This is a review of the Large version of the Kata D-3N1-33 3 in 1 Sling Backpack. So you just got a nice new Nikon D800 or D4. What, you shoot Canon? OK, you just got a new Canon 5D Mark III or 1D X, now what do you carry it in? You can read a number of reviews about bags, most of them written after they were used briefly after purchase, but how about a review after long-term use? I have had this bag for 2 years, having purchased it shortly after Nasim recommended it in his “must-have DSLR accessories” post. Since then, it has been my main gear bag for travel.
1) General Information and Dimensions
Below are the specifications from the Kata website:
The 3N1-33 Sling Backpack is designed for a Pro DSLR with battery grip & long-range zoom lens attached, 5-6 lenses, flash and personal gear, OR a compact camcorder with accessories. It also accommodates up to a 15.4″ laptop and personal gear. This unique bag provides ultimate freedom and allows for three carrying options in one, morphing from sling to backpack and back again. In sling position, the bag easily swings around from back to front to provide quick-draw access to your main camera/camcorder and backup lenses, as well as fast and easy changing of lenses. In backpack position and “X” position you can comfortably carry your equipment for long distance walking when needed. Arrange your equipment in the bottom main compartment of the pack, taking full advantage of the modular dividers to custom fit the bag to your equipment. The large top compartment will hold personal gear or additional gear, and the internal pockets and mp3 player pouch will allow you to organize your personal effects as efficiently as your photographic gear. Two external pockets allow quick zippered access to accessories without opening the main compartments.
- Color: Black
- External Height(H): 18.11 in
- External Length(L): 12.6 in
- External Width(W): 9.25 in
- Internal main compartment height(H): 11.81 in
- Internal main compartment length(L): 11.61 in
- Internal main compartment width(W): 6.3 in
- Laptop compartment height*: 16.54 in
- Laptop compartment length*: 10.63 in
- Laptop compartment width* 1.57 in
- Weight max 3.75 lbs Weight min 3.24 lbs (depending on dividers and tripod holder accessory)
*subject to change without notice according to the manufacturer
1.2) What’s in the bag?
Here is a fully loaded Kata 3 in 1:
The following items were packed in this bag for the photograph:
- Nikon D300
- Nikon D3s with L bracket attached
- Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G VR II lens
- Nikkor 24-85mm lens
- Nikkor 18-200mm lens
- Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens
- Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens
- Nikkor 1.4x TC
- Nikkor 2.0x TC
- Nikon SB-700 Speedlight
- Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit
- Spare batteries
- Battery charger
- Assorted filters
- USB cables/card reader
- 15” Macbook Pro
- Power adapter for the MacBook Pro
Weight when fully loaded: 33 lbs.
That’s a big list of stuff isn’t it? Here is everything taken out of the bag:
2) Size and Functionality
I have traveled with this Kata 3 in 1 Sling Backpack extensively and one thing I really like is that fully loaded, it fits just under the seats on airlines. The only problem that I have is if it is fully packed, the hip belt can get in the way sliding it up under the seat in front of me. While I like the variable strap system that gives me the flexibility to adjust which shoulder or both, to carry it with, I don’t care for the hip strap/pad – mainly because I don’t use it and it gets in the way. I like the fact that when a shoulder strap is not in use, it tucks into the bag and out of the way and wish there were a similar way to detach or stow the hip belt. Obviously, if you use the balancing hip strap, you may feel differently.
Although the bag can carry a lot of weight, the bag itself is relatively light at a minimum of 3.24 lbs/1.47kg depending upon the dividers and accessories such as a tripod holder.
One piece of advice: On one flight to Australia, I did run into a problem as the airline had a carry-on weight restriction which I was unaware of, and although the bag fit, the weight was over the limit and I had to repack, so be aware of specific rules that may apply to your flight before you travel.
I really like the multiple zippers that allow accessibility from different points. You can pack a ton of gear in various bags or packs but if it only has one opening, you have to take everything out to access whatever you are looking for (unless of course it is on top). With the Kata 3 in 1 your gear is accessible from the front or from either the right or left side making it easy to get to what you need especially if used in Sling mode.
