Traveling With A SlingShot; A New Take On A Popular Style Page 2

As well as the main compartment, with the usual adjustable padded dividers, the bags also have two accessory compartments: one at the top of the bag, and one on the front (or back--the opposite side from your back, obviously). The top compartment is a triangular space with a mesh pocket, perfect for battery charger, battery, and electric string--or film, cable releases, and spirit level. The one on the front has multiple flat pockets, one of which is big enough to hold passports. Clever gusseting allows an apparently flat compartment to expand to hold a surprising amount: eight rolls of 35mm film even in the smaller 100 AW. The storage for media cards is inside the flap of the main compartment. I use this one for my filters.

There are four small attachment loops on the outside, one on the side opposite the main zip, one on the top pocket, one on the back, and one on the strap. These accept "SlipLock" accessory pouches (available from Lowepro) but I used the one on the side as a tripod loop: it was just big enough for my Velbon Maxi 343i.

Sling bags are not meant for serious trekking over long distances: they have no lumbar support for a start. But I can assure you that you can walk for many miles with a fully loaded SlingShot and still stand up straight the next morning. How does two hours scrambling up a rocky footpath to the Great Wall of China sound? Then two hours of shooting and the walk back... The bag still looked like new but I had worn a hole in the sole of one boot, which gives you an idea of the conditions. (Some of the pictures from that morning (and others from China) are on www.rogerandfrances.com: click onto "Gallery" and "China mono.")

As I can no longer carry a conventional backpack because of surgical scar tissue under my right arm, I am very glad to have the sling option, but quite honestly, I like sling/bandoleer/dispatch rider bags better than any backpack that I tried even when I could use them. What is more, sling designs have come a long way since they were first introduced.

In 2001, I reviewed one of Lowepro's first sling bags, the Linx. It worked very well, but there was no sternum strap and it didn't stay where it belonged. If I bent to pick something up it would swing around to the front. It was also much harder to see what you had in the bag, and to get what you needed, quickly and securely. It was good, and I used it hard, but this is a lot better: you can really see that Lowepro has put a lot of thought into this design.

It's still not absolutely perfect. I don't think it's possible to put lumbar support into a sling bag, so that's a pipe dream. Two improvements I'd like to see are a flat, perhaps mesh, pocket on the inside of the main compartment for passports and travel documents, and the mesh pocket inside the top compartment made bigger and baggier with a zip along the top to stop things from falling out. Come to think of it, a "secret pocket" inside the rain-hat pocket might be even better for passports and money, but that might add more to the cost than is warranted by the benefit.

That's not bad, though: two, maybe three, small changes. The more I use these bags, the more impressed I am, and that's rare: normally, an extended test starts to reveal hidden flaws or at least shortcomings. The SlingShots have become my current standard bags, and unless Lowepro does something even cleverer, they will probably stay that way until they wear out. Given that I can't see any wear at all yet, and given that there's a limited lifetime guarantee (the limits are the usual reasonable exclusions of accidental damage, misuse, mishandling, or alteration), this could be a long time.

The Lowepro SlingShot 100 AW lists for $79.99; the 200 AW for $99.99. For more information, contact Lowepro USA, 1003 Gravenstein Highway North, Ste. 200, Sebastopol, CA 95472; (707) 827-4000; www.lowepro.com.

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