Urth Arkose 20L Modular Backpack + Small Camera Insert
If you’ve read any of our other posts you’d realize that we are having a love affair with Urth (formerly known as Gobe). Their products have always been of the highest standard and easy on the pocket. In combination with their dedication to the environment, for us, their products are really a no-brainer. We would not hesitate to recommend any of their products that we have tested and reviewed, although we still maintain an unbiased view when reviewing any product.
In 2021 they launched their “Carry” series of modular backpack bags in an extremely competitive market, more so than their core business of selling filters. So it will be very interesting to compare their offering compared to other bags that we have tested and reviewed.
Photographers, especially single travel photographers, generally prefer to carry backpack camera bags, as this is usually the only type of bag that will fit all their equipment and accessories. This particular bag has a 20L capacity, however, as mentioned in other posts don’t let that fool you – these days it’s all determined by the design of a bag that dictates the amount that it can carry.
For this review, Urth was kind enough to send us the Arkose 20L Modular Backpack with the Small Camera Insert in the Ash Grey colour.
Note: As Travel Photographers, and photographers in general, these days we try to avoid carrying a backpack at all costs. Although we do still use a backpack in transit between destinations and occasionally in the field. In our photography, we find that backpacks are just not as practical as sling bags in the field. We always travel as a couple and are able to carry ample gear between us using sling bags. Therefore, to make this review more relevant to the majority of photographers we will review this bag as if we were a single photographer.
If you are interested, check out ‘What’s in our Bag“.
The Urth Arkose 20L Modular Backpack is the smaller of their current range. There’s also the larger and more expensive Urth Norite 24L Modular Backpack which is on its way and will be reviewed soon. Both bags can be bought with or without the camera insert so that they can also be used as an everyday backpack/daypack for those non-photography days. Neither product has been designed as a conventional photographer’s backpack bag.
If you have visited the Urth website you may notice that their products target somewhat minimalist photographers. When it comes to design they try to make the product practical and functional while giving it a clean, modern, and minimalist look. There is a very large proportion of photographers that do not want to carry a ton of gear and are happy with the smaller camera systems and lighter prime lenses. Minimalist photographers, in general, do not want to carry large and bulky tripods and extensive filter systems that many hardcore photographers are prepared to lug around. This is the foundation for the design of their Modular Backpacks which are sleek and clean and so discreet that they look no more than a simple daypack. If you don’t have a tripod attached to the exterior you would have trouble believing that it could possibly be a camera backpack, which is a good thing. These days, especially in travel photography, you want to look as low profile as possible.
On that basis, photographers who love to carry minimal gear will love the Urth Arkose 20L Modular Backpack and will find it a joy to use.
Now, let’s get into the bag’s features. We’ll break this up into Exterior & Interior features to make it easier to read.
Above: Urth Arkose 20L Modular Backpack
Above: Small Camera Insert
The exterior of the bag looks like a standard daypack in shape. The bag is constructed with durable weatherproof* recycled (70%) 600D nylon and uses YKK zippers which are the gold standard in zippers and used on many camera bags these days. The material seems thinner than most camera bags in this class so it will be interesting to find out how weatherproof it is (see below for the definitions of weatherproof v waterproof). Personally, we would still carry a rain cover for the bag in our photography.
At the top of the bag is a decent-sized robust handle that extends almost the entire width of the bag and the main compartment entrance. The double-zippered entrance is located close to your back which is starting to be a common feature on bags these days as it is far more secure to have the zipper opening closer to your body. The main compartment entrance zipper extends slightly over halfway down both sides of the bag. Both zippers have looped zipper pulls attached making it easier to open and close.
Just in front of the handle is a 6.5in / 16.5cm horizontal zip pocket that is quite deep and perfect for those accessories that need to be accessed frequently. The single zipper is identical to the main compartment zipper.
On both sides of the bag are additional recessed zippered pockets. Once again, these are quite deep and will hold other accessories that you frequently access. Both zippers have zipper pulls attached.
About two-thirds from the top of the bag is the double-zippered entrance to the bottom section of the bag. Essentially, when this is open it cracks the bag in two. The zipper extends around the entire front of the bag allowing easy access to the compartment. This compartment is where the camera insert is housed. More about this section when we discuss the bag’s interior. Unfortunately, the compartment’s design is not suitable for access without removing the bag from your back and if this is an issue for you we would suggest you consider the larger Urth Norite 24L Modular Backpack bag.