For those who own a 70-200mm lens, yes, the Kata 3 in 1 will fit a 70-200mm attached to a camera body, as shown below:
Just make sure to reverse the lens hood.
3) Quality of Build and Durability
I have used and abused this backpack for 2 years now by over stuffing it and carrying it thru multiple cities and airports and it has held up extremely well. I cannot find any torn material or popped stitches and the seams, zippers and straps have held up perfectly. This bag has done everything I have asked of it without breaking down as I have carried it, stowed it and crammed it underneath seats on planes.
Like many bags, the Kata 3n1 gives the user flexibility to customize the compartments for their needs and the padding is adequate for carry on travel. Separate from the main body and lens compartment is an additional compartment to store accessories and provides multiple pockets and spaces for filters and batteries and extra cards.
5) A Travel bag vs. a Backpack for hiking?
The answer depends on how much you carry. Personally, I consider this more of a travel bag, than a backpack for gear. In fact, Kata makes an optional trolley or two-wheeler to provide another way to transport the bag, should it be too heavy. If you have a carry-on roller suitcase with a handle, the Insertrolley strap will slide over the handle providing a convenient way to roll the Kata 3 in 1 on top.
The pack itself has a soft shell, and as such, no real frame that you might like if you were doing a lot of backpacking, so if you had this bag loaded, you may not want to hike very far. If it is lightly loaded I am sure it would be acceptable, but there is very little rigidity to the bag, which helps when trying to stuff gear into tight spaces, but it isn’t so great for serious backpacking. I will review another option for hiking in the future.
If you choose to pack a bit lighter and use it as a backpack, then you may wish to use it in the sling mode which allows for you to swing the pack from your back around to in front. While the pack is in front of you, you can quickly access your gear from the side of the pack. With the pack in sling mode and in front of you, the pack can serve as an elbow rest giving you more stable support to hold the camera. The hip belt/pad is thinly padded which again is good for carrying through an airport or on a short hike but might be inadequate on a long hike if you pack heavy. Regardless of the length of the walk, the included rain cover is a nice touch should you need it.
I love the flexibility and durability of this bag as it allows me to carry a good amount of equipment and still slide it under the seat in front of me on a plane, thus allowing me to still have a regular carry-on suitcase for the overhead bins. It is an excellent value for the price compared to some competitive bags/packs. While the Kata 3 in 1 comes in various sizes to fit your specific needs, I only reviewed the D-3N1-33 3 in 1 model for this post.
So what is your favorite big bag for gear and why?
Kata 3 in 1 Sling Backpack
- Build Quality
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
DR. REDD, I HAVE NIKON D 700, 28-70MM 2.8 LENSE, 80-400 4.5 -5.6 LENSE, NIKON 80-200 2.8 LENSE, NIKON 20MM 1.8 LENSE AND PLAN TO BUY ROKONON THE WIDEST ANGLE POSSIBLE. I ALSO HAVE GITZO WITH REALLY RIGHT STUFF BALL HEAD. WHAT BAG SHOULD I BUY TO FIT ALL THIS. I ALSO WANT TO CARRY A LIGHT, RAIN JACKET AND A RAIN COVER FOR THE BAG. FOR FLYING I WOULD LIKE TO PACK MY 15INCH MAC BOOK PRO IN IT. I WANT SOME THING THAT GOES ON THE HANDLE OF MY ROLL ON CARRY ON BAG. PLEASE ADVISE. I WENT TO KATA SITE THE BAG FINDER DOES NOT WORK.
Dr. Kumar, it is hard to know exactly what will fit in a bag like this, you just have to try it. I can say much of your list will fit, but maybe not all. ThinkTank makes great bags and since using ThinkTank, I don’t use the Kata as much. The Kata is lighter but doesn’t have as much internal support as the ThnkTank. I use my ThinkTank Airport Commuter bag the most. Check it out.
Is Lowepro Pro Runner 350 AW worth the price? Or Kata D-3N1-33 3 in 1 Sling Backpack is way better than lowepro 350 AW?
Faz, I haven’t used the Lowepro 350 AW so I can’t comment directly on that, but Lowepro makes good products.
