Camera Bag Review: Portage Supply Kenora Backpack (4th Generation)

The Portage Supply Kenora Backpack didn’t seem all that amazing; that is until I used it for a few months!

When I was first told about the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack by my buddy Travis, I went out and bought the 3rd generation backpack off of Amazon. But after establishing a press relationship with the company, I was told about their 4th generation backpack, and for everyday use this has to be one of the best options that isn’t a roll top camera bag. The Portage Supply Kenora Backpack has it all: looks, ruggedness, leather, canvas, quick access, and most importantly it’s comfortable. In fact, it’s the only backpack that I like that doesn’t have straps to secure it around your chest. Why? Well, in real life use I realized that the design is in such a way that it doesn’t need them. Yes, seriously–it doesn’t need them.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Rugged and well built
  • Nothing feels cheap
  • Weather sealed
  • Quick access on the side
  • When putting a tripod on the side, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to throw your back off; that’s a first for me.
  • Lots and lots of pockets
  • Really affordable

Cons

  • You really need to take your time to figure out the interior configuration.
  • The strap adjusters sort of just sit there and stay long. I wish there was a way to make them compact and out of the way.

Gear Used

We stuff Sony, Leica, Canon, Nikon, Apple, and a ton of video gear into the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack. Plus we use Manfrotto BeFree tripods on the side.

Tech Specs

Specs for the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack are taken from their website.

(October 2018 – Gen 4 Upgrades):

-An even softer, more plush waxed canvas exterior

-More comfortable, ergonomic shoulder straps

-Expandable side pocket

Other Features:

-Upgraded design with easy access side panel

-More velcro for limitless divider configuration

-Memory card storage in front pocket

-Stretchy expansion edge on side pocket for easy storage of water bottle, etc

-Vintage leather zipper pulls

-Smooth operating YKK zippers

-Premium GearSilk interior lining with padded reconfigurable dividers.  Just the right balance of rigidity and flexibility

-Heavy duty 20# canvas material (compare to premium brands like Filson)

-Premium grade, thick cut top grain leather for years of durability

-Flexible strap to hold laptop securely in laptop sleeve

Dimensions: 17 x 13.5 x 7.3 inches

Ergonomics

Full disclosure: the Goorin Bros hat is not included.

The Portage Supply Kenora Backpack is designed to hold a pretty adequate amount of gear that any photographer who also needs to shoot video will need to bring with them on a daily basis. And it will do so comfortably too! Here on the front you see the bag in its most compact format with a tripod stuffed in the side. The side pocket is expandable.

The Portage Supply Kenora Backpack is made of waxed canvas and leather. There are high quality zippers and brass hardware built in too. Everything is also pretty heavy duty. Even the top flat sort of feels heavy.

 

On the top flap there is a small pocket. Said pocket has other pockets inside. I stuff eye drops, keys, and microfiber cloths in here. It’s useful and handy for those small things.

Unlatch the top flap and this is what you need. There is a top section and a bottom section. This section has its own pocket built into the front that you can only access by undoing the top latch.

This pocket is best for chargers, a small book, a passport, phones, hand sanitizer, etc. You can even throw cards in here if you wish.

Unzipper the main pocket and you’ll get access to all your gear. ThePortage Supply Kenora Backpack comes designed in such a way that you should configure it yourself.

Now here’s the really awesome part; the side pocket. This pocket has quick access capabilities for you to stuff a camera in there with a lens attached. It’s super useful.

Open up the top pocket on the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack and you’ll get a big empty space with a sleeve for a laptop. I tend to stuff video gear in here when it’s work related.

The back is where you’ll find the backpack straps. These are super comfy and slightly curved. They feel nice; but those strap adjusters are just so long.

Build Quality

The Portage Supply Kenora Backpack went through rain with me during my testing. All the gear inside remained dry. In addition to that, the waxed canvas and padding inside stood up to a number of big bumps along the subway and even while hiking. There are times when I’ve come home exhausted and I simply threw the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack on the floor. The bag and all the contents inside were perfectly fine. Nothing suffered and I have to commend the 4th generation Portage Supply Kenora Backpack on just how well built it is.

My big personal issue has to do with the backpack adjustment straps. They just sort of flap out and stay long. Why? I’m not sure. I tried tucking them in and you can’t do anything about it; they just stay super long–excessively long honestly.

Ease of Use

During my testing, I took the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack on everyday journeys where I’d bring my camera and other random things with me. What I truly appreciated was the quick access pocket. Once I had configured the interior to my liking, the side pocket was fantastic to have. I had long since sworn off quick access on backpacks, but this bag does it just right. If you want full access it is indeed sometimes a pain to undo the top flap and then undo the zipper, but you get used to it.

In real life use, I enjoy the fact that the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack provides balance with all the gear that I’ve got on my back. Even when a tripod is put into the side pocket, I’m still finding it to be very balanced. I think this is due to the design and how thick the straps are. In addition to that, the top compartment lets me stuff all the essential video gear that I need in there. And when I’m not shooting video I can stuff things like an extra shirt, gatorade, and more in there. It’s nice.

Of course, quicker access would be nice. To get to your laptop for example you need to undo the top flap, unzipper the top, undo the laptop sleeve latch, and then take out your laptop. I guess the extra protection is nice, but it’s a tad unnecessary. What would have helped here is back access, but I’ll also strongly assert that it doesn’t need it. The only thing that could have possibly made this better is a roll top configuration.

Conclusions

The Portage Supply Kenora Backpack is good for quick travel–maybe a weekend or so. It’s fantastic for working and everyday, but I couldn’t use it for more than a weekend. I’d simply run out of space and the interior isn’t configurable enough to warrant this. That, and I think that rolltops are best for long trips. But the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack has a solid build quality to it and the overall design is fantastic. I think that for photojournalists, working photographers, wedding photographers, and those who need to be away all day, the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack is going to surely find a comfortable spot on your back.

I’m awarding the Portage Supply Kenora Backpack five out of five stars and an Editor’s Choice award simply because it’s now my favorite everyday backpack. And I’ll be using it over and over again.