Lowepro’s Fastpack 250; On-The-Go Bag For Hikes, Planes, Trains, And Automobiles

Combining backpack carrying qualities and roomy storage with sling-like bag accessibility to gear, the Lowepro Fastpack 250 ($119 MSRP) adds the modern necessity of a safe and padded laptop storage area as well. Lightweight yet sturdy, the bag has ample shoulder straps and side pockets, plus a back support belt and strap for added security and comfort. Divided into two compartments, the upper has room for all sorts of items, including flapped memory card and battery compartments, chargers, wires, PDAs, and even an overnight kit, while the lower has padded, movable dividers for keeping camera, lens, and flash intact and ready to use. For added security, the lower compartment has an "overflap" with a clip belt enclosure to the base. Inside that flap is an enclosure for items you might use consistently in the field, such as a lens cloth and extra memory cards, as well as a wallet and travel papers. Exterior size is approximately 12.5x9.5x18", which makes it well within carryon limits of the most stringent airline. But the real "trick" in this bag is the zipper on that lower compartment that allows for easy access to gear without the need to remove the bag from your shoulder.

Unlike some bags, which have a compartment zipper for access to gear only from the top, the Fastpack 250's lower compartment opens on three sides via what they dub an 180° design. This means you can swing the bag off one shoulder and bring it around to the front and brace it horizontally, all while keeping the bag held on the other shoulder, then open only the side portion of the zipper to access gear. As shipped, the divider is set up so that the camera compartment sits inside that side access. You can, open the lower compartment on all three sides by undoing the zipper around the horn, so to speak, which you would do when packing or accessing other gear, such as a flash unit or lenses from the other compartments. This sounds, perhaps, more complicated than it is; in practice I quickly saw the benefit while photographing in New York, where I like to keep camera gear out of sight when not shooting but handy and accessible when a photo op presents itself. In use the bag proved to be a perfect street photography companion.

The Fastpack 250 has three cousins in the line; a smaller version, the Fastpack 100, a mid-size version, the Fastpack 200, and a larger one, the model 350, which is recommended for those with pro model D-SLRs (larger, bulkier cameras) and who have a 17" computer, not the 15" computer the Fastpack 250 is made to hold.

All told, the Fastpack 250 seems an excellent choice for travelers. Keeping gear safe yet readily accessible, with room for lots of other items in the kit that stay stowed until needed, seems to be the theme of this design.

Contact Lowepro USA, 1003 Gravenstein Highway North, Ste. 200, Sebastopol, CA 95472; (707) 827-4000; www.lowepro.com.