Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II Camera Backpack$129.99
- Easily accommodates gear
- Easily accommodates other items for day-trips
- Solid build, protects equipment
- Lack of compression straps on shoulder straps
- Limited sizes for vertical tripod
- Placement of the pocket net
While hiking in the backcountry of the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I had an opportunity to really put the Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II Camera Backpack through its paces. How’d it fare? Read below to find out –
WHAT IS IT?
The Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II Camera Backpack is designed to carry photography equipment comfortably and safely. When I purchased the pack, I was looking for a pack that offered the ability to not only carry all of my photo equipment, but to also be able to manage items needed for extended day-hiking. More, I was looking for a pack that provided the same degree of comfort that I’m accustomed to finding with modern technical packs used for backcountry backpacking (i.e., I didn’t just want a camera satchel).
Reviews about the use of the Fastpack BP 250 AW II are varied; some have used the pack on short trips in urban areas, and others for more rugged hiking use.
I used the Fastpack BP 250 AW II on the 10-mile Petrified Forest Trail in the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The trail offers a wonderful blend of terrain – from rolling hills, wide-open North Dakota plains, and some substantial (for North Dakota) mountainous terrain to navigate down and up. As a result, I had an opportunity to use the pack in a variety of environments.
The camera compartment of the Fastpack BP 250 AW II is pretty typical for a camera pack: flexible personalization is accommodated through repositionable velcro-lined walls. The dimensions of the compartment are 11.42″ x 6.10″ x 10.83″, and I had more than enough room to accommodate my gear on that trip: a Nikon D5500 with the kit 18-55mm lens attached, and Nikkor 85mm macro lens and a 35mm prime lens. Even with the two additional lenses and camera body, there was still more than adequate space in the body compartment (As a side note, I’ve just acquired a set of Lee filters and support material, and it will be interesting to see exactly how much more I can actually put into the pack). I didn’t personalize the area, having found the pre-configured arrangement workable for me.
Above the camera area is an upper compartment measuring 11″ x 6.5″ x 9″ for other ancillary items. A zippered area easily held manuals, a moleskin journal and other miscellaneous paperwork. I was also able to easily arrange extra batteries and charger, my wireless Nikon remote camera triggering system and other photography related items with both the netted and standard pockets. More importantly, inside the cavity itself there was adequate space for other non-photographic items needed for the trip. I was able to carry a first aid kit, a stuff sack with food and other smaller items with ease.
Design & Style
There are some “hidden” elements that keep the form of the pack clean and tight that I like about the bag:
First is a hidden all-weather cover at the bottom of the pack. Simply open the velco lining and pull the cover out and place over the pack. There’s a strap attached to the pack that prevents the cover from being lost or forgotten during a trip.
Second are two SD card holders on the upper lip of the body compartment of the pack. There’s plenty of room elsewhere in the pack to hold the SD cards. It’s nice, however, to have a specific place designed directly into the pack. It’s location next to the camera bay is convenient because I only had to open one compartment to gain access to both my camera and extra cards. They’re also helpful for keeping the cards in a single location, preventing them from potentially moving or sliding under other equipment while the bag is being moved.
Third is a compartment along the body of the pack, accessible through a zipper on the side of the pack. While designed to be able to fit a laptop, I used it to easily carry an iPad Mini. The size of the compartment is 11.42″ x 0.79″ x 18.11″.
The external dimensions of the Fastpack BP 250 AW II are 12.2″ x 10.24″ x 19.69″, and it weighs just under 4 lbs empty. Overall, the Fastpack BP 250 AW II is comfortable to carry. I did have some problems near the end of my 10-mile trek, and I’ve addressed those issues in the Cons section below. For shorter trips, however, the pack is pretty well designed. I was able to get the waist straps comfortably and snuggly in place with the buckle and compression straps. Likewise, a strap around the chest helped to secure the pack to the upper body. With my tripod attached horizontally on the bottom of the pack, I also founded it to be well-balanced and easy to maneuver with it.
The pack is sturdy, and there isn’t much flexibility to it. Combined with the padding, I didn’t have any concerns about the well-being of my equipment.
My biggest complaint with the Fastpack BP 250 AW II is the lack of compression straps on the shoulder straps (a feature the Pro Trekker 450 AW does have). Around mile 8 when I hit the northern section of the loop, there’s a valley that you need to walk down and up. Not being able to compress the bag around my upper back and shoulders made the trek a little more exerting than it needed to be; and by mile 9 as I was headed near the end of the loop, it felt as of the weight of the pack was resting completely against my lower back.
Lowepro’s product page shows a tripod being carried vertically on the side of the pack. My particular tripod, the Sunpak UltraPro 423, was too large and heavy to fit comfortably there. I carried it instead horizontally on the bottom of the pack with two straps located there. I found the placement to balance the pack better.
There’s also a net pocket on the side. In the product images, it looks as if the net can be used to hold the legs of a smaller tripod. Because I moved my tripod, I used the netting to carry a 1 liter water bottle. Unfortunately, the net pocket is pushed back just far enough that I couldn’t reach the water bottle, and I had to stop and take off the pack anytime I wanted a drink. The pack I use for camping in the back country is designed a little differently so I can reach that compartment without removing the whole pack. A minor complaint, but a luxury I would have enjoyed near the end of the trail.
Retail price for the pack is $129.99, but there are a number of sites that have the sell the unit for closer to $112. While still a bit pricey, it appears to be an average price for the mid-range, mid-size pack.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall, the Fastpack BP 250 AW II worked extremely well for me, with only minor issues with comfort on a longer excursion. Moving forward, I think this is a great pack for shorter hikes, but I’ll be looking for something a little different for the next 10-mile hike in the backcountry.