Over the years I’ve tried a number of camera bags, ranging from CCS pouch systems to the more traditional shoulder bag. Today, most of my photography is done during weekend breaks, out and about at events or wandering the natural environment.
When away, I like to travel light and prefer to carry everything I need in one bag. This avoids checking in luggage at airports. While at home, I like to keep all photo equipment in one place for security. So bearing these issues in mind, I decided to try a photographic backpack (rucksack) for size.
My initial needs were to find a rucksack that could expand with my equipment, double as a overnight bag and provide good equipment protection. I also wanted my gear to be readily accessible, secure and housed in something which is considered “cabin friendly”.
I settled on a Lowepro Mini Trekker AW bought through Aspen of Hereford on ebay. At ~£72 + postage, this rucksack seems quite good value for money. The sales blurb reckons it holds an SLR with attached 80–200mm f/2.8 lens (most makes), additional body and 4–6 more lenses. (see the artist’s impression from the lowepro website)
Upon first inspection, the rucksack’s size seems a little overstated. Internally it measured 11W x 5D x 14.5H in. (28 x 12.5 x 37 cm) and externally it measures 12W x 12.5D x 16H in. (30.5 x 32 x 40.5 cm). The 7.5″ increase in depth relates to the expanding front compartment, which when fully packed takes on the appearance that you’re carrying a football. This makes it less “cabin friendly”, so you need to pack it artfully before getting on a plane!
The Lowepro Mini Trekker AW has an outer shell made from water-resistant 600 Denier TXP ripstop (?) and customisable inner compartments made from nylon encapsulated foam. The exterior has a small outer pocket, quick release tripod holder straps, tension straps and two D system straps for adding extra pouches (space)! The top of the rucksack also has a sturdy carrying handle.
An all weather “grey” cover is partially stitched to and hidden inside the base of the rucksack. I found that this takes up some room inside the rucksack.
When the cover is spread over the rucksack and correctly tied down, it provides an excellent all weather shell. The cut of the cover is generous and would easily cover any additional pouches. I’ve only been caught out in a heavy downpour once and it worked well with no leaks.
The rucksack also has an ergonomic harness system with padded shoulders, sternum strap and belt.
I have walked around for hours with it on my back while taking pictures and it is very comfortable. I was a little dubious about the security side of things, but the zips can be tucked away or “ziptied”.
So how much can you really get in it? Here’s a photo showing all the items I have managed to squeeze in.
At first glance, you could say that I’ve outgrown it. The 20D and battery grip sits about an 1″ proud of the zip and there seems little room for expansion. I reckon it would hold 4-6 short focal length lenses, but as you can see, I can only get two large telephotos in it. I also prefer not to use any OEM lens and flashgun pouches as they take up too much space! Why put a bag inside a bag?
When using the telephotos, I re-arrange the bag so that they can be kept on the body. The flashgun and wide zoom then move into the space left by the telephoto. By the way, there are more than enough dividers for re-arranging the internal compartments.
Fully packed the rucksack weighs ~10kg (22lb) and this is evenly distributed across the shoulders and relatively easy to get on and off.
On short trips, I can fit a change of clothes, passport, tickets etc in the front compartment.. While on a longer vacation, I leave out the clothes and put in the chargers, x-drive and myriad of leads. I also remove all the tripod shock cord and buckles as it looks less attractive to the magpies.
Comfortable to wear
Durable and well made
Inner dividers could be more substantial
The front compartment could be more accessible (bigger zip)
Drop it from a height of >2ft and like most soft luggage you’d probably damage something!
At £75 the Lowepro Mini Trekker AW fits my current needs adequately. Its modular design offers good expansion capabilities, but at a price!. The front compartment could benefit from a larger zip and the internal dividers could be more substantial. I therefore thoroughly recommend this rucksack to anyone looking for a flexible, functional and discrete storage solution..