SLAPPA delivers for photographers with the M.A.S.K. DSLR backpack

As a working photographer who often needs to lug a ton of equipment to my shoots, I was immediately intrigued when I heard about the new DSLR/laptop backpack from our friends at SLAPPA. We haven’t been shy about our love of SLAPPA equipment over the years, in large part because the quality of their gear is hard to beat. This MASK DSLR backpack is no different, with its water-resistant 1680D ballistic nylon outer shell and cushioned interior offering all sorts of protection for the contents inside. And I mean ALL the contents.

As with most SLAPPA bags, you may have a hard time filling all the available space in this backpack, with pockets seemingly on top of pockets inside of just about every nook and cranny of the bag. Inside, the padded divider insert allows for storage of a full collection of lenses and bodies for any pro or amateur photographer, and you can configure that section of the bag to fit your needs. The face of the bag features a pocket designed to give you instant access to your DSLR camera body and up to a 10” lens, and other flaps on the front are perfect for memory cards, spare batteries and other supplies. To top it off, there’s a dedicated pocket in the back of the bag for your 17” laptop and all the cords and chargers you need.

The only downside with this bag is the size which, when fully loaded, makes it more of a travel bag than something you’d carry with you on-site during a shoot, and the divider section is tough to access without completely unzipping the face of the bag. We’d also like to see a locking mechanism for the zippers so you can secure your equipment, but you won’t find many camera backpacks that can match the M.A.S.K.’s versatility and sheer capacity. If you need to get all of your photography gear from Point A to Point B, this is the bag for you. Stylish and comfortable, SLAPPA delivers yet again with this roomy and reliable DSLR/laptop backpack.


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Pack up and go with Slappa’s Kampus and Stovepipe backpacks

A bag for every situation. That may not be Slappa’s official slogan, but it could be. We’ve reviewed a slew of Slappa products over the years, most recently the 18” Kiken shoulder bag and the M.A.S.K. custom build backpack. Like all of Slappa’s gear, both the Kiken and M.A.S.K. offer loads of space, but while the Kiken works best for daily commutes and business travel, the M.A.S.K. is a customizable backpack perfect for overnighters and weekend trips. Slappa’s newest bags, the Kampus and Stovepipe duffle-style laptop backpacks, serve a more utilitarian purpose: to get as much of your gear as possible from Point A to Point B. Fortunately, with bottomless main storage areas and padded laptop compartments, Point B can be any number of destinations, from a long weekend with your buddies or a getaway with your girl to your Economics class across campus before heading to the gym.

Both backpacks are super lightweight and feature a 3.5 gallon duffle-style main compartment, a dedicated .25” super-cush padded laptop compartment (available for 16” or 18” laptops), and a pair of decently sized inner pockets perfect for gadgets, school/office supplies or any other handheld items. The Kampus, however, sets itself apart with its outer pockets and overall design. The khaki version we reviewed is a great looking bag, which is precisely what we’ve come to expect from Slappa, and the two other color choices look cool as well. Two large and seamless pockets stretch across either side of the backpack while a third vertical pocket bisects the front of the bag. All three pockets are deep but, as I learned when packing for a recent camping trip, they unfortunately didn’t offer as much usable space as I’d hoped once I stuffed the inside of the bag full of clothes, toiletries and my laptop. The mesh pocket on the inside of the top flap makes for one more useful storage area, although that too is somewhat limited depending on how full the main compartment is.

The Stovepipe is fundamentally the same bag but with a different skin. The three deep pockets from the Kampus are replaced with four smaller pockets on the outside of the Stovepipe. Unfortunately, none of the four pockets offer much space at all. In fact, we’d rather have just two deep side pockets that go all the way to the bottom of the bag than the four shallow pockets stacked in pairs on each side. The bottom pockets in particular seem almost pointless – maybe for pens and pencils, a couple jump drives and pocket change, but not much else. We also weren’t too keen on the front “jacket-flap,” which folds down and hangs off the front of the bag when it’s open, but design elements like that typically are just a matter of taste.

