(The Gear Loop) - For those planning multi-day hikes where lugging camera equipment is essential, there is now a range of excellent camera backpacks that not only store prescious kit safely, but also provide enough room for hiking essentials, such as tents, sleeping bags and camping mats.
The Lowepro PhotoSport Pro came very highly recommended in our round-up of the best camera backpacks out there and that’s because we spent a solid weekend lugging the thing around the Snowdonia National Park and came away wet but impressed.
Weighing in at 3.2kg when completely empty, this isn’t the sort of lightweight trekking backpack that you might want to take on an expedition to the Arctic Circle, but then the additional weight comes in the form of extra protection for camera kit, your shoulders and hips.
Available in S/M and M/L sizes, there’s a shoulder strap length to fit most body types, while the bag itself can house pretty much anything you can throw at it. Fashioned from several individual compartments, there’s a removable camera compartment that sits at the foot on the main interior, a separate, large waterproof pocket at the bottom of the bag and a zipped compartment at the top for quick access to essentials.
Access to the GearUp PRO XL camera insert is via the front or the back and users can set this up whichever way they please, while the insert itself is a dedicated accessory with its own strap system, allowing multiple carrying configurations.
Although absolutely monstrous, this is a well thought-out camera bag that safely transports precious kit, as well as the camping essentials, in comfort.
We wore it for long days, slogging up Welsh hills in the rain, and it never once felt uncomfortable or awkward on the back, despite tipping the scales at a whopping 17kg with our kit inside. We even slipped at one point and comedically slid down a fairly sheer scramble. The bag (and kit inside) came away completely unscathed, although the same couldn’t be said for our pride.
It also withstood the rigours of airport baggage handling stuff, although we did remove the camera insert and take that on the plane as carry-on. A convenient feature, we feel.
The only issues we had were with the distinct lack of hip belt pockets (come on, they’re so handy), as well as access to the camera kit pack. This requires two zips to be undone and if the GearUp PRO XL camera insert has moved around a bit inside, it can be a fiddly process.
If you don’t need the 70-litres of total internal volume, Lowepro does offer smaller versions of the same pack, with a 55L coming in at a slightly more manageable overall size and weight. There’s also a 24-litre walking variant that could be perfect for shorter trips.
Lowepro PhotoSport Pro 70L AW III
- Two sizes for perfect fit
- Front and rear access to kit
- Safely stores plenty of camera equipment inside
- It’s heavy when loaded up
- Discolours easily
- Easy to lose camera loops
In the Loop
Everything you need to know about the Lowepro PhotoSport Pro 70L AW III in short:
- 3.2kg unladen weight
- 70L total volume
- Camera compartment dimensions: 29 x 15 x 21 cm
- Fits Pro DSLR or Pro Mirrorless body with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached
- Plus 1-2 extra lenses and kit
- Room for large tripod
- 3-litre hydration reservoir (bladder not included)
- Made from 86 per cent recycled fabric
- Built tough
Fit & features
As previously mentioned, the fact that Lowepro offers this pack in two shoulder strap sizes means most heights and body types are catered for, while the company’s ActivLift harness system allows for plenty of torso length adjustment, which is required given the weight of the thing.
Getting the perfect set-up takes a little trial and error, but once dialled in, the pack sits neatly on the back, while hip belts comfortably distribute weight. This is a good thing, because when we fully loaded this pack with DSLR camera kit, clothing and footwear for a two-day hike, it weighed in at 17kg… almost too heavy to check in at the airport.
This is because the generous GearUp PRO XL camera insert allows for a fair amount of kit to be stashed inside it. We managed a reliable but weighty Nikon D850 camera body, a prime lens, a medium zooms lens and a fairly chunky 70-200mm lens, not to mention spare batteries and chargers.
There are two neat, elasticated side pockets that will happily house tripods, water bottles or walking poles, while an adjustable front sling pocket will even take care of a climbing helmet. Plus, there are plenty of loops and straps to attach all manner of accoutrements.
We’re not sure if its right to comment on the visual aesthetics of a backpack but this one looks good. The only issue we had with the light grey and orange colour scheme was the fact it picked up dirt really easily. After a couple of hours in the wild, it looked like we had owned it for years. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Performance in the wild
First things first, this is a tough cookie. Despite being fashioned from 86 per cent recycled fabrics, this thing will easily withstand drops, slides and falls. The exterior is made from 100 per cent recycled 420D Nylon Oxford and 420D Nylon Diamond Ripstop with a carbonate finish, meaning it shouldn’t tear or snag on brambles, bushes and rocks.
It is fairly weather proof too, but Lowepro also provides an All Weather (AW) Cover to protect gear from rain, snow and dust, but we didn’t feel the need for it, even when it was bucketing it down like only Wales can.
wThe removable GearUp PRO XL camera insert is a nice idea, as it allows the user to leave the 70L monster of a backpack at basecamp and hike with just camera equipment, worn over the shoulder like a sling.
Lowepro also provides fabric loops and plastic clips that attach to the bag and your camera’s strap system, allowing you to clip the camera body to the bag’s shoulder straps for quick access.
We loved this feature and thought it was fantastic up until the point we noticed one of Lowepro’s loops had wriggled its way loose and fallen off the pack somewhere in deepest darkest Snowdonia, It was pretty useless after that.
There’s also a neat waterproof pocket at the foot of the bag, which seems to have been perfectly conceived for the placement of muddy boots, or any other kit that has been caked in filth or has been drenched.
If you’re in the market for a backpack that you can take trekking, but one that also houses all of your kit for capturing the moment, things don’t get much better than Lowepro’s monstrous offering. It’s heavy when fully laden but offers up a hydration reservoir, a superb fit system and a tough exterior that make it a solid standalone pack for big adventures.