Review: Nya Evo Fjord 36 Econyl backpack

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There's not many items I get to review that I know as thoroughly inside-and-out as Nya Evo's Fjord 36 backpack. I reviewed the original Fjord 36 back in 2018, and some five years later, it remains a bag I use almost everyday. 

Image: Mike O'Connor
My original Nya Evo Fjord 36 (L) and the updated Econyl version (R). Image: Mike O'Connor

My original Fjord 36 has served as my main commuting bag, mini-hiking bag, day-trip bag, and travel-bag, while these days it serves as a glorified nappy bag, carrying all the stuff you have to to lug about with a young family.

In fact, while i'm in the middle of writing this review, my wife has just told me she needs the Fjord as she's planning to head out for a bike ride with it. 

My Fjord has been thrown over the shoulders of dozens of different users over the years, and has travelled Australia, New Zealand, and the US, as well as through countless airports while loaded with camera gear. Today, it's a little faded and a little scuffed up, but apart from a couple of broken clips on the waist strap, it remains just as solid as it was when I got it - pretty impressive for a bag with the level of use i've put it through.

Image: Mike O'Connor
Image: Mike O'Connor

At the same time, I've also gained a good sense of what I like and dislike about the Fjord, while also making me particularly interested in having a look at the newest revision to the Fjord design, the 36 Econyl backpack.

So when Nya Evo asked if i'd like to review its latest iteration, I jumped at the opportunity.

In my opinion the original Fjord 36 remains one of the most well-designed camera backpacks I've used, but it isn't without a few quirks, many of which I wrote about in my original review in 2018. So does the latest 2022 version keep a winning fomula while fixing these? Let's find out.

The design

First off, the Fjord 36 Econyl is still a Fjord 36. That means it's design and style is very similar to its predecessor, to the point where most people would struggle to tell the difference between the two. It's perhaps a bit of a like-it or hate-it style in 2022 - it doesn't scream camera bag, but it does scream snowboarding/extreme sports in a way that may not be to everyone's taste. Personally I like it, especially so in the updated Canyon (Red) colour I was sent for review.

Briefly, the 36 refers to the bag's capacity, 36 litres, and, like its predecessor, the 36 Econyl continues to use Nya Evo's RCIs – Removable Camera Insert system. In essence, these modules can be removed from the bag and allow you to choose an insert for the size of your photography load. 

Image: Mike O'Connor
Image: Mike O'Connor

It's a smart system that allows for a level of refinement of the padded camera portion of the bag. These RCI's come in Small, Medium and Large, with Nya Evo sending me the Medium for review this time.

At purchase, you can choose which RCI you'd like shipped with the bag, or buy all three if you're really keen - although you're probably better off just choosing either the Medium or Large and then just modifiying it with the included inner pads to adjust for smaller or larger loads.

To give you an idea of how much you'll fit in an RCI, I was able to fit a Sony mirorrless camera body, a 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 100-400mm lens in my Medium RCI on a recent trip to Queensland. Nya Evo says using the medium RCI leaves about 40% free storage space in the bag, compared to 15% for the large RCI and 75% for the small. in my 40% I was able to fit a change of clothes, chargers and other small accessories and a 13' MacBook Pro which has a dedicated slot.

Image: Mike O'Connor
Image: Mike O'Connor

One of the features I really came to love about the Fjord 36 is its water resistance. The backpack comes with a Hypalon base which is tough, waterproof and long-wearing, along with a detachable seam-taped raincover.

The Hypalon base means you can put the bag down on wet surfaces safe in the knowledge your contents will be dry (provided the zips are done up!). And, while the rest of the bag isn't as weatherproof as the base, the included raincover once fitted makes it pretty inpenetrable. 

What the latest version of the Fjord 36 brings with it is an updated main fabric made of Econyl — a strong lightweight nylon fabric made from nylon waste. Nya Evo says that through the regeneration process the nylon comes out just as strong as brand new nylon. So you get the same Hypalon base with a more environmentally friendly main fabric - nice. 

Image: Mike O'Connor
Image: Mike O'Connor

If there is to be a downside to the materials in the Fjord 36 it's that the bag is quite heavy. At 2kg with a cube or 1.7kg without, it means that by the time you add in a bit of camera gear you're likely to be pushing the 7kg weight limit for handheld luggage on most flights. Something to keep in mind if you plan to fly with this bag a lot. 

Finally, as far as I'm aware, the only design tweak compared to the original is the Econyl version gains a subtly resesigned chest strap design, with new metal fixings, and a slight re-routing for where a water bladder would go.

In use

With the ability to shove a tripod in a side pocket, a water bladder in the front compartment, and a drone under the stretchy pocket that lives in its own dedicated pocket at the front, it's obvious that the design of the Fjord 36 is particularly well-thought out.

Essentially it's the same bag as it was five years ago, but this is no bad thing - for a modern photographer who needs to carry a bunch of photography items as well as outdoor gear when they travewl, you'll find the Fjord 36 very versatile. 

Like most backpack style camera bags, the entire rear of the bag zips down to allow access to the RCI inside. With the RCI in the bag it'll sit up on its base allowing you to access the contents without taking them out of the bag, which is a handy feature in the field. 

Image: Mike O'Connor
Image: Mike O'Connor

Lift it onto your back and you'll appreciate the padded back support and waist and chest straps allowing you to secure the bag tightly to your body. 

The wrap-up

I didn't intend for this to read as a long-term review of my five-year-old Fjord 36, but when the design remains largely unchanged in the latest iteration, it's only natural to reflect on how product design when done right the first time doesn't always need to change just for the sake of it. 

What I can say is that with the Fjord 36 you're getting a camera bag that can genuinely take just about anything you can throw at it. 

While I can't speak to the long-term durability of the Econyl fabrics used in the latest 2022 version, I can say that the Hypalon base on my five-year-old bag continues to be waterproof and hardy, and the exterior fabric is still in great condition. To the touch, the Econyl fabric on the latest version appears to carry the same traits. 

My only real criticism of the Fjord is the same as when I reviewed it in 2018 - the cost of having such durable fabrics comes with a weight penalty that not everyone will be willing to wear. It's also worth mentioning that the cost of the Fjord 36 with all three RCI inserts has crept up a little since 2018, with it now retailing for $599 USD ($737 AUD), although it's currently on sale for a bit cheaper.

What you do get for the decent cost of entry is a bag that will most likely give you years of trustworthy service, along with the ability to easily adapt to changing loads and lifestyles. If you're a photographer with an adventurous bent that's tough on gear, the latest iteration of the Fjord 36 is a brilliant option for carting your gear around no matter where you go. 

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