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"It's like a James Bond backpack!" That was the reaction of the security folks searching my Kata Ergo-Tech Sensitivity V Backpack at the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History. More-restrained strangers simply offer "Cool backpack." But I don't carry this camera backpack because it draws attention; I carry it because it's a durable, waterproof bag that manages to be both compact and roomy simultaneously. Coolness is just a gadget-girl bonus.
On the outside, the backpack consists of a black, neoprene-like material; the bright-yellow inside material has a flannel-like nylon texture, which serves as the loops for hook-and-loop-based attachments. Though some might consider the yellow innards a bit too bright or flashy, it also renders every object in the bag immediately visible, even the smallest microSD card.
The main body of the bag consists of two horizontal compartments with zippered oval covers that open to two different sides. The top has places for pens and cards; the bottom has two fixed-elastic segments with a third resizable opening in between to secure larger objects, such as lens barrels. You can attach the flash-size bag and flash-media-size pouch anywhere within the pack. I routinely carry a digital SLR with the lens attached and a flash unit, both of which fit snugly into the bottom compartment. Larger dSLRs with integrated vertical grips, such as the Nikon D2Xs, require lens separation to fit comfortably. And as long as you don't mind the pages getting a little ruffled, the top compartment can hold a paperback book and some extras. For stuff that won't fit into a single compartment, you can unzip the barrier between the two for one traditional-backpack-size space.
On the body side of the pack, a full-length, padded-and-zippered sleeve fits a 12-inch notebook, though I think you could get something slightly larger inside--my Dell Latitude D420 fits with enough room leftover for a hardcover book.
Outside pockets abound. Each compartment cover features a pocket for objects such as sunglasses and tissues. Each strap has a pocket for portable electronics, including a phone and an MP3 player. A small, zippered pocket at the top also can fit either and has an opening for a headphone cord. A small pocket at the bottom can carry an even smaller bottle of water. I find the pockets on the shoulder straps a bit too snug for my phone, which is a largish candy-bar style device.
No matter how much I cram into the backpack, the tough elastic material acts like a girdle, keeping the bag from expanding. It always fits comfortably under an airline seat, and rarely whacks bystanders on the bus or subway. Plus it slides easily off one shoulder to hop into a cab or plop onto a seat. The girdle effect makes it possible to fill the bag until it's quite heavy, but as heavy as I've made it, it's remained comfortable to carry, distributing the weight evenly across my shoulders and upper back. Even after a day of schlepping a full pack around the show floor for CES, my back didn't complain. The stiff straps do take a while to get used to; I initially thought they'd chafe my inner arms, but that never happened. On the other hand, if you routinely carry your backpack slung over one shoulder, this might not be the bag for you; it's hard to keep the bag from sliding down your arm with a single strap.
If I have one major complaint about the Kata Ergo-Tech Sensitivity V Backpack, it's the unbreathable material that rests against your body, retaining heat and moisture. Ick. But a little heat's a small price to pay for having the coolest backpack on the block.