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Lowepro backpack for travel Review

Lowepro backpack for travel Review - 

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Category : Bags, Cases and Straps
Product : Lowepro backpack for travel
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With a vast range of camera bags, designed for a infinite number of applications, choosing one can be a dilemma. Peter Bargh has a specific travel purpose in mind and looks at four options from Lowepro.

As editor of the UK's leading online photography magazine I tend to get invited on several overseas press trips each year and always struggle to decide what baggage to take with me. The problem is the trips are two or three days and involve a selection of activities from business press conferences where smart attire is essential, to excursions in comfortable clothing, through to evening casual.

No problem, I hear you say, just buy a bigger case! I travel with between 10 and 20 colleages on these trips. These companions range from technology press, through lifestyle, to photo press, and I envy the lifestyle press. This bunch have typical carry one piece of hand luggage, possibly with a compact camera, for snapshots, stowed in one of the pockets. This gives them a quick check in option and a rapid exit from the airport. At the other extreme are the photo press who tend to have a bag full of camera kit as hand luggage and another large bag full of clothes for the aircraft hold. So here's my requirement: I want a bag offering the convenience of the quick airport exit, but the capability to stash a range of clothing to cover three days, along with enough space for a camera body, two lenses and spare batteries/memory cards. Easy? Not really, as I'm about to find out!

My shortlist
I chose Lowepro because, as leading brand, they should have just what I desire. Their "Vision" catologue is excellent and well worth a browse. As well as describing bags in detail it has tips from professional photographers in all aspects of photography. It makes the bag selection process a more interesting experience. The catalogue is split into bag categories; Adventurers, Photojournalists, Portable studio and Proficionado, each with colour coordinated pages and a wide range of bag options.

Having perused the catalogue I draw a shortlist of the Rover AW II from the Adventurer section, the Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW and Stealth AW II from the Photojournalist section and the Orion Trekker II from the Proficionado range. Let's take a look at the specifications:

Specifications

Model Orion Trekker II Rover AW II
Stealth AW II Rolling Computrekker Plus AW
Guide price £49 £119 £199 £299
Top height (internal) 26.5cm 28cm 35.5cm (notebook) 34.5cm (notebook)
Top depth (internal) 17.5cm 15cm 5cm (notebook) 4cm (notebook)
Top width (internal) 30cm 28cm 28cm (notebook) 28cm (notebook)
Main height (internal) 16cm 25.5cm 51cm 41.5cm
Main depth (internal) 16.5cm 15cm0 9cm 14cn
Main width (internal) 28cm 28cm 38cm 33cm
Overall dimensions
(approx in cm)
45(h) x 19(d) x 34w) 50(h) x 20(d) x 32(w) 56(h) x 15(d) x 39.5(w) 45(h) x 29(d) x 34.5(w)
Weight 832g 1498g 3358g 3958g
Buy here Orion Trekker II Rover AW II Stealth AW II Rolling Computrekker Plus AW

Lowepro Orion Trekker IIOrion Trekker II
Having owned a Trekker for about seven years I was interested to see what the Trekker II offered. I've taken my bag all over the world as a daypack and all around the country as a light weight camera caddy. The Trekker II is the same size and has a few extra features.

It's a two compartment bag with a padded (removeable) section in the base for camera gear and a non padded upper section for carrying clothing, sandwiches etc. What's always appealed about this bag is the size and weight. But on a recent three day event I realised it wasn't really big enough to cope.

The zip pullers are improved, the front has a smarter appearance and there's now a sternum strap. What's always appeal is the inner pocket that I use to hold spare batteries, business cards and memory cards (or, a few years ago, film).The Trekker II has an even better system with two smaller pockets for memory cards. On my original Trekker I also found the front pocket perfect for holding travel tickets and my passport. Sadly that pocket is missing from this newer version and lets it down for my particular use.

Anyone looking for a compact rucksack bag will find this great. It's extremely light, offers a superbly comfortable carriage and great protection for the camera kit in the base section. If you do go out on a photo shoot, the top section can also be used for camera gear. I've crammed it to the brim with kit when photography has been my main intention. But for my travel needs I'll sadly need to move away to a larger capacity bag. Even with my folically-challenged toiletry needs the upper space is half full just with a bag containing aftershave, razors, toothbrush etc. Squeezing in a couple of rolled shirts, t-shirts, and spare trousers leaves no space to stash a book to read on the plane!

Verdict
A compact and lightweight option that's been a faithful companion for years. It has plenty of space for a smaller SLR outfit and great value, but not good for more than a day or two of travel.

In summary, the positive points of the Lowepro Orion Trekker II are:
Compact size
Light weight
Easy access main compartment

The negative points are:
Not really big enough for more than a day travel
No front pouch for passport

Lowepro rover AWIIRover AW II
This could be seen as a big brother to the Trekker with its similar format of a padded base section and a light spacious upper section. Apart from providing much more space in both compartments the centre divider (base of top section) is Velcroed and can be moved out of the way. You can also remove the padded camera insert allowing the Rover to be turned into a one-section rucksack.