Thanks Tom.. Currently i have lowepro 200 AW, however wanted to know if Kata is worth the price. The sling thing is helpful or not. Lowepro makes good product.
“The pack itself has a soft shell, and as such, no real frame that you might like if you were doing a lot of backpacking, so if you had this bag loaded, you may not want to hike very far. If it is lightly loaded I am sure it would be acceptable, but there is very little rigidity to the bag, which helps when trying to stuff gear into tight spaces, but it isn’t so great for serious backpacking.”
Could you pls elaborate?
Also, would you feel that Kata PL 3in1 35 would be equally good buy?
Asheesh, a pack with a frame will take some of the weight off your shoulders and redistribute it say, to your waist, making it easier on your body for longer hikes.
Thanks a lot for this review. It’s a great prod..
Thanks for this review, it is nice to see how versatile it is. Might be my next bag?
if you buy in china yo get better price
Hi Rod, thanks for the question. I have a Sigma 150-500 OS and it fits, but I do not leave it attached. I know that your lens will fit unattached but am not sure it will with the body attached. According to the dimensions supplied by Kata, it will be very tight, although there is some flex in the walls of the bag.
As for the shell, that really depends on the thickness of the shell. I have a rainjacket made by Go Lite that will fit in the laptop compartment, but it is a very thin jacket – nice, but thin. You could also place that in the upper compartment of the Kata, as it has room for a shell but I don’t know what else you plan on carrying.
I don’t know how much gear you plan on carrying and for how long a hike, but this bag has no rigidity and if you are doing serious back packing, you might look at alternatives.
I hope that helps some.
Tom, thanks so much for the quick and informative response. The Sigma Bigmos 50-500 (which I am renting for a photo cruise to Alaska) is about 1.3 inch shorter than the 150-500 (you said 15-500 but I’m assuming you meant 150-500), so hopefully it will fit.
I’m thinking the only way to know for SURE is to rent the Bigmos for a few days now, buy the Kata, see if everything fits like I hope, and go from there…
In terms of length of hike, I suspect a couple of hours will be the longest I would carry it, so I am not too worried about needing a more rigid/shaped backpack.
Rod, I did mean 150-500 OS version. Thank you for the correction, I will make an edit.
Have a great time in Alaska, you will love it!! It is a photographer’s dream with landscape and wildlife. Safe travels and let us know how it works out for you.
I have a friend, very serious amateur, who loves his Kata 3in1-size 20, and I understand why. But I need a little larger size to hold a Sigma Bigmos 50-500 zoom attached to a Nikon D-90 — which totals 11.75 inches (rear of body to lens cap) when attached to the Nikon. Will that fit in the main compartment of the 3in1-size 33?
Also, while I do not carry a laptop, I do carry a GoreTex shell jacket in case it rains and I want to keep ME dry in addition to the camera gear. I am wondering if the laptop compartment is big enough to slide a (non-insulated) GoreTex shell or a poncho into it.
Thanks for any advice!
Why would anyone spend endless time and money searching for the ultimate bag when the search could easily end with a Billingham bag? Billingham bags are waterproof, solidly constructed, offer unparalleled camera protection (albeit unstructured), easy access to its contents, and quality leather and canvas.
Of course, I not only speak for myself but many others have agreed there is none to compare.
Do you (or any of the readers) have a recommendation for a bag for carrying on day hikes a Nikon D700 w/grip and the 500mm f/4 VR lens, a set of teleconverters and a tripod/monopod along with some small accessories?
I am satisfied and accept that I don’t want to pack every lens I own on my back. When I go hiking for landscape views or non-bird nature I can easily pack my 70-200 and 14-24 along with some tubes (for macro) and teleconverter or two for opportunistic birding. But when I go for birding, the 500 is all I really want to carry and if I miss some other shots, I am ok with that.
Paul here are a few suggestions:
Think Tank Glass Taxi It does not have room to allow the body and lens to be attached, however.
Lowepro Flipside 500 a big brother to the Flipside 300 that I reviewed here
The Kata TLB-600 PL – has an aluminum frame and good padding.
I hope that helps some.