Published on July 17th, 2009 | by admin0
Truly Outdoors with Osprey, Crumpler, and Lowepro
Three different bags, three companies. In our previous bag roundup, North Face, Patagonia, and Mountainsmith battled it out for the right to carry our stuff. Now, we’ve unpacked, repacked, dropped, kicked, and even swam with a few more bags to find out which stand out among the, er, pack.
Osprey doesn’t joke around. They don’t make much besides their packs, many with internal frames, and we we came in with high expectations. Despite our recent outdoors focus, we haven’t reviewed any truly serious bags, those aimed at alpine climbers and folks who live out of their backpacks. So we were happy to get our hands on the Women’s Osprey Xenon 82 (the slightly smaller version of the Xenon 85), a bag that can carry a sleeping bag and almost the person sleeping inside. The 82 part of the name stands for the volume in liters, and the recommended load range is up to 70 pounds- not bad for a bag that only weighs a little less than six pounds. This bag was packed with features, like the cute convertible top pocket that turns into a sort of fanny pack (they call it a lumbar pack, which sounds better). The pockets are varied and voluminous, zippers are super-solid, the straps balanced and comfortable.
Actually, the straps are a major draw here, with excellent foam padding and a lower and upper cross-strap, with the lower one being the unique BioForm hipbelt that you can actually have molded to your liking in an oven (available at many REI and other outdoor stores that carry these packs). And we’re not done yet- everyone who tried the bag liked the built-in hydration carrier, which can actually be carried separately from the bag with cute backpack straps, and is plenty large. Like the rest of the bag, it seemed quite durable- the Xenon isn’t waterproof but is easy to clean, and showed no signs of fraying or despite some harsh treatment. Loading is pretty easy, though you might find yourself not filling the entire bag, and perhaps wanting a place to stick your larger mug or bottle, as the pocket is a bit small for some. Overall, at $350 or so, it’s definitely not a bag for “back to school”- more like “back to Everest”. And it’s nice to know about what they call the All Mighty Guarantee -it doesn’t matter who or when or what happened, they’ll repair your bag, and even pay for return shipping.
Next up, the Crumpler Brazillion Dollar Home. This is also a bag aimed at professionals- those with major photography gear, multiple lenses, filters and bodies. With a cute way to attach a tripod, and a massively large amount of space, it’s easy to fit in a mid-sized laptop, camera body and lenses, a bunch of memory cards, a speedlight, and batteries plus the associated chargers. The downside is that the bag uses a single over-the-shoulder strap, and though it is pretty well padded, the sheer weight of the bag means you’re likely in for some sore shoulders after carrying it around a while.
We liked the Velcro organizational dividers, with plenty of options and varied sizes for arrangements- more than twenty of them in total. The bag is also well-padded, offering plenty of protection for the valuable items inside. As with other Crumpler bags, the Brazillion Dollar Home is water-resistant- light rains don’t really pose much of a threat- and the front pocket clasps work well but you’ll often simply use the Velcro to keep the lid covered while still allowing quick access. Crumpler makes a wide line of bags, in various colors- but this one is only available in a pretty plain black and green with a bit of orange. At nearly $300 though, it’s a bit of a tough sell- wheeled bags like the one we reviewed earlier or the bag below are bigger and easier to get around, and still work as a carry-on. Nonetheless, Crumpler has made a lightweight, very customizable bag, big enough for everything a professional photographer needs.
Lowepro also makes a wide variety of camera bags, and in many forms. The CompuTrekker AW is their well-reviewed camera backpack, and we’ve been testing the wheeled version, the Rolling CompuTrekker AW for a while. Much like the MLC Wheelie, this is carry-on for many occasions, as it serves as both a backpack and a wheeled bag. Happily, it’s even slightly better, at least for photography equipment. The AW designates the bag as being all-weather, thanks to the included cover, and it conforms to airline carry-on luggage size rules. It does weigh 10 pounds or so, meaning that you probably won’t want to use it as a backpack for long (and should be careful of any carry-on weight limits).
There are several nice features that make this one worth the $200 pricetag, and we’ll start with the excellent construction. The wheels are very solid, if not quite as durable and well-treaded as the MLC, and the bag is conservatively colored, available only in a solid black that won’t attract attention (good or bad). The tripod holder is a nice touch, though if used means your bag most likely won’t meet airline regulations, as we found out the hard way. There is plenty of space for a 12” laptop, and it can fit up to 15-inch if you remove the kindly-included notebook sleeve and are willing to cram. They even tossed in a built-in memory card holder and separate accessories pouch. Overall, we would’ve liked to see a more stable handle, with slightly better grips, though the current one arcs nicely and pops up or slides down pretty easily. Balance is surprisingly decent, better than the MLC when carrying a laptop and some camera equipment. Oh, speaking of which, it can hold a lot- a bit more total volume than the Crumpler, though less laptop space and with a bit less configurability. It won’t break the bank, and you won’t have to worry about breaking your valuable camera equipment.