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.

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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.



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!



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.


Sealskinz Knee Length Sock Review


Like many backpackers, I had always knew of Sealskinz but never really knew about them. All I knew was: waterproof socks. I heard some mediocre reviews of how they kept feet dry during events like adventure races; More often I heard terrible reviews along the lines of “expensive, baggy garbage sacks for your feet.”

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I am here to tell you the truth, and the truth is that the bad reviews are all dead wrong.

Those people describing bad and mediocre products are probably referring to early generations of the product or cheap knock offs. These socks would probably been worth their weight in gold on expeditions 80 years ago. The new stuff is of the highest caliber: nylon outer, merino wool inner lining, and a waterproof, breathable membrane in the middle that stretches with the sock. You read that correctly: the Sealskinz socks stretch and fit as well as a good merino hiking sock.

I had the chance to test some knee-high Sealskinz socks out while hiking the Paria river, a 38-mile, 5-day trip with about 100 river crossings. I can say with the utmost confidence that they are indeed waterproof, breathable and absolutely amazing.



Waterproof. That’s the most amazing thing I can say about a knee-high sock in a calf-high river of snowmelt. The waterproofness in a river-crossing means no soggy feet, no chafing, no sand in my toes, and no cold current whisking away the warmth in my second favorite extremities. It also means that in between those desert river crossings my cold, wet shoes feel like a million-dollar A/C unit for my normally sweaty feet.

It’s hard to overstate how amazingly comfortable it is to have dry feet during river crossings; you have to try it to believe it. Even during the times the water was well above my knees and the tops of the socks the snug elastic tops kept most of the water out.

Warm. In a pretty thin sock the waterproof layer provides a great deal of comfortable warmth without being sweaty (at least while wet). On the second morning my group hiked up the famous Buckskin Gulch slot canyon where we were going upstream in 33-degree waterflow up to our calfs. After 4 minutes everyone in the group turned back because they were so cold while I was able to explore further up one of the most iconic locations in the southwest.

I wouldn’t recommend the model I was wearing for situations where you would expect sweaty feet. They do breathe, more on that below, but if the exterior isn’t wet the insides of the socks can get pretty toasty in a desert climate.

Fast Drying. Despite submerging the socks completely on thigh-high river crossings I was always  able to dry them out overnight. Even soaking the inside and outside I could simply turn the sock inside out, squeeze the water out, hang it up and have a dry (interior) sock by morning.



Breathable:” This is a minor gripe given the nature of all waterproof products but it should be mentioned. When you put the sock on it puffs out like the garbage sacks the naysayers say it is. However, give it a few seconds and the air escapes and the sock fits like any other.

Waterproof: The problems with waterproof stuff is that it works both ways. I would often have what felt like a gallon of water sloshing around in my sock. In reality it was always more like a few tablespoons since the elastic tops kept most of it out.

Expensive: The model I used, the knee-high, runs for about $58. Even considering how nice they are that is a hard investment to make for a backpacker.

Best Use:

Sealskinz makes socks in all the different heights and weights from no-show up to knee-high with all different levels of insulation, so there are a wide variety of uses. I’ve leard of runners using the no-shows to keep their feet dry when running in wet grass or muddy trails and I’ve seen other hikers in Utah use the crew socks as a warm sock with wetness-insurance when snowshoeing. The best uses are limited to your imagination.

For my specific model, the knee-high, I would recommend them for cases where either a lot of water will be around, as with the trip I took, or where you can’t afford to be wet, as with skiing. Really, they’re like any other nice merino sock but with a waterproof layer.

Cost analysis:

Sealskinz are completely worth it to keep your feet intact. As a long-distance backpacker, I can’t over-protect my feet from injury or blisters and a pair of waterproof socks is a great tool to do that. I think if you’re considering buying them you should go for it – you won’t regret it.


Patagonia Prow Jacket


This is not your typical down jacket; the Patagonia Prow has spunk. The Prow is stylish, but this chic number hasn’t compromised style for warmth. With V-shaped stitching, insulated with 600-fill down it will keep you warm over the next winter seasons. This jacket has a metal side zipper with a full 4’’ of overlay to make it look even when opened.

Cinimin wearing the Patagonia Prowler

Cinimin wearing the Patagonia Prowler

When fully zipped and buttoned up this jacket has a great thick two-button neck that will sure keep you cozy. This is an awesome article of clothing that has the quality of Patagonia gear. When making a purchase I try to buy sustainably so owning something made by Patagonia is a no brainer. I appreciate the quality and effort that Patagonia has, ethically harvesting their down and reducing the use of natural resources (REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE!). If this is also a personal priority of yours, this may be the jacket for you!


