Review: Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L AW Camera Backpack
Posted: June 2, 2015
Written by Michael Chang
The Lowpro Flipside Sport 20L AW backpack is perfect for any photographer looking to take multiple lenses and camera equipment on their day-hikes or walks within a durable, outdoor bag. We tested the Sport 20L AW backpack on several hikes around Vancouver, considering how functional, durable, comfortable the bag was and what we liked and didn’t like about it.
Overall, we thought the backpack was really good if you’re looking for a durable bag to protect and carry expensive camera gear on day-hikes. We have thoroughly reviewed the backpack below.
Large Carry Compartments
The 20L version of the backpack has plenty of storage space, including room for your SLR Camera, multiple lenses, flash, filters, extra batteries, and even a tripod. The large compartment is accessible on the side of the pack that rests against your back, which means to access your gear, you have to stop and take the backpack off. While this might be time consuming for some, the reality of being out on the trails probably means you would rather take your bag off to “carefully” access your expensive gear and not risk the chance of it falling on the rugged terrain and being damaged. The large compartment has a “spacer” that devices it into several sections to securely store the various pieces of your gear.
On the back side of the bag is a relatively flat pocket where it’s possible to store a device like an iPad, a smaller laptop, or a book for taking notes. A more likely usage of this pocket will be to store your lunch or snacks, however whatever you plan to put in this pocket will have to be fairly compact with a “book-like” flatness in order to fit.
On one side of the backpack is a pocket meant for a water bladder that holds up to 1.5L of water. At the top of the pocket is a hole for the straw of the water bladder and there are adequate connections on either shoulder trap to connect the end of the straw.
On the other side of the backpack are several straps with a large fabric flap where you can hook your tripod, monopod, hiking poles, or ice axe. With the ability to adjust the straps, there is room for several items and in our testing, we were able to fit a tripod and 2 hiking poles onto the bag.
What seems like a simple but great feature is that there is a small pocket on each of the waist straps. They pockets allow you to store small items, like a small cloth, a lens cleaning device, a filter, or battery and be able to grab them very quickly without having to take the bag off.
One of the nicest options to this backpack is that you can take the “spacers” that hold your gear out and use the bag as a normal backpack. The downside is that you still have to access this part of the backpack through the side against your back instead of the top of a typical backpack but at least this gives you the option of a multiple use backpack and you would still need to take a typical backpack off your back to access the large compartment.
If you find the 20L bag is too large for your needs, Lowepro also makes a 15L and 10L version of the backpack.
Construction and Durability
The Flipside Sport is made out of 210D triple-ripstop nylon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripstop) which is a technique used to reinforce fabrics and make them “rip-resistant”. In our testing of the backpack, we had no issues with the material itself and it certainly appears very strong and durable compared to many other backpacks we’ve used. The shoulder straps felt strong as did the hook at the top of the bag, even when we filled the backpack up with lots of heavy items.
Although we had no issues with the zippers, they appear to be plastic and they did not give us complete confidence that they would hold up under trail and rugged conditions. I assume the choice to use plastic zippers was to keep the weight of the bag down, meaning the weight on your back will be primarily from what you’re carrying inside the bag.
Very important for the wet weather of the Pacific Northwest region, the bag held up well to plenty of moisture and comes with a rain cover that pulls over top of the bag to keep it dry and protected from the rain and snow. The cover is stored in a small pocket on the bottom of the bag, pulls out and fits over the bag quickly and easily. The inside “spacers” where you store your gear also have a cover around it that you can pull tight with a cord to help protect your gear. The advantage to having this inner cover is that it protects your gear if you put your bag down on a slightly wet surface and don’t realize that moisture is soaking through the bottom of your bag after several minutes.
Overall, the construction of the bag is excellent, just not 100% certain about the zippers and whether they will withstand a heavy load is something that only time out on the trail will be able to determine.
The first thing we noticed was this backpack is really light for its size. The constant challenge with hiking gear is how much it weights and having to hike up local mountains with heavy camera gear means that any weight savings is a big bonus.
The shoulder straps have extra padding as well as the area that rests against your back making the Flipside Sport a very comfortable fit when carrying plenty of heavy camera gear. The material around the shoulders and against the back helps to whisk away sweat and provide some breathability.
There is a waist strap that is well padded and also a small strap that connects across the chest to help distribute the weight of the bag. All straps are quickly and easily adjustable and stay secure.
In testing the bag we found it to be fairly comfortable and much better than we were expecting. It’s often easy to compare all backpacks but with equipment bags, they often have to be fairly flat shaped to fit the equipment and therefore cannot always have certain shapes that might match the shape of your back. The Flipside Sport felt fairly straight along the back but it was quite comfortable, even while carrying quite a few kilograms of camera gear.
Features We Liked
These are some of the cool features that we liked best about the Lowpro Flipside Sport 20L AW backpack:
- The 20L version of this bag has lots of room in the large compartment.
- The backpack was very light.
- A rain cover for the outside of the bag as well as a cover on part of the inside of the large compartment.
- The “spacers” inside the backpack to separate your camera gear can be removed so the bag can be used as a regular backpack. The great thing about this is it turns the backpack into a multi-functional bag and not just a bag for camera gear.
- The straps and fabric flap on the side of the bag for the tripod, monopod, hiking poles, or ice axe was easy to use and we were able to fit more than one item with the adjustable straps.
- There’s a pocket to put a 1.5L Water Bladder (reservoir). Unfortunately, the water bladder is not included.
- The little pockets on the waist straps provide quick access for small items.
We didn’t find many issues with the bag but thought these were worth considering:
- The plastic zippers seem like they might not withstand long term trail usage.
- Although you can use the flatter compartment on the back, there isn’t really a good space to pack plenty of food for a long day-hike.
Lowepro has done a very good job of incorporating a functional camera gear bag into something durable and comfortable enough for outdoor enthusiasts to take with them on their adventures. Generally, we’ve seen backpacks in the past that sacrifice comfort for functionality or vice versa, however the padding on the straps, the material against your back, the strong material and rain cover, and the ability to switch this bag from a camera gear toting backpack to a basic day-pack won plenty of points with us. Lowepro has always been a leader when it comes to camera bags and they certainly hit the mark with the Flipside Sport 20L AW.