Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L
I've decided to finally put a review on a forum that has helped me for years with my photography, so here we go. First off, I would just like to do a little bit of an introduction / disclaimer. My name is Jeremy, and I'm a teenager from beautiful southern California. My dad (a biologist) and this forum both have really inspired me to pursue herping and photography, and both go well hand in hand. My photos are not near my eventual goal or how I dream they will look like, but I am always learning and experimenting, so that is good. I figured I would review something I have had a lot of experience and time with that isn't beyond my review expertise, as much of my photography gear would be! This is my first review here, so I'm sorry if you still have questions I failed to answer. I'll be happy to answer them in the comments.
Back when I first started shooting with dslrs around 2012/2013, I decided I needed some kind of dedicated photography backpack that would allow me to still carry basic hiking essentials, like water, snacks, maybe some spare clothes, you get the idea. I knew that many of you on the forum loved (and still do love) F stop backs, though as a teenager I didn't have the money to afford one. I found this backpack at the photography shop near me, tried it on , and settled on it. I definitely felt then, as I do now, that the 22L would be better then the 16L model of the same pack, and I will discuss that below.
DSC_3430 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
There are a lot of things about this backpack that I really like. There is a removable box like area for your camera equipment that accounts for around 3/5ths of the size of the pack. When fitted, you can not access the gear in it from the top main entrance as you normally would with a backpack, but instead with a zippered rectangle opening at the back, shown below.
DSC_3428 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
The beauty of this is that if you prefer, you can remove it and have a completely empty 22L pack, which without the gear box area has plenty of space for a long day hike or travelling. With the gear box in, there isn't much room in the main compartment.
DSC_3429 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
[/url]DSC_3432 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
I have found this area to be enough to put in a light windbreaker and some snacks, with water bottles on either side in the stretchy bottle holders. There is definitely a point as with all packs though where if you over-stuff the main compartment above the gear insert, the back feels awkward and unbalanced. In my experience that happens pretty easily, and limits what you can carry with you besides photography gear. Other features of the pack include a few pockets (one zip, two mesh stretchy) in the main compartment above the gear box insert, a velcro flap that separates your pack when your gear insert is installed, and a front smaller pocket with two sides, like a folder kind of, which can fit a tablet or even a small laptop. There are two buckle straps connecting the shoulder straps, one waist and one around nipple high. Both are around an inch thick and uncomfortable to my 6'2 180lb body, so I removed the upper buckle strap and never use the lower to be honest. The shoulder straps are nice, both wide and padded, and provide a lot of support which is nice, as with the padded back with a meshy material which is comfortable and sits flush to my back almost all the time. There is no real attachment for a tripod, which is one drawback.
This pack has a built in waterproof / sandproof cover that is tucked away right at the bottom. I love this thing, and it does a good job of keeping the pack dry. However, it does not cover the back, so in a really heavy downpour, water can get in between your back and the pack, especially if you put the backpack down to get your gear out of the box: there is no water protection there.
DSC_3435 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
DSC_3436 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
The Gear Insert Box
The gear box insert (I don't really know what to call it) is my favorite thing about this backpack. It measures around 9 inches tall by 10 inches wide and 5 inches thick, and acts almost like a little carrying bag on its own. It has a drawstring and two handles so you can carry it as well as a velcro bottom to attach it to the pack on the inside. Though the velcro bottom may seem like a drawback when the box is out of the pack, it can be handy. For instance, in the trunk of our car, the velcro of the box will stick to the fabric bottom trunk cover, which means it won't roll or move about when we are driving. Neat!
DSC_3434 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
One thing that kind of bugs me is the overall size of both the box and the pack. Lowepro advertises the box insert as being able to hold a body, two lenses, an external flash, an action camera, and accessories. If you want to do that, either you will stuff the box beyond any level of comfort or you must have small lenses and flashes! I have a nikon 17-55 wide angle, which is a big lens, but when that is attached to my body, (a d200,) I can just about fit my 85 macro in there. No room for an action camera or definitely not an external flash. Here is a shot of it with some of my gear in. As you can see it is already mostly fill with an sb700 flash, the nikon r1 macro flash kit, my 85 macro and my round 12 inch diffusor. If you pack it wrong, it can be very uncomfortable.
DSC_3433 by Jeremy Wright Photography, on Flickr
One issue I have at least with my 2 lenses is that they are too long to stand upright in the box. If you had smaller lenses (my dad's 50mm 1.8 fits perfectly upright) then you could for sure fit a couple lenses in with a body.
Overall, I must say, this backpack has treated me well for the past few years, and will do probably for a few more. Durability wise, the pack is doing good. The only real scar is a decent rip in one of the mesh water bottle holders on the side after I stuck in my snake hook a little too hard and ripped it. Water bottles still fit fine and there is no risk of them falling through the rip, which is the same size from when it first happened, at least a year ago.
If you are out on multi-day expeditions or trekking out into the middle of nowhere, a larger backpack will be needed. This is definitely a day pack or a few hour hike pack, nothing more. Keep in mind however, the pack is going now for around $65, which I think is a steal for what it offers and how it performs.
Here are some approximate ratings I would give it.
Features and pockets: 4/5
Removable box insert: 4/5
Size: For what it is, 4/5, for us herpers, 3/5
Value for money: 5/5
I hope at least someone on this forum will find this review useful. It will never substitute for an f stop bag, but for its price and smaller size, it is a perfect smaller pack for someone who wants to get out for a little bit and carry their photography gear with them.
*If anyone has recommendations for a bigger pack like this (30-40L) for under or around $200, please let me know.
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