  • Shell: 100% nylon plain weave shell with a Deluge® DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Insulation: 600-fill-power premium European ethically harvested goose down
  • Motorcycle-style jacket with chevron quilt lines and asymmetrical zipper
  • Versatile, tall, snapped collar stands up or lies flat
  • Zippered side pockets
  • Hip length
  • 371 g (13.1 oz)
  • Made in China
  • Comes in colors:  Black, Raw Linen, Teal, Fatigue Green, and Dark Currant
  • Offered in sleeveless vest version.

I was immediately drawn to this unique jacket at the Patagonia outlet and have loved wearing it in this chilly fall weather. I have hardly taken it off and love cruising along the streets and backwoods in it. It’s been to Moab, Capitol Reef, and plenty of times up Provo canyon on outdoor excursions. I can speak first hand that the DWR on this jacket works; I was caught in the snow for an hour and stayed perfectly dry and the jacket looked great except a small seepage appearing at a seam. Although I’ve taken this jacket on a few trips to the backcountry (and it’s fared wonderfully!) I feel more likely to flash this beaute on the back of a motorcycle or around the city. I love this jacket because it’s warm, stylish and has the high quality of Patagonia gear.

There are a few features that I think I need to mention. This jacket is lacking a hood so I would recommend bringing along a nice warm hat on any outing. The sleeves are missing elastic at the wrists which you may or may not have a preference for; personally I don’t mind it at all, but you do have a higher potential for heat loss this way. Although it’s lacking this trait, I found that the arms are a comfortable length keeping heat in and it’s great for slipping on a pair of mittens underneath.


Pros: Cozy hand warmer pockets. I’m so used to the slick insides of my previous down jackets that finding the soft pocket of the Prow was an extreme delight! Stylish, warm, comfortable and durable! Made with ethically harvested down and a layer of DWR to keep you dry in light rain or snow.

Cons: No hood. This can be seen as a pro or a con, I suppose it’s just preference or whether you’re looking to add a wool hat or depend solely on your puffy. No elastic around the wrists or waist. Purchase this jacket right from Patagonia, Rockcreek, Backcountry, REI

Overall, I love this jacket; it’s great! I don’t know if this is the article of clothing that I want to take into the backcountry but I love using it for cruising around town.


Camelbak Forge Premium Travel Mug 16 OZ

A few months ago I got this cool new mug from Camelbak. I had been looking for a nice insulated travel mug to bring with me to school or work. This thing did just the trick. In this post I’ll go over the features of the mug and my experience with it.

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Here is a quick video from Camelbak that goes over the Forge.


  • One-handed self-sealing lever
  • Leak-proof closur
  • Lock-open button for frequent sipping
  • Arms flip up for easy cleaning
  • Vacuum insulation stays hot 4+ hours
  • Impact cap
  • CamelBak® Got Your Bak™ Guarantee: If we built it, we’ll Bak it™ with our lifetime guarantee.


I have been using this mug for a couple months now and I really like it. There are a few main features, which has made this my favorite mug, the one-handed self-sealing lever, easy to clean, the auto lock feature, and the vacuum insulation.

The one-handed self-sealing lever is one of these mugs greatest features. It just allows the mug to be carried with such ease. I can just carry the mug in one finger or have it hanging by a carabineer or something attached to your back. You don’t have to worry about it leaking either; it has a really nice leak proof seal.

The mug is super easy to clean. When you take the top off and press the button the arm flips up and you can easily access every thing you want to clean. You can also just throw the lid in the dishwasher. It’s recommended that you hand wash the main part.

I don’t know about you, but I am a clumsy person always knocking my stuff all over the place so having an auto-locking lid is really nice to stop spills. If you want to vent your beverage it has a lock open feature too.

The Vacuum insulation is really nice. Camelbak says it will keep your beverages hot for up to four hours. I usually have my first mug of coffee or tea gone within an hour but with the travel time to school or work it has always been kept really hot and while drinking it has stayed hot.

Overall I would really recommend this mug to anyone that is looking for a new travel mug, it’s a great color the green one, keeps your beverages really hot, and its just easy to take care off.

Purchase at REI, Backcountry, or Campsaver  (Least Expensive at the time this was written)


Patagoina Ultralight Down Hoody First Impressions

I have been wanting to test out a down jacket for a while now, and got this awesome one from Patagonia. Here is a video on my experience with the jacket.


There are three main things I really like about this jacket, the weight/size , comfortably, and the DWR coating. I’ll go over these after I go over all the features.


