Lowepro Photo Sport Pro 30L AW

Photo Sport Pro 30L AW

“Lightweight technical photo backpack for the active adventure photographer.” The Photo Sport Pro 30L AW is a sturdy backpack with lots of bells and whistles for the avid outdoor photographer. It’s a lightweight pack with an internal frame with dedicated space  for a pro photo kit and your hiking essentials. As someone who has taken hikes with her small Camelback hiking pack, this changed things for me. It has the ability to easily carry a tripod, a camera with multiple lenses and perhaps even a flash, trekking poles, a hydration bladder and some hiking gear, like a first aid kit, a jacket, food, a GPS, or whatever you want to put in the 15-ish liter top compartment. It also is versatile – the camera compartment is removable so it can be used as a day pack. The bag has all the adjustments and design features you expect in a technical pack and provides the kind of adjustability and comfort expected in a minimalist pack.

Without the camera compartment it could certainly have the capacity to carry enough for an ultralight backpacker for a shorter trip, and you may be able to get away with using with the camera as well provided you can convince your buddy to help carry some stuff. I have gotten away with backpacking with my husband and I was wearing the Deuter Kid comfort 2 with the baby and all her essentials.

Karisa with the photosport 30l, ready for adventuring.

Karisa with the photosport 30l, ready for adventuring.

Features (From the Lowepro Website)

The Photo Sport Pro 30L AW takes inspiration from the original award winning Photo Sport AW series. It’s lightweight, offers quick access to a pro-sized kit, and features a breathable and supportive air-flow suspension system.

  • Lightweight, technical photo pack for active outdoor photographers provides a minimalist and technical carrying option for outdoor and action photographers who carry pro-sized gear
  • Breathable, trampoline-style, air-flow suspension system with breathable mesh offers a comfortable carry of a heavy load
  • Removable, Ultra-Cinch Camera Chamber provides secure protection while in motion; remove to turn bag into a traditional daypack
  • Fast-access side pocket allows you to quickly grab camera without removing the pack
  • Multiple storage compartments offer a variety of places to stash camera accessories and personal gear
  • Lightweight, resilient and high-performance tech fabrics constructed of 210D triple-ripstop nylon with PU coating for improved durability
  • Toploading design provides quick and convenient access to personal gear
  • Zippered lid pocket offers handy storage for sunglasses, lip balm and other small personal items
  • Patented, built-in All Weather AW Cover™ protects gear from rain, dust, snow and sand
  • Hydration-ready pocket offers easy-access to a 2 liter hydration reservoir (not included)
  • Trekking pole (or ice axe) attachments points provide an easy and secure system for expanding carrying capacity
  • Adjustable shoulder straps offer a custom fit that accommodates 16 to 19 in. (40 to 48 cm) torso lengths, measured from the C4 vertebrae to the top of the iliac crest

Personal Experience

I have taken this on a few extended day hikes and have had good experiences. This pack is comfortable with a breathable mesh back that allows air to circulate between you and the pack. With many larger packs the mesh is pretty ineffective, however with this pack’s small size the added feature really does help reduce back sweat. The camera compartment is also accessible enough to be practice for a photographer who is whipping out their equipment every few hundred yards. Your camera is accessible through a side access compartment, making it easy to swing the pack around on one shoulder to get at it would the need to take the whole thing off. There are straps at the bottom of the pack that work well for holding a tripod and or any other items you prefer to keep outside the pack, up to and including a sleeping bag. I have used them for both.

My current favorite camera lens is my 70-200 2.8 and the compartment on this pack is just big enough to squeeze the camera with the lens attached. After that, there’s a small space left for a smaller lens (for me, perhaps a 50mm), and another piece of equipment such as a small lens, flash, or battery pack. After that, space is filled up I have trouble finding an adequate spot for my other camera essentials – batteries, etc all need to either be squeezed in with the camera or in the brain or main compartment. I recommend putting your memory cards in a card wallet and putting that in one of the belt pockets. Because of limited camera space, you may find yourself cutting back quite a bit on what equipment you bring. If you go the packing-it-in route I would recommend wrapping your gear in something soft, and there are products out there designed to do just that. Basically, gearheads, don’t be expecting for it to carry all your gear. The max I’ve put in is 2 lenses, I wouldn’t generally recommend going more than that depending on what else you’re bringing. This pack is designed for the essentials for lightweight excursions.

