Lowepro’s new FlipSide backpack makes huge strides over the original
posted Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 11:20 AM EDT
I have never been a fan of the Lowepro FlipSide backback. The design has never felt “serious” to me as a photographer. It’s a bag that looks like it would be good for a novice or amateur, but was a stepping stone to something tougher or simply more refined-looking. However, after seeing the latest iteration of the FlipSide bag, I have totally flip-flopped (ha, pun) on that feeling after using it for the past month. Not only does it look better, with subtle design changes that make a big difference, but it functions far better too. It’s a comfortable fit with enough space to take just about everything I would ever need.
The FlipSide will be released on July 28 in four sizes, each at a different price point and designed for different cargo (language below is Lowepro's):
- Flipside 200 AW II ($99.95 US MSRP): The most streamlined of the collection, this backpack accommodates up to a 7-inch tablet, mirrorless or compact DSLR camera with up to 70-120mm attached lens or compact drone, compact tripod and one or two extra lenses.
- Flipside 300 AW II ($119.95 US MSRP): Taking storage up one notch, this backpack accommodates up to a 10-inch tablet, DSLR camera with 70-200mm mounted lens or compact drone, compact tripod and two additional standard lenses.
- Flipside 400 AW II ($149.95 US MSRP): This large backpack accommodates up to a 10-inch tablet and 15-inch laptop, DSLR camera with up to a 300mm mounted lens or compact drone, compact tripod, four to six additional lenses and a flash.
- Flipside 500 AW II ($179.95 US MSRP): The most robust of the series, this backpack accommodates up to a 10-inch tablet and 15-inch laptop, Pro DSLR camera with grip and up to 400mm mounted lens or 500mm detached lens or compact drone, tripod and four to six additional lenses.
For this review, I had the largest of the four sizes, the FlipSide 500 AW II. When I first saw the new design, I was really surprised at how I liked the form of the bag. It didn’t look to me anything like what I remembered the FlipSide appearing, and looking at its predecessor it appears that some small, subtle changes really made the new bag look much nicer. It has an overall better shape, without awkward angles or a weirdly set base, and the top handle is much improved with a thicker, more durable feel. The new FlipSide also introduces a light checkerboard pattern across the front, which accents the rest of the matte black exterior.
Each side of the bag has an elastic pocket that can be used to carry different objects, in most cases a water bottle or tripod. Like the former design, the new FlipSide does have a dedicated tripod leg pouch that pops out from the bottom of the bag and is designed to hold the tripod vertically across the back. I personally do not like this particular setup, however, in both the current and older version of the bag. The tripod never feels quite secure enough for my liking, and I find the side pouches to work better. In both cases, there are adjustable clips that can be used to hold the tripod in place (the clips for mounting across the back are tucked away in a hidden velcro pocket), I just happen to think the side pouches hold them much more securely.
The other reason I like to use the side pouches for tripods rather than the one across the back is because the storage pocket located there would be inaccessible with a tripod strapped on. That pocket I use primarily for incidental objects like keys, power bars, pens, business cards or a tablet (should I choose to be carrying one). I don’t like the idea of having to remove a tripod just to access this pouch, since I find myself using it intermittently throughout a day of wearing the FlipSide.
The base of the FlipSide is very well designed, and keeps the backpack standing up in most situations, even when it is full of gear. It’s a flat, sturdy base without needing any rigid parts, and that means i can set the pack down at my side when I want a big of freedom or to give my back a rest, and I never have to worry about the backpack just flopping over.
The waist straps are large and relatively rigid, and they have to be in order to use the backpack like it’s designed. The LowePro team has made the FlipSide usable without ever having to remove it, as you can rotate the pack while it is clipped at the waist and access the inside of it without having to take it off.
Personally, I think this type of a photographing situation is kind of ridiculous and most of you won’t think to do it, but the fact is… you can. It’s not the most comfortable setup, and can be a bit of a balancing act, but it’s certainly possible.
