Tamrac vs. Crumpler = Lowepro (who knew?)

My original post “Voyager Notebook Backpacks from Targus” had me rave about the Voyager Notebook back pack. I’ve been drooling over it for months as it would have been my inaugural step to web mobility.

3 months later, I still have my generic, grade-school-looking backpack. For some innate reason, I just couldn’t pull the trigger and go spend the hundred bucks on what was really in the end a bulky, “notebook” backpack geared toward the commuting student.

Sigh….the search continues…..

Update: in August, I got myself a Digital SLR camera – Canon Rebel XT….so now I have that plus my current 15-inch HP notebook to lug around (more interesting updates about that later).

Realization: it wasn’t until I walked into Lens and Shutter one day and discovered more back packs – back packs that accommodated SLR cameras AND notebooks. Thus, began my search for the perfect Notebook AND digital SLR camera back pack.

The Lens and Shutter guys must really hate me because I spent a good chunk of time looking at every back pack that they had (and made quite a mess of their display areas).

Here are the candidates….
What first caught my eye was the aesthetic design of the Crumpler backpacks.

Spec details of the Customary Barge backpack from their web site:

CrumplerA backpack for all day, day to day use that allows you to carry a 17″ laptop and accessories, as well as your compact photo and/or video equipment and accessories, in a package that doesn’t scream “photo bag!”.

This bag also provides Crumpler’s exclusive ‘slingability’ for easy and secure access to the equipment compartment without fully removing the bag from one’s shoulder.

Water resistant 1000D Nylon shell & 420D Ripstop Nylon lining

Forward-opening main compartment with fully padded laptop sleeve and document sleeve.

Forward-opening access to padded & Brushed Nylon-lined camera compartment with 2x configurable dividers and security-mesh top.

1x external covered & gusseted zip pocket
2x internal pockets (zip w/ mesh & zip w/ gusset)
Spine slot back pad
Carry handle
Removable chest & waist straps
D-rings accessory loops & retro-reflective stripes on harness straps
Fits many 17″ laptops

Verdict: all design (too flashy) with satisfactory functions/compartments, high in price, bulky…but still nice design.

Then I checked out the Tamrac product line. The one that I looked at was the Adventure 9 – Photo/Computer Backpack.

Spec details (from their web site):

TamracThe Adventure 9 is a modern backpack designed for the SLR photographer with a pro digital or film SLR (such as Canon’s EOS 1D Series or Nikon’s D2 Series) with a grip and 5″ lens attached, several additional lenses, a flash, accessories and a laptop. The completely foam-padded lower compartment protects photo equipment, while the large top compartment holds a light jacket, lunch or other necessary items. Inside the top, a Pop-Off Pocket™ keeps AC adaptors and laptop cords organized. A separate, completely foam-padded compartment provides quick access to a laptop (such as Apple’s 17″ PowerBook G4, 17″ MacBook Pro or other laptops up to 15½” x 11″ x 2″ in size) without disturbing photo gear.

Double zipper pulls provide quick access to photo gear while a weather flap and quick-release buckle provide security and weather protection. Inside the main compartment, foam pillars support the camera with lens attached, ready for action, while adjustable, foam-padded dividers protect other equipment. Tamrac’s patented Memory & Battery Management System™ uses red flags to identify available memory cards and batteries from ones that are used up. A Windowpane-Mesh™ pocket organizes filters, cables and other accessories.
Two mesh side pockets provide quick access to accessories and water bottles. The comfortable, foam-padded backpack harness with sternum strap is contoured to distribute the weight of the camera gear across the shoulders. The harness also features Tamrac’s Strap Accessory System™ attachment points for customizing this pack with optional Tamrac S.A.S.™ products. Two lash tabs on the bottom allow a tripod to be carried (requires accessory straps, Model S-113, sold separately).

Verdict: I really had a hard time deciding to pull the trigger on this one. It is very functional and technically well-designed: loved the side mesh pockets, lots of space and compartments, and great add-on accessories. But in the end the aesthetic design was simply just okay. The size of the bag was not bad as well, but I just couldn’t do it.Special (or not so special) mention: I looked at the Kata bag product lines…..and if you are a Halo or Matrix fanatic, then these bags are for you.

Finally, I looked at the Lowepro line. Wow, I should have started with this brand first as I should have known/researched, this company has been around for a while (40 years plus) and really know what they are doing. Design, Aesthetics, Functionality, and most importantly enviro-friendly.

AW ComproFirst up and logical choice to look at: the CompuRover AW. Classified as a Notebook & Camera backpack, this item is slightly heavy (5.4 lbs.) but it has lots of space, a removable waist belt and of course their patent All Weather Cover is included. The specs look great on their web site, but when I saw it in person, it is still too bulky and I could imagine it would be awkward to carry around (darn that heavy HP notebook…heh, more on that later).

I tried to imagine “the motions” of how I would want to use my backpack. First, I love to wander around town and the great outdoors, quickly whip out my camera to take photos and then take a break at an internet cafe (or sit on the edge of a cliff somewhere) and hook up online to the World Wide Web.

After browsing around the displays just a little longer, I think I found a backpack that will work (with a few compromises on my end).

Lowepro Primus AW

Spec details (from their web site):

AW PrimusA perfect combination of fast access and all-weather protection, the Primus AW was built for the backcountry. Rugged construction with a recycled, water resistant outer fabric and a seam-sealed AW cover protects gear. This pack also conforms to a variety of body types with an adjustable 8-point harness system giving the adventure photographer exceptional comfort under heavy load. The lumbar-equipment access point keeps the bag off the ground when digging for equipment in either of the two padded compartments. Gear retrieval is further complimented by a side access zipper that gives the user quick camera access without taking the bag off. Combine that with pockets and features that are made for today’s adventure photographer and the Primus AW delivers adjustable comfort with tough camera protection. In commemoration of Lowepro’s 40th anniversary, we are proud to introduce the industry’s first backpack designed for the professional photographer that is made primarily from recycled materials. Funds raised from the sale of the Primus AW backpack will support Polar Bears International PBI, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear.

AW Primus side entryThe Primus AW backpack, constructed of 51% Cyclpet®, a 100% post consumer recycled fabric, is the first backpack of its kind, and establishes the Primus AW as the industry standard for eco-friendly carrying solutions. Each bag contains enough recycled material to equate to approximately 22 soda bottles. By preventing this material from reaching a landfill, .0034 cubic yards of landfill space, 15,109 BTU’s of energy, .002 barrels of crude oil and .12 gallons of refined oil is conserved throughout the production process. The release of Primus AW celebrates the spirit of conservation which has been, and continues to be, an integral part of the Lowepro culture.

Verdict: the backpack is “naturally” perfect: the size, design, and eco-friendly. I can picture myself grinning with glee when reaching for my camera – just like the guy in the photo on the right. I did my research on the web and most of the reviews have echoed my prerequisites and desires in a Notebook/Camera backpack, yet it is not classified as one. However, after playing around with the upper compartment section, I noticed that the backpack can be adjusted to act as a day pack as well by removing the velcro-attached camera section divider. In the end, I “could” squeeze in a notebook computer.

After sweating it out under my winter coat and toque, I have FINALLY decided that this backpack is pretty much mine….I hope to pick this backpack up soon (just after I look at it just ONE MORE time at Lens and Shutter). Overall, all of these backpacks are great in the end; it all depends on your style and functional preferences priorities.

Ah yes, the little compromise on my end that I alluded to earlier. Well, if you think about it, who wants to lug around a bulky 15-inch HP notebook anyways…..so yes….it is time to get a NEW laptop!

more on that later….