Lowepro's Photosport family of products is a long-standing favourite of Active Traveller, and the addition of the Photosport Backpack Pro 55l AW III looks likely to continue that trend.
The immediate impression is that of a serious hiking pack. This is not a 'camera bag' with a waist belt. The harness performs as well as its chunky appearance suggests, offering incredible support for what is - let's face it - likely to be a heavy load of camera equipment. The ActivLift harness system is noticeably effective in moving with your body, pivoting with big steps to help with balancing the pack. The energy-saving effect of this must be significant (we're not scientists....!)
The included Gear Up insert simply swallows equipment and should be more than enough for any photographer that intends to walk any distance. The insert can also be suspended from straps within the pack to prevent it shifting too much in use - this is also means it doesn't weigh the lower part of the pack, and having the weight higher up is much more sustainable on long walks.
It may be churlish but the insert almost feels too big for modern mirrorless kit. We've found that swapping out the big insert for a couple of smaller Gear Up inserts (sold separately) actually improves the versatility and space for non-photographic kit.
Lowepro's new strap/connector system is a quite ingenious inclusion here, allowing connection points to be added the shoulder straps for example, meaning you can quickly clip a camera or toploader to your front whilst on the go. And the addition of the Runabout 18l daypack (a separately available, superlight roll-away pack) makes for a highly versatile eco-system for longer trips.
In addition the Photosport Backpack Pro 55l AW III is made of 85% recycled fabrics, and Lowepro are clearly dedicated to increasing this figure.
One downside is the baffling lack of pockets on the waist belt. Granted there is an adjustment mechanism present in the belt, but most other packs of this size and intended use manage to incorporate them. Equally, having detachable waist straps would make stashing the pack into overhead aeroplane lockers for example, a great deal easier. But then this pack is unashamedly targeted at hiking rather than travel, so perhaps the expectation is unfair.
And to that end - as an out-and-out hiking pack - the Photosport Backpack Pro 55l AW III is brilliant. The price is eye-watering but you get a lot for your money.