Testing - CES and The Daily Grind
Seeing that travelling to the International CES presents a combination of challenges for one’s luggage, it was the perfect opportunity to test out just how useful the Photo Hatchback could be. Starting with the flight out to Vegas, I discovered that the bag fits comfortably underneath the seat of your average airliner, provided that it isn’t crammed full of gear. A few hours on the convention floor was all it took for me to deeply appreciate the external water bottle pockets. Having my tablet along for the ride gave me quick access to the web, email, and documents on-the-go. The well-ventilated harness kept my back sweat-free, and the split inside of the tablet pocket made it a convenient place to stash maps, boarding passes, or other flat items. Since the end of the show, I’ve been using the bag on a daily basis to carry a change of clothes from the office to the gym with enough room to spare for my lunch. The camera box stays at home ready to be swapped into any bag that I choose at a moment’s notice. I can definitely see myself using this backpack for years to come, so my initial reservations about its price are long forgotten.
One of the very first things I did after receiving the bag was remove the waist belt. Unless I’m backpacking with 50lbs of gear, I’d rather go without a waist belt dangling at my sides. For those who choose to keep the belt attached, you can swing the backpack around to your front to conveniently access the camera compartment. The belt keeps the bag suspended at the perfect height. I can still comfortably access the compartment one-handed without the waist belt, but I do so at the risk of something falling out. Another less-apparent bonus feature of the bag involves the tablet pocket. Its size allows it to accept a ~1.5L hydration bladder. Best of all, you can route the hose through the grab handle and into one of the loops in the shoulder harness for a CamelBak-esque setup.
There are only two downsides that I’ve found with the Photo Hatchback. The first is that the mesh outer pockets are not well-suited to carrying very tall or slender tripods. They tend to topple out if the bag isn’t full. Had Lowepro included an elastic or Velcro loop above these pockets I could carry a wide variety of tripods or monopods without concern. This second point is more of a nitpick really. Unlike past Lowepro bags that I’ve handled like their classic Slingshot series, the shoulder straps on the Hatchback do not have any elastic bands to keep any strap excess in check.