The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW camera bag was almost perfect for my trip to the Royal WeddingI described it in detail and took lots of pictures of it before I actually used it, and it worked for me as I anticipated it would, for the most part.

Here’s a picture.  I’m about 5’2″, just to give you some perspective.

 

This bag held everything I needed, with room to spare.  I used it both as my sole carry on on the flight to England and as my bag to carry around London.   As a carry-on, it held my camera, 3 lenses, an IPad, big headphones, travel documents, glasses, socks, a water bottle, hand sanitizer and lots of other stuff.

I loved that I could re-arrange the velcro dividers to fit the various necessities.  As a working carry on, it was a bit too large to slide easily under the seat in front of me.  But it worked.  And there was no issue whatsoever putting it in the overhead bin.  The fact that there are internal pockets that nobody could reach but me was a huge comfort for storing my passport and money.

But let’s talk about how it worked as an actual camera bag. It was big – you can see that from the picture of me wearing it above.  It stuck out from my back a good ways.

I considered the next smaller model (the Lowepro Flipside 300) and didn’t choose it because it lacked the all weather features and I anticipated using the outer pocket for my IPAD on the airplane.  I actually ended up putting the IPad inside the camera compartment.   And, in retrospect, rather than putting the “raincoat” that comes with the 400 on the backpack, I think one of those huge one size fits all ponchos that they sell in convenience stores would have been easier because it would have covered me and the bag and I could have kept my camera under it when it was in my hands.

However, we had perfect weather in London so I didn’t get to test this out.

The Flipside 300 might have been a better choice.  However, I’m not sure that the IPad would have fit for carry on purposes.  I also think, but I’m not sure, that the 300 has less padding on the back and the straps.  That padding made carrying a heavy bag easier.  The Flipside 300 weighs a pound less than the 400.

Carrying the bag around, I almost always kept the padded waist band fastened.  You can see that in the image above.  It really helped distribute the weight and pull some of it off my shoulders.  There is a smaller strap to fasten across the chest, but that one didn’t help me much so I didn’t use it.

The bag, with my gear in it, was heavy.  The bag itself weighs 3.5 pounds empty.  Add another 5 pounds of so of camera and lenses and you’ve got some weight.  I didn’t carry all the lenses every day.  But still.  And the last couple of days of the trip, I left the camera and backpack at home and focused on seeing and shopping.

One feature that makes this bag fabulous for photographers is that, with the waist strap fastened, you can slip the bag off your shoulders and twist it around to the front.  Then you can unzip it, grab your camera, and even change lenses without needing help from anyone or putting one lens down somewhere in the process.  This was huge!   But the flipside (of the Flipside), is that you have to go through that same process just to grab your camera for a quick shot.  Obviously, if you can grab it quickly, so can the pickpockets, so I was ok with not having such easy access in this situation.

So this is my summary:

  • If equipment safety is a concern, this is the style of bag that you want.
  • Start ahead of time and try out the Flipside 300 first.  If it’s too small go with the Flipside 400 AW.
  • When trying out the 300, pay attention to the padding and make sure you have enough.  When trying out the 400, consider the weight issue.
  • If you’re concerned about the weather, consider the poncho route.  You’re going to get more coverage.
  • I love that you can use the backpack as a staging ground for changing lenses without taking it off.

If you’re considering this backpack and have questions, post them below.  I’m happy to help!