The Perfect Backpack For a Hiking Photographer

As nature photographers, we usually have to carry around a lot of gear with us. That gear can get pretty heavy, so it’s helpful to have a camera bag that fits all of your stuff AND is comfortable to wear. Well, a couple years ago I found what I consider the perfect backpack for a hiking photographer: the Lowepro Flipside 400AW.

Here’s a summary of what I like about the bag, and a few things I don’t like:

The Good

  • Plenty of room for an assortment of lenses (I can fit one camera body, a 300mm lens, a 70-200mm, 17-40mm, and a set of extension tubes)
  • Distributes weight extremely well with a waist belt and chest strap
  • With the waist belt on, you can easily retrieve stuff from the bag without putting it on the ground
  • You can easily attach an assortment of LowePro accessory bags to the side of the backpack, to store more lenses or water bottles
  • The dividers inside the bag can easily be rearranged to organize the bag however you’d like
  • There’s two extra straps on top of the bag that allow you to strap on a jacket or fleece or provide extra support for the tripod

Whenever I go out for a hike, I usually stay out from sunrise to sunset and hike an average of eight miles (I stop a lot for photos and reading, hehe), and this backpack has been perfect for that. It carries everything I need (including plenty of room for water), and I’ve never been sore at the end of the day.

The Bad

  • The strap for securing the tripod isn’t sewn into the bag, so it’s likely to fall off if you forget to lock the strap after removing your tripod
  • The side pockets aren’t large enough to fit a standard 32 oz Nalgene bottle, and LowePro no longer makes an accessory pouch that fits these bottles
  • The all weather cover won’t cover the tripod too (it just covers the bag itself), but you can just put a large garbage bag in one of the side pockets and use that to cover the tripod when it rains

Out of these three things, the only one that really bothers me is the first one: that the tripod strap isn’t sewn into the bag. I’m still trying to figure out why LowePro did this, because it’s really annoying to have to remember to lock in the strap after removing the tripod. I already lost the strap once when I forgot to lock it in and it fell off, but luckily I found the strap when hiking the same area a week later. Other than this one tiny flaw though, I think the bag is perfect.

Video Tour of the Backpack

To get a better idea of what this backpack looks like, and what features it has, check out this video from LowePro:

Save 35% on this backpack until January 25th!

As a special treat to readers of PhotoNaturalist, Adorama has agreed to give us a great deal on this bag: 35% off the regular price (that’s a savings of $55!). So, until January 25th, you can get a great deal on this bag by using the link below:

http://www.adorama.com/LPFL400bk.html?emailprice=t&kbid=66959

Please feel free to share this link with your friends too, but remember to tell them you got it from PhotoNaturalist :)

Note: I have an affiliate account with Adorama, so I get a small commission for each sale through the link above, but these commissions help support PhotoNaturalist and keep this site alive (and free!). I do NOT have an affiliation with LowePro, and I never do paid product reviews. I research and buy camera stuff by myself, and then write about the stuff I like here on PhotoNaturalist.

Do you have another favorite camera bag?

If you have a different camera bag that you like, please tell us about it by leaving a comment below. Thanks! :)

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.

Comments

  1. I’ve used the Lowepro Flipside 400 AW for over a year now and I must say it’s a good bag. All though for me, it have now come short and is not able to carry all my gear.

  2. I have an F-Stop backpack that I love. It is really comfy and has lots of room for both my photography and hiking gear. You do have to take the pack off to get into the camera compartment, which is accessed from the back, but unless I am hiking over sketchy ground I usually have my camera out the whole time I am hiking anyway. The F-Stop bags are not cheap, but I think they are worth it.

  3. I really like the Lowepro bags. I’ve been using the CompuTrekker and have liked it for the most part. The one feature of the Flipside 400 that I like is the ability to get to your gear without putting the pack down. I wish I had that on my CompuTrekker. This pack definitely looks more comfortable. Great review!

  4. I’ve been using the Lowepro flipside 300AW for 3 years as my light weight hiking ba, and love the way it fits my body, but have wished many times it were a wee bit large inside. The 400 has been one I’ve been wanting to look at.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmzajac2004/4895124405/in/set-72157624485855867

    I also use the Comptrekker. I like it a lot for the amount of gear it holds, but it’s a bit on the heavy side, and I don’t care too much for the tripod straps.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmzajac2004/5255868838/in/set-72157624485855867/

    For your strap issue you can quickly sew the tripod strap to the bag to secure it. I love the way the strap works on the flipside much better than the straps on the Comptrekker!

    Thanks for the discount I’m seriously thinking about upgrading to the 400AW.

