Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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If you hit the trails or waterways year-round and regardless of the wet factor, you’re either a Scot, someone who married a Scot or a fearless outdoors lover. I’m guessing most of us fall into that third category, however much we love Sean Connery or Highlander. Now your camera and your lenses, on the other hand, might be slightly less weatherproof and I’m not even talking about your wallet, your maps or your favorite guidebook, all of which will act as perfect sponges when big waves or dark skies come down in fury. So the big question is – what’s the best way to keep everything dry and still go out? As my girls would say, LowePro to the rescue!
Before the LowePro DryZone technology, there was MacGyver. Back in the day, I used trash bags to line the inside of my backpack and keep my stuff dry. Overall it worked but my backpack was soaking wet and dripped all over my ride on the way home and after a while, the bags would get punctures. Then I upgraded to GoreTex backpack covers that worked more or less as there were always weak spots around the top and bottom of the pack during heavy rains. They were also tricky to secure and prompt at flying away with the wind. The beauty of the LowePro DryZone Backpack 40L is it’s completely weatherproof. I can take it on rainy hikes or splashy kayak runs and know that everything I stuff in it will come out completely dry.
Of course, outdoors photographers are going to love this but I’d say that this backpack is a good technical bag for anybody for enjoys the great outdoors, rain or shine. When I received this new bag, I observed it in my living room. It looked like a giant dry bag, these technical bags whitewater rafters use to keep stuff dry in the backcountry. It featured a wide-mouth opening to reach gear easily, a roll-top closure with sturdy buckles on both sides and was made out of waterproof material. To store cameras and lenses securely, it included a removable and fully-padded camera case with adjustable dividers. On the outside, the bag was way more than a dry bag. Decked out like a regular backpack, it featured padded shoulder straps, waist and chest buckles and a riot of loops and lash points to attach extra-gear outside. Nifty! I couldn’t wait to take it out.
Last weekend I went on a mountain trip and the weather forecast looked perfect for a field test – rain and storms both Saturday and Sunday. Now I don’t own a big fancy camera with lenses, I have a compact camera that fits in my hiking pants’ pockets. So I removed the camera insert – might use it for my husband’s camera some day – and stuffed the backpack with my valuables, a towel to dry up, a waterproof jacket and knick-knacks.
I rolled the top three times and secured it by clipping the buckles on top of the bag. What a twit! You should do it on the sides, not on top. My husband quickly noticed I was very confused about this new waterproof system and adjusted the closure, showing me how the buckles clip on the sides. The bag looked like an inflatable yellow ball and a big one at that. I then pressed on the bag to get some of the air out and tightened the straps to fully compress it. It still looked big and yellow but an acceptable big and yellow.
Off we went. The mountain featured an initial steep trail followed by a real scramble up boulders to reach the top. I had the bag in my back at all times and had to squeeze through gaps, push my way up gullies or slide down drops to make my way. Even with all this ill treatment, the bag looked perfectly fine and didn’t have a scratch. A sturdy bag is a good bag in my book.
Now, the ease of use. My husband didn’t like that he had to unclip the sides before unrolling the top and reach at the bottom of the bag to find whatever he needed. I didn’t mind. I guess if you’re in a hurry, this bag wouldn’t be very convenient or you’d need some extra hands because you need to have the bag in front of you to open and close it. There’s no way you could reach for an item inside with the bag on your shoulders. However once you get the hang of rolling the top and pushing the air out before clipping the sides, you can do it in less than 30 seconds.
As far as comfort, I have to give a thumbs up to this bag. I carried it all day over a 7-mile route with lots of ups and downs and at no point did I notice it was uncomfortable. I was surprised actually because this bag includes no hard frame in the back, meaning it rests on your back as is. It’s possible that it would be awkward with a heavy load and stuffed with items having odd shapes that could protrude in the back but for me, it was just fine.
The yellow! You’ll notice on photos, the bag is very yellow. Outdoors fashionistas can complain all they want but I’m happy that way. I’m all for visibility in the outdoors as visibility usually means safety. Go yellow!
Now the only aspect I haven’t been able to test yet was the weatherproof factor. I’m not going to be sad about it but there were no storms and no rain that day. The following day we did get a few drops of rain but not enough to really tell how the bag behaves in wet conditions. Fear not, I have a kayaking trip planned soon. I think I’m going to find out and when I do, I’ll let you know!
Photos – click on thumbnails to enlarge
Disclaimer: LowePro sent me a comp backpack in exchange for a review but this review reflects my honest opinion.