Search This Blog

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hands-On with the Lowpro Photo Sport 200 AW, Part One

The Lowpro Photo Sport 200 AW has been around for a little while and demonstrated online in various active uses. The features of this line are many and demonstrated widely. There is no question that it is a  fantastic, feature-packed, well-built bag designed for the active shooter. What has not been widely addressed, however, is the cross-gender applicability. Men are not the only ones who mountain bike, trail run, ski, snowboard, hike, and rock climb. And shoot while doing them. Women do as well.
Men and women may be equal in many things but lets face it. We are built differently. When a camera bag is required to achieve a particular "fit" for maximum effectivenes, it is best to take these, um, differences in mind.

When initially trying on this backpack, it was quickly apparent that it may not have been thoroughly tested on women. At least not smaller women. The sternun strap that connects the two shoulder straps is woefully (and embarassingly) misplaced. It needs to be higher or lower. The height of it is adjustable somewhat but if it is moved down to a (ahem) more comfortable level, the strap is just a tad to short to be easily buckled except on the skinniest of users. And I am not a large person trying to do this. If the strap is adjusted to the maximum upper position, it was also at its maximum (ahem) "discomfort" position.

This problem could have been completely avoided if they had either A) made the strap holding the buckle just a little longer, or B) made the slider bands on the shoulder straps extend just a little higher.

Looking at the curvature of the shoulder straps for a moment, would it have been possible to have extended this up more? Most likely. There appears to be enough room to take that strap up at least another inch, maybe even up to 1.5 inches before getting too close to the edge of the shoulder strap. 
Or, since the sternum strap isn't long enough for the lower portions of the adjustment slider anyway, just shift the entire thing upwards. Buckling it lower, while better than nothing, is not going to give the bag the security against the wearer's back as will buckling higher. With shoulders that are thicker front to back, the top of the sternum strap falls in a more comfortable and effective spot. With smaller female shoulders, this may not happen.

So this leaves the option of not bucking the cross-sternum support strap. For many applications that may be fine. But for situations involving lots of jostling, it's not a very good one. Buckling that cross strap increases the security (minimizing the likelihood of the shoulder straps slipping off) and reduces the bouncing of the during impact types of activity.

According to the literature the camera portion holds a DSLR with lens, and a flash. For my personal use I prefer to take 2nd lens so I'll have a long lens and a short lens. This combination seems to work in the space provided (individual milage may vary). If I would still like to bring a flash along I can put the flash in it's protective pouch and carry it in the internal zippered compartment just fine.

The compartment is only wide enough to hold a camera. An attached grip will not fit. There are really no organizational pocket anywhere for camera accessories so it might be beneficial to have some sort of organizer or pouch to hold any additional needed items securly to place into one of the bag's other compartments. There are zipper pocket on each half of the wide portion of the hip belt where smaller items such as memory card can be conveniently held.

Now on to the field testing. One of the uses mentioned on the website literature for this backpack is trail running. As a runner, trails my preferred terrain. Trail running is not like running on a road. Trails curve and wind, go up and down, and balance is very important. As is upper body flexibility. If something is going to be carried on the body while running trails it needs to be stable. With the Photo Sport 200 AW I just could not get a good enough fit to run comfortably. Even with everything cinched up tightly, there was still movement of the pack.

With something this large, any bit of movement is going to throw the balance off and affect the ability to run distances. When cinched tightly, the pack rode high, with the hip belt on the waist, and the stiff back of the pack was literally pushing into the back of my head, causing difficulty in manuvering the various turns and ups and downs of single track trails. If the pack was lowered so the hip belt was at hip level, and the top of the pack at, oh, mid-neck level, it was much too loose and would bounce all over the place while running. If the sternum strap was lowered, there was too much movement in the upper portion of the pack. If they sternum strap was raised up, there was too much movement in the mid-section of the back (in addition to the other, ahem, discomfort issues).

I found myself wishing for one more strap to wrap around my torso to hold it still. I think a contributing factor to the problem is that the pack is just too tall for my size, and too stiff for running for a body with, um, curves. While the stiff backing material is great for support under low to no impact situation, it was an impediment to a secure stable fit necessary for high impact activity.

In the end, I found it impossible to run with it for an extended period of time. The constant bouncing and shifting of the weight up and down, side to side, made it entirely too difficult to maintain any kind of pace. However. Hiking, in a non-running manner is a different story. This pack is absolutely fantastic for hiking where having it secured in a motionless manner to one's body is not quite as essential. For walking on varied terrain it was comfortable, cool, supportive and I was confident my gear was being securely carried.

Interestingly, I wore the pack, with the same load, while running on a treadmill. It was much much easier to run at a steady pace and I experienced less movement of the load. The shape and strap configuration just did not lend itself well to running on the variation of terrain experienced on single track trails. 

For the next installment, the Lowpro Photo Sport 200 AW will go downhill skiing. I am anticipating a better fit with the placement of a jacket between myself and the pack.

No comments:

Amazon Deals

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...