I am sure many photographers would have been through this dilemma – you have purchased and used some sort of backpack to carry your photography gear only to realise sometime not long after you get it that it doesn’t quite suit your personal requirements. Maybe it might be that you cannot carry enough equipment in it. Or it doesn’t quite sit correctly on your back on those multi day walks you like to go on. Perhaps it is not weatherproof enough. Or maybe even it is extremely difficult to access your camera, lens or filters exactly when you need them.
I have personally experienced all of these things over the years. Now I am not a “professional photographer” in the traditional sense in that photography is all I do for a living. I produce content for social media for myself or my clients mostly through my online marketing company. This could be on tourism campaign basis. It could be a food photo shoot or even a product shoot to go with a new website development. But I spend a lot of time travelling and transporting my camera gear from place to place either in a car, on planes, and most likely attached to my back in some form of backpack or another.
The places I generally shoot in are also outdoors. They could be in or around any number of waterfalls, the top of a mountain, beaches, out of a plane or helicopter or from a boat. For me this means that the carry bag I use for my gear needs to be rugged, hard wearing, comfortable to carry, the internals extremely accessible and carry enough equipment including a tripod or two that I could potentially require in any given scenario. I am currently in the process of planning a month long road trip to the Northern Territory which begins in two weeks from today, and one thing that has been stressing me out is how on earth am I going to carry all of the photography gear I want to take with me for any of the above scenarios as well as keep it all safe, secure and protected from the elements, particularly the excessive amounts of dust and the high level of rainfall and humidity during the “wet season”?
I have been hearing and reading so many good things about the F-Stop range of backpacks, particular the Tilopa. Unfortunately where I live in Hobart, there are no local distributors who generally stock anything outside of the standard range of consumer level equipment or brands off the shelf (under normal circumstances). And when it comes to backpacks, one thing that I personally think is hugely important is the ability to actually try wearing it and seeing if it is comfortable before you make the purchase, as well as being able to see just how much gear it can carry. I have been so close to clicking on the “buy” button for an F-Stop bag online multiple times now, but I know what I have been through many times before when I have doubts as to whether a some form of camera gear is suitable or not. This is partly why I have nearly always used a Lowepro camera bag in one form or another. For some reason, every local camera store / outdoor store stocks them, but again they tend to be in the more affordable consumer level range, not the higher end bags that would suit a semi professional / professional photographers needs.
That is until I came across the new Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW which has been getting rave reviews online, and one of my local camera stores actually happened to have one on the shelf I could try!! Woooohoooo! This particular camera bag in several reviews I have read is comparable and in an some ways rated higher than similar F-Stop bags. The weatherproof, modular, rugged design of this bag was designed and tested by renowned Whistler (the mountainous region in Canada) photographer Paul Morrison. It can comfortably fit a full frame SLR, a second camera, 4 lenses, multiple GoPros, multiple filters, lens hoods, chargers, batteries, SD cards, flash, flash timers and laptop or iPad Pro and still have plenty of room to carry other things. The camera / lens storage unit is removable and is accessed from the back of the bag. It fits my Canon 5DMKIII, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L, 70-300mm f/4-5.6L, 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM & Samyang 14mm f.2.8 inside with plenty of room in the modular, adjustable storage unit. The front pocket of the backpack is fully waterproof which is great for carrying a laptop or iPad.
There are plenty of different ways to attach a tripod (or maybe even three) easily while still maintaining a high comfort level. The waist strap sits higher than most bags I have tried at around belly button height, which so far feels like it helps to distribute weight evenly and takes a bit more stress of my shoulders (great for walking uphills) compared to other bags I have tried. It can easily fit a water bottle and plenty of food in multiple compartments and the top pocket is very easily accessible and quite generous in size. The waterproof cover that comes with many bags of similar price range is also stored very nicely in this top pocket. The shoulder straps seem to be very well padded which will hopefully make it very comfortable to carry on any longer walks I have, through whatever conditions I eventually intend to take it through. So far this backpack seemingly suits all of the requirements I personally have, at least for this first trip through the Northern Territory that it is going to be heavily road tested on.
The colour range is a bit limited and is only available exactly as seen in my images, but for me this is not an issue. As long as it’s not pink or bright purple I am fine with it. The zippers are extremely rugged and you can tell Lowepro have put a lot of thought into ensuring the bag lasts for many years. The exterior is made from 420-denier ripstop nylon, which is essentially a very strong material which should not rip and tear, as well as provides some level of weatherproofing. I wouldn’t recommend having it or your expensive camera gear exposed to the elements for too long, but the inclusion of the All Weather AW Cover™ should help in getting your gear safely to your destination in the event of any extreme weather conditions.
So have I finally found the perfect camera backpack? Is my endless search for the perfect carry case for my outdoor photography adventures finally over? I will probably be able to answer that a bit better in about 6 weeks from now, but the final conclusion may be a few years away, or maybe even never 😉 But so far, the Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW looks to be quite a good solution to problems many outdoor / travel / adventure photographers the world over have faced themselves.
Have you found your perfect photography backpack? Do you have any recommendations of your own? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.