The Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II backpack is back, redesigned for better access and protection. It’s a top of the range backpack, made for daily use and to take the knocks and punishment of anything from a regular shoot to days in the wilderness. A few hundred dollars for a backpack may seem expensive, but it also means you can insist on everything being top-notch and fully featured. Not just a great way to carry all your gear, this backpack is comfortable, waterproof, and promises to protect your gear- no matter what.
The ProTactic backpack comes in two sizes, the 450AW, and the 350AW. The 350AW II is one reviewed here.
Initially, the 350AW looks quite plain from the outside, but all of those stripey bits are cleverly stitched bands for attaching as much as you want to the exterior of the backpack. Even if you run out of ideas of what to hang off the backpack, Lowepro has loads of SlipLock modular accessories such as bottle, phone and lens pouches, which you could buy as extras.
There are four basic access points into the backpack: from the top, sides, and rear. Which of these is most convenient depends on how much access you want to each part of the backpack and how quickly.
The whole backpack is named ‘AW’ for All Weather and it’s clear from the start that the Lowepro is made to take some punishment. The Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II is able to carry a substantial amount of camera gear, being able to fit two DSLR cameras, a few lenses, a flash, a 13-inch laptop, small accessories and whatever you can attach to the outside.
All of the compartments have sturdy two way zips with easy grab cords. The side openings allow access to the body, while the molded top opens with enough access room to pull out a camera, with a zip compartment and media pocket for small things like memory cards and cords.
Once inside the main body opening there is a dedicated laptop slot, with three see-through, zipped sleeves. Quite a handy idea to check at a moments notice where accessories are stored. Lowepro’s CradleFit laptop pocket sits nicely in the opening flap, providing easy access to a laptop. This feels like less protection than backpacks designed with the laptop sleeve against the wearer’s back as it may sometimes accidentally flop open and is always exposed when the main area is open.
There are a number of Velcro dividers in the main area, making it easy to section it off however you like. There are zipped compartments on each side of the backpack, allowing access to your kit without taking off the backpack. In reality, this just means that there are extra pockets to store stuff.
The backpack itself seems sturdy enough to take the odd rain shower, but for extra peace of mind, there is a built-in All Weather Cover which acts as a waterproof bag around the whole backpack. This works great if you’re in rainy conditions all day, and it also fits through the shoulder and waist straps.
For a simple configurable storage backpack, you have plenty of options and enough space for plenty of camera gear and accessories for a few days shoot. All well and good, but a quality camera backpack should also have the comfort quality of a top rucksack.
Lowepro has added their ActivZone System which offers padded support over the shoulders and waist. The shoulder straps are well padded and have a breathable mesh. There is a lumbar pad and waistband which also has zipped pockets for small accessories. The waistband itself has a strong buckle and is wide enough to fit most waist sizes, along with being removable or tucked away if not needed. The chest strap is thinner and attaches to the shoulder straps with sliding clamps. Lastly, there’s a handy rubber grip on the top of the backpack for easy carrying.
The addition of a waistband and chest strap is necessary on a backpack, especially when lugging around heavy camera gear. The waistband helps spread out the weight of a heavy load from your shoulders to your hips. The chest strap helps out a little but is more for securing the shoulder straps in place. The shoulder straps are thick and may be too wide for people with small frames.
In the main compartment of the Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II, it was quite easy to pack two full-size DSLRs, one with a 24-70mm lens and the other with a prime lens, and still have room for three additional medium-sized zooms. I found space in the main flap zipped pockets for a flashgun, but that is squeezing things in. A 13-inch laptop easily fits into its designated slot, with enough room for power cables and a small mouse. There are plenty of dividers that come with the backpack, so it’s easy to section off the main area as you like. Some of the additional dividers can be used as extra padding. As they are all Velcro’ed they stick together, nice and easy.
The extra attachment points on the outside of the backpack are great for adding the likes of a tripod, held in place with a tripod cup and a cinch strap or two. The side zipped compartments make it easy to access the main area of the backpack. Not as easy as a sling bag, but definitely more convenient than other brands.
How Does the Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II Backpack Compare?
Once you start spending a few hundred dollars on a camera backpack, it should have all the top line features. The Gitzo Adventury 30L cost a bit more than the Lowepro and looks and feels more like a traditional rucksack. This is big enough to fit in a good-sized drone, is fully featured, weatherproof, and would work better if you want something that is more like a long stay rucksack than a camera backpack.
|Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II||Gitzo Adventury 30L|
Considering how tough and well made the 350 AW II is, along with loads of zipped pockets, accessible areas, and space, it’s well worth the money. The addition of the waistband is a massive benefit making the whole backpack very comfy to wear. There are cheaper backpacks on the market, but when it comes to transporting precious camera gear, you simply cannot skimp on your carry arrangements or protection. The Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II backpack is definitely worth buying.