Hiking: LowePro CompuTrekker Plus AW
This is my main camera pack and is always used when I'm in Finland travelling or hiking. It's excellent to carry even extended periods due to waistbelt, which transfers some of the weight from shoulders to waist.
Backpack can easily fit equipment "too much equipment" for carrying all day in forest. My typical set of gear is something like this: Camera, 200mm, 135mm, 100mm, 85mm, 50mm, 17-40mm, flash or two, Lexar mediawallet, 3-4 polarizers, flash accessories and non-photo stuff as well: extra pair of socks, something to eat etc.
Also worth mentioning is that backpack is deep enough to store even 135/2 (without hood) and 17-40 (with hood) lens facing up. Also 1D series body (or consumer SLR with battery pack) will fit well into the pack.
The backpack is too big for flying, it might fit flying regulations on size but European flight companies quite often ask you to put your hand luggage to scale as well and 8kg limit is almost impossible to reach with CompuTrekker Plus AW. It seems that the flight companies have tendency to ask bigger looking packs put to the scale, so I'm not using this backpack for travelling. On USA the hand luggage regulations are not so strict and in USA it would be no problem to carry CompuTrekker as hand luggage.
- can fit a lot of equipment and travel gear
- very good to carry due to excellent waistbelt distributing the weight from shoulders to waist
- is very flexible - the dividers can be arranged almost freely
- is deep enough - lenses under 150mm can be stored vertically (vertical = lens surface facing up when pack is on table and the part which is agains user's back is now agains the table)
- tripod holder can hold even heavy and long tripod
- in case it rains the AW (All Weather) cover is very handy and keeps the backpack dry
- big size: problematic for flying
- big size: when photographing in museums etc. you constantly hit to other people with the backpack
Business travel: LowePro CompuDaypack
Due to my job I travel over 200 days / year but I still try to take some photos as well. Also I usually travel with two laptops: one for the job and my personal macBook. Below is real case how I used CompuDayback when travelling to Pennsylvania and South Carolina for 48 day work session. This is not a test "how much you can fit to the pack" - I travel constantly with this amount of gear with me.
Equipment in camera department:
Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/2.0
Leica Elmarit-R 90mm f/2.8
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro (hood on checked luggage)
Canon EF 135mm f/2.0 (hood on checked luggage)
55mm, 58mm and 72mm polarizator filters
USB card reader
Nokia phone charger
Equipment on computer department:
Apple macBook 13.3" laptop
IBM X-41 12" laptop
Apple macBook battery charger/AC-adapter
Stuff on daypack department:
IBM X-41 laptop extra battery
IBM laptop battery charger/AC-adapter
120GB external USB drive + USB cable
60GB external USB drive + USB cable
Bose Around-Ear headphones
600 page paperback book
Nokia handsfree and Nokia audioconnector
Lexar Mediawallet (8 CF cards)
2 pens, 2 USB stick, VPN-token, business cards
2 Canon BP-511 (20D battery)
Olympus voice recorder
Backpack was quite heavy (measured 12.2 kg) with above mentioned equipment inside, but wasn't too heavy to carry for short distances, but if carried for a long time then shoulders start to hurt. Proper wais belt to distribute the weight from shoulders would be beneficial. The size was clearly within the limits of flying regulations.
While travelling Helsinki security wanted me to take everything off from the backpack and scan separetly. To me this is strange since I have been constantly travelling with similar photogear for a ten months and other airports never have asked anything. On this trip on other airports I didn't have to do anything else than just take out the laptops from the bag. Maybe travelling photographers are more common in bigger airports.
Update 2007-04-15: While travelling second time from Helsinki security went OK, this time I had different equipment:
(on photo department) Canon 20D, 100/2.8, 430EX, 2 USB 120GB harddrives, off-camera shoe cord 2, remote switch RS-80N3
(on daypack department) 200/2.8, 50/1.4, all hoods, 2 extra BP-511
(on computer department) IBM X-41, Apple macBook, IBM's charger and cable
Wimberley M1 & M4
While I was photographing and hiking I didn't have laptops, chargers etc. extra stuff with me and camera was hanging from the strap, the pack was comformatable to carry.
- supricingly spacious concidering small external dimensions
- 3 separate departments (camera, laptop and daypack)
- doesn't look like camera bag
- if light weight equipment used comformatable to carry
- without photogear it works fine as a laptop backpack
- no waist belt to distribute the weight from shoulders
- laptop department is little too small for two laptops (too thin) and too big for single laptop
Photo airtravel: LowePro MiniTrekker
MiniTrekker actually used to be my main camera back for a while before purchasing CompuTrekker Plus AW. However it's good size backpack for travelling. Reason why I upgraded to CompuTrekker AW was mainly that MiniTrekker is too small size to be comfortable carried on whole day hiking trip (it's not tall enough to support back very well). Also missing proper waist belt.
- small size: handy on airtravel and on location
- small size: not enough support for back
- small size: longer lenses have to be stored attached to camera
- small size: tripod holder no good for heavier and longer tripods