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Review: Lowepro Flipside 15L AW

by Peter Walkowiak on 09/02/2012

I thought I swore off backpacks back in 2009 when I last visited New York City. I just simply missed too many shots and after a full day of walking there wasn’t any energy left in me to take of the bag to get a lens. A few days later I bought a sling bag for walking around, this got rid of any lazy excuse I had to change lenses and get the shot.

Backpacks for me are far more comfortable when compared to sling bags because I tend to walk around with a full bag when traveling. The way that slings are set up they don’t distribute weight evenly and over time this hurts my shoulders and back. Another downfall with backpacks is the fact that I have to set it on the ground to remove lenses. I used to have to seek out a dry clean area to do this but no longer do you with The Lowepro FlipSide, my favorite camera backpack to date.

The Flipside Feature

When I am traveling I am usually in the most beautiful places but with the most unforgiving surfaces. Even areas with a lot of sand like the beach or desert somehow gets launched by all the little flaps on the bag directly in your lens department, thats just how it works out every time. The awesome thing is that once you get over the awkwardness feature of the FlipSide bag, is the fact that you can undo the chest buckle, take the bag off of your shoulders and swing it around your waist letting the bag rest in front of you holding on by the waist buckle. It’s awkward in public, but completely 100% effective. I filled the bag with gear and tested it in a few different environments including that time when I was riding my bike. I am just trying to say that its easy and feels natural.

You do have to put a bit of trust in the construction of the bag because the waist straps are a bit smaller than you would probably like since they are holding up all of your gear around your waist when changing lenses and some of those times the bag is open. In reality just like all other things once you test it out you will feel comfortable with the FlipSide feature of the bag.

Feel

The bag is light and is meant to be that way. It’s meant to be a travel / hiking bag so it doesn’t have overly excessive pads and shoulder straps made from someones king sized comforter. It actually uses a lightweight breathable perforated material for the shoulders, it resembles a mix between neoprene and some sold of hard gel. Along the center of the back of the backpack there is also a trio of the same perforated gel padding with 2 along the top and 1 along the lower part. My first impression of the padding was that it wasn’t going to hold up to my previously mentioned backpack which is also a Lowepro. It’s honestly all about how the bag is positioned on your bag, just remember that this isn’t high school and when you want to be comfortable you have to two-strap the backpack. Jokes aside the bag felt no different compared to my older bag and it can even do that while holding more gear.

Quirks

It has a lot of room for gear on the inside of the bag but sadly on the outside it lacks quite a bit. On the outside of the bag you get 1 pocket for the optional 1 liter hydration pack and on the other side you have a place for a tripod. What are we missing? We are missing any sort of pocket for easy access for a cell phone or keys. I would like to see any sort of compartment for small devices and memory cards on the outside of the bag and for that one flaw is something that I just can’t let go of. There is a compartment for these items inside of the bag on the part of the bag that you zip away from the main compartment. The problem I have with this besides having to take the bag off my shoulders to access it is that it just doesn’t feel very protected.I am more worried about my lenses crushing that small area against my back than some kind of outside force striking a small exposed pouch on the outside of the bag. While I am talking about the internal compartment I might as well mention that there is no separators or a way to see whats in the slip. Its covered on both sides, narrow and deep so it can be a bit tough to find smaller objects. For those of you who sweat a lot when doing extraneous activities may want to take breaks and check on the items inside to make sure everything is nice and dry. As with all gear you should be comfortable with it before you give it any serious use.

My other small complaint is when the bag is in its “Flipside” mode in front of you it’s a bit difficult to zip back up if the bag is a bit too top heavy. Basically what happens is that the end of the zipper nearest to your waist bends becomes difficult to zip back up. With 2 hands straightening out the zipper path or pulling at the bottom of the bag towards you and then pulling the zipper away from you. I actually added 2 little zipper pull straps at the bottom of the bag to make this easier. This issue gets worse when you remove the internal compartment and use it just as a daypack. Removing this basically removes the frame of the bag which causes the rest of the bag to go limp. In the case that you remove the camera compartment you may just want to take it off and use it as a regular bag instead of the flipside feature. Honestly not a big deal as you will see but I decided with a great bag it deserved a mention.

The Flipside has a few other features including the AW branding which means it has a built in rain cover when needed it can wrap and conceal your bag. The insides (lens / camera pouch area) can actually be completely removed from the bag.

Conclusion

So what do we have? It seems like I let the fact that It doesn’t have a small external compartment bug me quite a bit… more than it probably should but overall its easily my favorite backpack that I have ever owned. The Lowepro Flipside 15L is extremely comfortable for hikes and bike rides and for me the straps seem to fit my shoulders perfectly. In the end I do see myself taking this bag on many future endeavors where I only need one bag. Normally when I travel I would have my old Lowepro bag on my back and 2 sling bags around each of my shoulders so in that case the flipside feature would be pointless because I couldn’t swing it around my waist without removing other bags but…… since 98% of you are not like me this one bag is going to make your gear less sandy and overall cleaner.

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