Around the front is a pull out tripod holder that, in its enclosed state, provides a make-shift, easy-access document pocket on the front that I miss on the Trekker II. There's also a far better strap system that provides even more comfortable carrying features than the Trekker. The waistbelt is thick and accepts a range of 'sliplock' add-on cases, with options for lens pouches, utility cases and even a bottle bag. There are even load-bearing adjustment straps to make it even more comfortable. Like the Trekker you hardly know it's on your back.

The camera compartment offers much more space than the Trekker and my toiletry bag will go in one of the sections with a divider removed, relieving space from the top for more clothes, so this will suit my needs perfectly.
This really is a versatile option for weekend/three day photo jaunts. What would be even better is if the upper section didn't tapper away in depth towards the top. More depth at the top would allow more clothing to be stashed.
A feature that I really like on this, and the Trekker, is the single centre compartment closure clip. There are many occasions where I have to pick up the bag and move quickly. Some bags just have zip fastening which takes time to close. This one can be secured with the clip and zipped up later when time permits. As you can gather I'm liking this bag!

Verdict
The Rover AW II is a fantastic option for travel photographers offering loads of space and versatility. It's also really comfortable and for my needs it's by far the best of this bunch.

In summary, the positive points of the Lowepro Rover AW II are:
Plenty of space
Waist belt and sliplock system
Light weight

The negative points are:
Tappered top compartment restricts storage space

Lowepro Stealth AW IIStealth AW II
I'd have put money on this being the best option from the brochure details. Loads of space, quality backpack harness and weatherproof cover. It promises space for clothing, a digital camera system and even a laptop computer! When I trialed it I soon realised it wasn't the bag for me.

For starters it's a heavier product, so before I even start to fill it I have a weight issue. The shoulder straps are comfortable, but the Rover has a much better waist belt. A nice touch is a phone pouch that's attached to the strap, but that, alone, won't change my view on this bag!

I opened the front compartment first and was staring to become excited. It seems spacious as it takes up the whole of the front, but, on closer inspection, I realise it's more suited to accept folded clothing. Having experimented with the roll-it-up option, which I find allows t-shirts to be stored without creases, it means I won't be folding clothes again, so the storage space in the Stealth a little less useful.

There are also several compartments for storing flat things, such as documents magazines etc, and an excessively large pocket for passport/pen/credit cards. I can live with all this, but the nail in the coffin was the disappointing main section. As a business man I'd no doubt be enthusing about the fantastic laptop storage option - a padded case that accepts a 28x5x35.5cm laptop and stashes in the base of the main section, with pockets for documents and its own shoulder strap. But as a photographer the promise of holding a digital camera system is a let down. There are three neoprene-style drawstring pouches at the top of the main compartment. Great for lenses, and a camera body, but no use for an SLR camera with a lens attached. The last thing a digital photographer wants to do is keep removing the lens to store the camera as dust on the sensor will esculate. Also, storing camera gear at the top makes the bag top heavy.

Verdict
An unusual design that seems to be a compromise on many levels. If you're a business man spending a few days away from home with your laptop it will accomodate your clothing and electonic desktop, but the photographic element seems lacking.

In summary, the positive points of the Lowepro Stealth AW II are:
Laptop storage
Depth of compartments/pockets

The negative points are:
Width of compartments
Lack of camera space
Weight

Lowepro Rolling Computrekker Plus AWRolling CompuTrekker Plus AW
This is one of Lowepro's latest bags and will suit the serious travel photographer. It's a well padded case that's the right size to stash in the overhead locker on an airplain, but also has built in skate wheels and a single tube stowaway handle to make it easy to lug around the airport. The main compartment has a plethora of removeable partitions to accomodate a range of camera outfits. There's also a detacheable pouch for cables and bits & bobs along with a couple of mesh pockets with zips for documents.

A second compartment takes up the whole of the lid and includes a laptop pouch to accomodate a 23.2x4.2x30cm notebook. This section also has several flat pouches and a memory card compartment. Both this and the main compartment have zip covers to add protection against the elements. It could be used for a small amount of clothing if the laptop was left at home.

Although not a feature that's mentioned, the sturdy outer structure has enough support to allow me to stand on it to gain height in a crowd, which may help the photojornalists out there.

The waist belt catches against the wheels and really needs to be tucked away in the back. This slows you down and makes it even more uncomfortable if you decide to sling it over your shoulder when in a rush after wheeling it.

Verdict
Perfect for transporting a heavy outfit using the wheels, but as uncomfortable as they come as a backpack, and there's no real space for clothing. This will suit the pro photographer using the transport system to reach a destination, but poor for remote use or as a one bag solution for weekend/three day events.

In summary, the positive points of the Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW are:
Strong protection and versatile camera compartments
Collapsing handle system
Notebook pouch

The negative points are:
Weight
Uncomfortable as a rucksack
Lack of space for clothing
Waist belt gets in way of wheels

Overall verdict
While my choice is very specific, some of the points I've raised will hopefully help you make an informed buying descision. My selection process soon determined what was good and bad about each bag for my needs. Ideally I'd like elements of each of these four bags and would take the weight of the Trekker, the versatility of the Rover, the overall space of the Stealth and the protective and wheelie elements of the CompuTrekker. As with most things in life, you have to compromise to some degree and the Rover is the bag that delivers most of my requirements and will be the bag I take on my next outing!

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