August 1

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Review: The Lowepro Photo Hatchback AW Camera Pack

By Dan

August 1, 2012


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Lowepro has just released The Photo Hatchback AW. It’s a sleek new daypack with multi-functional gear storage and a separate camera compartment that you access from a zipper panel on the back of the pack.

Made for outdoor photographers on the go, this pack gives you versatile options room to carry a your camera gear and everything else you might need for a day spent adventuring, hiking or exploring out in the world.

The Photo Hatchback will fit a modest amount of camera equipment, as well as all of your outdoor essentials: jacket, food, water bottle, notebook, sunglasses, iPad and a few other small accessories. The larger 22L will even fit a Macbook Air

The Photo Hatchback comes in two sizes, 22L and 16L. The 22L size will fit a regular sized DSLR body, a couple lenses, a flash and another accessory, like a pair of radio triggers, memory card case or a small point and shoot.

With the 16L version, you might have to lose one of your lenses or flash unit. Overall they don’t carry a ton of gear, but for light trips, this is about all you really need. It won’t fit a bigger lens like a 70-200 f/2.8, but there’s enough room to carry it inside the top. The 22L does fit the larger speedlights.

Organizational options are pretty good here. In the top of the roomy main compartment, you’ll find a pair of small mesh pockets, and a zipper pocket with key chain clip; great for a passport, train ticket or some cash. The deep double panel outside pocket is sized for a tablet, notebook or a small flash modifier, like the Lumiquest Softbox III.

Two stretch side pockets on either side of the pack will fit a water bottle, jacket, snacks, baguette, a can of bear spray, or whatever else you want to cram in there. I usually stuff a Gorillapod in one side and a windbreaker in the other.

As with all of Lowepro’s AW series packs, the Photo Hatchback sports a waterproof rain cover that tucks away into a flap at the bottom of the pack. You don’t have to worry about getting caught in downpour or a summer mountain shower. You may get wet, but your gear will stay dry.

The Photo Hatchback makes a great pack for traveling. Being the same size as most standard day packs, it works as carry-on luggage, either under the seat or in overhead bins. In addition, the back panel camera access keeps your gear secure from wandering hands while you’re wandering in foreign places. As long as you’re wearing the pack, your gear is out of sight and out of reach. Plus, it has a subtle appearance that doesn’t shout “camera bag!”

Don’t need to carry the camera gear? As with the Flipside Sport AW, the entire camera compartment in the Photo Hatchback lifts right out. Undo the velcro flap and you’ve got a regular full sized day pack. Even more usable for traveling.

Edit: The Photo Hatchback recently won a 2012 Popular Photography “Pop Award” for being one of the best new pieces of photography gear.

My Review

So, what do I REALLY think of the Photo Hatchback? I’ll be honest. When Lowepro first contacted me about trying out this pack and writing a review, I wasn’t really sure how it would fit in my lineup. I’ve already got numerous technical packs of multiple sizes and design, so I didn’t think that a pack that was targeted towards the causal user would get much use.

How wrong I was. I’ve been using the 22L Photo Hatchback for a couple of weeks now, and I love it. I think it’s an awesome pack that fills a very defined need.

You see, there are plenty of times when I don’t need a full-on technical camera pack. Maybe I’m just out for a day hike. Maybe I’m flying my little yellow Cessna. Riding the park shuttle bus. Cruising around town on my bike. Maybe I’m just on vacation.

The Photo Hatchback gives me flexible options for carrying all the stuff I’d need for a day trip or a relatively short outing, and at the same time, it keeps my camera gear separate and secure. i.e., it doesn’t just swim around the pack, or make me need to bring a second camera bag.

Although someone who’s been using Lowepro gear for many years, and yet is also extremely hard to please in this area, I’m especially excited about the trend that their current products are following. They’ve really been stepping things up with their designs and paralleling with modern backpack technology. The Photo Hatchback is no exception.

Since I’ve had it, I’ve taken it on a bear viewing excursion, a glacier photography hike, a couple of bush flying adventure, and of course, on a run to the coffee shop. For everything I’ve used it for, The Photo Hatchback has worked great. It has a nice streamlined profile, clean design and it’s certainly built to last. The 16L version is even more streamlined. It doesn’t have lots of compression straps or ice axe loops, but it’s not intended to be a technical pack. Like I said, it’s a day pack with a camera compartment. Easy and simple.

That said, it does has a capable suspension system with comfortable straps, a sliding chest strap and a 1″ waistbelt. It ventilates well and is easy on the shoulders, even for a long day on the trail. Like color? It also comes in blue and orange.

A Camera Pack For Everyone?

I really think that Lowepro hit the mark with this pack, simply because it’s so simple and yet so versatile. Out of all the camera packs that I’ve used and reviewed, it occurs to me that for the great diversity of photographers out there, the Photo Hatchback may very well have the broadest appeal of any pack that Lowepro has made in recent years.

