8.5 Outstanding

Pros

  • Exceptional quality
  • Long-lasting
  • Multiple sizes

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Many options
Protection: 9.5
Selection: 9
Cost: 7

After you fall off a scooter, your mind goes through a series of priorities.

A string of expletives comes first, usually, followed by a quick check of yourself, your traveling partner and anyone else involved (is everyone OK?).

Then the scooter (does it start? Is there much damage?), and the camera bag and/or backpack play third or fourth fiddle to the far more important humans, as it should.

Once the shock and adrenaline wear off, however, you gather your wits and figure out if anything’s missing or broken. After a scooter incident involving a helmetless teenager who turned without signaling or looking, the camera bag took a nice long tumble on the pavement (everyone’s fine, by the way.)

I collected it from the road, expecting to find my Nikon DSLR in multiple pieces…

Nikon broken filter

Nope. My D700 powered up, auto-focused, and snapped a picture that was saved to and played back from the memory card. Some dust was a simple matter to clean up, but I’m here to tell you about the Lowepro bags that have survived and keep on going. I should also point out that this is not a sponsored post — I’m just a satisfied real-world customer.

 

Enter Two Travel-Tested Lowepro Bags

Lowepro Fastpack 350 1

The first was the bigger investment, a Lowepro Fastpack 350. Whether you stay low-key with blue, out of sight with the black, or blaze new trails with the red, this one’s held together across most of Korea, lots of Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries.

It’s been my main backpack for about 2 years, and despite sitting on the floors of countless bus terminals and buses, remains easy to clean with a moist cloth.

Lowepro Fastpack 350 2

The main / bottom compartment zips open and shut from the side, meaning you can quickly access your camera without taking the backpack off. The main central column (by default) can easily accommodate a 70-200 or 80-200 lens attached to a large bodied camera. (In other words, even the honkin’ big DSLR’s will fit.)

The four pockets on either side can be configured as your heart desires or your lenses require – there’s a virtually infinite number of configurations. Alternatively, take them out to stuff your clothing inside!

On the inside flap, they’ve even put a couple of a small pockets for your memory cards (CF or SD cards), and the front of the bottom compartment has enough room for my phone charger, a tangle of charging cords, and an external battery pack.

The top compartment holds enough room to store a weekend’s worth of clothes, along with several smaller pockets for pens, toiletries, or other small stuff. A side compartment zips down to reveal a slim pocket big enough for your 17″ widescreen notebook computer.

Since I rarely take the Macbook with me, it usually holds my iPad, a paper notebook, and whatever brochures or maps I pick up while I’m traveling.

The back has the usual straps to keep things comfy, including a belly strap and chest strap that really helps to distribute the weight. It’s fairly rare to be hiking any great distance with this on, so 98% of the time I leave them bundled up and rubber-banded to keep them out of the way.

Looking at the front, a couple of clips keep the flap closed, and could also be used to carry a tripod. These end up going unused, personally, since they make a pack a bit wider. Still, it’s a nice touch, and shows they’ve considered what photogs end up carrying in the real world.

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Getting Smaller

The smaller bag that’s survived two scooter falls is my standard daybag:

LowePro Adventura 170 2 The Lowepro Adventura 170 is big enough for the DSLR, the 28-70 lens usually on it, a small towel, and another lens. Two side pockets carry the water bottle(s), while the back of the bag offers up a couple of loops for your travel belt. I end up using those loops to carry my monopod. Just watch where the pole goes to avoid poking anyone accidentally!

LowePro Adventura 170 1

That’s another little pocket for a memory card to the right there. Mine holds some mints, tissues, bandaids, an extra battery, and memory card without any problem.

DSC_5878

I didn’t realize this when I bought the bags (since they were bought at different times), but the two bags play extremely nice with each other. Take out the foam inserts in the backpack’s bottom/main compartment, and the Lowepro Adventura 170  fits right inside. Double protection and convenience.

Lowepro bag finder

While I didn’t use it when sizing up my own purchases, Lowepro’s bag finder is well worth the three minutes. Based around what gear you carry (or want to carry) and the type of bag you want, it’ll help narrow the search from dozens of their offerings to the best few. Call it reverse showrooming if you like, but there’s a lot of bags to consider when you’re buying in-store.


Travel Photography


The Final Words

Are they the cheapest packs ever? No – given the quality and thoughtfulness of the design process, they’re understandably more expensive than the cheap street-side backpacks.

Then again, any serious traveler with their world on their backs (or simply one carrying thousands of dollars of equipment) shouldn’t trust it all to a single strap off a cheap bag.

In two years of traveling to different cities, provinces, and countries, not one stitch has come loose, not one strap has loosened or come apart, and not one zipper has jammed. The only thing making it look different from a brand-new bag is the netting in the drink pocket. It’s suffered a few holes due to overstuffing and unknowingly rubbing it against a sharp edge on a Thai bus. I can’t fairly hold the bag responsible for that!

Highly recommended.

 

So, which Lowepro bag(s) do you have? Shout out in the comments.

 

Images via Britt-knee (broken camera), Amazon.com (backpacks and bags), and Lowepro’s website (screenshot of bag finder).

4 Responses

  1. Josh@iransofaraway.com

    I’ve had the 350 for the better part of the year and have used it on some major trips. I agree about the points you make. I use it generally along with my big backpack. In the airport, this will basically carry all my expensive gear (cameras, lenses, laptop, iPad, etc) and my other backpack carries everything else. I love it for that purpose. Where I don’t love it is as a daypack. I find it very annoying when I want to get my camera out for a picture or change lenses. There’s nothing terribly easy about that process over say a camera bag. I’m probably splitting hairs on something that may not have ever been intended for such duty, but I was hopeful that I’d enjoy it more as a daypack.

    Reply
  2. Chris Backe

    Yeah, it’s a bit heavy for a daypack – I actually use the smaller one as my daypack, then pack that in the backpack as seen in the top image. Carrying most any sizable backpack will weigh you down over time, but the side pocket does make it easier to access the camera without taking it off.

    Reply
  3. David

    I’ve owned the LowePro Fastpack 350 for years. I used it extensively for about a year and then switched over to a shoulder bag. Shoulder bags aren’t as comfortable for all-day use, but they sure are more convenient when accessing your gear quickly on the go.

    Now that I pack all my travel gear in a backpack, it’s necessary to also carry a camera shoulder bag, since my camera gear won’t fit inside by backpack with all my other stuff.

    Reply
  4. Nick

    I’m not really a fan of Lowe Pro due to their poor harness design. Which is something I found quite odd considering their legacy of producing excellent hiking packs.

    Reply

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