Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II Backpack Review
The Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II is an outdoor adventure camera backpack designed to carry everything from camera and video gear to skis, snowboards, and other outdoor gear.
It was especially made with snowboarders and skiers in mind, and was built to handle all the elements an alpine photographer might run into.
While I do take my camera gear out on back-country ski trips, I received this bag in the summer. As a result, I didn’t really have a lot of snow to play in.
Still, the long day hikes I took it on convinced me that this is far more than an exceptional winter adventure bag for camera gear. It’s a great all-around outdoor bag regardless of the weather.
Let’s dive into the Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II Review to see if it’s the best hiking camera backpack of 2021.
Table of Contents
Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II Specs
- superb design
- incredible build quality
- keeps gear about as safe as it gets
- pretty much bombproof when it comes to weather
- straps and zips can be used with gloves and mitts
- rigid sides keep skis from collapsing inward
- room for my water bladder
- no easy access pockets while wearing the pack (except for the hip belt)
- I couldn’t get the shoulder straps to be comfortable (that could just be me)
External Dimensions: 33 x 25.5 x 60 cm | 13 x 10 x 23.6 in
Weight: 3.09 kg | 6.81 pounds
Laptop Compartment Dimensions: 27 x 2 x 38 cm | 10.6 in x .8 x 15 in
Camera Compartment Dimensions: 29 x 18 x 42 cm | 11.4 x 7.1 x 16.5 in
Front Compartment Dimensions: 34 x 8 x 50 cm | 13.4 x 3.1 x 19.7 in
Top Compartment Dimensions: 27 x 15 x 10 cm | 10.6 x 5.9 x 3.9 in
With the bag in hand, one thing you’ll probably notice right away is that the the Whistler BP 450 AW II is a large bag.
If you’re a mirrorless camera shooter like me and want something a bit smaller, you’ll probably be better off with the BP 350 AW II.
Build & Appearance
The LowePro Whistler BP 450 AW II is truly one of the best built adventure camera bags I’ve ever handled.
The exterior fabric is both ripstop and waterproof. The zippers, straps, and buckles all work really well, feel bombproof, and are large enough to use with gloves and even mittens.
The interior of the Whistler BP 450 AW II features an incredible amount of padding, which is so robust you can take a fall in the snow and never fear for your gear. I’ve heard of people having epic crashes while skiing with this pack and not once even feeling the gear through the back of the pack.
Speaking of the guts of this bag – the camera gear dividers and attaching velcro are some of the best I’ve ever worked with. They’re incredibly padded, easy to use, and completely versatile. I have no doubt of my gear’s safety.
It really looks like a lot of time and thought were put into the crafting of this bag. All the straps and attachment points are placed more or less perfectly, and a lot of care was put into where things go.
As one would expect of a bag in this price range, the bag itself feels like it will hold up a long, long time. It’s built to be set down in the snow and between the waterproof exterior and the included bag cover, it’s clear that this bag can hold up in just about any kind of weather.
All this being said, the Whistler BP 450 AW II isn’t the lightest of bags. It’s designed more for keeping your gear safe in seriously harsh conditions than for shaving off pounds. So if you’re looking for an ultralight adventuring pack, this isn’t it.
If, however, you’re looking for a bombproof camera backpack that will withstand everything from freak snowstorms to tumbles down the slope, this bag’s definitely at the top of its game.
As far as looks are concerned, I’m sure most folks would love the Whistler’s style. The colors work well and and it has a simple and sleek look.
That being said, when I’m hiking or skiing, I’m far more concerned with functionality than with style… although the orange straps definitely would help you stand out in an emergency.
The LowePro Whistler BP 450 AW II comes with a number of robust attachment points, especially if you’re a snowboarder, climber, or skier.
Below you can see the upper snowboard carry strap built into the front. They’re quite expandable and can easily detached from the side or the center.
They also work well with the ice ax/trekking pole loops on the face of the pack.
As mentioned before, the buckles are large enough to be used with both gloves and mittens, which is a pretty big deal if you’re not into having cold hands when grabbing for your camera or getting your board ready for action.
The sides of the Whistler BP 450 AW II are quite rigid, which really helps when carrying skis. Less rigid bags tend to have the skis collapse inward.
For summertime excursions, the side carries work great for full-sized tripods. (Not really for smaller travel tripods like mine.)
On one side, there’s a handy side pocket that’s expandable that I didn’t find until much later. It doesn’t look like it, but it’s actually big enough for a full-sized Nalgene water bottle. Of course, it wouldn’t work if you’re carrying skis.
The padding on the back of the Whistler BP 450 AW II backpack is exceptional. At no time have I even gotten close to feeling my gear through the back padding.
More importantly, the ActivZone back panel at the hips somehow suspends the load off my hips.
If you’re not looking to use this camera backpack for carrying skis, you might be disappointed that there are no easy access pockets for water bottles or other essentials.