The side opening allows for really convenient access.

The side opening allows for really convenient access.

This bag handles the longer 70-200 lens, which is a great benefit for the avid nature and wildlife photographer.

This bag handles the longer 70-200 lens, which is a great benefit for the avid nature and wildlife photographer.

This bag has come in handy during my non outdoor travel as well. I just recently took this bag on a plane with my one year old in tow. It was the perfect thing to use as a carry-on, holding all or my necessities, including my macbook, (and camera- I’m much more comfortable keeping my equipment on me than on a carry-on. Good thing I did that, my checked bag was lost for a day and I was scared my hard drive was lost forever) and is ideal carry on size. I have used it in other situations as a travel bag and it fit the need very well. It is a great overnight bag for the travel and photography enthusiast.

 

Likes

I am cursed with a short torso, and as such fitting technical packs can be a challenge for me. I was really pleased to see that this pack fits my own back comfortably. As I have previously mentioned, this pack is comfortable. I feel that this is especially important considering that with this pack you may be carrying a big, bulky camera with a long, heavy lens. It is solid enough to handle your gear while still keeping it as light as it can.

Despite how small and lightweight the bag is I have found it quite roomy. Below is a picture of all the things I (easily) stuffed into the top-loading main compartment, including: a shelter, sleeping pad, jacket, and a stove and fuel bottle. There was enough leftover space in the pack for a compact sleeping bag, a mess kit, and enough food for a day. And, since the cushioned camera compartment is removable, you would definitely have plenty of room for an awesome overnighter.

There are some handy components for hiking on this pack. There are Trekking pole loops and space for a bladder. The front pocket is large and handy as well as the two waist strap pockets that have plenty of room for wallet and phone (or memory cards as I have already mentioned). The straps on the bottom are able to carry a sleeping bag, tent, or, in my case, a small tripod.

Switch out the tripod for a sleeping bag, add in a mess kit and some food, and you are good to go!

Switch out the tripod for a sleeping bag, add in a mess kit and some food, and you are good to go on that overnighter!

 

Dislikes

There’s a lot of benefit that comes with a pack that can do two things at once. The problem here is: it’s not the very best at either thing. There are not good spaces to hold smaller (necessary) camera gear – like additional small pockets especially for memory cards or extra batteries. I have taken to putting those things in the top “brain” pocket of the pack. There they are less likely to get bumped but still doesn’t offer any padding or organization help. The section which is intended for the hydration bladder is not ideal as well though functions just fine. I am at least somewhat nervous of a bladder leak on to my camera equipment, but the hydration pack lives in a separate pocket. Where the bladder is inserted – they could have added an extra wall of fabric and a mesh pocket, like they do with some similar bags of theirs, but they didn’t. Instead, that pocket could be used for a laptop or tablet instead of a bladder.

Best Use

The Lowepro Photo Sport Pro 30L AW is a well-sized, comfortable travel pack for your short excursions. I would take this most places I wanted to carry my pro gear for a while out and about. Given the design it is probably not ideal for secure world traveling in the cities. I might check out PacSafe’s camera bag designs if you are interested in something a little more theft secure but built well for world/urban travel.

Cost Analysis

For the price of this bag ($199 MSRP) you can get a technical pack without the camera features. This bag is not the ideal backpacking pack for most due to is padding-light, minimalist design and mostly small volume, but it does function quite well if you do it right. Lowepro’s larger, more rugged Rover Pro 45L AW does offer a bit more on the technical, overnighter pack front but for more than 50% more money ($329 MSRP). I believe the value of the Photo Sport Pro 30L AW is comparable considering it has what we outdoor enthusiast photographers need as far as protection for our gear, with the additional space, weight, and ruggedness of an outdoor pack.

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