By Joan Sherwood, Senior Editor
I wanted to try the Lowepro Inverse AW because it looked like it might finally be a beltpack that didn’t fit like a heavyweight obi, taking up all the space from waist to armpits on my short torso. To my pleasure, the Inverse AW100 proved a great fit with its adjustable compression pulls on the lumbar belt. These pulls allow you to adjust the belt comfortably wherever you want it to ride on your waist, and to different body types. For some it feels more comfortable higher up, others prefer a lower fit across the hips. The lumbar belt has ample padding, and didn’t feel hot or uncomfortable even when I took it on a summer shoot in the park.
The best thing about this bag is its light weight and versatility. With an interior that’s 9.2Wx5.6Dx8.3H inches, the 100 AW model that I tried is not big enough to comfortably hold one of the larger pro DSLRs, but it could certainly handle the mid-size range, like a Nikon D300 or D700 with attached lens. But you could also use it to carry two lenses. Or a lens and a couple speedlights. Or a long lens, water bottle, rain jacket and cell phone. By keeping the design simple and functional, Lowepro has made this a great all-around pack for any excursion when you want to keep your equipment to a small load.
I also loved being able to turn it into a shoulder bag. What Lowepro calls a 360-degree swivel padded shoulder harness is just a fancy term for shoulder strap with swivel clips. Fancy or not, it works. I tucked the belt straps into the bag’s back panel, put on the shoulder strap and used the Inverse as my carry-on bag for a trip to NYC. Buckling and unbuckling the beltpack in the airport would’ve been cumbersome, but in its shoulder bag capacity it was super. I wasn’t even packing a camera. I used it to hold my mini-laptop (an EeePC), cell phone, LARA bar, water bottle, and the other few necessities I want to keep with me on a plane. It fit under the seat with plenty of room left for my feet.
I really pushed its capabilities to capacity one evening when on a spur-of-the-moment whim I stuffed it with an Olympus E-3 and Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD lens, strapped a tripod into the quick-release locking straps on the bottom, and hopped on my bicycle to go take some fireworks shots on July 4. That’s more than 9 pounds of gear, including the bag (1.74 pounds). It wasn’t the least awkward kit I’ve ever assembled, but it did exactly what I wanted it to; it got me, and all the gear I needed, closer to the fireworks in a hurry without making my back sweaty the way a backpack would have.
Quick access top lid: Just pull the nylon finger loop and the zippers quickly ease open down the sides. Loved it.
Mesh pockets: One is big enough for a water bottle, the other has about half that capacity. The thing I dislike about mesh pockets is trying to get anything that has a squared edge out of one.
Tricot lined lid with memory card pockets: Only two card pockets, but that’s plenty. If you want more, you’d probably pack them in a card wallet anyway.
Locking straps on the underside: Good for a tripod, jacket or even coat. The straps have a roomy girth capacity.
All-weather cover: Tucks into a dedicated pocket under the front of the bag, fits around the bag portion, leaving the belt free for use.
Front zippered pocket with adjustable compression straps: This zippered pocket is low-profile, deep but without much breadth, suitable for small items like a USB stick, cell phone and ID. The pocket space between this pocket and the bag’s front is big enough for bulkier items like a power cord, a small towel or extra t-shirt, or a small pop-up reflector. I used it to hold my boarding pass printout for easy access.
Colors: I love the leaf green. It’s not black, it’s not too masculine for a woman, and the color doesn’t feel trendy like the light sherbets and browns now in vogue that will look out of style in a year or two. Also available in arctic blue.
Inverse 100 AW
Interior: 9.2W x 5.6D x 8.3H in.
Exterior: 10.1W x 7.9D x 8.8H in.
Inverse 200 AW
Interior: 12W x 6D x 8.3H in.
Exterior: 12.9W x 8.6D x 8.8H in.