LowePro PhotoSport AW III Hiking Camera Backpack Review
Need an affordable, lightweight & compact camera backpack for hiking? The LowePro PhotoSport offers top functionality at an attractive price. Check our review.
The PhotoSport BP AW III is Lowepro’s first camera bag in their new, (more) sustainable green product line.
It’s small – 15L or 24L – and made of 75% recycled fabrics overall – some parts are even 100% recycled!
As a lover of the outdoors, that’s exciting to me, but it’s not the only reason to love this hiking camera backpack.
The camera accessibility is awesome – both in terms of the side access and in being able to attach the ICU to just about anywhere.
Lightweight, sustainably-made hiking camera backpack that's comfortable to carry and provides quick access to your gear.
Since I’m not typically a minimalist on hikes, I was really surprised by how much I like this pack.
It’s perfect for those days when hiking is a bit more important than photography, but I don’t want to leave my camera completely behind.
I’m still getting used to bringing the bare essentials – especially since I’ve only really handled the 15L version of the PhotoSport AW III – but overall I’m really digging this pack.
Here’s a bit more on my experience with it, but first, the specs.
LowePro PhotoSport BP 15L III Specs
- 2 camera access points (side and the ICU comes out to be worn on the hip belt)
- Modular design
- Hydration bladder compatible
- Plenty of expansion options
- Comes with rain cover
- Made of 75% recycled material (Yay!)
- ICU is a bit too small
- Not a fan of the drawstring on the main compartment
- There’s nothing to keep the ICU form slipping off the hip belt
- Maximum Volume:
4 gal / 15 L
Exterior: 100 x 300D Nylon & Polyester
Interior: 200D Polyester
Exterior: 17.3 x 9.1 x 6.7″ / 44 x 23 x 17 cm
Interior: 16.5 x 7.9 x 4.7″ / 42 x 20 x 12 cm
ICU Exterior: 6.3 x 3.9 x 7.9″ / 16 x 10 x 20 cm
ICU Interior: 5.5 x 3.1 x 7.1″ / 14 x 8 x 18 cm
2.4 lb / 1.1 kg
- Other Features:
Lightweight and compact
Top and quick side access
Holds CSC camera w/lens and 1 other lens
Strap system for different carrying configurations
ActivZone harness system
Build & Appearance
The compartments on the Lowepro PhotoSport BP AW III are pretty straightforward: a main compartment with an expandable drawstring top, an expandable front pocket, and a removable, side-access ICU.
There’s also a hydration bladder sleeve and two smaller pockets inside the top flap and on the waist belt.
The material feels quite competent, with even the mesh portions seeming sturdy and well woven. The nylon on the outside is durable and feels nicely “ripstop-y.”
I’ve taken the bag out a number of times now and set it down in both wet and dry conditions – it still pretty much looks like new.
On would expect to notice some kind of difference between recycled and non-recycled materials, but I can’t tell the difference – everything looks and feels like any other bag made with Ripstop.
The exterior material also has a double coating of Ultra Tear Strength to increase tear strength and add more water resistance. I haven’t made a mark on it, even with going through thick brush and branches.
If you’re the sort of hiker who hikes with trekking poles, a tripod, or other gear you like to strap on, the Lowepro PhotoSport III comes with plenty of attachment points.
Overall, the Lowepro PhotoSport III is quite simply a well-designed bag. Everything sits where it’s supposed to and all the features work as advertised.
It also happens to be good looking, finding a nice balance point between a “hiking backpack look” and a trim, around-town sort of look.
Externally, the Lowepro Photosport BP AW III has all the features you’d expect of a compact hiking camera backpack.
The front pocket is nicely expandable (using its upper straps) and is great for quick stash items you might want immediate access to. I generally use this for clothing items like my hat, gloves, and/or rain jacket.
If you have a really compact tripod, the front pocket also makes a great tripod carry – especially for those who prefer to have the tripod weight centred on your back.
The front of the bag has loops for holding your trekking poles.
