A few weeks ago I took a brand-new prototype hiking photo backpack from Naneu Bags on trek into the Northwest forest for a field test. As I previously mentioned in a blog post back in February, 2013, I found a Kickstarter campaign by Naneu for their brand-new K5 V2. I contacted their headquarters and asked the owner of the company if he would send me a prototype for testing, and to my surprise he happily agreed. The Naneu K5 V2 is specifically designed for photographers who go on multi-day back-country hiking trips with a full complement of camping gear and camera gear. In my mind, the K5 V2 seemed too good to be true. I’ve been going on back-country adventures for a long time, so I was a bit skeptical that a backpack would be able to do it all. By “all” I mean be big enough to hold both my camera gear and my hiking/climbing equipment.
After receiving the prototype and taking it out of the shipping box, my heart skipped a beat. Seriously. This bag is the real deal. I couldn’t wait to get it out on the trail, so a few days later, I took the pack out for a hike to test it in the real world. I stuffed the backpack with about 40 pounds of hiking gear, then loaded the camera bag in the front with a Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, and 14-24mm f/2.8. To my surprise, everything fit just fine! After a few minutes of setting up the suspension and straps, I set off for a few miles on the trail to see how the system performed.
It became evident right away that the K5 V2 is incredibly well designed and that quite a bit of thought went into every pocket, seam, strap, and zipper. Everything about the backpack is fully integrated and modular which allows you to reconfigure it for the type of trip you are taking. For example, the front camera bag will nest fully inside the main backpack if you don’t want to carry the camera gear in front. Alternately, the camera bag pouch can be repurposed into a small backpack (see below).
Everything on the system is adjsutable from strap lengths, to waist belt, to suspension height, to chest strap. I do a lot of outdoor and adventure photography and have been using technical backpacks for decades now. I’m really pleased with the technology Naneu put into the K5 V2. The materials are top-notch and everything just works. Also, since the backpack has a capacity of 80 liters, it is big enough to hold a giant load for multi-day back-country adventures. My estimate is that it is big enough for hikes lasting between 7 – 10 days.
One of the neat features on the K5 V2 are the small pockets on the waist belt. I found these very useful as they are the perfect size to hold batteries and memory cards while hiking. Also, I used these waist belt pockets to hold a smaller point and shoot camera, the Canon S110.
The camera bag portion of the K5 V2 is the perfect size to hold a pro DSLR and three f/2.8 lenses. If you travel with a smaller camera system, then you can use half of the camera bag for food/drink and the other half for camera gear.
I placed my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod in one of the exterior side pockets (see first photo), but the K5 V2 also has a dedicated tripod pouch that attaches to the back side of the pack.
As I mentioned above, one of the neat features of the K5 V2 is that the front camera bag can even be repurposed as it’s own small backpack. You can see how the setup works in the two images below of my wife. This mini backpack feature is helpful for when you’ve arrived at your base camp and want to go out exploring with a tiny day pack. Additionally, the camera bag portion ships with a shoulder strap so you can use it like a traditional around-town shoulder bag.
I don’t have any vested interest with Naneu other than the fact that I wrote the owner of the company and asked if I could test out their prototype. That said, I’ve since returned the K5 V2 to the owner, but I can’t wait to get one for myself. Seriously, it’s good. Very good. I’ve been looking for a pack like this since I started my serious pursuit of photography in the early 1990’s. The K5 V2 will hold all my hiking and climbing gear for a week-long trip, while also holding just the perfect amount of camera gear.
So, what are the downsides of the K5 V2? Well, from a design standpoint, I found very little to nit-pick. Honestly, I think the only negative is that the overall weight when loaded with all my gear is going to be too much to handle! A week’s worth of back-country gear easily weighs 40-50 pounds, then tack on my pro DSLR gear with another 10-15 pounds and the total pack weight is quickly up to 50 or 65 pounds. I take this much gear with my traditional backpacks, so it is hardly a “downside” for the K5 V2. Maybe the difference is that the K5 V2 makes it too easy to bring along my f/2.8 lenses, where before I would bring my all-in-one zoom lenses because I didn’t have the space.
Since the Naneu K5 V2 is currently in the prototype stage, you won’t be able to purchase the bag just yet. The developers are in the final phase of design and should have bags ready for the market in August/September 2013. Right now, the plan is produce two colors of the K5 V2 in dark blue or black. Head over to their website here to see their other excellent products while also keeping up to date with their progress on the K5 V2: https://www.naneubags.com. This backpack gets a very high recommendation from me and I know it will get used in my mountain adventures.
Here are a couple of additional pics from my test hike with the Naneu K5 V2.