Lowepro FreeLine BP 350 AW
Andy Westlake puts a clever, well-made backpack to the test
THERE are so many camera bags on the market that it’s rare for a new model to stand out from the crowd. But with a clever easy-access design and rugged allweather construction, the Lowepro FreeLine BP 350 AW does exactly that.
Its most striking new feature is the QuickShelf divider system. This is based on two large, flat panels separated by three flexible ‘shelves’. The idea is that you can remove these from the bag and configure the shelves around your kit, by Velcroing them onto the back panel. When you’re happy, attach the front panel on top and slide the assembly back into your bag.
This takes a bit of experimentation, but works well. I managed to fit in a full-frame DSLR with standard zoom attached, and up to three more lenses (for example, wide and tele zooms and a macro). Your kit is then accessed through zipped openings on either side of the bag; typically the camera and one lens from one side, and the other two lenses from the other. This leaves a generous space at the top for more photo equipment, or your waterproofs and sandwiches.
A slip pocket on the back accepts a 15in laptop and a 10in tablet, although it’s a tight squeeze to get both in at the same time. Numerous internal pockets will hold such things as batteries, memory cards, pens and a notebook. This is important, as any small items dropped into the top section are liable to fall down past the divider shelves.
Materials and construction are absolutely top-notch. The bag is made of coated nylon complemented by sealed zips, so it’s highly water- resistant: I carried it through a couple of autumnal downpours with no ill effects. There’s also a separate, snug-fitting rain cover in case you get caught in a monsoon.
Both the shoulder pads and the back are well padded without being too bulky, and I found the bag to be reasonably comfortable to carry even when fully loaded. However, there’s only a very slim waist belt, meaning your shoulders take all the strain. So it’s not the best choice for carrying lots of heavy gear all day long.
The Lowepro FreeLine BP 350 AW is a superbly designed backpack full of neat design touches, and which will swallow plenty of kit while providing quick access to your camera while on the move. What’s more, it’ll shrug off the British weather with ease. It doesn’t come cheap, but this kind of quality rarely does.