There's a great new backpack in the closest. Well, in the closet when it's not on my back or in transit.
I had a few trips involving transporting gear and significant hiking on the schedule, and the Lowepro Powder Backpack 500 AW seemed to be the ideal solution. A message to my Lowepro rep resulted in this pack showing up just before the first mentioned trip.
I can't think of anyone who wants to carry more weight on their backs. While the Lowepro Powder Backpack 500 AW hints at backcountry snow skiing, all photographers can appreciate the design traits affording that utility, especially the light weight and rugged construction.
I was quite excited when the scales read only 3.15 lbs for this pack with the lid and insert removed (and only .35 lbs with the lid added). That number is especially impressive for a backpack with 55L of capacity. Despite the high capacity, this pack, if not overstuffed, easily slides under the current typical USA airline carry-on size limits.
The Lowepro Powder Backpack 500 AW is designed to carry a full camera kit with space for everything else needed for the adventure.
Lowepro has been designing backpacks for a long time, and the visually attractive Lowepro Powder Backpack 500 AW's design reflects the proficiencies that experience creates.
The front of the pack has a pair of wide, adjustable, buckled straps ready to attach a wide range of accessories, including tripods. Note the highly protective Hypalon backing on each side of each strap (instramental in preventing strap damage from the sharp edges of a snowboard). At least somewhat unique is the pair of loops that can hold the straps in place and narrow the held area.
An additional pair of longer loops are shown threaded into the bottom strap, and stretchy cinch cords are provided near the top strap. These loops are often used for hiking and skiing poles, ice axes, etc.
Between the straps is a small, thin zippered pocket. The stylish slant pocket measures about 7 x 10" (17.8 x 25.4 cm) and is modestly wider on the bottom.
A huge double-zippered front pocket covering nearly the full front dimensions of the pack opens at the top of the case.
The zippers open about half of the pocket, and a bottomless organization sleeve shows on the left side. The folded-open lid reveals another large, thin, zipper-accessed storage area.
Moving to the back of the case, the shoulder straps become an obvious feature. Adjustable webbing at the top and bottom of the straps provides adjustability.
Each strap has a pair of double loops for attachment purposes. The outer loop is elastic and the inner loop is strong webbing.
A stretchy mesh pocket with an elastic closure and pull tab is provided at the bottom of each strap. The unstretched opening measures 2.5" (6.35 cm) wide (just too narrow for a full-sized smartphone in a thin case) and about 7" (17.8 cm) deep.
The entirity of the shoulder straps is high density padding with small circles relieved for airflow. The padding is covered by strong nylon material on the front and a softer material on the back and inside where body contact occurs. While the shoulder strap padding is relatively thin, I found the straps quite comfortable even when carrying heavy loads — approximately 35 lbs. / 15.9 kg for a significant duration. The thin padding aids in compactness.
The sternum strap is height and length adjustable.
The waist belt constructions matches that of the shoulder straps with the accent color featured on the front. A touch-fasten loop effectively holds excess waistbelt length out of the way and holds it well during minor belt length adjustments (like as you get thinner from carrying the weight that you put inside the pack). The waist belt lays relatively flat on the pack when not in use, aiding in storage compactness.
The nylon webbing waist belt does not extend deep into the padding area, but the construction seems adequate. The belt buckle is substantial in construction and works smoothly and surely.
Tapered, zippered pockets are provided on both sides of the waist belt buckle. These will hold a standard-sized smartphone, flashlight, or other items requiring fast access while the pack is on the back.
Accessory attachment points are not provided on the belt.
Above and between the shoulder straps is the doubled-over nylon web carry/lifting strap.
Moving the straps out of the way shows the back of the pack, the part that presses into our backs.
Thick ventilated padding under a soft material protects from discomfort, including help avoid the common sweaty back problem. This padding also protects the gear stored in the camera compartment.
Obvious in this view is the accent-colored dual zipper. For improved comfort, these zippers do not feature the round plastic pulls but instead have doubled nylon webbing pulls that also work well. I'll keep you in suspense by waiting open those zippers until after finishing the outside of the pack tour.
