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