In fact, other than the attachment points on the hip belt, there aren’t really any pockets that can be accessed while wearing the pack. To reach anything, you’ll need to take it off.
Over all, the exterior of the LowePro Whistler BP 450 AW II is feature rich. All of the attachment points are super solid and everything is designed to be usable even in the worst of weather.
All in all, this backpack is great for those of us going out into the weather.
Just like with the exterior, the interior of the Lowepro Whistler 450 II is feature-rich, particularly with snow lovers in mind. It’s a huge bag,
The top pocket was designed as a goggle carrying case but also works for quite a few other things. I used it for carrying a copious amount of snacks (already eaten by the time this photo was taken), sunglasses, and a few other things.
You can see the additional all-weather cover in the top mesh pocket. I think I’d need to be in a real downpour to need it though, as the bag’s fabric is already quite bombproof. In the snow, the Whistler BP 450 AW II is pretty much good as is.
If you prefer to get to your camera from the top of the bag, there’s a zipper at the bottom of this pocket that makes for easy access.
There’s also a CradleFit 15-inch laptop compartment, but as I never take my laptop out in the mountains with me, I never bothered testing it out.
The front pocket is expandable with a zipper that can be found on the side. Inside, it has a waterproof/abrasion-proof barrier to keep the camera compartment safe. That means you can put in crampons, wet rain jackets, or even muddy gear.
The orange sleeve you see is to keep your avalanche probe(s) handy.
As I take a fair amount of water with me on my hikes, I used the front pocket to carry my 2L water bladder.
With the waterproof divider I didn’t have to worry about anything leaking through. It also has a drainage hole so if your clothing really gets soaked, the pocket won’t fill with water.
The camera compartment is hugely roomy and can hold a large DSLR mounted with a 400mm lens down the center.
The folding dividers can be configured both vertically or horizontally. I really liked that they seemed to hug my gear (especially my lenses) in a particularly satisfying way.
Both pouches and standard dividers are provided. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the configuration as I generally don’t trek with this much gear, but the more I used it the more possibilities I saw.
I also really liked how it held my Sony A7III mounted with my Sony 16-35mm F4 wide angle. Just the right amount of snugness.
The front panel of the camera compartment has pockets for SD Cards, cables and other goodies.
I stored my extra batteries in the larger pocket and a few odds and ends in the lower one (i.e. lens cloths, lens caps, filters, etc.).
If you’re someone who carries a lot of gear onto the slopes, this pack is for you. It holds up to eight lenses, a DJI Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom, and/or a DJI Osmo.
Not having drones, I packed three extra lenses in addition to my Sony A7III and a 16-35mm lens, a Storm Jacket, cleaning kit, lens filters, and a charging bank. There was definitely room left over.
The beauty of the Lowepro Whistler 450 II though, is that it has a huge amount of room for non-photography outdoor essentials. The front pocket is expandable enough to carry a climbing rope and helmet. There was even room leftover after packing in my 2L water bladder.
Ease of Use/Comfort
As far as comfort is concerned, I had mixed results. I couldn’t get the shoulder straps to fit particularly comfortably no matter how I adjusted them.
At the same time, I absolutely loved the Activzone suspension of the Whistler BP 450 AW II over my hips. It literally made the bag feel like it was floating while hugging me at the same time.
I’d recently had a back injury and had the bag packed to the brim for two different hikes. As long as I made sure the weight was off my shoulders (which it should be when adjusted correctly), the bag was a breeze even fully loaded.
Empty the Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II is much lighter than it looks. In fact, if you own the previous version of this bag you find the AW II much lighter than its predecessor.
As far as ease of use goes, everything just works perfectly, even one-handed. Absolutely no complaints.
Value for Money
Here’s where things get tricky. At just under $400, the Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II is one pricey bag.
Is it worth it? If you’re an avid skier/snowboarder who wants to keep their gear absolutely safe then yes!
If you’re not often in inclement weather or don’t make it out to the wilderness much, probably not.
This bag is meant for folks who like to capture the action from mountain peaks and have some serious gear to carry. It’s not a casual hiking backpack. T
hat being said, the hip suspension combined with it’s incredible build quality and superb design made me fall in love with this bag even on ordinary hikes.
Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II Review | Conclusion
When I first got the Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW II, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it. Compared to my other daypacks, it was huge and bulky.
Once I took it out on a few decent hikes, though, I started to really see its value. I can’t emphasize enough that some real care and thought went into the design of this bag. The more I use it, the more I love it.
As a mirrorless shooter, I thought I might prefer the 350 version. Now, after using the 450 a few times, I’ve figured out a way to use the extra interior space to carry a few more of the things I like on day hikes. (Mostly extra clothes when I know I’m going to get wet.)
It’s definitely my new favorite backpack for longer hikes and I can’t wait to try it out on the slopes!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.