Summary - I like the LowePro Toploader Pro 75 AW camera bag very much. It's made with top quality materials, is well thought out design-wise and it's quick and easy to use. LowePro's customer service has been second to none. Only negatives I have are I would like the AW cover slightly larger so it's easier to put on and the buckle lid closure to have a longer strap.
Last year I was looking for something different than a ThinkTank Digital Holster 20 camera bag for hill walking, hiking and backpacking photography.
I decided my essential requirements were;
- It had to be well padded.
- It needed to be weatherproof.
- It needed to be easy to take the camera out quickly and put it away again when shooting in bad weather.
- It had to take my 28-70mm f2.8 Nikon lens (now known as 'the beast')
- It needed to be comfy to wear for long periods of time.
After much Googling about and repeat visits to the high street shops in Edinburgh, I settled on a Lowepro Toploader Zoom 55 AW. In hindsight, this was a silly purchase because it didn't fit all my requirements and it wasn't what I really wanted - a Toploader Pro 75 AW - after seeing Andrew Querner using an older model in the climbing DVD, Higher Ground, and reading about Michael Clark using one in the 2009 Patagonia Expedition race .
I've been to Patagonia more than once and I know what the weather is like. If a camera bag is good enough for one of the world's top adventure photographers in some of the world's worst weather, then it's more than good enough for me. For some reason, I needed to buy the 55 AW first to realise this. Lowepro though were fantastic and I can't thank them enough for letting me upgrade to a 75 AW.
Toploader Pro 75 AW features
- Different ways to wear - you can purchase a belt or a harness for this bag, or use the provided 3-point harness attachment. I just put the bag over one shoulder and under the other arm and swing it to the front. I then put my rucksack on and it keeps it nice and secure.
- Top lid - this is padded. Lowepro say you can put your sunglasses in here but I play in Scotland and sunglasses aren't often required. I find it ideal for spare batteries (tucked inside the mesh pocket) and a compass.
- Scooped opening - the camera goes in sideways and fit on top of two internal velcro-attached staves. These keep the camera snug and protect it from damage.
- All Weather Cover - I find this too tight and difficult to put on outdoors. I use a dry bag instead - an Ortleib 13 litre is ideal - pulling it up over the bottom and clipping it closed at the top. You can't roll-top it but it forms a fairly weatherproof seal.
- Front pocket - this is where I store the dry bag and a chamois to wipe the lens.
- Mesh side pocket - I stuff a ThinkTank PocketRocket memory card holder in here and clip it to the camera bag for security.
- Zip and clasp closure - You can either zip the bag up or clasp it shut. The zip has big chunky zip-pulls with plastic handles that lets you close the bag with big gloves on (I can even just about do it with mitts on). The clasp saves you having to zip the bag up but I think it would be better being on a longer strap. I find it fiddly to use.
- Size - there's plenty room for a Nikon D700 plus Nikon 17-35mm f2.8 or a 28-70mm f2.8. It also fits a Nikon 70-200m f2.8 lens (with the lens hood reversed). It is a very big bag and I sometimes self-consciously feel a 65 AW or a 70 AW may be a better choice. This goes away though as soon as I use it.
- Optional attachments - you can attach a lens to the outside too with a 'strap and cinch' system for compatible lens cases. I most often use this though for securing a map case. It's ideal for this.
All in all, I think this is a perfect bag for hiking, hillwalking and adventure photography. It's not bombproof - I fell off a mountain bike whilst wearing it and damaged a lens - but otherwise, I'd highly recommend it.