7 January 2010

Review: Lowepro Off Trail 1

When my camera kit was stolen from a plane in Amsterdam one of the items I was most annoyed to lose was my camera bag. It was a CCS bag. My kit fitted into it perfectly. So naturally it was no longer available and I couldn't replace it.

Buying camera bags is a bit like searching for the Holy Grail, and I suspect most photographers have several bags, using different ones for different purposes. A quick count tells me that I have no fewer than eight! Of that eight, one is never used (it holds my old film gear which I've used once in the last couple of years), one is rarely used (it holds everything, and I rarely need everything all at once), one was bought for a wedding (I must've had a 'funny turn' when I did that), and one was bought to replace my most used bag, but in practice it hasn't. So my most used bag is still the Lowepro Off Trail 1.

The Off Trail works really well for me. It is a 'belt pack' bag. The main compartment fits either of my Nikons (D7000/16-85 lens or D60/50mm lens) comfortably. Both cameras have Op/tech wrist straps attached. When in the bag I cover the camera's review screen with a lens cloth and lay the wrist strap on top. This seems to work as I've never had a scratch on either camera.

There are two supplied side pockets/lens cases. One usually contains my SB400 flash plus other small bits and pieces, the other my keys and phone. I usually work with one camera/one lens, so rarely carry a second lens. If I do, I juggle the stuff in the existing cases so as to accommodate it, or swap out one of the smaller cases for a slightly bigger one containing my 55-200 zoom if necessary. You can buy a number of Lowepro accessories which can be attached using their Sliplock system, or even attach smaller camera cases. I sometimes add the case containing my Coolpix compact, for example.

The belt is wide and easily adjusted, and the pack has compression straps which make it easily adjustable to suit whatever I'm wearing. I tend to end up with the main compartment on my hip, but can easily move the bag to adjust the weight. Wearing it this way means I can also wear a small backpack if I want to. Personally I prefer this arrangement than carrying one bigger backpack with 'general' gear and photo kit in it. (Edit, July 2013: this was written before I discovered the excellent Lowepro Photo Sport 200, which is now my most used bag. However, the Off Trail still gets lots of use too.)

An advantage of a small bag is that it is impossible to carry lots of clobber in it, and this means it is comfortable to wear for long walks or events as the capacity restricts the weight it carries. The top loading main compartment means it is easy to get at my camera, & I never have to put down the bag to get at my kit. If I am walking and carrying the camera, I often rest the camera holding hand on the bag, thus saving my arm the weight.

I have personalised my bag by adding a key ring loop to one of the fixed loops built in, and clipping to it a filter pouch, lens cloth and a sandisk case containing spare memory cards and the remote which operates either camera.

I would definitely recommend this bag for anyone with a small DSLR kit. It is compact, comfortable, practical, easy to use, and perfectly suited for its purpose.

Question: What's your most used camera case and why?

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