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KATA R-103 Review

KATA R-103 Review - The KATA R-103 is a bag created from the minds of tough soldier types. Matt Grayson laughs in the face of danger and gives it an honest review.

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KATA R-103 in Bags, Cases and Straps

KATA were created in 1992 after founders Nitzan Kimchi and Dror Tishler (the 'K' and 'T' from KATA are the founder's surname initials) had spent several years in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). They'd been using military issue bags and decided to develop their own range. Once established, the demand grew for their services and KATA were born.

KATA R-103 KATA R-103: Specification

  • External dimensions: 530x360x200mm
  • Internal dimensions: 450x330x150mm
  • Laptop internal dimensions:
  • Weight: 2.1Kg
  • Adjustable straps: Yes
  • Laptop holder: Yes
  • Weatherproof cover: Yes

KATA R-103 Features
The R-103 from KATA is probably the most distinctive rucksack I've seen. Formed in an upside down tear drop shape, it's designed to fit your back more effectively allowing transportation for long periods of time without fatigue.

Innovative features such as the elasticated webbing that joins the two straps together have been fitted to the bag to help you along the way. This technique distributes the weight of the bag evenly along the shoulders and the top of the back meaning that it won't simply start cutting into your shoulders after a couple of hours walking.

KATA R-103
The pack sits nicelywith an elasticated support spreading across your upper back joining the shoulder straps and distributing the weight.
KATA R-103
The pack has a carry handle for holding it by hand and comes with the tripod holster and strap included. The holster is also made from TST.

Clipped to the main shoulder straps are two smaller straps which you can fasten your camera onto so you don't have to carry an extra strap around your neck. This is very handy as it means you can keep your camera out ready to shoot and not worry about the weight around your neck.

A chest clip has also been provided to keep the shoulder straps in place.

Two small pockets are sat either side of the quick access flap and don't have a massive amount of space in them but I managed to fit a Ricoh R8 compact in one and a GPS unit in the other with plenty of space for other little bits and pieces. Other bags of similar classification such as the Lowepro Vertex 200AW, have some smaller compartments for holding memory cards and this bag lacks those. Most photographers going out on a long excursion will more than likely have a separate memory pack to hold multiple cards, but it would be nice not to assume.

KATA R-103
I didn't want to take the bag off because the intense heat caused my back to sweat more than usual making removing it uncomfortable.

I would also have liked to see the two pouches going all the way down the length of the case and not simply small pockets.

The quick access flap is built out of TST (Thermo Shielding Technology) material which is designed to absorb shock and impact while remaining light. The camera has a supplied strap across the main compartment using Velcro to attach to the dividers to make sure the camera doesn't fall out.

The main zip is strong to ensure longevity but sometimes gets caught in its path, although not enough to be a major problem. It usually only happened when I needed it to open or close in a hurry so Sod's Law had to be taken into account. I like the idea of the zip going all the way under the bottom of the bag to allow the cover to open completely with no chance of closing on you.

Five hooks line the ribbed back of the TST flap and these are for hooking the clips to so you can attach the TST tripod holster and top strap. Alternatively, the tripod can be attached to the side of the pack using the loops found there.

Inside, the familiar bright yellow sponge shines out and what some people may think is a garish or sickly colour can actually help you if you're shootingKATA R-103 in the dark and lose a small piece such as the PC sync cap. The bright interior will help you find it easier than the charcoal coloured ones in other bags.

KATA say the interior will hold two DSLR bodies, a 300mm lens, four or five lenses plus a laptop and accessories. I managed to fit the Olympus E-3 with the 50-200mm lens into the main compartment with the 8mm, 50mm macro and 12-60mm lens. The camera fitted easily, but with the battery grip it sat slightly higher than the bag would comfortably allow.

The laptop holder sits under the main compartment and has a divider which can be adjusted to fit smaller laptops in and prevent them from moving around.

The TST flap also has a small semi-transparent pouch for placing items in that need visibility such as passports and money and two removable netted pouches are also provided.

An all-weather pouch has been supplied for those days when the weather gets the better of you and the pouch is reversible with a black side for rain and a silver side to reflect sunlight. The coat is also removable so that it can be hung out on the bag to dry after the rain has stopped which is a neat idea to stop the cover rotting in its holder.

KATA R-103: Verdict

After the initial recoil of seeing such an oddly shaped bag and thinking the worst, it's fair to say that KATA have really thought this through as it fits better than any other bag I've used. The elasticated support on the back is excellent although it does tend to make the back sweat more.

I used the backpack as I made my way through the busy streets of Venice and didn't feel the need to take care when passing through a busy area. My only gripe was how hot it made me although the city was in the middle of a heat wave with the temperature hitting 35 degrees.

With other models hitting similar prices, it's definitely worth looking at the R-103.

KATA R-103: Plus points
Comfortable to wear
Well padded
Holds enough gear for decent shoot preparation
Good weight distribution
Smart ideas such as the yellow interior and built in camera straps

KATA R-103: Minus points
Zip sometimes gets caught
Side pouches could be bigger
Not enough extra pockets






The KATA R-103 rucksack costs around £130 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.



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