Over the past several years, myself and other photographers have had the opportunity to share with Lowepro our thoughts on camera bag designs and convey what we need in the way of a photo trekking pack. A few of the things that have been at the top of my wish list have been packs that are lighter in weight, have a suspension setup similar to what you would find on a true backpacking pack, are hydration reservoir ready, and allow me to carry a pro camera body with 3 lenses. Did I mention that it would still need to have plenty of room to spare for food for the day, a jacket, and all the other little things that I need when I’m out exploring for the next shot?
It turned out that I wasn’t the only person asking for a pack that would meet, or exceed, these requirements. Lowepro’s answer is the new Rover Pro 45L AW. Weighing in at only 6lbs thanks in-part to light-weight technical fabrics, it has plenty of compartments for your gear and multiple attachment points to secure your tripod, trekking poles, ice axes, or other gear.
Right away you’ll notice that one of the biggest differences between this pack and the previous generation of packs is the new suspension system. When we talk about suspension in backpacks, we’re referring to the shoulder straps, waist strap, sternum strap and the shape of the pack’s back panel. The new AirFlow suspension system offers a trampoline-style back panel breathable spacer mesh that provides superb ventilation and is really a huge leap forward over most other camera packs that have a similar carrying capacity.
The interior of the pack consists of a single large compartment that is accessible through 2 access points, the top lid or front hatch. One perk of the 2 access point design is that it’s easy to get to your camera gear through the front hatch versus having to dig for your gear through the top lid. The large compartment contains 2 modular camera cases that are accessible through the front hatch. The main compartment also has an integrated laptop sleeve capable of fitting a 15″ laptop. I don’t see myself carrying a laptop into the field, but I do plan to use the laptop sleeve to hold a spare 1-liter hydration reservoir on longer hikes.
There are several other compartments located across the pack including the top lid which has a compartment that I use to carry my first aid and survival kits along with a GPS and headlamp, all of which I want easy access to, but want to keep out of the snow and rain when I set the pack down. There are also a pouch on each side of the waist-belt which make a great place to stash energy bars and other items that you would like to have easy access to while hiking. On the front of the pack there is a stash pocket which I found is a great place for a light-weight jacket or rain shell. Located on the wearer’s right side of the pack you will find the compartment for a 2-liter hydration reservoir.
I’ve used this pack to carry both my Canon and Nikon equipment. When shooting Canon this includes the 5D Mark III with the 16-35mm f/2.8L II, 24-105mm f/4L IS, and 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS lenses. My Nikon gear consists of the D800E along with the Nikkor trifecta of lenses…the 14-24mm f/2.8G, 24-70mm f/2.8G, and the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II. I have no problem fitting either the Canon or Nikon kit into the 2 modular removable camera cases included with the pack. Both cases have adjustable padded dividers, a removable accessory pouch, interior zippered pockets, outer mesh pockets, and webbing grab handles.
I addition to cameras and lenses I also carry the usual assortment of memory cards, batteries, and cleaning gear. All of this is carried in the 2 modular compartments along with the cameras and lenses. The only thing I’ve found I don’t have room for is my set of Singh-Ray graduated neutral density filters along with the Lee filter holder and adapter rings. I’ve added a Lowepro Street & Field Series Filter Pouch 100 to carry my grad filters and Lee holder. The upside to this arrangement is that I can pull the filter pouch out of the pack and keep it with me at the camera.
The 2 images below show everything that I have been carrying in the pack for winter hiking here in northern Arizona including the Grand Canyon. Even with all of this, I found that I still had a little room to spare in the main compartment of the pack. For hiking on ice covered trails I use a pair of Yaktrax Pro ice cleats. When I’m not wearing them they are clipped via a carabiner to the pack.
Gear I carry in or on the Lowepro Rover Pro 45L AW: Nikon D800E with a Kirk L-bracket attached, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G lens, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G lens, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens, Gitzo Series 2 carbon fiber tripod with Acratech GV2 ballhead, Lowepro Filter Pouch 100 with numerous Singh-Ray graduated neutral density filters and the Lee Filters system, B+W 77mm XS-PRO Kaesemann Circular Polarizer Digital MRC Nano Filter, SanDisk Extreme Memory Cards, 2 extra camera batteries, 4 AA batteries, 6 AAA batteries for my headlamp and GPS, 2 Lens Pens, Microfiber cloth, ROR fluid, Rocket Blower, a few small tools for tightening tripod legs, Vortex Media Storm Jacket Pro camera rain cover, trekking poles, AMK Medical Kit .5, AMK Pocket Survival Pack, McMurdo Fast Find 210 Personal Locator Beacon, Greatland Laser Rescue Laser Flare, Petzl Tikka XP 2 headlamp, Garmin eTrex GPS, compass, Yaktrax Pro, Camelbak 2-liter hydration reservoir, and a 24″ bungee cord. I also used the pack to carry winter clothing including gloves, hat, jacket, and a GORE-TEX® shell.
While I’m very happy with this pack, there are a few revisions I’d like to see in future versions. I can always use a little more room and this pack is no exception in that I could use more room in the modular camera cases to carry a teleconverter or a set of extension tubes. I’d also like to be able to carry a larger hydration reservoir. Here in the American Southwest in the summer months, 2-liters often isn’t enough for a long hike, but this is why I’m using the laptop compartment to carry an extra 1-liter hydration reservoir. And lastly, some additional room could be gained if the top lid were not sewn to the pack at it’s hinge, but rather attached via straps in a similar fashion to the top of the Pro Trekker 300 AW pack. This would allow you to over-stuff when necessary.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been testing the Rover Pro 45L AW. Right away I was impressed with the way the new pack feels on my back. I’ve used many camera bags, cases, and backpacks over the years. Most do a great job of protecting the equipment, but only an adequate job of taking care of my back. The AirFlow suspension system with its trampoline-style back panel is very well thought out. It has has a breathable spacer mesh that allows for superior ventilation. I do tend to bounce around a bit as I jump between boulders and the Rover Pro 45L AW does a superb job of transferring the load when trekking over rocky or uneven terrain. I found that it was very easy to mount and dis-mount my tripod from this pack, something which is very important to me. The tripod also felt very secure while I was hiking which involved some bouldering and jumping between rocks. The Rover Pro 45L AW is the first pack that I can say I would be happy to hike all day with.
My final thoughts: I haven’t been this excited about a new pack since the Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW hit the trail, a pack which I still use when I want to go super-light and carry the camera with 1 lens…but it’s difficult for me to take just 1 lens. With the capability of comfortably and confidently carrying a pro body and 3 lenses, plus all the extras, the Rover Pro 45L AW has nearly everything I currently need in a trekking pack!
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