First things first: if you’re reading this, you may notice that my website looks a bit different and scaled-down. I’m currently going through a big redesign as I switch most of my galleries to Photoshelter’s excellent format. This is taking a bit more time than I expected, so please stay tuned; I believe the result will be worth the wait (well, I’m excited about it, anyway!).
I have a pending review that I hope–if my under-construction site cooperates–to have up in a few more days on one of Lowepro’s new Urban Transit series of bags. It’s an awesome bag, and has become the new and much-needed home for my Olympus PEN micro 4/3 setup. But you’ll have to wait a few for that–until then, I thought I’d recount a recent experience I had in the field that drove home for me exactly why I love Lowepro’s bags and use them exclusively (you’ll notice they have a permanent link in my “stuff I use” section on the right-hand side of this page).
I made a quick weekend trip to Utah last month to see a couple of spots, including a hike in the Virgin River narrows in Zion National Park. In preparing for the trip, I decided to use my trusty SlingShot 202 AW. It’s the first Lowepro bag I ever bought, and still probably my favorite. It lets you keep your gear close to your body, giving easy access without having to take the pack off. This specific feature is why I wanted it with me in the Narrows–you’re wading through water for almost the entire hike (that’s me in the pic, above, doing just that), so there’s no place to put down your camera pack.
This testimonial would be completely boring and obvious, except for one thing. It saved my gear. I’d hiked Kanarra Creek the day before, and the water level was so low and easy going there that I got a bit overconfident. I’d packed a bunch of gallon-size Ziploc bags so that I could “waterproof” my camera and lenses inside the bag, since I wasn’t using a true dry bag (more on that in a moment). Kanarra was a piece of cake in that regard, so I foolishly decided I didn’t need to bag up my camera and lenses for the Narrows hike the next morning. Well, thanks to two weeks of daily monsoon thunderstorms, the water level in the Virgin River was higher and faster than I’d hoped. It was also muddy as all get-out, so much so that you couldn’t see the river bottom–or where you were stepping. And there are a lot of rocks in that river bed. Small river rocks. Great big nasty river rocks.
What I couldn’t see, about 1/3 of the way up the canyon, was that the current had washed out the sand around one of those big jagged rocks, leaving an un-seeable deep spot around it. My klutzy feet, naturally, found that deep spot, and down I went. And my camera bag went with me, ending up completely submerged. Talk about instant heart attack–even though I’d banged up my knee pretty badly in the fall (stupid rock!), the only thing I could think about was getting my bag up and out of the water as fast as possible. I was almost afraid to unzip the bag and look inside, sure that my camera must’ve been as soaked as I was. To my amazement, all was dry.
Here’s where I need to emphasize this: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, KIDS.
I took a big chance carrying my gear in a non-waterproof bag. The SlingShot is absolutely, positively NOT a waterproof or “dry” bag. You should not do what I did. Or if you do, use my tip from above and bag everything up in Ziplocs for protection.
That said, I strongly believe my gear survived its unexpected baptism SOLELY thanks to Lowepro’s excellent build quality on their bags. My Slingshot was completely soaked on the outside–down through every bit of the padding. But inside the bag was completely dry, and with it my 5DMII and lenses. This is why I only use Lowepro–because even though this bag was in no way designed to protect my gear when it was submerged, it did. If the SlingShot was my favorite bag before this trip, it holds a truly special place in my heart (and bag collection) now.
Next time I do the Narrows–which will be in a couple of months for fall color–I’ll most likely be using one of Lowepro’s new Dry Zone series of bags (which ARE waterproof, and look great from the reviews I’ve seen so far). I haven’t been able to get my hands on one yet at my local camera store, but I’m excited by the bag’s specs. Until then, I remain grateful to Lowepro and my trusty SlingShot, which went FAR above and beyond its intended design on this trip.