Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW

December 12th, 2011

Every assignment requires important decisions to be made. What camera? What lens? If I’m shooting outside which is 95% of the time, I need to make decisions about what to wear. Street and documentary photography requires a totally different approach to equipment and clothing than say shooting on Ben Nevis in winter. It’s also pretty obvious that the bag I choose to carry my cameras is an important part of the equation.

For street and documentary I often use a shoulder bag or satchel. They can be discreet, easy to work from and can be easy moved about the body when working in crowds. However for extended carrying and in particular for use in a outdoor or mountain environment a different approach is required. Stability and balance becomes important and the arms need to remain free to climb, scramble or ride.

This Autumn I was lucky enough to spend two months in America travelling with and photographing two of the worlds best rock climbers. We would be spending our time in Wyoming and Utah and I was expected to be able to follow the two climbers and carry my photography equipment in a variety of difficult and dangerous terrain. The obvious choice was some sort of rucsac but what system and what rucsac to use.

I have used a large number of camera bags, packs and rucsacs over 30 years of climbing and mountaineering and I have become particularly fussy. I like simple fixed back systems, drawcord entry and the minimum of straps and attachments. I often use a Pod mountaineering rucsac and stuff my camera gear inside in dry bags. But for my USA trip I wanted the convenience  of a dedicated camera rucsac.

LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW in Vedauwoo

While photographing the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race I had used a Lowepro Dry Zone. Overall it was excellent. It held plenty of kit and was waterproof enough to confidently lash to the open deck of a small wooden fishing boat in the Patagonian waters of the Magellan Straits. I did consider taking it to America, however I’m not a fan of the Dry Zone back system. The adjustable back system is overly complicated and I didn’t think it would stable enough for the type of movement and activity required in the USA. However this year Lowepro introduced the Photo Sport 100 and 200. The 100 has a sling carrying system but the 200 is designed around a simple fixed back system similar to those on specialist climbing and mountaineering packs. The larger of the two bags, the Lowepro Photo Sport 200, is not huge but with careful packing I was heading out on dawn to dusk shoots with two Canon digital SLR camera bodies (Canon 7d and Canon 5d), a 70-200 2.8, a 17-40, two speedlights, various batteries, cables, cards and enough food, water and clothing. The smaller items and camera accessories can be organised in four zipped pockets, one inside, one in the lid and two on the waist belt. The bulk of the bag is unpadded but there is a padded section in the lower section which is accessed via a zip on the side. This section has a ultra-clinch system that snugly grips the camera. This actually works very well and helps prevent your cameras bouncing around excessively.  There is also a sleeve pocket on the front and a stretchy side pocket for a water bottle or the bottom of a tripod.

However all these features were fairly irrelevant, what was important to me was how this bag carried. It was going to used everyday to climb, abseil, scramble, run and jumar up ropes. In practise it worked extremely well. It was comfy to wear and carried the weight very well. It felt as secure as any climbing  pack I have used. The fabric is fairly lightweight and did develop the odd hole, however in its defence it did spend two months being dragged over the granite of Vedauwoo and trashed in the Canyonlands desert dust.

To conclude the Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW served me well. I treated it very badly, I overpacked it, scrapped it and pushed it ahead of me through holes. It was tied to ropes and pulled up cliffs. I even became quite fond of it, it never let me down and most crucially it enabled me to get my  camera equipment to where it needed to be in difficult and dangerous terrain.

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