The accent-colored right side of the pack has a pair of wide, adjustable, buckled straps with Hypalon sewn into the sides and an elastic keeper loop to tame the ends of the straps. These straps can retain a wide range of accessories, including a tripod (or skis).
At the side bottom is a large stretchy mesh pocket with an elastic closure, ideal for the feet of a strap-retained tripod, a water bottle, granola bars, or even a sandwich.
Perhaps not so obvious in the above product photo is the large zippered, pleated side pocket designed to hold an up-to-2L hydration reservoir. Alternative items of significant size fit in this pouch.
The left side of the pack also has a pair of wide, adjustable, buckled straps with Hypalon sewn into the sides and an elastic keeper loop to tame the ends of the straps.
Not so obvious is that the zipper on this side opens a pocket upward — but not downward (the accent color section does not open) — for the balance of the full height of the backpack. When unzipped, a tripod pouch drops down.
Small tripods will fit inside the upper oriented pocket, and large ones will go on the outside.
The tripod pouch extends a couple of inches below the bottom of the pack, providing a deeper load than a pocket typically would. However, a bottom-protruding tripod interferes with sitting the pack upright on the ground. For my purposes, I'd rather have a stretchy pocket on both sides of the case, but the Powder 500 AW's design works fine. Again, tripods can be mounted on either side of this pack.
The top view of the backpack shows the large removable lid. The lid is attached by four adjustable straps, each connecting with a buckle.
Four small connection point loops are provided on top of the lid. I attached a carabiner to one loop and a Shacke luggage tag to another.
A near full-width zipper opens a slim but large pocket on top.
Below this pocket is a larger, deeper pocket that is accessed by a double zipper opening around the lid. A hearty lunch would easily fit here, and riding above all other weight, the sandwich stands better odds of remaining un-smashed. Inside the larger pocket is a pair of thin mesh pockets with elastic closures.
Removing the lids reveals the drawstring closure to the storage area. A small handle on a short web loop releases the spring-loaded drawstring lock. Pull this handle and the other side of the drawstring to open the pack. Then, pull this handle and the small loop on the drawstring to close the opening.
Open the drawstring, and a cavernous storage area is revealed. If your load does not require a tightly closed drawstring, this section offers an additional 6" (15 cm) of storage height (27" / 66 cm), and the lid height straps adjust to accommodate and compress that load.
A slim, unpadded pocket running from the bottom of the pack (in front of the camera compartment) to near the top of the pack can hold even a large laptop. Consider adding a padded laptop sleeve if impact is possible.
A thin divider separates the camera compartment from the general-purpose storage area (which could also have cameras and lenses stored in it). This divider is hook and loop fastened on three sides and able to fold out of the way.
As the camera compartment has rigity, this feature is primarily beneficial for opening the full size of the pack when the camera compartment is removed. Concerning is that hook and loop fastener strips are exposed when disconnected, ready to catch knit fabrics, including socks, that come against it.
The bottom of the case features the accent color and fabric with a slim zippered pocket that holds the rain cover out of the way. That the rain cover is tethered is a great feature as these covers are not visible when on your back, and they frequently slide off when catching on limbs, etc. Adequate space is provided in the pocket to make stowing the cover easy.
The rain cover is nicely sized and easy to install. While the pack's primary material is water resistant, the rain cover extends protection into heavy rain.
Camera compartment access is from the body side of the pack. This access side is my preference as it permits access by simply rotating the waist belt, and it keeps the area of the pack that goes against your clothes clean when placed on the ground for access.
The Powder 500 AW's double-zippered camera access area is inside the waist belt, making it easier to open than designs that include the waist belt with the lid. However, this pack's design makes the lower portion of the camera compartment modestly more difficult to access as the belt holds the bottom part of the access area closed while worn. The center-articulated lid design enables the compartment to be half opened without restriction.
The camera insert has a double-zippered unpadded cover. When opening the pack for the first time, this cover is what greets you. More typically, the cover gets folded out of the way under the compartment, providing instant access to the gear when the pack is opened.
The complete set of high-quality divider pads provided is shown above.