The rainfly lives in a compartment at the bottom of the front pocket. I wish it didn’t take up so much room inside, as space is at a premium in this tiny pack, but I’m grateful there’s an integrated place to stash it.
The rear of the pack features the excellent ActivZone adjustable harness system, with plenty of ribbing for airflow in the back panel and wide, adjustable shoulder straps.
There’s more padding in the shoulder straps of the Photosport than in many similar packs of this load capacity, though they’re a bit stiff until broken in.
The hip belt is nicely wide, yet not bulky. Below you can see it with the camera cube attached.
There’s only one side pocket since the other side is taken up with the side camera access. It’s big enough for a good-sized water bottle or a small tripod.
(If you have a larger tripod you might want to look into the 25L Photosport.)
On the opposite side is the door that accesses the camera gear. It’s the only in-the-bag access point, but this doesn’t bother me, as it’s highly convenient.
Also, since this bag is designed for just a camera with an attached lens and maybe one other lens, there’s not really that much gear to access.
The top zippered pocket makes for quick access to items such as sunglasses or snacks.
Inside, the Lowepro Photosport features a large main compartment topped by a drawstring. I’m not a fan of this type of drawstring though, as it doesn’t tend to stay in place for me. It’s one of the few things I dislike about the bag.
Inside the main compartment at the top, you’ll find another zippered pocket and a couple of mesh pockets.
I haven’t really found a use for these, but I imagine folks might store their extra SD cards there, a lens cloth, or something similar.
On the rear of the pack lies the pocket for a hydration bladder. I’m definitely a fan of hydration bladders – at least for longer hikes – so I’m grateful this is part of the design.
Because of the pack’s compact size, I was amazed that my Osprey 2L hydration bladder could fit in this compartment at full capacity does actually.
The opening for the tube is tiny though, and I couldn’t get my bite block through it. I had to disengage it from the bladder and run the tube through the hole instead.
A full hydration pack made the back of the pack a bit bulky, but not too much so.
Opposite the side pocket lies the side camera access port and the removable ICU. It’s designed to store the camera with the longest lens attached, altogether measuring no more than 9′ deep.
Next to it, you could fit a small prime lens, with a small section underneath for maybe a spare battery or filter set.
The door of the ICU has an SD card slot built into it, but I probably wouldn’t use it as my camera has two SD card slots built-in and I rarely fill even one unless I’m shooting video or on a long shoot.
One of the coolest features of the Lowepro PhotoSport BP AW III is that it’s modular.
The camera cube can be removed and attached to the hip belt, the shoulder straps, or even to a separate camera strap. There’s no need for an extra chest harness or Capture Clip for those of us who like to hike with our camera at the ready.
The pack comes with what Lowepro calls a “GearUp Accessory Strap Kit”, which literally allows you to attach the ICU to you or the pack in just about every way imaginable.
If you haven’t yet bought a quick-release shoulder strap for your camera, that’s also included.
I really, really appreciate the chest harness option, as it keeps the camera weight off of my neck. I wish the straps were more adjustable though. As it is, using this particular setup, you can’t change where on your chest the ICU sits.
Still, as something that’s included with the pack, I think it’s awesome. It works just fine in the field, too.
If you’re not a fan of wearing your camera/ICU in front of your chest, the hip belt option also works nicely. Just be careful when putting the pack on or off, as there’s nothing to stop the ICU from sliding off.
The Lowepro Photosport BP III wouldn’t be much of a hiking pack if it couldn’t withstand a rainstorm, so along with the water-resistant outer material, Lowepro also included a rain cover.
It’s a gaudy color (why couldn’t they have made it forest green or something??), but it completely covers the main section of the pack.[rain cover photo]
At 15L, this is a tiny bag. It’s designed for minimalist hikers who want to take a bit of their camera kit with them but mostly are out for a hike. As such, there’s not a lot of room inside.
Officially, the Lowepro Photosport BP AW III 15L can carry:
- Smaller mirrorless kit such as Sony A6600 with attached 16-55mm lens + additional lens
- Compact Tripod
- Clothing and personal items
- 2-liter hydration reservoir (not included)
Unofficially, it feels a bit smaller.
