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Kata Bumblebee PL-220 Review

The Kata Bumblebee PL220 ticks numerous boxes when it comes to a rucksack to carry photographic equipment. The major elements I look for in a rucksack are as follows: lightweight, tough, protective, internal flexibility and comfortable to wear all day, several days on the run.

Weight

The Bumblebee weighs in at just under 3kg without equipment which is far lighter than any other rucksack I have previously tried. The light weight design is down to the design within the structure of the bag itself and the use of much lighter materials to construct the bag whilst still keeping the protection level that you would expect from a Kata bag. The Aeriform Foam used for the dividers has helped to decrease the weight of the bag by the use of perforated super light laminated and reinforced EVA and EPE foams.

Protection

As with all of Kata's Pro-Light range of bags there is both a strong internal structure and a tough outer layer. The Bumblebee has an aluminium skeleton which provides strength and structure to the overall bag along with the spring steel spine guard and aluminium alloy stave provide exceptional protection against accidental damage and shock impacts (both the steel spine and alloy stave are removable). The material used for the bag is tough and having used this bag in spiny forests, deciduous forests, rainforests and many other environments I can happily say that there is not a single tear, scratch or rip in my bag. The reversible elements cover is quick and easy to use and stores confidently in one of the side or front pockets. Using the black side out protects against rain, mist and even spray whereas using the silver side out provides an excellent heat shield keeping everything inside the bag cool. I have tested this by accident when I left a chocolate bar in my bag on a day trip out to photograph lemurs in the southern part of Madagascar where temperatures hit 30 degrees centigrade during the day and my chocolate bar well that made it through the day without melting.

Design

Internal flexibility is an essential part of any bag I use and the Kata modi-vers divider system is one of the best I have come across allowing for complete customisation of the internal compartment of the bag to fit the equipment that you need to take on an assignment and as this can vary from trip to trip being able to change the set up of the bag is vital. There are two cocoon pouches with their own mesh zipped covers which are perfect for smaller lenses and items such as filters and other accessories. You can easily fit a canon DSLR with 100-400mm with a second DSLR with 100mm macro lens in the centre part of the bag with the ability to open the bag at the top or bottom without having to open the whole front to access either camera.
In addition to the flexibility of the internal part of the bag, there are also two front pockets (great for snacks, phone, memory cards etc), two zip pockets on one side of the bag, an elasticated pocket on the other side and a laptop compartment behind the main part of the bag. There are several ways in which to attach a tripod to the bag using the tripod pouch (comes with the bag) on either the front or the side of the bag and additional straps can be used to secure the tripod at the top. This bag can also be used with the Insertrolley.

Comfort.

Personally, the comfort factor of a bag is just as important as the protection that it provides for my equipment. Being small in stature, I have found it hard to find a rucksack that I am able to wear for several days at a time that can also carry the equipment and sometimes supplies that I need, that was until I was introduced to this bag. One of the biggest problems I have found with many bags is the size of the straps with many being too wide and consequently digging into my shoulders causing bruising, but the straps of this bags are much thinner and to date I have not experienced any problems. The Gecko Harness System is not only fully adjustable in the shoulder straps but the waist strap is adjustable in several areas to fit snugly around your hips allowing the weight of your bag to go through the hips rather than through the shoulders and back relieving some of the pressure often felt when carrying a heavy bag. The chest strap is also fully adjustable to ensure you have it at a level that is comfortable to you. The harness design is such that I have been able to run through a forest with a full complement of equipment in my bag with no after affects or movement of the bag whilst running.

Overall opinions

Having used this bag in many different environments and conditions, the flexibility of the internal structure, the high level of protection and comfort makes this a fantastic backpack, if you are looking for a reliable, tough bag to take on your travels I would definitely recommend this one. If I had to find one negative about this bag it would be the colour of the inside, whereas I can fully understand the thinking behind the yellow interior (with the majority of equipment being dark in colour it makes it very easy to find items in low light levels as it shows up very well against the yellow), when working with sensitive subjects it can be a drawback to have such a striking interior especially as the outside of the bag is black so this does need to be taken into consideration but it really is the only negative I can find with this bag.