Slappa stayed true to the duffle bag concept with their Kampus and Stovepipe backpacks by offering tons of packable space in the main compartment but precious little additional pocket space anywhere else. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit each bag’s usefulness since the vast majority of the stuff you cram in there will be in the same area, making it a bit of a challenge to find what you’re looking for, especially if you have clothes and other gear all mixed together. These aren’t bags you’re going to live out of for a weekend – I pulled all my clothes out during my camping trip so I didn’t have to dig through the bag every time I wanted to change my shirt – but they are bags that will get you and your stuff to your weekend. They also pack up great and are easy to sling across your back, even when they’re packed to the gills, which makes them perfect for hikers and bikers, particularly those who need to travel with their laptops.

If you prefer backpacks to duffles, Slappa recently introduced two new faces for their M.A.S.K. custom build backpack. We first tested the M.A.S.K. a couple years ago with the High Five and KOA custom faces, and now Slappa has two more options: the Transit and Koop faces. Each is built similarly, with a foldout pocket at the bottom and a deeper, more useful pocket at the top, but the Koop is more of an eye-catcher with its electric blue styling while the Transit features a third pocket in the front, sitting stealthily behind two flaps. This extra pocket isn’t big enough to hold much more than a passport, wallet and plane ticket, but that alone makes it useful. In fact, the M.A.S.K. together with the Transit makes for one super useful carryon bag with easy accessibility. Yet another Slappa bag for another situation.


Product review: KIKEN custom build laptop shoulder bag from SLAPPA

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I am a backpack guy. Whether I’m going away for a week or heading out for a quick overnighter, you can bet I’ve got my backpack slung across my back for the trip. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good laptop shoulder bag, especially for those daily commutes or day-long work meetings where a hulking backpack would just be overkill. Seeing as how my favorite backpack at the moment – and, incidentally, the best one I’ve ever owned – is SLAPPA’s custom build M.A.S.K. backpack, I didn’t hesitate when offered the opportunity to take the KIKEN shoulder bag (billed as the M.A.S.K. cousin) for a test drive.

Now, we’ve admittedly been big SLAPPA fans here at Bullz-Eye for several years, largely because they’ve always delivered high-quality bags that have clearly been thoroughly researched long before seeing the light of day. The KIKEN is no different on that front. SLAPPA spent nearly 20 months developing this shoulder bag, surveying customers and trade show attendees in an effort to, as they say, “develop the best laptop shoulder bag on the market.” Did they succeed? Well, we won’t pretend to have that answer since we haven’t sampled the KIKEN’s closest competitors, but after spending one weekend with the bag, we can say those 20 months of development were very well spent.

I recently left the wife and kids for a weekend and headed up to Traverse City, MI, for my annual trip with some college friends. Typically, this weekend is built for my M.A.S.K. backpack, but I couldn’t pass up the perfect opportunity to really put the KIKEN through the paces. I loaded it up with everything I’d normally throw into my backpack – laptop, iPod, all the necessary cords and chargers, GPS and mount, some snacks, an extra pair of shoes, some cold weather gear, and a few other odds and ends. With its huge center storage compartment and series of handy pockets, along with the TSA-friendly quick-scan 18” laptop section in the back, the KIKEN took everything I could throw at it. Plus, packing everything up was a breeze since you can open both main compartments wide like a book to get to everything you need. And like most other SLAPPA bags, it’s made with puncture-proof and water-resistant 1680D Ballistix nylon, and every zipper puller, clasp and “D” ring is molded alloy. We’ve come to expect nothing but top quality from SLAPPA gear, and they always deliver.

That’s not to say I dig everything about the KIKEN – I’d prefer clasps on the bag flap instead of a long Velcro strip, and I’d love to have a mesh pocket on one of the corners for a water bottle – but those two quibbles are more than offset by the ability to customize the look of the bag with one of the four interchangeable flaps, which allows you to change the look and functionality of the bag at any time. For my trip, I swapped out the Black Blast flap for the Jedi Mind Trix option, which comes with two large Velcro straps that I used tie down my jacket. Handy, indeed. Granted, you have to buy each of the flaps separately, but it’s a cool option to have nonetheless, particularly for a cavernous bag like this that still doesn’t feel too bulky when it’s strapped onto your shoulder. We can’t definitively say the KIKEN is the best laptop shoulder bag on the market, but we’d be surprised if it had much competition for that title.

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