The Lowepro Urbex is a daypack first, camera bag second & that’s a good thing
posted Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 1:41 PM EDT
When I shop for backpacks, I’m usually doing so with the primary function it needs to fulfill as being a main player in supporting photography. But a few weeks ago, with a two week trip across Italy, Spain and Switzerland planned, my needs broadened significantly. I needed a slim, well-designed pack that could carry a lot of miscellaneous travel items, but it also needed to fit a camera, lens and supporting photo equipment. Looking at my backpack rack, I didn’t really have a pack that met those specifications. Though I had many excellent photo backpacks, that wasn’t really what I was looking for. I consulted the folks at Lowepro, and they suggested their new Urbex backpack.
The main focus of Lowepro’s Urbex series isn’t photographers, but instead any number of creative professionals who are also commuters that navigate city streets daily. It was built to fit all manner of items into a slim and easily portable design, and it looked to tick just about every box for my upcoming trip. The only thing I was a little worried about was the lack of dedicated photo support. Like I said, this isn’t a photographer’s bag, so Lowepro did not specifically set aside any section for large cameras.
My goal was to bring my 5DS R and a Sigma 24-105mm f/4 lens as well as my filter case, intervalometer and battery charger on the trip, which isn’t too much equipment (and significantly less than I usually bring anywhere). How did I make this work? Well, the Urbex has two main compartments above which are too slim for a camera, but the bottom compartment that is usually reserved for a removable pouch (which is handy in most cases for this bag’s uses) was actually the perfect size for all my camera equipment. This backpack doesn’t seem that large at first glance, but it’s both deep and wide. The entire dimensions of the bag are usable, with no excess fabric on the inside taking up unnecessary space. I was able to fit both my filter pouch and my camera with the lens attached in this bag’s base, which worked excellently.
With my camera taken care of, the rest of the bag I could dedicate to other items. Take a look at everything I was able to fit in this bag at one time:
That’s an iPad Pro, the aforementioned camera and filter bag, intervalometer, a Nintendo Switch and controller grip, my sweatshirt, sunglasses, cables, portable battery pack, umbrella, water bottle, headphones, travel wallet, and the occasional purchases from day trips to and from the hotel. I had also brought along a Gorillapod that I would swap out with either the umbrella or water bottle, depending on the day trip.
Even with all that packed inside, there was still room in the bag for more things. It’s a surprisingly spacious bag, and this isn’t even the largest available size. I had the 24L, which is the middle version.
There are five zippered compartments on the bag: one is at the base, where I stored my camera and is a space usually reserved for the included removable pouch. The remaining four are accessed from the top of the bag. The first pouch is for a laptop, where I put my iPad Pro. The second gives you access to a large compartment that sits directly above the bottom compartment. This is easily the largest and deepest compartment on the pack, and where I stored items that I didn’t necessarily want squished or compressed in any way. It is where I stored my headphones and Nintendo Switch, as well as my sweatshirt.
The next zippered case is very small, and used for handheld miscellaneous items. For me, earplugs occupied this space most often, and sometimes my sunglasses when I was using the one case I had to hold my eyeglasses. The interior of this pouch is soft, so it won’t scratch anything you put in it. You could fit a cell phone, car keys, or any number of small items in it. The final pouch goes the length of the bag, but isn’t particularly wide. I used this one for larger items and cables, as I could let those fall to the bottom of the compartment and was not worried about compression damage. It’s the least protected of all the compartments, facing outwards and not having much in the form of padding. It is rather spacious though, so you can fit a lot of things in it. This is where my umbrella found itself most often along with the portable battery pack.
The last place for storage is a side pouch that works well for a water bottle or tripod. On my trip, I used it interchangeably for both, and at one point even had my umbrella there for quick and easy access for those sudden storms (there were three).
What is more important to me than sheer storage space is how well the bag feels on my back with it fully loaded. In this case, it was pretty darn comfortable. The pack distributes weight well among each of the compartments, and even when it’s fully packed it is hard to make it get that heavy. The Urbex’s design makes it take up more vertical space on my back than horizontal, so I never really felt like it was pulling me backwards like some large backpacks do. Because of this, my usual complaints about the somewhat flimsy straps are less of a sticking points.
No, the straps aren’t thick or well padded, but in the case of the Urbex, they don’t need to be. The straps for adjusting are well stowed by a set of elastic bands that hold them flush, so they don’t dangle and annoy me like most backpack straps do. For the most part, I have no complaints about the straps for this bag, though I do wish they included a chest strap. When the bag gets very full, the weight could be better distributed with a chest strap, but it’s not a deal breaker. I just happen to really like chest straps.
As an added bonus, the left strap also has a zippered, expandable pocket that can hold a cell phone… as long as it isn’t too large. My iPhone 7 Plus, for example, doesn’t really “fit” well in it. A non-Plus version would be just fine though.
Where the Urbex meets your back, the padding is not insignificant. There is a good amount of comfortable padding, and one of the pads has space behind it to allow it to fit over rolling luggage bars for easy transport in an airport (though I did not use this personally, as I was using this pack and a duffel while traveling). There is no rigid interior frame to this bag, but it does a surprisingly good job keeping its form and staying upright when set on the ground. The bottom is flat, and it balances well as long as the top of the bag compartments are not more heavy than the bottom (this was not a problem for me since my camera occupied the bottom space).
- Surprisingly spacious interior with multiple large compartments
- Well padded main compartment keeps valuables safe
- Comfortable, even when fully loaded
- Bag is light weight when empty
- Removable insert
- Tough exterior can handle a lot of stress
- Multiple pockets inside two main compartments
- Despite lacking rigid frame, holds shape well and stands on its own when set down
- Straps stay neat thanks to included elastic fasteners
- Straps are rather thin, offering little padding
- Lacks chest strap
Overall, you should not look at the Urbex as a camera bag, but as a travel or day bag that can accommodate a small amount of photo equipment if necessary. I found it excellent for my needs while traveling, since I was focused on having what I needed on me day to day rather than toting around a lot of photo equipment.
And honestly, sometimes that is what you need more than a lot of photography equipment.
The Urbex is an excellent utilitarian bag that can fill many needs. It’s deceptively large, comfortable, and I was happy to have it on my back for the several hundred thousand steps I took walking across Spain, Italy and Switzerland. Looking at it now that I am back home, it looks just about the same as it did when I took it out of the box brand new. It has held up extremely well, and I can’t wait to take it out on my next adventure.
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