Lowepro Pro Trekker 300AW - Part 1
A few months ago I did a short review on my latest camera bag purchase, a discrete Think Tank shoulder bag perfect for travelling light. Well I've been shopping again, this time I was looking for the total opposite... a backpack capable of carrying as much gear as I needed for landscape/wildlife photography as well as the other non-photographic bits and pieces I might need like refreshments, an extra layer etc. in comfort. After a lot of research I decided on the Lowepro Pro Trekker 300AW and as it's a completely different bag to the last one I think it should be a different review as well so I'm going to do a long term review over several months dealing with what the bag is like in practical use.
In part one lets have a look at what will fit in the bag (quite a lot it seems!).
Above is a rough overview of the backpack (I'll deal with the straps etc later). As you can see it's got a 'rugged outdoor' look and from first impressions the build quality backs up that appearance and it feels reassuringly sturdy but we'll see how it stands up to the wear and tear and general abuse it's likely to get in a few months time. Zips are all weather sealed and have handy rings to make them less fiddly to pull and all the exterior pockets and tripod sleeves have compression straps so everything is snug and secure. The downside of all these straps mean that access to the main compartment isn't quick but then if quick access is what you need this isn't the bag for you!
There are three tripod sleeves, the central of which has a drop down pouch to slot the feet into but I use a geared head which is fairly heavy and found it felt a bit unbalanced strapped to the back but with the compress straps and attachment loops that are on the inside of the sleeve it's still useful. I keep a travel towel in mine which folds into a tiny pouch but is big enough to dry of gear if you get caught out in the rain. The side tripod sleeves are a bit too tight for my tripod (Manfrotto 055CXPRO3) to slide in and out easily but are perfect for my travel tripod (Manfrotto 394H) and it feels better balanced in use with the tripod on the side than the back. Personally I prefer to carry my tripod anyway so this is all academic.
As is the norm on Lowepro bags there is a rainproof cover in a hidden pocket on the base of the bag which is quick and easy to pull into place and can be tightened by two cinch straps for a snug fit. Also worth mentioning are the two compression straps on the base of the bag which could come in useful for carrying a pop up hide, jacket etc. and the straps can still be used with the rain cover on. I've used it to hold a small groundsheet to lay the bag on when it's muddy as to access the main compartment you have to lay the bag down on the straps which soon get caked in mud.
There is a laptop compartment with neoprene zip up laptop pouch, it claims to hold a 15" laptop but I don't have one so can't confirm that.
The top of the bag has two zip up compartments the bottom of which is a bit of a tardis, easily swallowing two pairs of gloves, a quite bulky neck buff, a wooly hat and head torch or would fit a small packed lunch. Above that is a smaller compartment but still big enough for the sort of bits and bobs you want quick access to and it has a key hook so that memory card pouch isn't going anywhere.
This whole top section unclips and doubles as a waistpack, the strap is padded and cleverly hidden in a velco pocket underneath. I really like this feature as I often put my bag down and wade into the sea and this would be a great place to carry spare batteries, filters or even a lens with you.
On either side of the backpack are large zip up pockets, fairly self explanatory really but worth noting that they're roomier than they look. One of them is obviously designed to carry a drinks container but with the sealed pouch removed there's easily room for my large Lee filter wallet and, even with the extra pockets full, the same is true of the pocket on the other side of the bag.
Finally we're into the main compartment. When I was deciding on which bag to get I was torn between the 300 and 400, I was put off the 400 by it's overall size but was concerned about the amount of space in the camera compartment of the 300. I need not have worried there's loads of space, I don't have a massive collection of lenses but I wouldn't want to carry much more than I can fit in this bag!
The picture above tells you all you need to know really, the compartment and dividers are well padded as you would expect but what you maybe can't tell is how deep it is, deep enough to stand the 7D on it's side and to lay a flash on top of my 70-200mm f4 which saves a lot of room. Since taking this picture I have taken delivery of a 5D mkII and so have made some changes to the bag's layout... removing the G1-X and Sigma 10-20mm has made room for the 5D mkII but moving the Lee filters to a side pocket would give me room for the two lenses I still have on my shopping list!
In reality I don't often carry all of this gear around with me but I wanted a bag that would allow me to if the need arose and the 300 fits the bill.
The lid to the main compartment has three zip up pockets for keeping cables and odds and ends tidy. There are also four memory card pockets, I prefer to keep my cards all together in a special pouch but these do have a rather clever little flap for marking the cards as empty or full.
So that's it for part one, thanks for making it this far! Next time we'll see if I can actually lift it off the ground and look at how comfortable the bag is in use.