A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to my wife how I needed a new backpack specifically designed to haul my video equipment around. A couple of days later a company called f-stop got in touch asking if I’d like to test out their new Ajna pack which was part of a new lineup called the Mountain Series launching today.
After about a week of testing I have found the Ajna to be a supremely tough, capable and well-thought out videography pack that is highly configurable and adaptable and is surprisingly stylish for such a functional piece of gear. To be honest I feel lucky that f-stop got in touch with me to test this pack before I went out and bought my own; I can’t imagine finding a better working or looking videography backpack. The Ajna has everything I wanted—and more—and it’s not even the largest pack offered in the mountain series.
The Ajna is a mid-sized “adventure” pack with a 40 liter capacity. It comes in some seriously cool colors including orange, green, blue and black (my test pack is black). It has a base price of $299 but can be configured with additional accessories (ICUs) that make carrying camera kits easy. Ajna’s big brother is the Shinn, an 80 liter pack meant to haul larger/rigged camera setups. Ajna’s other sibling is the Tilopa which is the most rugged pack of the Mountain Series.
The Ajna has so many awesome features, it’s hard to know where to start in an attempt to explain them all too you. It’s almost like this is a spy pack made by Q Branch. But let’s start with it’s toughness, because nobody wants a bag with a lot of features that can’t hold up to the job.
The very first thing I noticed about the Ajna when I took it out of it’s shipping box was the material it is made with: it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen on a backpack. The Nylon shell and secondary polyurethane film mean this pack sports some incredible weatherproofing. It’s what rugged quality feels like.
When I inspected the bottom of the pack I think my jaw literally dropped open a bit. At the time I didn’t know what the bottom of the bag was made out of (it’s Hypalon) but I knew it was TOUGH. The last thing you want to worry about is messing up your gear, including your pack, when you’re off in the mountains somewhere and there’s nothing around but sharp rocks to set stuff down on. With the Ajna’s Hypalon base, I’ll have absolutely zero worries about the bottom of this pack getting messed up even in harsh environments. All the straps and zips are solid as well. This thing is built like a warrior.
Next lets hit another important thing that could potentially sink an otherwise excellent pack: comfort. Thanks to the well-planned design, even when the Ajna is full to the brim it’s quite comfortable. It doesn’t dig into your back and theres a generous amount of padding to ensure a comfy carry. Additionally, your back shouldn’t get too sweaty as there are some air channels for ventilation on long treks.
Now, onto the core features of this pack. Let’s hit accessibility first. Because the back of the pack ingeniously zips open to reveal the full inner contents, you won’t even have to unzip the top of the back and dig through a bunch of layers to get to an item nestled near the bottom.
The top does unzip, as a traditional pack does, but in a much smarter way. Given all the extras you can stick on this pack (like the Gatekeeper straps for mounting external gear), you’d think you’d have to undo a bunch of clasps before you could get to the point where you can unzip the top and start packing/digging. Not so. The top zipper is underneath all the straps (and equipment they might be holding). Great design.
There’s also a top zip compartment with key storage which makes a great place to put an SD card wallet or other small accessories you might need quick access to. There’s also a compartment on the back of the back and two side compartments. And those represent just the storage abilities on the outside of the pack.
On the inside you’ll find another small mesh zippered storage area on the opposite side of the top flap and a medium-sized catch-all pocket-type area for storing other loose stuff or maybe a small tablet—this pouch definitely won’t fit a laptop. But basically the inside of the pack is wide-open; free for you to pack full. It’s also meant to be accessorized with the ICU units for storing and hauling camera kits.
The Ajna easily fits BOTH the Large Pro ICU and the Small Shallow ICU at the same time. When both ICUs are in the pack, they basically take up all the internal room. With just the Large Pro ICU loaded up, there’s some extra space for a sweatshirt or maybe even a compact sleeping back (of course your sleeping bag can always ride on top thanks to the Gatekeepers). There are even some internal attachment points for securely pairing your ICUs with the Ajna.
I should note that if you plan on bringing a laptop or tablet, it’s probably a good idea to have a case of some sort—there’s no set place to store them otherwise as this pack is geared toward hauling your actual shooting equipment.
With the Ajna, you can easily carry two or three tripods—or perhaps even a slider—with you wherever you go.
The whole pack has an aluminum internal frame that is lightweight and does a good job as the pack’s skeleton. All relevant zippers are YKK Aquagaurds so rain won’t seep in, the from straps have dedicated space for NRG gel packs (or similar) energy boosting snacks, there’s a compartment for a water bladder and a place for the hose/nozzle to mount on the front strap and MOLLE webbing on the front hip belt for attaching easy-to-reach accessories.
The Ajna is one of those very rare reviews where it’s almost impossible to find something to nitpick (much less complain about). In short, I love it. I love everything about it and f-stop just became my go-to camera/videography pack brand. Well done.
Be on the lookout for a video review soon!