The Perfect Camera Travel Bag – The Lowepro Fastpack 350

What better way to start off my new gear section of the blog than with a review on my favorite piece of travel gear? I love my camera and laptop dearly. They were the items I knew I’d need to protect most during my trip.  Lowepro’s Fastpack 350-Black is a camera bag, laptop bag and daypack all rolled into one and was one of two bags I carried with me for 30 months through 16 different countries.

The Lowepro Fastpack 350

Here’s a great shot of the Fastpack 350 from the Lowepro website. PHOTO CREDIT: Lowepro.com

The Perfect Bag

When I was looking for a bag that would carry my camera gear and laptop, I knew it was going to be difficult to find what I wanted.  For security reasons, I wanted a bag that didn’t advertise itself as a camera bag.  I had to find something that would fit on the plane as a carry on and that was comfortable to carry for long periods.  It was also important that I could use it as a daypack during the trip and had to have space for additional items.

I remember having it narrowed down to two bags at my local camera store, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the other bag was at this point.  What I do recall were the two aspects that made me choose in the direction of the Fastpack 350.  The first was the side loading aspect – I rotate the pack on my shoulder and take my camera out without putting the bag down.  The second was that there was a cover that went over the lower pack, adding an extra piece of security if someone was fiddling with my bag from behind.

Canon 7D, Lenses, Flash and the rest that fit in the lower pocket.

Canon 7D, Lenses, Flash and the rest that fit in the lower pocket.

Through the Ringer

Over 30 months of flashpacking around the world, I put that bag through the ringer.  During a travel day, when I would be moving all my gear from one bed to another, this bag would weigh 20 to 25 kilos, much more than my bigger bag stuffed with clothes, books and everything else.  My Fastpack 350 would carry the following:

Camera Gear and More in Lower Section:

Canon 7D with battery pack and Canon 24-70mm 2.8 lens attached.
Canon 70mm-200mm 2.8 IS Lens
Tamron 11-18mm 4.5 – 5.6 Wide
Canon 580 EX Speedlite Flash
2 extra flash cards in their little pockets
Emergency Poncho (used on more than one occasion)
2 Plastic Rain Sleeves I picked up in Tokyo (which came in real handy during Songkran)

Laptop Pocket:

MacBook Pro 15” laptop
Occasionally a magazine or flight paperwork would also go here

One of my rainsleeves in action during the week-long water fight that is the Songkran festival in Thailand.

One of my rainsleeves in action during the week-long water fight that is the Songkran festival in Thailand.

Big Upper Pocket:

4 External Hard Drives
Cable Bag (I kept all my USB, power, firewire, etc cables in one bag)
Battery Charger for Camera
2 Moleskin Notebooks
Lens Cleaning Kit & Camera Cleaning Kit
Pacsafe Security Device
Pens, Pencils, extra batteries for flash, passport, etc.

Other pockets/gear

I’d also have a (usually filled) water bottle in the side pocket

There you have it.  That was the bag I had with me 24/7, in a locker in the hostel or locked away in a private room.  I was most nervous in transit and the bag would never leave my side.  If I couldn’t take it with me, I wouldn’t use that form of transportation.  I firmly believe my mild to serious level of paranoia kept me from having any major security problems during the trip.

When I was in a place where I could remove items into a secure location (locker, my own room, etc), that’s when I could swap out the laptop and hard drives for day pack items like a fleece and snacks.

The tear caused by the stress of carrying so much weight over 30 months of travel.

The tear caused by the stress of carrying so much weight over 30 months of travel.

Current Condition

My bag has seen better days and is still together, but only just barely.  Due to the weight I’ve been carrying in it, the points where the shoulder straps attach to the bag have, over time, started to pull the stitching from the upper pouch.  I’ve been using safety pins to hold it together but this is only a stopgap measure.  Other than that I’ve had no serious issues with the bag.  The one thing I’d love for them to do is remove the Lowepro brand logo from the front of one of the shoulder straps which I did myself early on to help hide the fact that it’s a camera bag.

Recommendation

I really love this product and will be replacing the old one with a new one as soon as mine has reached the point of no return.  My current Lowepro Fastpack 350 held up under three years of extremely heavy use.  It carried and protected my precious MacBook and Canon gear through 16 countries and the only issue I had came late and through strenuous use.  As the wear and tear take their toll, the only choice I have to make for my next bag is what color to pick.

 

  • http://expertvagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

    Looks like a nice bag Travis. What kind of PacSafe do you carry?

    • Anonymous

      I have one of the individual units that has a 6 foot long cable and locks into the top of the device so that it beeps if theres an issue.  I can’t be certain but I think it kept me from losing my bag while sleeping on a few buses through Asia.

      -T

  • http://www.nycparamount.com/ Paramount Hotel

    The Perfect Camera Travel Bag looking great. Best experience with you share here. My bag has seen better days and is still together, but only barely.

    • Anonymous

      Which bag do you use?

  • http://www.flrs.co.uk/ non geographic numbers

    As well as convenience, the bag serves to protect the exposed LCD screens and the camera body from scratches. Those easy to operate control knobs that stick up are also more vulnerable to accidental knocks, so a bit of cushioning is important even for a compact pocket size camera.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I would agree, the bag is quiet much reliable for keeping the accessories safe and secure with any breaks or scratches.  Even, the camera bag looks quite trendy too  and comfortable as per the size of the camera. 

    • Anonymous

      It really did a great job.  I’m not sure what I’d do if I wanted to bring a 2nd body or a tripod, so you really have to go with what works for you. 

      -T

  • Luiz Jr. Fernandes

    UAU! Really an amazing bag! I just bought one exactly with the same color at BKK Pantip Plaza, and it is a very good pack to have with you for the long travels, but for the small ones, like just a week, I just discard it and use a light shoulder bag…

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I’ve done that before as well.  It’s a bit bulky for very short trips, and can weigh a bit when fully loaded, but it’s something you just get used to.

      -T

  • http://artofbackpacking.com/ Michael

    I wonder how this compares to the 250 version that I have. It’s a pretty great bag but I find that it’s really big sometimes. I also prefer the all black so it’s less noticeable.

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  • Tom

    How did you carry both backpacks? If you had to keep the bigger backpack on your back, how did you carry your camera gear? Did you just hold the backpack in your hand?

    • flashpackerhq

      I carry the heaviest one on my back and the other on my front (also using the shoulder straps). It may look a little strange but it is very functional.

  • David Paz

    Looks like a great bag! I’ve been looking for a new camera bag, but it gets confusing in the stores. I appreciate the review; you’ve given me some points to consider.