  • The toughest, lightest-weight shell fabric patagonia has ever used for down garments; with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • 800-fill-power premium European goose down for low-bulk warmth
  • Variegated channel construction stabilizes insulation and allows the use of less down, creating an elegant, low-profile garment
  • Low-profile adjustable hood seals in warmth
  • Two zippered handwarmer pockets; one zippered chest pocket
  • Drawcord hem seals out cold and spindrift; self-fabric stuffsack
  • Insulated with Traceable Down (non-live-plucked, non-force-fed)
  • Shell and lining: 0.8-oz 10-denier 100% nylon ripstop, with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Insulation: 800-fill-power premium European goose down
  • 263 g (9.3 oz)

Lets talk about the weight first. This jacket is CRAZY LIGHTWEIGHT. It comes in at 9.3 oz. They accomplish this a couple of ways, with the super light weight shell and fabric liner, the high quality 800 fill down, and the channel design allows for less use of down but doesn’t sacrifice warmth.  The design of the jacket allows it to be compressed and packed in to a super small space.

This jacket is one of the most comfortable jackets I have worn.  Because it is crazy lightweight you don’t even remember you are wearing anything.  It breathes really easy.  It is also super soft too. I have been wearing like almost full time since i got it. I wear all around town and in the field.

The DWR coating on this jacket is great. Last week I was geocaching in light rain and wind, this jacket preformed super great.  The down didn’t get wet and I was warm. I was hiking around in the wind a light breeze the other day also and it blocked it. Paired with a shell like the Patagonia Piolet this will block out all the wind and snow you want.

I will test this jacket after more use and do a more in-depth review after a while.

Purchase this jacket right from Patagonia 

Techni Ice ice pack

Techni Ice ice pack


Techni Ice ice pack

Techni Ice pack for keeping your food and drinks cold, or used as a heat pack in emergency time


I went camping this weekend for the  first time this summer, and had the chance to check out some cool new gear I picked up over the winter and have been waiting like crazy to use.  Everything from the Goal Zero Speakers to the North Face Summit Series jacket that kept me warm at 33 degrees the first night and the wind and sun off my arms while I was cutthroat fishing.  I had a wonderful time with family and my dogs in the Western Wasatch mountains, and got to evaluate some good gear.  One of the most impressive of these was the Techni Ice ice pack!

Okay so there is no actual ice in this ice pack, its a sheet of Polymer, wrapped in a super secret Textile, then covered in Plastic to seal the deal.  When I first opened the package I was sceptical about the flat, paper sized sheet, but when I soaked the sheets and wrang them out a bit it started to make more sense.   They filled up and I froze them for about 10 hours before we left ( you’re supposed to give it 24 hours for a proper charge.)  I used 3 sheets for a full size cooler and it kept all of its contents totally chilled for 3 days with them still being solid when I got home.  I can only imagine if I used it with a full charge and another sheet or two.

I got these while talking to a gentleman at an outdoor show and in true Aussie style he challenged me to find a better way to keep my food and brew cold while also not having to worry about bulky ice cubes that melt.  You can cut the sheets up and use them in smaller coolers and even in lunch size snack boxes, and use them over and over and over again these things rock!!!

Pros: Stays frozen for days, Flexible when frozen, Does not melt, can be cut to size, Re-Usable for years, can keep fish and game cool if you’re in the field, can be used as a heat pack to treat swelling or keep food and drink warm, can be used as cold pack as well. They really nailed it with this pack, the mess is less and that works for me!!!

Cons: Can’t find any yet, i’ll update this if I do but this is a solid product and I look forward to seeing what the Life Saving Coolers and other products can do.




The North Face Verto Micro Hoodie

The North Face Verto Micro-Hoodie

New North Face Micro HoodieHere we have the new, lightweight windbreaker by North Face.  I got this jacket last month and figured I would give it a good go before I made my decision and reviewed it, so here it is.  I got pretty excited about it after trying it on my first time. It was very well fitted around my waist and cuffs, and I liked how the hoodie covered more than just my forehead.  I was going camping so I set it aside and moved on, until the Mighty May Utah Snowstorm of 2014.  I pulled it out on my way to work one day when it was raining and found how useful this jacket really is, the 800 fill goose down insulation kept my core happy and the Flashdry technology and my body dry.  So far so good

  • The body of the hoodie contains 800-fill-power goose down that is extremely warm while remaining highly compressible
  • Pertex® Quantum® GL body fabric is incredibly soft, windproof and boasts incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio, completely protecting your core
  • Interior material features stretch nylon with FlashDry™ for superior moisture management so you stay dry and comfortable from the inside out
  • Close-fitting hood fits snugly and goes easily under helmets; extra insulation makes the difference between being chilled and conquering the cold
  • 2 zippered front pockets sit high on torso for pack and harness compatibility
  • The North Face Verto Micro Hoodie packs into its own pocket for easy stowage
  • The North Face Summit Series™ apparel is designed and tested for use in harsh environments