When it comes to choosing a camera backpack it can be a little daunting with the choice on offer, but, choose the wrong one and you will pay the price – not only in reliability but also the higher price of a bad back.
I’ve spent many days in my youthful years hiking across hills and mountains and know only too well how much difference a reliable and comfortable backpack can make to your time spent outdoors. Camera backpacks are somewhat different though, they have to provide comfort to the wearer and also provide effective protection for your valuable camera gear.
When I started photography a few years ago I had a budget DSLR and a couple of lenses. The weight was minimal and it was fairly easy to lug around and at the time I had a Tamrac Expedition 5 backpack. But the photography bug soon grew along with my collection of gear – bigger camera, bigger lens’ and all the assemblage of the average landscapers needs i.e. filters, cable release, tripod, and a few extra lenses etc. Add to that a few items for personal comfort while out on the hills i.e. flask/fluids, rain coat when not in use (which is rare in the UK hills) you’ll soon need more space and a more functional bag.
Over the years I was quite happy with my Tamrac bag and could have just upgraded to the Expedition 8 but as it filled up I found it increasingly uncomfortable on my back. I found it was lacking in padding on the shoulder straps and the back wasn’t very ergonomically shaped, I was also frustrated with the lack of external pockets for personal items. Carrying a flask and packed lunch with a Tamrac bag was a ‘no go’ unless you were brave enough to put them in with your much loved camera and lenses, so, I ensued on long search for an alternative.
I’d looked at many different types and the choice was bewildering to say the least. There were many reviews on the internet to help my decision but there is a huge element of personal choice. Top of the priority list for me had to be comfort, my back is not getting any younger, and this was closely followed by versatility and reliability.
Of the many I looked at the Lowepro Pro Trekker 300 AW seemed to fit the bill. First off I noticed an immediate difference in the appearance, it looked more like a traditional backpack which appealed to me. Too many camera bags look like, well don’t laugh, but ‘camera bags’ and can attract unwanted attention especially when travelling overseas. The comfort level, both on the back and the shoulders, was miles ahead of the bags I had previously owned and tried. The harness has a whopping ten point adjustment system so you can alter the height of the load on your back and anybody who has done any amount of hiking will tell you that this simple adjustment can have a huge effect. It also has a well padded ‘removable’ waist belt.
The back itself offers ample load carrying capacity with internal space for a pro range DLSR with an attached lens, spare camera body, up to 5 additional lenses and ample storage space for filters and additional kit etc. 3 options for carrying a tripod – it easily accommodates my Manfrotto 190 x ProB, an external removable laptop pouch suitable for a 15.4” widescreen laptop. There are two side pockets, one of which is set up to take a hydration reservoir. The other has internal pockets for storage and memory card slots. The removable bag hood has two pockets and with the hidden attached straps can be turned into a bum bag/waist pouch. The bag also conforms to many airline ‘carry on’ baggage requirements.
Protection for the camera gear is impressive too with Velcro adjustable padded dividers not unlike many camera bags and the main compartment is sealed with YKK spashguard zippers and when you’re in the thick of it in the elements there is also an attached ‘all weather’ cover for extra protection.
Out and about the bag performed well, it felt very comfortable while walking and all the contents were held securely in place. I’ve not been out in a torrential down pour as yet to test its all weather capability but if the level of quality I’ve found in the bag continues I’m sure it will perform well. There is plenty of space for all my gear and it’s a welcome relief to have space for my packed lunch rather than have it stuffed in my coat pocket. On the whole. A very versatile backpack which I highly recommend.
There was only one issue I had with the bag and that was finding a supplier with stock, even the UK Lowepro distributor had them on backorder, but, after a long search and many phone calls, I found one and got my hands on it the next day – maybe its testament to it popularity, who knows. One final word of caution though, prices varied widely between stores from £198 to £267 so shop around but keep your fingers crossed for some stock.