Why do I think this? Because the vast majority of photographers out there are enthusiastic, regular people with a passion for creative image making. They’re not out shooting assignments, they’re out shooting for fun. They’re not racing up 14-ers, hanging off of rock faces or skiing steep couloirs with their camera gear, they’re simply out adventuring and exploring the world at their own pace. Hence, they don’t need a highly technical pack, they just need a decent and secure way to carry their gear.

Also, they don’t have battery-grip bodies, huge f/2.8 zoom lenses or a ton of big glass, they’ve got smaller, mid range DSLR bodies with one or two regular sized lenses, maybe even a compact system like a Sony NEX or a Panasonic Lumix G. When they head out the door with their cameras, and whatever else they need for the day, a simple, funcational photo day pack is likely just what they need.

And you know what? That’s essentially what I need too. It’s what we all need. Like I said, I’m not always in “pro” mode, sometimes I go casual, and when I do, I just want something simple. The Photo Hatchback fits that bill perfectly.

Seriously, I wish they had this kind of pack when if first started shooting over 20 years ago. My very first camera bag was a totally amateur-looking square shoulder bag. Something like this would have been way cooler and much more functional.

Whether you’re a beginning photographer looking for an affordable camera pack, or a veteran shooter who needs a slightly more casual bag to compliment your closet full of technical packs, and whether you like to hike with your camera, travel, cross country ski, ride your bike, or do urban street photography in the vicinity of caffeine distribution centers, I think that you’ll find the Photo Hatchback to be an extremely utilitarian bag.

Pack your gear, throw some stuff in the top and off you go. Who cares where you end up, so long as you’ve got enough gear for the entire day.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUIJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.

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  • Wow, I think I just found my next backpack. My 70-200 f/4 L is a must-have when I shoot landscapes, so is there plenty of room for it, even if it’s not attached?

  • Rick, that size lens may not fit in the camera compartment, but it will certainly fit in the main compartment. I took along my 80-200 f/2.8 the other day and just stuck it in the main part of the pack.

  • Dan,

    Can you recommend a good pack for multi-day (3 or 4) excursions that can carry photo gear (DSLR, couple of lenses, etc, and a tripod) and other essentials (clothes, tent, etc)? Really enjoy your newsletter and your enthusiasm for the outdoors and photography. You’re living my dream! 🙂

    Thanks,

    Mac

  • Thanks for the review1 It does look like an awesome backpacks. Would you recommend this one over the Flipside Sport? What’s with the discount code? It doesn’t look like Lowepro has an online store…

  • Vincent, the Flipside Sport is a great pack, but it’s much more technical in design and doesn’t have room for much else besides camera gear and a few very packable accessories. It’s designed for fast, highly active on the go shooting. The Photo Hatchback is a much more utilitarian pack that will fit more clothing, gear and even and iPad or small laptop in addition to a modest camera kit. For general use, hiking and travel, I’d recommend the Photo Hatchback. For trail running, fast mountain summit bagging and active sports where fast camera access and being able to move quickly is the most important aspect, I’d go with the Flipside Sport.

    Depending on your geographic location, you can buy right from the Lowepro site. On each product page, there’s an “add to cart” button on the right. If you don’t have that, you may not be able to purchase direct from the store. In that case, B&H Photo and other dealers have them in stock.

  • Dan, great review. Do you think the 16L camera compartment will fit a D700 with a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 attached… or will I have to go with the 22L size?

  • Jim, I don’t think that combo will fit in the 16L version, but it should fit in the 22L. I just measured with a similarly sized lens, and without the hood, there should be enough room to cram a D700 w/ 24-70 /f2.8 in there.

  • Rick, Dan,

    I just bought this bag and the camera compartment can fit in my 70-200 f4 lens but without hooking to camera. This is the best bag of mine so far.

  • Ever since switching from full frame to the Olympus micro 4/3 system I’ve been looking for a more appropriate size pack. The hatchback 16L was the answer. In addition to the camera around my neck the divided compartment holds another body with lens and three more lenses. I can even throw the 50-200/2.8 in the upper compartment if need be. Unfortunately there’s no place for a tripod – I’ll figure that out later. What I love the most is how easy it is to drop the shoulder straps – leaving the waist belt attached – and bring the pack around front to access your equipment. Thanks for the heads up on this one Dan and thanks to Lowepro for making a pack designed for the new smaller camera systems.

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    Terry Bourk

    I have read you new book “Behind the Landscape.” I could not “put it down” meaning that I kept at it because each photo you presented/analyzed was interesting and informative. I am trying to develop an eye for composition (both the scene and the light).

    Thank you! The examples you present and the suggestions are very helpful. Purple Mountains, McKinley River and Wonder Lake are fascinating.


    Roger Sinclair

    You have done it again! Another triumph.

    Your generosity to share, the clarity of thought and concise explanation thereof is brilliant. Perhaps I should also mention the beautiful photos and the talent necessary to produce them.

    Thank you, Dan.