The two long dividers have a medium thickness and hook and loop fasteners on three sides to prevent slide-unders. While the length of these dividers seems appropriate in the shipped configuration, I find this length awkward in my applications. The dividers are too long, forcing a full section to be folded against the side of the case (see the loaded case image later in this review and Lowepro's product images).
The smaller dividers are just wide enough to accommodate medium-sized lenses with their hoods. These dividers have hook and loop fasteners on two sides. Interestingly, the hook section on these thin, semi-rigid, high-density foam dividers is set back slightly to help close the gaps on the sides.
The two accent-colored dividers each feature a hook and loop-closed, 2/3-deep pocket suitable for a single mid-sized battery or similar. A rectangular-shaped padded divider is also provided.
Detach the camera insert's four hooks from their loops, and the compartment slides out of the pack. With a web handle and zippered lid, this compartment can be used apart from the pack (the lid is unpadded).
BYOP (Bring Your Own Padding). Remove the camera box and pack in anything that fits inside this large backpack, including a Canon RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens in its case. Just add any impact protection necessary.
For example, when hiking, I like to pack one or two cameras with a lens mounted in toploader cases for protection yet fast access. The Lowepro Photo Active TLZ 45 and 50 AW toploader cases are my current preferences. I carry the toploader case over my neck when photo opportunities are imminently expected and place the entire case in the backpack when navigating difficult terrain or not expecting the use the camera.
The camera compartment section can also be used for fast access to other items, including your lunch or a rain jacket.
|Capacity||3356 cubic inches||55 L|
|External||13.19 x 8.86 x 24.41"||33.5 x 22.5 x 62 cm|
|External (Collapsed)||12.99 x 8.86 x 21.26"||33.0 x 22.5 x 54.0 cm|
|Camera Compartment||10.83 x 6.50 x 12.20"||27.5 x 16.5 x 31.0 cm|
|Front Compartment||12.20 x 0.79 x 19.68"||31.0 x 2.0 x 50.0 cm|
|Top Compartment||10.24 x 6.69 x 9.45"||26.0 x 17.0 x 24.0 cm|
|Laptop Compartment||11.81 x 0.39 x 14.17"||30.0 x 1.0 x 36.0 cm|
|Weight||5.29 lbs.||2.4 kg|
|Empty||3.15 lbs||1.43 kg|
|with Lid||3.50 lbs||1.59 kg|
|with Insert||4.95 lbs||2.25 kg|
|Insert w/ All Dividers||1.45 lbs||0.66 kg|
An internal rigid aluminum frame holds compression to 20" x 12", with the compressed thickness determined by the contents. With the camera box removed, this pack can become very thin.
Expand the pack to haul your warm clothes during the hike in (or flight to), and the pack will compress after you put those layers on (or expand out of the backpack at your destination).
Moderately expanded, this pack easily stowed in Boeing 737 aircraft overhead bins.
The Lowepro Powder Backpack 500 AW shown partially loaded with gear illustrates the padded divider arrangement I selected for the initial trip. This arrangement provides for three rows of gear, with one end of each long divider tucked into the row beside it.
I filled out the visible section for travel through the airports, including a small case that holds the basics I always want in my pack (it goes from pack to pack), and added individually cased lenses to the top section. The result was a very heavy pack. Fortunately, the Powder 500 AW handled the load easily, carrying the weight on the waist, with the shoulder straps preventing load shifts.
The lightweight, weather-resistant 100D & 210D tear-resistant nylon fabrics used throughout this pack are thin, soft/supple, and tough. These materials look great, including their texture. This pack cleans easily.
The zippers are all smooth functioning, and most have a plastic pull loop that makes them fast and easy to use.
If gray and orange isn't your color preference, the midnight and horizon blue option may be for you.
Can you use a lightweight, high-quality, great-looking, multi-purpose backpack at a moderate price? The Lowepro Powder Backpack 500 AW was the perfect choice for my needs. That a pack with this capacity is so light and can retract so compactly are especially welcomed attributes. Aside from the awkward large padded divider size, I'm pleased with this pack option.
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