Lowepro Pro Trekker AW400 review
After talking about the great everyday Hatchback backpack (read the review here), I would like to review the Lowepro Pro Trekker AW400 bag for the photographers who need to carry a lot of gear in any kind of environmet.
This backpack is also available in smaller (AW300) and bigger (AW600) sizes, but I found the 400 AW to be the most useful one since it is still within most of the airports restrictions despite having a huge capacity.
The number included in the name of these bags corresponds to the bigger lens you’ll be able to fit in them with the body mounted on. The 300 AW would fit a 300 f2.8 on any camera body, and the 600 AW would fit any 600mm f4 lens.
Being a Nikon shooter I’ll refer to Nikon equipment in this review, the size of your gear could be slightly different.
Lowepro declares this bag weights 3.3Kgs (7.2Lbs), not exactly “a light backpack”. Fill it up, add a tripod and you can easily get to 20Kgs of gear (or more).
That’s a lot to bring around with you, but the ergonomic and the construction quality help a lot in this regard. Walking, hiking and handling the bag is not a problem at all.
Given the quality of this bag, and the amount of gear it can contain, I won’t complain about its weight. I find it perfect for 90% of the shootings I usually do. The remaining 10% is about very specific assignments when you need totally waterproof or bomb-proof equipment.
This bag is big and it explicitly tells everybody that you have expensive camera gear inside it. Anyway, when you travel, you really need a proper, well built, solid and safe bag.
This bag is made to fit a 400 2.8 lens, which is a BIG lens. I don’t personally have this lens, but my Sigma 120-300 f2.8 fits perfectly attached to my D300 with the battery grip. With this combination I still have space for a Nikon D800 body with the grip, a Sigma 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters, a Nikon 70-200 f2.8, a Nikon 16-35 f4, an SB900 speedlight, a set of Lee Filters with the holders, the big air blower, few more filters, cleaning stuff, extra memory cards and tons of other things that find place in the many pockets that this bag has.
Really, when I travel with this bag and I have to take a flight, I can always fit everything I need. Nature and travel photographers walk a lot in any kind of weather, so is always better to be wise with what you bring with you. Yet, we spend a lot of money in lenses to get the best images we possibly can, so is good to be able to bring your best glasses with you, even if they take more space (and weight more).
Let’s get a bit deeper into what this bag has to offer in terms of storage space and organization.
The inside compartment is more or less what you can find in all the photo bags: thick padded compartments with many dividers and Velcro straps to set-up everything according to your needs.
On the inside of the front part of the bag, there are zipped compartments where you can put any sort of (not too thick) stuff: filters, cleaning pads, caps etc..
There are also 4 memory cards compartments, well padded and easily accessible.
As you can see in the picture, when the main zipper is fully open, nothing else will limit the front-face opening movement. This might cause some stress to the bottom part of the bag or to the main zipper, which is something to keep in mind.
I would have expected something to avoid this problem: a simple lock-on strap, like the many other that are everywhere outside the bag, would have perfectly worked.
Anyway, I didn’t have any trouble with this issue, but is something I would prefer not to pay attention to, especially when opening and flipping the front-face of the backpack quickly.
Another very good point is the amount of other pockets that are outside the bag. They make my photographer life much easier and let me organize my photo gear as good as I want. I have to be quick in getting what I need: as photographers, we capture moments, we can’t miss them for such silly reasons.
There are two big pockets on the sides of the bag, in one you can fit a water supply (not sold with the bag, but available as optional – or you can easily buy something that fits in any mountain gear shop), like a proper trekking backpack. Inside these two big pockets there are more small compartments where you can fit memory cards, batteries and everything else. I always use one of the two big pockets to bring my big military knife to have it quickly available. You can also fit a flash light, documents, a sketchpad or anything you want to get quickly.
In front of the bag there is a big and sturdy tripod pocket that fits even bigger models securely.
Behind this pocket there is a separate compartment for a laptop or maybe a tablet. A cool feature is that it has its own laptop bag with extra padding. I don’t use this much since I prefer to have my waterproof poncho and the Blackrapid in there.
Finally the top of the bag is “covered” by a waist-pack which is seamlessly attached to the bag itself.
