© Paul Mozell
Has Lowepro successfully designed the ideal camera backpack for backcountry use? The Rover Pro 45L AW and Rover Pro 35L AW are for hiker-climber-photographers who go off the beaten path and need to protect their camera gear and carry essential gear and clothing for comfort and survival. I took the Rover Pro 45L for a field test.
My view of this new camera pack is shaped by a lifetime of experience as a dayhiker and 4-season backpacker, and as an outdoor photographer. The challenges for me are to find a way to carry and protect just the right amount of camera gear, as well as enough gear to support the hike itself. Doing most of my trekking in the mountains of New England means that I must be prepared for extremes of weather at all times of the year. An all-day summer hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, for example, might require full top and bottom rain-gear, a warm layer, first aid kit, lunch and snacks, map, headlamp, and at least 2 liters of water. I may also take a pair of trekking poles for the steeper climbs. My typical camera kit includes a tripod with ball head, one DLSR body, 2 or 3 lenses, filters, cable release, notepad and model releases, and a weather-proof hood for the camera.
At first glance the 45L AW looks like a pack you might find at REI, EMS, or LL Bean on the display rack designated: “Technical Packs.” Its features include: numerous attachment points for gear you need to access frequently; compression straps on the sides to adjust the load balance; 2 ice axe hooks; a stretchy-fabric pouch that will hold a small sweater, hat or guidebook; and a top pouch that might hold a cell phone, hat and gloves, or snacks. A gusseted side pocket holds a 2 liter water pouch, a trampoline-style mesh pad keeps the load away from your sweaty back on warm days, 2 straps on the bottom can hold a rolled sleeping pad, and 2 zippered pouches in the waist belt are great for snacks.
I was very pleased that Lowepro used a light-weight but durable rip-stock nylon for the pack material, rather than the heavier woven Cordura fabric used on most packs. All Lowepro products with the AW designation include a rain-cover tucked neatly away in the bottom of the pack, ready for nearly instant use.
As a camera-carrying pack the Rover Pro 45L AW has the first removable, modular cases that I have seen. Just zip open the front cover of the pack and you have access to two soft-shell, padded cases. They resemble lunch-boxes more than anything else. You can unzip the top covers of the cases while they stay in the pack, or quickly lift them out of the pack body using two handles. Hook-and-loop fasteners make it easy to customize the interior dividers of the containers. I was able to carry a DSLR with an attached 70-200 (lens hood reversed.) Don’t need all your photo gear on a particular outing? Just leave one of the cases at home.
At a shooting location you can set down your pack, pull out your lunch, pull out one or both of the cases, and get set to photograph from the cliff edge! Two zipped interior pockets are great for batteries and cards, but the exterior, unzipped stretchy pockets are not secure enough for my tastes. The cases move up and down freely within the pack body. When they slide to the bottom of the pack there is room enough above them for a rain jacket or a fleece jacket.
Does the Rover Pro 45L AW meet expectations as as a multipurpose, rugged, backcountry camera pack? As a camera pack, it holds just the right amount of gear for my needs, with adequate protection from rough conditions. I prefer a tripod-attachment scheme that holds a larger, heavier, tripod.
The tripod pockets on other Lowepro packs that hold the upside down tripod head with the legs sticking up above the pack are best. Heavier gauge zippers might be tougher in the long run. As much as I like the removable cases, getting to cameras and lenses is a bit of a hassle. The front panel of the main pack does not open far enough to reveal the full front of the cases, making it hard to get to all the zippers.
For its ability to carry day-hiking essentials, I vote for a larger overall size. The pack is great for a jaunt a few miles away from the trail-head, but there just isn’t enough room for all the stuff I’m accustomed to carrying in the mountains. At at height of 6 ft. I also need a pack with a longer torso length. On this model I have to push the hip belt down to keep it from riding up to my waist. With that said, Lowepro has made some great strides with this innovative model.
Street price for the smaller Rover Pro 35L AW (with one camera case) is $299.95 and the Rover Pro 45L AW sells for $329.00. For full specs and further information go to Lowepro.com