The actual use-case of those waist straps for me is for keeping weight well-distributed around your torso and off your shoulders, and for that they work pretty well. I found the waist straps to be just a hair too high up on my waist to be totally comfortable (this is in contrast to the ones on the Lowepro Whistler, which are perfect. Those are, however, much more high-end and more expensive). Though I won’t say it’s an excellent long-day-hike pack, it certainly can be used as such and will be comfortable for the most part. I wore the pack fully-loaded for a few hours and thought it did a satisfactory job of keeping me comfortable.
Speaking of comfort, the FlipSide does have relatively thick padding for your back, so even awkwardly shaped objects inside the backpack won’t poke through and irritate your spine. It also cushions impact well, and I never found that part of my back to be in discomfort while using the FlipSide.
The interior of the bag leaves nothing to be desired, and it’s probably why I like it so much. It’s typical of Lowepro, but something I take for granted when I see other manufacturers: the sides of the bag are pretty rigid, and don’t allow you to feel any of the interior. When you put something in this bag, the items are safe and well protected.
As far as carrying capacity, the FlipSide 400AW in particular (the largest of four sizes) will hold quite a bit. I managed to fit two camera bodies (one 5D Mark III and one 1DX II), four lenses, a microphone, hard drive, pocket camera and folded camera strap. In the topmost removable zippered bag, I fit a charging cable, two memory card zippered pouches, and a set of spare batteries for the aforementioned cameras.
Lowepro likes to show that their larger capacity bags can hold at least a full size camera body attached to a 70-200mm lens, and this absolutely will. In fact, it is specced to hold up to a 400mm lens attached, and a 500mm lens detached. I personally don’t leave lenses attached to bodies when I pack them, but you can clearly see where such a setup would fit.
You can also keep a laptop in a secured pocket in the bag’s main door along with three built-in memory card sleeves and a thin pocket for holding paperwork or identification.
And that’s really it for this bag, which is unusual as I am used to discussing multiple compartments and pockets all around a Lowepro backpack. It’s kind of refreshing to have such a simple, two compartment bag, but at the same time I do wish it somehow squeezed a bit more storage into it. The waist straps could have little zippered pockets, they maybe could have added another compartment across the back, etc etc. I’m grasping at straws here, and I’m by no means a bag designer. I am just expressing a desire for a tiny bit more storage space.
My other small quibble is the quality of the zippers- I feel like they could be better. I don’t really like the ties Lowepro used as zipper pulls (one already broke off) and the zipper itself seems just one size too small to feel super secure. Photographers, myself included, can be very rough on their bags. I just hope these zippers can hold up to that demand.
Speaking of zippers, the way the bag is designed to be used while on your waist actually makes the securing nylon straps near the base of the bag get in the way of the zipper for the main compartment. It’s a very small nuisance, but one worth mentioning.
When I saw the FlipSide, I immediately thought I may finally have found my new in-between backpack. That’s the backpack that’s more than a non-camera bag, but also not as intense at my Whistler. Sometimes I need to securely carry a bit of equipment but don’t want to break out my big, professional hiking bag. For the last several years, that workload has fallen on my much-used Lowepro Transit, but I think I can finally let that bag go and replace it with the FlipSide.
- Stylistically looks pretty good when compared to previous iteration
- Flat base means the bag will rarely tip over when set down
- Large, padded and secure interior
- Opens from the front (part that faces my back) rather than exterior (part that faces out), which means I can set the bag down and open it without dirtying the part that sets against my back
- Can be opened and used without taking the bag off at all
- Can hold a tablet and a laptop at the same time
- Has an all-weather sock for rainy or wet environments
- Empty, the bag is quite light
- Three points for securing light stands or tripods (right, left and across the back)
- Not much in the way of extra storage space
- Zippers feel just one size too small, could be more durable
- No shoulder adjustment cords
The LowePro FlipSide AW II is a marked improvement over the original. The design is cleaner and more refined, the bag feels tough and strong, and the the largest version, the 500, can hold a heck of a lot of camera gear. For $180, that’s a pretty good deal. I do have a few reservations, specifically about the durability of the zippers over time, but after several trips and many hours on my back, I have to say I am overall impressed with Lowepro’s work here.
Lowepro provided a FlipSide 500 AW II for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.