Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The 500

Blimey, finally got around to talking about this bag. It is the Lowe Pro Flipside 500AW and it is blue and black. And it is limited edition. Only 1200 of these beauties will grace this earth and I have one in my gimp basement. But it wasn’t until my trusty ComputrekkerPlus AW (IMO one of the best packs LowePro has produced) started showing signs of it’s age that this here coach put that there pack into the game. Still, I’m no stranger to the Flipside ideal. I use its smaller brother, the Flipside 400AW (dur!) loads. In fact most shoots that see me boarding a plane sees the familiar rounded shape of the 400AW on my back and in the speedy boarding queue. I can cram the 400AW with enough gear to do a demanding shoot with two bodies, two speedlights, 12-24,17-55, 70-200,10.5 fish and 50mm inside. The outer pocket takes the Pocket Wizards and all the other photo gubbins I need.
Well, the 500AW is a veritable tardis. I nearly got lost in there and had to send up an emergency flare. I could, if I wanted, get my 300mm 2.8 inside and still have room for enough shorter glass and two bodies and two flashguns. Most backpacks are designed to house at least one body with a lens attached and the 500AW is no exception. Since I had a costly adventure when a helicopter baggage handler crammed my pack into the hold and sheered the 70-200 lens off the body with the lens mount still attached, I choose to keep body and glass apart until I want to introduce them to each other.  So, with the added depth that the 500AW offers, I found I could stow two guns, and three (count em) Pocket Wizard Multimaxes into the upper space obviously shaped to take a camera body. The bodies I stashed on the sides , along with the wide zooms and the long zoom down the centre.
I’m not a tripod kinda guy so I’m not going to carp on about the concealed tripod cup and the straps on the front of the pack. Rather, I want to talk about the mesh side pockets and the cinch straps above them which allowed me to store a lightstand in each and pull down the straps to makes everything stable: important when stumbling and bimbling down a muddy mountain side which is more than often the case.  The pockets are big enough to still allow some space to stow overtrousers or a small bottle of water with the stands in place. This is a Very Important Thing. Do not underestimate the need for water and dry trousers.
The usual organizing pockets sit inside the front compartment for pens, phone, keyflash, cables etc. But it must be said that the pocket is easily large enough to store a netbook or an iPad,. On this particular shoot I threw, figuratively speaking like, a Rayflash ring light. It would also easily swallow a good size waterproof jacket or fleece. Did I say keeping dry was important? Oh yeah, anyway fully loaded the Flipside 500AW is no featherweight and this is where the harness steps up like you have David Haye (insert name of your favourite heavyweight here) fighting in your corner. The load sits well up the torso and with the sternum straps tightened down, the pack is easily to transport. Super comfy. Super important to my health. There is a large carrying handle on the top of the unit that makes small shifts around, like from car boot to floor to speedy boarding queue to overhead locker that much easier.
And lastly, why Flipside?  Because entry to the pack’s contents is through the back of the unit i.e the part that sits against the wearers back.  This means your cloths stay relatively clean and dry when you dump the pack down in mud or snow. If I were to add one thing, or change really, to this already great item is would be coloured ends to the main compartment zippers. Blue or red, something that can be easily spotted and grabbed when in a rush. Perhaps glow in the dark? The black ones tend to hide beneath the hip belt or inside the zip covers– or maybe it’s just me? (yes,get your eyes tested. Ed)
Oh, and why just the one snap? (I think we can safely call it that) Because this was taken at the end of day long  and complex shoot in the Lake District when it rained stair rods and never stopped. Of  course, because I had waterproofs (did I mention that?) I was dry but my cameras were less than enamoured with the conditions and I decided to put them away for good once the last frame was captured. Promise to do better next time, honest.

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