by Mark Alker
February 28, 2014
If you’re after a weatherproof packhorse to take, well, pretty much everything, look no further than the Lowepro Rover Pro AW.
The downside to being a photographer who spends their time photographing bikes and the adventures that come with them is that inevitably, more often than not, I have to partake on a ride with a fairly hefty camera pack on my back. And whether you’re a photographer or not, riding with a big bag swaying around on your back is never a favourable option, so having a pack that does its best to keep a low profile is key.
The Lowepro Rover Pro AW (available in 35l and 45l options) is a camera pack that is aimed at the ‘adventurer’, claiming to be the “first technical, mountain-style photo pack of its kind”. I’d be inclined to agree. I’d spent a long while searching for a bag that expanded its skill set outside of photo-specific use. I was after something that would offer more than just a cosy abode for my camera kit and bare essentials. I needed something that could stand up to every adventure I could throw at it and still have room for a bottle of plonk on the overnighters, as well as more than a cookie for lunch if needs be. It’s a hard life…
A year on and having coped with bivvy adventures, countless mountain epics, the Trans-Provence, good weather, awful weather and so on, I still swear by my Rover Pro AW. I’m not a fan of riding with a bag on, so getting a good fit is key and the first thing I noticed was how unobtrusive the bag felt on my back when riding. The technically named “trampoline-style suspension system” that is used for the back support is to thank for the initial comfort offered here. The mesh fabric moulds to my back while still retaining a big chunk of airflow between me and the pack to keep things sweat-free.
Once you’ve buckled in using the chest and kidney belt-style waist straps the pack is incredibly secure – something I’ve felt has been lacking in other bags I’ve used in the past. Even when heavily weighted with clothes, camera kit and bivvy equipment the bag doesn’t want to shift easily; neither does it want to punch your helmet off on the descents. This makes riding oodles more enjoyable when you do not have to counterbalance yourself before every turn, or avoid dense forests for fear of mowing trees down. When you’re not riding but instead walking back up the hillocks, bike on back, the top of the pack acts as a balcony, making hike-a-biking much less painful.
The bag essentially comes in two parts. You get the main pack, the skin if you will, and then a ‘removable, modular camera case’ (or lunch box as I call it) that sits within the bag. I opted for the 35 litre version of the bag which includes a removable soft case that easily accommodates a pro-spec camera body, 24-70mm lens, small prime lens and a flash (plus triggers/cards etc.). On the bigger days I’ll pack my 70-200mm lens separately and stow that in its own case in the ample room above where the lunch box sits. This space offers plenty of room for extra layers, spares, tools and more than one cookie for lunch. It also has a drawcord at the top to keep everything tightly packed, where it should be.
Another huge positive is the ability to use a hydration bladder with the bag. A neat H2O-labelled zip pocket will take up to a two litre reservoir and shoulder strap clips keep the hose out of the way when you’re not sipping. On the opposite side of the bag, you have the option to mount a tripod in a simple, faff-free fashion and on the front of the pack there is a small buckled pocket that has been perfect for map holster duties. In fact, there are more external pockets than you can shake a stick at on this bag and that’s no bad thing. Just be wary that you’ll probably end up patting yourself all over in search of your presumed lost phone, only to find it in the waist strap pocket section. Lastly, should the clouds start looking ominous, there is a waterproof cover to give you peace of mind in a pocket of its own on the underside of the bag.
With all this in mind, it’s amazing the pack retains its low profile. I opted for the 35 litre version and have never felt like I needed to upsize to the 45 litre. This bag is a through-and-through winner for me, having stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it so far, and it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re not a professional photographer either; people who love bike adventures will get the most out of this pack regardless of whether you take a camera or not.
Overall: If you’re after a weatherproof packhorse to take, well, pretty much everything, plus a camera and its glass on your bigger bike adventures, look no further than the Lowepro Rover Pro AW.