19 November 2009

Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW review

Ok, so after months and months of waiting (maybe it has been weeks and weeks, but it seems like months and months), my Lowepro Pro Trekker 600AW finally arrived this morning. Given that they just arrived in Australia on Monday and I had mine on order since before they even announced the release of the bag, I like to think that I am one of the first photographers in Australia to get one. First impression as the delivery guy was bringing the box in to my gallery was that this was going to be a BIG bag, and it is.

Starting from the top of the bag, there is a protective cover that also doubles as a waist pack. The laptop padded case that comes with the bag only holds a 15.4” laptop, but the compartment itself will hold up to a 17” laptop (which is what I have). It just means it won’t be in a padded case, as the outer lining of the backpack is not padded. There is room to fit up to 3 tripods (not that I ever carry more than one). There is a holder on the front, one on the right side, and one underneath the bag. The new design for holding the tripods looks good, although I will have to wait until I get the bag in the field to see if it holds the tripods correctly. The right side of the bag also has a storage area that includes a couple of deep pockets and a couple of memory card holders. The left side of the bag holds a hydration pack or can double as more storage.


The main compartment is deep enough to hold a Nikon D700 with grip attached, without the top of the camera sticking out over the top of the bag. The main compartment looks the same as the previous Trekker series bags, but with more room in them. The inside lid also has loads of pockets, all with protective covers so that you don’t scratch your gear with the zippers. There is also another 4 memory card holders. All of the memory card holders come with a really cool feature that lets you change the tab to show whether you are storing a blank or full memory card in it. Overall, my first impressions are that this bag is the best thing that Lowepro has ever made, well worth the wait. The only thing left to do is to configure the bag to fit all of my gear, although I am not expecting any problems, with ample room in the bag for everything. Once I configure the bag, I will post a video showing the bag with all my gear in it on my YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/KENGOLDSTEINPHOTO).


I had been using a Photo Trekker AWII for about 5 or 6 years and found it to be very handy when hiking long distances into the bush for photo shoots. I managed to always fit two bodies with lenses attached plus a few extra lenses, remote cords, film, memory cards, etc in no problems. Then, a few months ago, I upgraded my bodies from Nikon D300’s to Nikon D700’s. This is where I came into trouble with the Photo Trekker AWII, as the D700 body with a grip attached was too tall to fit in the bag. I then thought to myself, ‘what am I going to do now?’ I knew that I could buy a Pro Trekker AWII, but since I knew that the Trekker AWII models had been out since about 2003 or so, I didn’t want to invest in a $500+ bag that would be superseded by a new model in the coming months. I phoned around and spoke to a few people at Lowepro, who indicated that a replacement bag would be coming out in the next few months. And so the waiting game began. In the mean time, I would have to settle with lugging my gear around in a couple of my Toploader Pro AW bags. I have all three of those (the 65AW, the 70AW and the 75AW, great bags but that’s for another review). I also have a Commercial AW bag, but that is not suitable for hiking. Now as good as the Toploader Pro bags are, lugging two of them over your shoulder on a 16km hike through dense rainforest is not exactly good on your neck, plus it also meant I had to also carry an additional backpack for my water as well as carry my tripod in my hands (rather than attached to a bag, like on the Photo Trekker).

Ken Rockwell has said that “Pro” photographers don’t use camera backpacks and to just carry in what you need in a smaller bag. In fact, on his website (http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/bags.htm), Ken says, “Never use a backpack; you can't shoot out of them and they carry too much. Backpacks are popular with newcomers and make a lot of money for bag makers, but experienced shooters don't use backpacks.

Photographers don't use backpacks because you can't get your gear out of them as you're shooting, and photographers don't carry that much gear at any one time. Photographers need to get to their stuff as they shoot, which means either stuffing lenses in pockets, a waist bag or a shoulder bag; never a backpack."


Well Ken, in fact I am a professional photographer, and yes I DO use a camera backpack on a regular basis. It is quite obvious that Ken does not do a lot of hiking with his camera gear. As I stated above, even just having one camera and one lens in a small shoulder bag is not too comfortable on a long hike to a photo location. If I am going to photograph a waterfall that is say an 8km hike away, I will want at least two camera bodies with me as well as two different lenses. Why? Well, let’s say that my main objective is to photograph the waterfalls, so I want a wide angle lens for that. I will also need to bring a telephoto lens as well so that if I come across any wildlife that I want to photograph, I don’t need to worry about getting to close and scaring them off (which is what would happen if all I had with me was a wide angle lens). Now, I could listen to Ken and just throw my 70-200 2.8 lens into my normal backpack with my bottles of water, etc. But I also like to carry a second body just in case I drop or damage a body. I also prefer not to change lenses in the field where possible, as it just increases the risk of dust, dirt or moisture getting into the camera. I will concede that Ken is right in saying that it is not easy to quickly grab a camera out of a backpack as you need to take the backpack off and then get a camera out, but what you can do is strap a Toploader pro onto the waist belt of the backpack and keep one camera in there, or just keep a camera out and in your hands. After all, with a camera backpack, your hands are free from carrying anything else.