The main compartment can hold a fleece pullover, but not really much more than that unless what you have really compresses down.
The camera compartment on the 15L is pretty small and won’t easily fit cameras much bigger than something like the Sony A6600. You’ll also have a hard time getting most telephoto lenses into this ICU.
I’ve been using it with my Sony a7III with a Sony FE 16-35mm lens attached. It just fits, though only in the bag. It doesn’t fit in the camera cube when it’s used outside the bag. There’s also no room in the ICU for much of anything else when carrying the Sony A7III.
(The Lowepro Photosport BP III 24L reportedly fits a Sony A7 III quite nicely.)
Still, this is what the Lowepro Photosport BP III 15L was designed for: super lightweight, minimalist hiking. As such, it really succeeds.
Ease of Use/Comfort
I’ve seen at least one review complaining that the Lowepro Photosport BP III was pretty difficult to figure out, but this wasn’t my experience. Everything seemed pretty straightforward – including the strap system.
No complaints about comfort either. I’ve taken it on multiple five-mile hikes and hardly noticed it…except for the times I’ve taken a full 2L hydration bladder.
I find that filling the PhotoSport’s hydration bladder to just 1L hits the sweet spot as to plenty of water yet not making bulge against my back.
The shoulder straps are a bit stiff but should get broken in time. They’re nicely adjustable and sit just fin on my small-wish frame.
The weight sits evenly on the hips, leaving my shoulders free.
Overall, no complaints.
As far as alternatives go, the Mindshift Rotation 22L is probably the closest in terms of size and camera access.
It’s considerably more expensive than the 15L, but about the same price as the Photosport 24L. It includes a few of the same camera carry options the Photosport offers as well as a few other interesting features.
You could also combine a hiking backpack like the Osprey Stratos 24 with a camera insert like the Tenba BYOB 10. These together would be just a bit more expensive than the Photosport, but you wouldn’t get the side access (or other carry options).
If you’re looking for an ultralight that carries substantially more gear, the F-Stop Kashmir 30L does the trick nicely, but it’s almost twice the price.
If you love having your camera at the ready while you hike, are looking for something compact and ultralight, and/or you don’t want to pay a huge amount, it’ll be hard to beat the Photosport BP III – especially if you haven’t yet invested in a cheat harness or Peak Design’s Capture Clip.
Value for Money
The LowePro Photosport BP III 15L retails for under $180. As such, it’s a positive steal!
Everything’s included – you don’t have to pay extra for a camera cube or a rain cover or the strap system.
The materials and build are excellent. The design is well thought out, and the different camera-carry options just put this bag over the top.
If you find the 15L too small or are shooting with a larger mirrorless camera like the Sony A7, the 24L retails for under $230 and is also well worth it.
Lowepro Photosport III AW Review | Conclusion
The Lowepro Photosport BP AW III was clearly designed by someone who loves to hike and hikes often. Some would say that it’s a hiking bag first and a camera bag second, but for me that’s not really true.
For those of us who hike often, this bag hits the sweet spot for the times when I’m not wanting to carry my full camera kit but don’t want to go with just a phone camera either. It meets me right in the middle.
It’s lightweight, durable, comfortable, and allows me to have my camera at hand without bringing any extra gear.
On top of that, it’s made of mostly recycled material! Honestly, that’s truly awesome.
All in all, I really like this bag and have been using it often. Highly recommended!
Lightweight, sustainably-made hiking camera backpack that's comfortable to carry and provides quick access to your gear.
Teryani Riggs (they/them) is an adventure, who loves all things wild and free. Teryani can often be found in the midst of a social/eco-justice campaign, hiking through wild backcountry, or hitchhiking around the world listening to other people’s stories. While their focus has historically centered on landscape, travel, and wilderness photography, they’ve also been hired to shoot genres as varied as historical fiction reenactments in the studio to product and food photography.