  5. I have a Lowepro sling bag for short jaunts but I don’t think I’d like it for an all day hike. I always have the 500mm on the mono-pod slung over my shoulder but I wanted to carry an extra body w/ a wide angle and some accessories. I ended up getting a ThinkTank belt system. I have a holster for the d5000 that can be expanded to house the 70-300 mounted but I usually have a 10-24 on it. I got an extra pouch for my 35mm, 1.4tc, memory cards and other small misc accessories like a compass and fire (never know when I might break leg and have to overnight it). I also got the water bottle pouch. Pretty handy set up and since its on my waist, no back pain.

  6. Rob Horler says:

    I to have had this Lowpro Flipside 400 for about 2 years now and I thinks its a cracker and has always held up to whatever I throw at it. As for the tripod problem, my tripod is too large for this bag to carry anyway so its not a problem. The fact that my gear is only accessible from from the rear of the bag gives me a great deal of confidence when around the city or any high population areas. I love it !

  7. Beate Curran says:

    I’ve used a variety of Lowepro bags over the years, starting with the smaller waist packs and growing in size as the amount of my camera gear increases. For the last couple of years I’ve used the AW 300 Sling bag. I really like it but while I have enough room for all of the camera gear I tend to carry I don’t necessarily have enough room for the extras I need for a day hike like water, snacks, extra layer of clothing, etc. I’ve had a tough time finding a replacement for that bag since I will not give up the easy access to my gear. I’ve contemplated the AW Flipside 400 and may have to re-visit that option. I do wish I’d have the opportunity to check it out at a local store before buying it.
    A final note about Lowepro in general. All of my bags have been through the wringer between travel and the fact that most of my photography takes place in places without cell service. You’d never be able to tell by looking at the bags. Additionally the day I purchased the AW 300 I stupidly managed to break one of the buckles by slamming the car door on it. I called LowePro in a panic since I was scheduled to travel overseas within a few days and had purchased the bag especially for that trip. Lowepro sent me a replacement and a couple of extras, overnight and without charge.

  8. YES , THIS A NICE PACK . What I would like in a pack is room for my equipment and Rain gear . I also pack a lunch ,bug dope and water . Quit often if out in hilly country or on an early start I am over dressed and end up with no where to store my extra layers . If I store it on the outside it is almost
    guaranteed to be in the road at some point . I have found a few bags that meat all this but usually have no place for a tripod . Tripod carriers should be placed close to your back not on the front where the weight is amplified .

  9. I tend to do overnight trips, So this bag just doesn’t cut it. I need room for a compression sac with my clothes and ultralight sleeping bag as well as room for my ultralight hammock, cookware and food. I’ve been seriously considering the CLIK ELITE series of bags and although they are much better for hiking (water bladder compartment, sling access to your camera etc) they still fall short in that if they make a bigger bag they add more camera gear, not more hiking storage which is really what I need.

    If someone finds something that fits the bill please let me know!

  10. I am in the same boat as you Scott. I just did a trip using my Kelty pack and I have to just wrap my camera gear in my clothes which doesnt make it very easy to get to. Including my camera gear my pack is usually about 50+ lbs.

  11. I do architectural stained glass, and also have a kayak tours business. For nature photography, I use a Osprey Kestral 58 pack, which is fairly light but extremely comfortable (my Kelty RedCloud 5000 seems HEAVY now). I have room for the 10 essentials, down bag, short pad, Hennessy Backpacker hammock, tarp, stove, food/water, hat and jacket, etc. and still have plenty of room for a Nikon D300, 70-300 /4.5 and 18-55 mm lens, hoods, batteries, raincover, memory cards, cleaning kit, and a Vanguard 153CT carbon fiber tripod with a Beike BK-45 Gimbol head. The D300 and one lens is in a small, modified Nikon camera bag I attach to the Kestral chest straps, with the rest of the camera gear padded in the main pack. The Kestral pack has a raincover included and is hydration compatible. This stuff weighs in around 37-38 lbs (and really stands out in the city). Sometimes instead of the chest bag I bring an Overboard Camera case …it’s a very well made drybag which holds a camera and smaller lens.. I have a smaller Osprey daypack for day trips in town. I’m in SW Florida so don’t have worry about being agile on mountain trails, but the pack carries well and will carry more than I need to bring.

  12. I use the Nanue K-5 v2 80L pack. Hybrid pack that carries camera gear, tripod, sleeping bags, tents, whatever you need to make the trip. I use it because i do a lot of backcountry trips for 3 days +. I have tried all kinds of combinations of bags and backpacks and this is working the best so far. Camera bags are horrible backpacks, plus there is never any room for any thing else. Backpacks are wonderful for hiking, but hell on camera gear and usually very hard to get to your gear. The Nanue pack is filling the gap between the two very well. As far as durability we will see. I have only had it for 3 months but have really put it to the test on several occasions.

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