*Weatherproof (aka water-resistant) – usually the material has a coating which will cause water droplets to bead on the surface giving it added protection, however, it will not make the bag impervious to penetration by water. To produce a bag that is Waterproof would mean a completely different material thus adding considerable weight to the bag. If this is a concern, we suggest you purchase a rain cover for the bag. You could also try spraying the bag with a fabric protector, however, we’re not sure how that would react with the materials current coatings. We could not find any information on their website saying that this would be an issue.
Above: The top of the bag featuring the handle, main compartment zipper, and zippered accessories pocket
Above: Recessed zippered pockets on both sides of the bag
The rear of the bag is well padded and there is a handy hidden vertical zippered pocket located behind the bottom section of the padding. This could be an ideal place to store credit cards, passport etc.
The shoulder straps are OK but not the best we’ve seen or used. For short periods of use, taking into consideration the limited amount of gear that the bag can hold in the camera insert, the shoulder straps should be fine for most photographers. Naturally, the shoulder straps can be easily adjusted on both sides to make the bag fit snugly to your back.
Between the top of the shoulder straps is a 1 in / 2.5 cm nylon loop. We’re not 100% sure about the purpose of this loop but assume it may be there to hook over the centre column of a tripod to give it more stability in the wind.
The exterior of the bag also has six loop attachment points for use with the supplied straps. These are handy for attaching additional items to the exterior including a tripod. The supplied straps can be removed and stored in the bag if not being used otherwise they can be another annoying dangling strap that always gets in the way.
We love the minimalist exterior design of the bag, however, we are a little disappointed that the bag does not have a waist belt or a sternum strap to take the weight off the shoulders. Having said that, this bag was not designed to carry a lot of gear and therefore would not really be that heavy when packed. So a waist belt or sternum strap would not necessarily be needed for this bag.
Above: The rear of the bag
Above: The hidden zippered pocket
As mentioned previously, the URTH range of bags has been designed very much for dual purposes. It can be easily used as a daily camera bag or as a general-purpose daypack. The interior of the bag has been specifically designed to suit a wider audience than a conventional backpack camera bag. The interior can be accessed either via the top of the bag or the zippered opening at the bottom of the bag.
The main compartment can be accessed from the top of the bag. Inside there are two sleeves that can fit up to a 15” laptop and a tablet, or notebook. Our HP 14″ laptop fits into either sleeve with room to spare. There are also three smaller pockets to store accessories on the outside of the smaller sleeve. One of these is for a pen, while the other two are for smaller accessories. You probably won’t want to place any bulky items in these pockets as they may encroach on the interior of the main compartment when the bag is closed.
Once a laptop & tablet are inserted there is still heaps of room in the main compartment. Opposite the laptop/tablet sleeves in the main compartment is another deep pocket along with a single zipper pocket.
At the base of the main compartment is a zippered section that separates it from the bottom compartment of the bag. The bottom compartment is used for the Small Camera Insert although if you buy the Arkose bag without the camera insert you could probably still store your camera gear in this compartment, although not ideal.
This zippered section cannot be unzipped from the main compartment. You will have to open the bag from the front to access the zipper. Ideally, you probably would only want to unzip this divider if you are using the bag as a general-purpose daypack. The flap also has a deep single-zippered pocket.
If you have purchased the bag that includes the Small Camera Insert then, as mentioned above, you may want to keep the zippered divider closed.
Above: The main compartment
Above: The Small Camera Insert
Small Camera Insert – the insert is extremely robust and will provide your gear with extra protection from both external forces and weather. It has a similar handle to the one located at the top of the bag. The double-zippered entrance to the insert opens to reveal another single-zippered pocket which would be great for smaller items that will not encroach too much into the compartment. There are two sturdy velcro dividers that separate your gear.
