I started using the Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW a year ago, and now that it has been my main camera bag on quite a few trips I figured it's about time I write a review.
The 450 is the largest Whistler bag that Lowepro makes, with the 350 being the smaller option. Check out Lowepro's Whistler page for all the details on this bag.
I've been using other similar camera bags for years, and this was my first time using a Lowepro bag. This bag is aimed at nature and landscape photographers on trips into the wild. It's a rugged and weather resistant bag, and opens from the back so you can set the bag down on its face wherever you are, open the back to access your gear, and then put the bag on again without getting dirt, mud, seaweed, etc, on yourself — the front of the bag takes the beating.
The interior storage compartment is removable, so you can use the compartment as a standalone unit, and you can turn the backpack into a general purpose bag. You can move around the dividers to fit your gear, and I find the orange dividers to be particularly nice since they don't have a soft fabric that will get worn out.
It's a pretty comfortable bag as far as camera bags go, but I've never had a backcountry inspired camera bag that was anywhere near as comfortable as a true backcountry hiking bag. I'll use the Whistler on short hikes, but for any long hikes or overnights I pack my camera gear into my 65 liter (or larger) hiking bag.
- I love the rear opening. I am frequently shooting at the seacoast, on a mountain or in the woods, and this rear opening lets me not worry about where I put the bag down.
- The customizable dividers let you make the bag your own and so far have held up well.
- The front pocket is spacious and has zips that let you compress it or make it bigger, and the lining between the front pocket and the main camera compartment is waterproof so you can store wet gear. There's even a drain hole in the bottom of the front pocket.
- Straps on the sides and back make it easy to carry and attach extra gear. I use them to bring extra clothes that don't fit in the front pocket, strap on a water bottle holster or attach my tripod to the bag. The straps and bindings on the sides of the bag are also perfect for skis and will hold hiking sticks or ice tools if secured properly.
- The harness system is very nice, and the waist belt and chest strap are great for longer treks, although a little more padding in the waist belt would be nice when the pack is heavy.
- The bag comes with a weather cover that you can put on when the rain is really coming down.
- Too small! The 450 is the largest Whistler bag but it's pretty small for an alpine bag. The top pocket especially is surprisingly small. There really isn't a ton of room in this bag for camera accessories that don't fit in the main compartment, the front pocket is pretty large but anything you put in there needs to be able to handle the weight of all your camera gear on it when you lay the bag down, and it's just much easier to use the top pocket for storing camera accessories when the bag is on the ground. It would be great if the top pocket was two or three times the size. The top pocket tapers in on the sides, which gives the bag a sleek look but makes the pocket even smaller.
- The orange straps on the back of the bag aren't completely secured to the bag. The straps have silver hooks that connect to the side straps of the bag, but there's nothing at the bottom of the hook opening to keep the strap secured (see photo below). Given how often I'm hiking through tight spaces in the woods I worry a bit that a branch could get hung up on the strap and it could take the strap off without me even knowing. I might try putting some tape over the opening of the hook to make it less likely to get ripped off the bag. I've seen similar removable straps on other bags that have a retractable metal clip that covers the opening of the hook to keep the strap secured.
- The bag has a nice profile but it's a bit narrow. I could use a bit more room in the main compartment.
- No mesh pockets on the sides of the bag for storing water bottles.
- Pricey! Lowepro Whistler bags are pretty expensive for their size.
The Bottom Line
Overall I really like the Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW camera backpack. It's a rugged and well built bag that feels like it will take quite a beating, but I'd love to see a larger version. Of course if you're shooting mirrorless or crop you'll have a lot more room in the bag for camera gear.
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