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The LowePro SlingShot 302 AW fits a niche in the photo bag market, specifically for quick outings with essential gear. This bag is one of three in the line of SlingShot AW (All-Weather) bags and is the biggest brother in the updated line. The SlingShot concept is that, with only employing a single strap, the bag can be quickly brought around from the back to the front for easy camera and storage access. Indeed, the bag has a side zippered entry for the main camera area which, when slung forward, faces up, making camera storage and retrieval simplified.
Before using the bag for a couple of weeks, I posted a quick first impression video on my blog, listing out some of the key features. For those who enjoy video over reading, take a look. It gives a good first impression when I took the bag on its first four mile hike on the beach.
As I mentioned the SlingShot 302 AW is the biggest brother of the three newer SlingShot AW bags. This bag is intended to store a full-sized SLR and 70-200mm comparable lens attached. A battery grip can also be attached to the SLR and all will still fit nicely.
The bag has a side opening for quick access to a camera without opening the entire storage compartment. The compartment can be fully opened when laid flat on its front and has room for 4-6 more lenses, flashes or accessories. The compartments can be fully customized with LowePro’s standard velcro dividers and a second or third large lens can be stored if desired. Also inside the main compartment are two built in flash card holders as well as a microcloth for cleaning and a pouch for storing a point and shoot camera.
On the back of the bag is a zippered pouch which can hold filters, pens, cell phone and the like. Up top is a larger space which includes a strap to hold down an external storage device, a mesh pocket and a zippered pocket on the outside of the opening. On the right side of the bag is a hideaway tripod/monopod holder. There is a small pouch which tucks away when not in use which holds the footings of the tripod as well as an adjustable strap up top. This feature is meant to hold smaller, compact units and not a medium or full sized tripod. Along this side of the bag, and on the rear, are attachment points for LowePro’s SlipLock system of accessories to augment the bag’s storage.
The bag employs what LowePro calls easy-glide zippers as well as an all-weather cover with its own hideaway pocket. There is also ample padding for the main compartment on all sides.
(Click on photos for larger version)
I found the bag easy to pack with the main compartment opened fully. The upper pocket does not hold much more than a full 40oz (1200ml) water bottle , headlamp, pocket knife, and GPS, but it does fit. The upper outer pouch will hold a few snack bars and a compass. The rear pocket zips most of the way open (which is actually handy to ensure items don’t slip out the other side) but could use a bit more room or special pocket for batteries. Otherwise, I was able to stuff two in the rear pouch and they usually stayed in place, but sometimes got loose.
In all I used the bag for three hikes totaling 15 miles (24.1km) as well as around town with many quick trips in a car. I found the bag easy to put on but I was not as graceful when removing the bag, until I figured out the shoulder strap unclips at the lower bag attachment. This made things smoother.
During the hikes, one that included rain, hail and snow, my main point of slight discomfort was the top of the shoulder strap. While the strap is well padded (and takes a while to dry out) it can use just a bit of contouring at the top. What I mean is, the padding on the strap did not lay perfectly flat against my chest and shoulder. Instead, the inside edge made more contact than the outside. This meant more weight was placed on the inside. I never experienced any rubbing or soreness and my longest hike was 8 miles (12.8km). It seems slightly reworking the angle of the strap would help someone of my size.
The hipbelt is a what makes this bag work so well. Why did the shoulder strap not bug me much at all? Because the weight was held firmly by the hipbelt as it should be. My initial worry was the single shoulder strap would cause an inbalance and soreness. This was never the case when the bag was weighted on my hips first. It truly felt like a normal two strap backpack when on the trail thanks to the generous padding and ample size of the hipbelt. The belt also contains enough extra strapping material to fit a wide range of hips (with convenient loops to hold unused material).
Swinging the bag into action is as easy as unclipping the hipbelt and giving a push to the opposite side. The bag feels secure and well placed when slung to the front and is out of the way enough to still allow shooting. The two clips near the side of the bag help ensure the side flap is not opened too far, causing stored lenses and flashes to fall out. As the sides of the convertible interior dividers extend all the way to the top, there is little danger in equipment falling out of the side opening is left open while the bag is slung to the back (I did this a number of times while trying to get a quick shot and was happy to see my equipment still in place, while noting small items, like a filter, can make their way out if the bag is jarred too much).
The bag is constructed from quality ripstop nylon and while I have only used it a few weeks, my experience with the same type of material on LowePro bags has shown them to be longlasting. LowePro also backs the bag with a limited lifetime warranty to the original owner. The zippers are, indeed, easy-glide and make the bag a breeze to utilize, even when I got sand caked on the outside from sliding down a hill.
The all-weather cover is stowed nicely on the wearable side. A quick pull of the velcro opening and the cover envelops the entire bag, as long as no tripod is attached. With a quickdraw cord at the top, fitting is a cinch. My only complaint with having the cover sewn into the bag is drying time. I’d prefer to be able to remove the cover once it is wet and lay it out, without the bag, to dry.
Lastly, if the main compartment is not fully loaded on the bottom end, the bag loses a bit of rigidity when placed standing up on the ground. With a lens or two in place, the bag sits well on the ground and doesn’t feel as if it might tip over.
This bag is a breeze to use and fits its place in the market well. The construction is up to LowePro’s typically solid standards. I do have some minor complaints, such as the one rear clip, meant to keep the main compartment from opening all the way, often gets in the way of the top zipper (dropping down into the main compartment) and it would be nice if the nice all-weather cover was removable for drying. These are minor things which will not keep me from using the bag, though.
This bag makes for a great around town tool that will pack all you need for a day of shooting on the trail or in the city. It is also a perfect size for a carry-on bag and stows easily under a seat on an airplane, with space in the upper compartment for important documents and a couple of books.
My feeling is you like this bag if you:
On the flip side, you might not like this bag if you:
Buy the Lowepro SlingShot 302 on Amazon – where it is currently 45% off retail.
Disclaimer: The author was provided with a complimentary bag for the purpose of this review.