the outside (the company makes bulletproof vests and other protective gear), but soft and well padded on the inside (uses a velcro system so you can arrange how you want your gear laid out). the bag alone weighs 3.7 lbs but with all of my gear it comes to about 22+ lbs!!!

if you're wondering what can fit in there here is what i put in the rucksack:

d700 plus mb-d10 grip, 2x ms-d10, 1 en-el3e battery chamber
50mm 1.4D
85mm 1.4D
14-24mm 2.8G
24-70mm 2.8G
70-200mm 2.8G
sb-900 plus case with the included accesories
expodisc, polarizer, 2x en-el3e and other accesories
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on April 26, 2007
I have been searching for a serious backpack that can protect and hold enough camera equipment for my trip to Italy. I almost settled for a Lowenpro Compurover but I am so glad that the reviews on Amazon and other web sites convinced me to buy the Kata R-103.

Just before my trip to Italy, I purchased the Kata R-103 through Amazon. Upon arrival, I was stunned by the design and features that this bag had to offer for DSLR users. This backpack was built like a tank. The cushioning and shock absorbing system did a great job in protecting the expensive equipment. I am very impress with the materials that Kata used on this bag.

I carried the following equipment on my trip to Italy. Canon 30D, EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM, EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, and Speedlite 580. I was able to wear this bag for extended amount of period and felt that the bag was comfortable. The bag can get heavy with all these equipment but comfort was never compromised.

I highly recommend this backpack.
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on January 23, 2006
The manufacturer of these bags also make bullet proof vests. If you want/need a bag that is as close to bullet proof as you will find this side of the Israeli Army, this is the bag for you! Materials,zippers and ergonomics are all state-of-the-art, the toughest bag I have seen in 30 years of searchig for the perfect bag.
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on May 9, 2007
I bought this product after looking at everything I could find in the market for carrying camera equipment and a laptop. The construction is top notch. The materials, workmanship are all done very well. I carried a Canon 20d with 70-200 f4, several other lenses, 14" Dell laptop, charger, card reader, batteries etc. Fully loaded around 20lbs I carried this for 10 days while shooting in Europe with no problems. I felt my gear was well protected and the carry on compatible size let me keep it with me while flying. Great solution for digital shooters that want a laptop along in a rough environment. There are better solutions for a bag to shoot out of but I think this is a great way to get your gear safely to and from the location. Some additional zippered storage on the outside that could be reached while the pack is being worn would be nice.
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on November 19, 2006
About as close to perfect as you can get for a camera backpack. There are just three things I would change:

1. Add a pocket that can hold several lens filters.

2. Move the opening on the slips on the sides of the bag to the top and bottom so I could attach some external cases. Maybe something like the MAS system on the Tamrac bags. I can't for the life of me find anything useful to attach to the outside of the kata.

3. Make it so that cameras like my D200 with the vertical grip fits more snug or give us an extra pick of cushioning material to place under the lens of camera's that sit so high. I had to place a rolled up sock under my lens since it doesn't sit right in the bag with the vertical grip attached.
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