When I walked into my local photo retailer to get a camera backpack, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of different backpacks available for today’s photographer. After checking out all the models I settled on one that looked like it suited all my needs, as I was planning a 70+ mile solo hike thru the trails of Death Valley. I needed three key features, durability, protection and comfort. The Pro-Trekker 300 AW from Lowepro seemed to fit all three requirements well, so I purchased it and set out to test it to the limit.
I loved the look of the backpack right on the shelf. It has a military look to it, and as a former US Army Paratrooper, it felt like a natural fit for me. The interior was large enough to carry my Nikon D3 system and my Pentax 645D System, both with 3 lenses PLUS, my laptop, 2 liters of water, first aid and survival kit, a days’ worth of food and a jacket strapped to the bottom. The pack tipped the scales at just over 43 pounds with a Camelback water bladder in the side pocket ( the pack is actually designed for this). I appreciated the water/dust resistant zippers, so when a sandstorm was blowing in I could stow away my gear safely inside.
Carrying 43 pounds on your back across the desert is a challenge, even for a paratrooper, so I took advantage of the large padded waist belt to help keep the weight off my shoulders. The shoulder pads are ample as well, with a chest strap to keep the weight of the pack from pulling your shoulders back. I wish there was padding for this, but I improvised with a piece of fabric. The buckle of the chest strap actually has an emergency whistle built in…a nice feature.
Overall, the pack performed as well as one could hope; The rugged exterior fared well against the rough rocks when I took it off and laid it on the ground to change gear. I liked that I could carry my tripod in the middle or on either side to balance the load. The “pack jack” system which allows for the height of the strap in relation to the waist band was perfect, since I am little on the tall side and most packs feel a little
“short” to me. As a bonus, the pack jack device ( which is a plastic heavy sheet that separates the velcro inside the shoulder straps) serves as a good kneeling device when shooting macro. It was nice to have something other than cacti to put my knee on when shooting very low. It’s about the size of an iPad.
I own over 20 camera bags. For hiking any distance, this is my go-to bag. It’s available in the 300-400 and 600 sizes. I chose the 300 to force myself from carrying the kitchen sink which literally would fit into the 600 size. I’d give this bag a 9 out of 10 rating. The one thing I hated was the zipper pulls, they are undersized for the waterproof zipper. It takes quite a heavy tug to pull the zippers along and the small finger loops on the zipper pulls left my fingers cut up by the end of the week. I ended up adding loops of larger rope that I could grasp with several fingers instead of just one thru the tiny loop provided.
Here’s a little video of my 79 Mile Hike across Death Valley featuring the ProTrekker 300 AW.