While I understand the utilitarian purpose of backpacks, I’ve never been a huge fan of photo backpacks for a simple reason: You have to stop and take the thing off to get the lens or gadget you want. And when you take it off of your shoulders, it has to lie it down somewhere. If you are outside, the part that will be next to your back in a few minutes is down in the dirt. Or the mud. Or the snow and slush. Or if you are really unlucky, all four! It’s even worse if you are doing industrial photography. This all makes for a fine argument for traveling very light, but unfortunately that isn’t always possible.
Lowepro’s SlingShot family of bags (three model sizes: the 100, 200 and 300) are designed to keep the gear on you and still make it accessible. How do they do it? By eliminating one strap and having the remaining strap run from the upper right to the lower left corner, the bag can rotate from your back to your chest by pulling it around your torso from underneath your left arm. You open up the main compartment via the U-shaped zipper track and pull the camera directly out. Smaller items need a little more care when removing or inserting, but it isn’t anything you won’t get the hang of in a minute or less.
Putting the SlingShot on is akin to strapping on a Gibson Les Paul guitar, but infinitely less cool. Getting it off is a bit more difficult, and if you wear glasses, 8 times out of 10 the strap will snatch them off your face. But other than that the bag works well.
The SlingShot 300 is big enough to hold a large DSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 300mm f/4 lens attached, a small flash (think Nikon SB-800 or Canon 580EX Speedlite) plus a couple of smaller lenses in the main compartment. Just inside the main compartment flap is a built-in media wallet with slots for six CF or SD memory cards. A secondary compartment can hold gloves,a scarf, and a sandwich or two, or two or three small lenses and other accessories. There is a flat zippered pocket on the bag’s back that is just big enough for a cell phone, and maybe an MP3 player, plus some business cards, and a notepad and pens. A waist belt helps stabilize and carry the load when you are in true run-and-gun mode. The pack is decently padded to protect against shock.
The SlingShot AW comes with a lightweight, permanently attached, waterproof shell tucked away in a dedicated pocket on the bottom of the pack.
In use over some long days of walking around and shooting this pack is at least as comfortable as any standard backpack I have used, and it was a lot more comfortable and manageable than any equally loaded shoulder bag I’ve tried.
Lowepro Slingshot 300 AW
Weight: 3.2 pounds
Dimensions: 13x9.1x17.3 inches (external), 11.8x6.5x11.8-inches (internal)