It’s too subjective to tell you how much gear will fit into this insert as every photographer is different. Personally, our Sony A7Riii with an attached L-Bracket and Sony 24-105 f/4 lens take up almost all of the insert. If we were to attach a smaller prime lens to the camera such as our Samyang AF 18mm f2.8 FE lens then the Sony 24-105 f/4 lens will also fit into the insert. The insert was also able to fit the camera with an attached Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE plus the Sony 16-35 f/4, Samyang AF 18mm f2.8 FE, and Samyang AF 24mm f2.8 FE lenses (see above right). This combination was snug but possible.
Ultimately, unless we were only shooting with prime lenses the camera insert is a bit too small for our needs. Nevertheless, any additional lenses could be stored in the top compartment of the bag so this is not really a dealbreaker.
TIP: when you are in the field and using the Small Camera Insert, it may be easier to keep the insert unzipped. Otherwise, you will need to unzip the zipper on the front of the bag and then the insert every time you want to access any gear stored in the insert.
- Sleek minimalistic design
- Heaps of storage pockets
- Room for both a 13-15″ laptop plus a tablet
- Two separate compartments can be converted into one large compartment
- Easy access from the top and bottom of the bag
- A robust Small Camera Insert (if purchased) to secure your gear
- Additional room for a jumper, wet weather gear etc
- Easy to access your gear
- Made from 70% recycled material
- Plants 5 trees
- Lifetime Warranty
Some of these CONS may not necessarily be a problem for many photographers.
- No sternum strap or waist belt so not the most comfortable bag to carry for extended use
- Small Camera Insert does not hold a great deal
- Not Waterproof and no rain cover included
- A tripod attachment to the side of the bag is not ideal. We found it much easier to mount our Peak Design Travel Tripod to the bottom of the bag.
Sizes & Colours
The Urth Arkose 20L Modular Backpack is available in Black and Ash Grey. Hover over the image below for a better look at the colours.
Width: 28cm Height: 46cm Depth: 15cm Volume: 20L
Small Camera Insert
Width: 26cm Height: 16cm Depth: 12cm Volume: 3.7L
Urth Arkose 20L Modular Backpack + Small Camera Insert
USD$200.00 / AUD$250.00 / CAD$250.00 / GBP£150.00 / EUR€180.00
Urth Arkose 20L Modular Backpack
USD$160.00 / AUD$195.00 / CAD$195.00 / GBP£120.00 / EUR€140.00
Small Camera Insert (for Arkose)
USD$60.00 / AUD$75.00 / CAD$75.00 / GBP£45.00 / EUR€55.00
Don’t forget to click on the banner below and use the discount code on the banner to receive a further 15% discount on the prices above.
US, Australia, Canada, UK, and select European countries – Free Standard Delivery
Singapore – $4.95 for Standard Delivery and $8.95 for Express Delivery.
Rest of the World – $18.00 for Standard Delivery and $25.00 for Express Delivery.
The Final Word
Urth has produced a great camera bag on its first attempt. The sleek and stylish design takes into consideration the needs of a photographer who needs a bag for photography and non-photography days. The overall quality is outstanding. There are heaps of storage pockets and ample room inside the bag. The small camera insert is a must-have if you are going to be using this bag for any type of photography and personally, we would suggest you buy this bag with the camera insert even though it can be purchased without.
The ability to use the Arkose bag as an everyday daypack for non-photography days is a big plus and is something that you don’t generally see with most photography backpack bags. The sleek and clean look of the bag does not create much attention so it will be perfect for the Street, Astro, and minimalist travel photographer.
Overall, the bag, in our opinion, has been designed for the minimalist photographer or day-tripper that has a small/light kit. For those that want to carry a bit more gear, you may want to consider the Urth Norite 24L Modular Backpack which can accommodate a Medium Camera insert.
The only negatives about the bag, for us, are the method of attaching a tripod and the lack of a rain cover. We prefer a stretchy side pocket for the tripod that can also be used for a water bottle and unless a bag is made from waterproof material then a rain cover should be included. Having said that it is quite cheap to purchase a cover online.
If you have any comments, questions, or a personal opinion about this product then we’d love to hear from you.
Click on the banner below and use the discount code on the banner to receive a further 15% discount on the prices above. When you receive the bag please take the time to visit www.urth.co/trees to register your product so that 5 trees can be planted.
To read some of our other Gobe & Urth product reviews, click the links below.
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