This is one of the greatest feature of this bag for me! It is just awesome to have a small waist-bag that can be quickly attached to the main backpack.
You can detach it from the main body and use it for what you need. I absolutely love it! Once on location I wear the Blackrapid camera strap with the camera and lenses I need, detach the waist-pack from the bag, and put in it my pair of binoculars, my Victorinox Swiss knife, the big dust blower, the lensPen and anything else I want to have super-quick access to. It makes life so easy!
There is also another small bag, included with the backpack, where I usually put secondary batteries, cables, a small screwdriver and some hex-tools for the tripod.
It is a very nice addition and prevents the gear to get messy or got lost.
Do I need more pockets or compartments? No…definitely not! Actually I’d like to fill them all one day, but I didn’t succeed at that yet!
BUILD QUALITY AND ERGONOMICS
This aspect of the bag is top notch, as you would expect from Lowepro.
The bag is a little bit heavy and big (the 600 is HUGE, also much wider than the 400!), but the build quality is just over the top.
I honestly think this is one of the best built bags in the market.
Everything is very high quality.
The zippers are YKK, the best you can have, and they are very sturdy and precise. The main compartment has also a water-resistant zipper which is quite tough to open, at least for the first days of use.
It gets better with the usage and really makes you feel safe about the gear behind it.
Apart from the front main zipper there are 5 lock-in straps to secure the big front compartment. This is very nice since sometimes you just have to close the bag for few meters to change your position, and the zipper can be more noisy and scare your subject if you need to open it.
The side pockets are equipped with “silent” zippers, and they are really smooth and quite. Most of them are equipped with a “U-shaped hook” to make the pulling process easier.
I have never felt scared for my gear inside the bag.
The padding is very strong and thick so everything sits in its place firmly.
The bag has enough height to put a 24-70 f2.8 in vertical position and save space for other items. This is another great thing since you can put two lenses vertically instead of one laying down on the longer side.
Despite its size and weight this bag is a joy to walk with.
The shoulders straps can be adjusted in height thanks to a special velcro-detacher tool included in the bag. There are many other straps, including a chest one and a big padded waist one. All this makes the backpack perfectly fit your body.
I found it better to wear this bag with a tight fit, especially for long hiking. This way it doesn’t move much on your spine even if you have to do more stretched movements.
Every detail is well thought in this bag, and it’s a real pleasure to work with it.
The pockets inside the bag have an elastic cover for the zippers end to prevent any possible scratch.
All the memory cards pockets have nice double flip lid with a full-card and an empty-card icon that you can use to be sure not to pick up the wrong card. Even if I put my full cards in another small case for safety, this is a nice feature, and helps reducing errors when in rush. Also, these pockets are very well padded to increase card protection.
The top handle is something I really love. It’s thick and solid thanks to a rubber structure. I am not scared to raise the bag by pulling it from the handle, even when fully loaded.
This is something I was missing in other bags in the same range.
There are two side handles in the back. These let you carry the bag from the side or you can raise it parallel to the ground, which is something sometimes you want to do to properly reposition the gear if there is an uneven ground.
The tripod pocket is very solid, too. I use it to carry an heavy Manfrotto gimbal head mounted on a carbon fibre Feisol tripod and I have never had any problem.
I would have liked something to lock the tripod pocket to the sides of the bag, instead of having all the tripod weight on the tripod compartment itself, but this is a minor thing.
The bag, as Lowepro standard, has a proper water proof cover which covers it entirely.
The bag also has lock-on straps at the very bottom. This is good since you can load the bag heavily and gives extra safety.
Guys, I have really loaded this bag with A LOT of gear, probably more than what it is supposed to carry, and I have never had a problem.
I can hardly find any defect on this bag. I see only two improvements: a better sustained tripod pocket and something limiting the movement of the front part.
Other than these two minor things, this bag is great. It has been with me in many adventures now (apologies if in the pictures the bag is not 100% clean, I did my best but birds droppings are not very easy to remove ) and has always been rock solid.
I simply love this bag, and I reccomend it to every nature photographer who wants a reliable, comfortable and well built backpack for his adventures in all over the world.