Since I shoot 95% of the photos for my review articles (including the action shots) I’ve been keen to get my hands on a good photo pack for a while. This summer EVOC offered me a Stage Capture 16L, which turned out to be perfect for hauling my smaller collection of photography gear and a hydration bladder.

The Stage Capture 16L quickly won me over with its lightweight construction, very comfortable fit and well ventilated back panel. On top of that, the pack offers a highly modular design with tons of storage options and quick access to your camera gear.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L construction:

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, frontThe Stage Capture 16L’s exterior is made from durable Nylon fibers with a PU coating to provide water resistance. A zippered pocket on the bottom of the bag carries a rain cover to keep your camera gear safe if it starts to pour.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, Brace Link buckles

EVOC’s shoulder straps are ergonomically shaped, and their Brace Link buckles allow the straps to swing side-to-side to ensure a flat, comfortable fit on anyone’s shoulders.  The straps’ upper sections are made from ventilated foam and wrapped with mesh. EVOC’s sternum strap features a built-in emergency whistle, and is both height-adjustable and switchable to either side. The Airo Flex waist strap is quite wide, and significantly helps to stabilize the pack while you ride.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, back panel

While this pack is large enough to cover most of my back, EVOC’s Airflow Contact System provides great ventilation. The EVA back pads were kept small and positioned away from the middle of the back, and they’re covered by a mesh layer that leaves lots of space for air to flow through.

Finishing details include a top carry handle, exterior loops for clip-on items and a rear blinker, glove-friendly zipper pulls, and a feature EVOC likes to include- A patch with emergency info sewn into the main pocket. The Stage Capture 16L’s external dimensions are 50x27x16cm.

Organization:

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, camera pocket

The best thing about a photography-specific pack is how well they organize your gear, and how easy they make it to grab your camera for quick shots.  The Stage Capture 16L’s camera pocket allows you to access your camera from the right side, and while there’s some twisting involved it’s not too hard to do without removing the pack (assuming you’re right-handed!). If you stop to do some shooting, the pack lays flat on its back panel, leaving the camera pocket right on top.

The camera pocket offers several Velcro internal dividers (one firm green one and three soft pieces) so you can arrange your gear. I’ve divided up spots for my camera and a 50mm lens, and left the extra dividers in as padding around my DSLR. There is definitely room for more than what I’m carrying in this pocket.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, main cargo pocket

Above the camera pocket is the pack’s largest cargo area. Aside from the usual trailside essentials I often carry a compact midlayer or rain jacket, and this pocket will fit all that with room to spare. If you’re hauling larger items this compartment can be expanded and combined with the camera pocket below, by zipping out the divider between the two. There’s also a mesh pouch hanging inside for small items.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, with bladder

Behind that is the full-length pocket, which carries your water bladder if you choose to use one. If you don’t, this pocket can carry a laptop. While it is the full length and width of the pack this pocket doesn’t have much depth, so you won’t get anything too thick in there.  As for the bladder, I had an EVOC 3L since I reviewed their Neo 16L Protector pack last summer, and it fit in the Stage Capture 16L just fine (3L is the max). There is a port to route the hose through behind your neck, and a hose clip on the sternum strap.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, sunglass pocket

In addition to these cargo areas the Stage Capture 16L has an exterior top pocket for sunglasses, a zippered pocket on the waist strap for small items, and a mesh side pocket. If you’re carrying a tripod it will sit on top of that mesh pocket, so its usefulness is somewhat limited.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, tripod in holder

The left side of the pack carries your tripod via a buckled side strap and a lower clip-on strap that hides away in the rain cover pocket. This didn’t strike me as particularly sophisticated, but its working fine for my lightweight, compact tripod. That said, you wouldn’t want to carry a large tripod with this pack. The top tripod strap sits halfway down the bag, so even my small model (with 14” legs when folded up) hangs beyond the bottom.

I think EVOC is aware most tripods will hang down to some degree, as the lower security strap is located right at the bottom of the pack. If EVOC raised the top strap so your tripod sat higher up, the Stage Capture 16L could carry larger tripods.

Another note – EVOC’s website shows a tripod sitting inside the mesh pocket, and the top strap holding it snug against the pack. This may be an option for very compact units but even my tripod is too long, and the top strap isn’t high enough to keep it secure. Thankfully the lower clip-on strap does a fine job of keeping it snug.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, straps in use

The pack’s compression straps and lower tripod straps are multi-purpose; if they’re not cinching down your cargo the left compression strap acts as the top tripod strap, you can use both as helmet carrier straps, or you can lash shin guards, a jacket, etc. to the pack’s sides. The lower tripod straps can also clip to exterior loops so you can carry items across the bottom of the bag. I really like how EVOC includes webbing loops on all the straps, so you can neatly tuck away any danglers.

Ride Impressions:

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, strapsEVOC does a fantastic job with ergonomics, and I found the Stage Capture 16L a pleasure to ride with. The shape of the shoulder straps makes them very comfortable, and the Brace Link buckles do help them conform to your shoulders. The wide Airo Flex waist strap will make your belly sweat, but it keeps the pack very secure while you ride. I found you can leave the waist strap a bit loose as you climb, but snug it up for the descent as you will appreciate the stability.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, Steve Fisher, rock slab

While the Stage Capture 16L has a larger footprint than a mid-sized hydration pack, its back ventilation is quite good and the padding is very comfortable. It almost feels like the pack is designed to massage you while you ride! I was also impressed that with no gear inside, the pack itself is fairly light weight. EVOC has definitely optimized the cargo space this pack offers while keeping its overall profile reasonably streamlined.

I haven’t had any trouble with the tripod straps holding my compact unit securely – they are easy to work with and haven’t loosened up while I rode at all. The hydration hose clip isn’t difficult to use, but it’s not half as quick or easy as the magnetized clips EVOC uses on other packs like their Neo 16L.

One feature I’ve come to appreciate on packs is a small pocket on the waist strap. It’s so handy to be able to grab your allen keys, bug spray, etc. without taking your pack off. EVOC also makes grabbing anything quicker by providing large glove-friendly pulls on all the zippers.

Leaky EVOC bladder
Look closely and you’ll see a drop of water on the light grey part of the hose connection. Not good in your camera bag!

After two rides I noticed my camera was wet (kind of a big deal), and quickly determined my EVOC bladder was leaking. I wasn’t too impressed by this, as the bladder has seen less than a single season’s use. I immediately swapped the EVOC bladder for an Osprey 2.5L which never leaked a drop.

When I discovered the issue, water was quite easily leaking from the quick-connect attachment at the hose. I did simply reconnect the hose and it seems to have solved the issue, so I will test this bladder again… but not in my camera pack.

EVOC Stage Capture 16L, on trailside

For aspiring photographers or as a smaller kit option, the Stage Capture 16L is a great pack that can carry a decent load of photo and riding gear. It’s just as comfortable as you’d expect from EVOC, and it’s organized so you can conveniently access your camera gear. Throughout my test I have not caused any kind of damage to the pack, and I expect it will serve me well for the long haul.

My only critique for the Stage Capture 16L is it would be great if it could carry larger tripods better. I think raising the buckled strap or adding another strap/loop higher up the pack’s side would help, and perhaps allow a non-compact tripod to fit without hanging way off the bottom. Also, I did have a leak from EVOC’s bladder, but it may have just resulted from a loose hose connection.

The Stage Capture 16L is currently available in two colors- Heather Carbon Grey (as tested) or Heather Light Olive. MSRP is $190.

evocusa.com

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