23 August 20118,308 viewsNo Comment

Kata Bumblebee DL-210 Review

The Kata Bumblebee DL-210: Floats like a butterfly, stings like a Rucksack

by Rob Spray, August 2011

In the endless search for the perfect bag there’s no end of candidates, so like the king in every fairy tale I’m starting to consider setting them all a series of improbable tasks. It seems the fairest way to see who gets to look after my precious! Unfortunately this week I’m short of elves to polish and magic forests to prune so I thought I’d see how this backpack from Israeli firm Kata would perform over a two week road trip of seaweed surveying. You couldn’t make it up could you?

The first thing I noticed was how light the Kata Bumblebee DL-210 is – just over 1kg (2lbs for those who still measure everything in bags of sugar). That’s about 50% less than my current mainstay the Lowepro Flipside 400AW. That does leave it feeling a little less robust, but Kata are a company founded by two ex-members of Israel’s elite special forces so the emphasis is on hi-tech materials. Kata also design and supply body armour and other ballistic protection but don’t get too carried away by this bag, nowhere on the spec sheet does it claim to stop more than rain.

Subtle labelling gives your insect alter ego a low profile

Get it on!

It would be fair to say that the DL-210 is very much standard back pack size – the same within a sneeze of both the Flipside 400AW or the Compudaypack I often use. It’s a little angular from the padded, strapped side as it has a slim laptop pocket which will happily swallow a 15.4” system. Most fit very well, although mine with its ugly, non-standard 9 cell battery was a slight squeeze – as it is in most bags.

The DL-210 is the baby of the Bumblebee range which also includes the PL-220 (Pro Light) and UL-222 (Ultra Light) – The PL has enough compartmentalised camera space for the most ardent gear carrier and the UL is split in a very similar way to the 210 but with space for a decent zoom fitted. They both have a more complicated, more ventilated strap system and can accommodate a 17” laptop.

The Bumblebee has a good looking organic style

I’d say up front that I’m least happy with my best toys getting in and out from a downward, rearward facing zip pocket. That layout also kind of steers you towards taking off and laying the bag down on its straps to get at your gear… not a quick draw system and prone to spreading crud on your clothes. The organic styling means that most of the compartments are round cornered which complicates loading and extraction too.

I was a little perplexed when it came to loading my camera. With magnificent forethought my E-3 was all ready to snuggle wearing my 50-200mm zoom but there was no way it was going in the initial divider layout. A quick rejig and it was housed but only then did I read the instructions (yeah I’m a bloke) to find that it’s not supposed to. The sales pitch says that the bag will accommodate an SLR and 70-200mm pairing… but separated – to my mind that’s really not ideal. So I’d say this is a bag for wide angle or large kit lens shooters. Wildlife and paparazzi persons should look up the range to the PL-220. Just fitting a large telephoto in the camera section is a bit of a squeeze, better for kit grade lenses than brighter options.

That big body and lens (E-3 and 12-60mm) just fit (along with 4 other lenses)

Pocket the difference

There’s very decent space inside but the interior is notably short of the little pockets and divisions which would make it more efficient and easy to organise. I missed them, but if your day trip load is simple or better packed than I usually manage this is all to the good as simplicity keeps this bag markedly lighter than rivals. It can even be stripped further to diet some more.

The pockets down each side are asymmetric; there’s a good size, slim zipped compartment on the left and an open topped water bottle pouch on the right. There are webbing straps for a tripod on the right which would cope with a serious three legged friend – keeping weighty extras close to your body will make them less of a back strain.

The close weave material and shielded zip shrug off light rain

The main bag is shower resistant and also comes with a separate cover against rain and dust. I initially thought that approach wasn’t as neat as Lowepro’s integrated AW system but in fact it allows you to hang the cover out to dry separately. Thus next time you need it you won’t unfurl a mildewed cover after hurriedly stuffing it away when the sun comes out.

That said most of those zips have a great looking overlap to protect from drips and the cute name really refers to the light weight of the pack which strikes you immediately but presumably also alludes to the flashes of yellow revealed under each opening. I’d pay extra for one in full black and yellow bee regalia, perhaps they’re missing a trick not providing limited editions of the rare bumblebees of Britain but as all too often, I digress as my preference for an orange tailed version may be in the minority. In any case the silky yolk coloured interior is rather like the flamboyant lining of a salacious businessman’s waistcoat. I’m sure Harry Hill would approve.

The interior suits shooting at sunset

Extra Extra

The bag has plenty of discreet webbing loops to take Kata’s extensive EPH range of additional pockets. The soft smooth material doesn’t feel as tough as Lowepro’s trademark slightly abrasive weave, but as Kata give you the option to extend the standard 5 year warranty to lifetime coverage just by registering they are throwing their full weight behind the build of the bag.

The main dividers were tapered so it wasn’t possible to rearrange to suit every outfit. It took a while for me to fully appreciate the flexibility of Kata’s Velcro partition system – Modi-Vers. In the bag you just get a few spare dividers and the Velcro panels on the bag’s interior are a little limited. The full system lets you make up custom partitions cut to precisely fit whatever you plan to carry. The components are available in a number of kits, but the investment is probably more appropriate with the more advanced Bumblebees. If you have a family of Kata bags it would make perfect sense.

Business class bods who don’t want to look like a stereotypical road warrior but have to schlep their mobile office though the transit lounges of the world have the chance to add an airport luggage pull along system.- the Insertrolley option –  not rambler style rugged but another positive for regular  travellers.

You can add wheels for easing airports

Conclusion

The Kata Bumblebee DL-210 wasn’t exactly what I wanted for my two weeks away, but it deserves a place in your wardrobe for the right jaunt – ideal for short trips when travelling light. I particularly liked the low profile laptop pocket which added very little to the bulk of the bag – it’s much less a laptop bag than my Lowepro Compudaypack. The sizes of the two sundry sections and camera compartment were useful but not for those toting a Pro body and big lens. For a small to medium consumer body with a kit lens and occasionally used medium telephoto and flash it’s just the ticket.

Ratings

Build 7.5/10 Well stitched with great feeling materials – not obviously tough
Comfort 8.5/10 Light weight cuts shoulder suffering
Handling 7/10 I would prefer camera access from above
Design 7/10 Attractive but lacks enough oddment niches
Pollen Gathering 0/10 Disappointing lack of interest in flowers

Overall score:
7.5 Nice bag for normal days out – not big zoom merchants

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