Impressions of the LowePro Rover Pro

My search for the perfect camera backpack is not over, but it has taken a significant turn in the right direction with my recent acquisition of LowePro’s Rover Pro 45L AW. This article about my impressions of the new Rover Pro will not include much of the technical information about the pack. Those details are found easily enough on the LowePro website, and there are a couple of promotional videos (1 and 2) there as well. Instead, I’ll simply explain what it has been like to use the pack over the last few months. Objectively evaluating things that I have already purchased goes against the way I was raised to focus on positives and make the most of what is in hand, but I will do my best to paint an accurate picture of the Rover Pro.

The 45 liter version of the Rover Pro was certainly the right choice for me, in large part because of the second interior storage compartment dedicated to camera gear. This second compartment is not included with the slightly smaller Rover Pro 35L AW, and the reason this is a big deal for me is that the two compartments allow me to comfortably and safely carry every last bit of the camera gear I own. Now, my collection of lenses and accessories is not impressively large, but it does include: 1 mid-sized body, 2 zoom lenses, 2 standard prime lenses, 1 tilt-shift lens, 1 flash, and various other odds and ends. Like I said, all these things fit very easily in to the padded portions of the 45L (with other appropriate pockets for some of the odds and ends). The vary first job I assigned my Rover Pro was carrying delicate photographic equipment as a carry-on during a trip where my tripod was broken in checked baggage. I was seriously glad to have to option of keeping valuable lenses stored safely at my feet, and the bag was so comfortable to wear through the airports, I hardly gave it a second thought.

roverprolocationWhen I returned home from my vacation, I was ready to put the Rover Pro to the test, and I didn’t hold back. I loaded up the backpack with all my photographic equipment (even some lenses I had not intention of using that day), and then I added ice-climbing gear (including boots), clothes to keep warm inside the Mendenhall Glacier’s ice caves, and a mid-sized water bladder. Actually the water bladder was slightly too big for the Rover Pro’s dedicated sleeve, but I was able to make it work by only partially filling the bladder. The extent of the gear and the fully loaded pack are featured in the accompanying images. In the end, the bag tipped the scales at around 45lbs, which is more than I’ve carried since, even on an overnight trip.

The hike to the Mendenhall Glacier caves is somewhere between two and three miles, but what it lacks in length and net elevations gain, it makes up for with very taxing climbs and descents. The day resulted in some portfolio quality photos, and a seriously aching body. While both my shoulders and hips were quite sore, there was no bruising after wearing the pack for the better part of six hours. Honestly, though, I was worried. The Rover Pro had not been as comfortable as I had hoped.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for some good news. Just a couple days later (the importance of there being no bruising) I packed with a different strategy. Carrying just the essentials and halving the weight of the photographic equipment I was bringing, I set out on a hike that was more than double the length and elevation gain of my previous trip. The results were amazing! I can honestly say that I’ve never carried a backpack more comfortably for that length of time. I’m convinced that the ventilation provided by the Rover Pro is second to no other pack in its category, maybe no other pack that doesn’t share its design. Over several subsequent outings I’ve confirmed the findings of the first two test hikes. The Rover Pro carries loads of 30-45lbs about as comfortably as most small camping packs, which is neither exciting or disappointing, but it carries loads under 30lbs with an ease that you have to feel to really believe.

roverprofullloadOther qualities of the pack are more of a trade off, and the first of those that comes to mind is the look. I would say that the style of the bag has a simplicity that borders on elegance, but that sleek nature comes at a price. There are plenty of pockets and sleeves on the camera compartments, but the exterior of the pack walks a fine line between having only the most strategic features and just not having enough places to put things. When I recently took the Rover Pro on an overnight trip, I packed pretty spartan supplies. Part of that was a result of needing to put camping gear inside the pack that I would have preferred to strap onto the outside. Still, if you make good use of what the backpack does provide in the way of pockets and straps, you look pretty smart on the way up the trail.

Actually, even the comfort of the pack comes with some downside. Lowepro has produced multiple other backpacks that provide access to the camera through the back pannel, which I (and many other photographers) see as a most useful feature. Unfortunately, you can’t have the Rover Pro’s superior suspension system and the Flipside Sport’s improved camera access at the same time. I anticipated camera access being a major hurdle for me to overcome in my appreciation of this pack, but as the summer rolled on, I realized it’s fairly well suited to my mode of photography. You have to take off the pack to access the camera, and you may have to pull one or both internal compartments from the bag to change lenses, but I think that’s reasonable. This particular bag was designed for camera transport, not to be a camera holster.

roverproloadedDurability is something I can’t comment too much on after only one summer, but the Rove Pro has held up admirably so far. I’ve put the bag though enough that it doesn’t look brand new anymore, and I’ve gotten a sense that the apparent quality of construction and materials is real. The Rover Pro is very well made, as people with previous experience with Lowepro products would expect.

The verdict for me is that I have no regrets in the purchase of this pack, and I would have no hesitation about recommending it to someone whose needs were similar to mine. You can get a second opinion here (you may even notice a handy discount code like the one from another of Dan’s excellent reviews that I used to purchase my Rover Pro). This recent post by another photographer whose opinions I respect stacks the Rover Pro (the smaller version) up against some of it’s competition. I hope I’ve provided you with some valuable information toward choosing the right bag for your photographic needs, now hopefully we can get back to seeing the worlds beauty and sharing it through our photographs!