For the past two years, I’ve been using an Incase DSLR Pro pack not just as my camera bag, but as my everyday backpack for work and travel. I loved it because it had enough capacity for all my mobile office equipment (laptop, chargers, peripherals), DSLR, multiple lenses, and even space for a second compact or mirrorless camera. The way the bulk of the pack is divided allowed me to dedicate a lot of space for camera gear, but with plenty left to drop in other equipment between the velcro dividers. But over my time using it, I found it more efficient to carry fewer lenses (mostly just a good zoom) and the pockets meant for lenses ended up getting cluttered with cables and USB battery packs. And the pack eventually died on me–the stiff plastic lining that reinforced the back starting poking through the fabric, making it really uncomfortable to wear. Thus began a search for another camera backpack.
I put a call out on Twitter to get recommendations, and after looking around at a bunch of options, landed on the LowePro Fastpack 250 AW. The Lowepro Fastpack 250 was highly recommended by The Wirecutter last year, and priced at a very reasonable $75 on Amazon. That’s half the price of the Incase bag I was using, and I was curious about its design. I opted for the AW model which has better weatherproofing and more straps, but the standard 250 model is just as capable and cheaper. Here’s what I like about it so far.
Camera bags come in a bunch of different formfactors, but the backpack has always been my preferred style, since it’s more comfortable to use when carrying around all day. Two shoulder straps may not be as cool as one, but it sure leaves my body less sore. The LowePro differs from the Incase in that camera storage is allocated to the lower half the of pack, and doesn’t take up the entire volume. The top half of the fastpack is a large zippered space for generic items–I use it for cables and a small Pelican case–while the lower half of the bag is dedicated to camera gear. That means the Fastpack can carry fewer lenses and camera-specific equipment than the Incase (definitely not enough for two full-size DSLRs), but that works for my needs. Volume may be a problem for photographers packing long 300mm lenses, but it fits my macro and 24-700mm with room to spare.
The other difference is that the quick access pocket for your camera was located at the top of the Incase, while the opening is on the lower left side on the Lowepro. That’s something I haven’t completely gotten used to yet, but theoretically makes your DSLR accessible by slinging the bag off your right shoulder and around your left side. For now, I still prefer setting the bag down and unzipping the entire lower half before grabbing my gear. A plus is that my camera seems to bounce around less in the Lowepro than in the Incase–the whole system is now bottom heavy instead of top heavy.
Additionally, the Lowepro Fastpack has plenty of padded straps–shoulder, waist, sternum, and even pocketed straps for wrapping the bag around the handle of a suitcase. The AW model has a rain cover that folds up and hides in a pocket on the pack’s bottom, and all the material feels durable without attracting lint. There’s also a pocket and strap on the right side of the bag for a small tripod or Gorillapod. It’s too small for my Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT, but will fit more compact travel tripods like the Manfrotto BeFree that we use for shooting podcast videos at Adam’s shop.
Even though I’ve brought this bag to several photo and video shoots in the city, I’ve yet to take the Fastpack 250 on a big work trip. That’ll be the next test for this bag–whether it can carry everything I need for a weeklong Comic-Con venture.
Let me know what camera bags you use, and why you like them!