This tough-feeling backpack reminds me of the PeakDesign Everyday BackPack 20L. Both have side openings for the main compartment with padded dividers for your camera gear, for example. And they have a fairly roomy section at the top to hold stuff like your purse or life’s essentials. In addition, there’s a small pocket at the top front, that’s the ideal size to hold your passport and business cards.
Although the main compartment of the Lowepro FreeLine 350 AW Backpack looks quite narrow, it has enough space to accommodate a large DSLR like the Canon 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached plus a couple of additional lenses. Its padded dividers can also be removed if you want to transform it from a camera bag to a regular one.
At the base of the main compartment is a removable rectangular zip-closing pouch or container. This is really useful for holding items like batteries, chargers and cables. However, you may have to remove it if you want to carry two large extra lenses with your camera.
Lowepro also provides a couple of extra dividers that fold and can divide the main compartment further. A neat design trick means these dividers can be folded in half to make them easier to install and remove.
At the back of the bag, there’s laptop section that’s big enough to hold a 15-inch laptop.
If you rummage around the bag you’ll find a few extra small pockets. There are zip closing pockets and hidey-holes inside both of the side openings, for example. And inside the upper compartment, there’s a weather-resistant zip-up pocket that’s a safer place to stash your passport than the outside pocket I mentioned earlier.
The nylon fabric used to construct the FreeLine BP 350 AW Backpack has a carbonate coating. This makes it more durable and better at shedding moisture than it would otherwise be. In addition, the zips are weather-resistant. However, a rain cover is supplied in a small pouch to ensure that your kit is kept dry in heavy rain.
On either side of the pack, there are straps and bellows pockets. The pockets are perfect for carrying a bottle of water or supporting a tripod that’s held by the strap. I found one of them useful for stashing a brolly.
There’s also a trolly sleeve on the back section that’s handy if you have wheeled luggage. And the phone pocket on the left strap is a nice touch.
I’ve used the FreeLine BP 350 AW Backpack for a number of different events. Trips into London, for example, when I need a laptop for a meeting, plus a camera and a lens or two for a few shots afterwards. I’ve also used it on walks and dedicated photo trips in the countryside.
Even when fully-laden, it’s comfortable to carry. The straps are quite wide, well shaped and sufficiently padded. With heavier loads, I prefer to have the chest strap done up. This has a flat metal hook type fastening and it’s very easy to use.
I prefer to swing the backpack around my right shoulder when I go to open the main compartment. It’s useful to know your shoulder preference because then you can arrange the dividers appropriately. You may want them to fit around the camera, for example, and this can make it easier to remove it from one side than the other.
The top compartment opens a bit like a clamshell with a zip. It’s not the most convenient opening mechanism if you have a lot of things inside as it can be hard to find what you’re looking for. However, it’s pretty spacious.
The Lowepro FreeLine 350 AW Backpack looks smart enough for business use yet has tough fabric and weatherproofing for more rugged terrain. There are plenty of dividers which can be configured in a variety of ways to organise your kit. The inclusion of the removable containers is a bonus that especially useful if you have a selection of cables and batteries. It stops them roaming around the bag or unravelling.
It’s a high-quality bag that allows you to make good use of its capacity. I like the fact that it doesn’t seem bulky yet can carry quite a lot of kit. Lowepro has also made it versatile by allowing the dividers to be removed quickly and easily.