I’ve previously reviewed the Lowepro Photo Sport 200 which I found to make a good lightweight adventure photography bag for one camera, one lens missions.  This year Lowepro added to their lightweight lineup with the Flipside Sport 10L and 15L and they were kind enough to provide one for long term testing.  After a few months of usage I’ve drawn my conclusions so read on to find out more!

Overall Design

I’ve never really understood the name designation of these packs as side does not flip at all, the aforementioned Photo Sport 200 had a side opening and would have been far better suited to the Flipside name.  The Flipside Sport has a back panel opening system like most bags in this category and it is available in two sizes, a 10 liter and 15 liter.  I have the 15 liter to review and that is what you will see in the video above, as well as all the images on this page taken by myself.  Given the extremely light weight of the 15L version already, it would always be my preference over the 10L.

The bag is extremely lightweight but feels like it is made from quality materials.

Nicely ventilated shoulder straps keep it feeling cooler on a hot day

The first thing you notice when you see the bag is the relative lack of external features.  The front of the bag is completely smooth with no straps for extra equipment and no pockets for non-photography gear.  On the one side you have an expandable zippered pocket designed to hold a water bladder and within this pocket is a separate mesh pocket where the bladder should sit.  It’s a missed opportunity to not include any other internal pockets in this main side pocket.  I found that every time I used the bag I used this side pocket not for a bladder, but for a rain jacket, granola bars and a pair of gloves.  I consider these items almost always necessary when shooting outdoors so they have to go somewhere…..

You can’t really re-purpose the mesh pocket for anything though as it’s just too loose.  Things could easily fly out of it while you move about and then they would just be in the zippered area, easily lost when the zipper is opened as it extends right to the base of the mesh pocket.  Even if there had been a zipper on the mesh pocket it would have offered a much needed secure accessory pocket.

On the opposite side there is an ingenious tripod holding system which employes two opposing flaps, strapped top and bottom to secure the tripod.  I have to say that this is easily the best tripod holding system on any photography bag I have used, and let me tell you, I have tried quite a few!  Once the tripod is attached ( you might have to watch the video to truly appreciate how this works) it is extremely solid and if you are cycling , running or even skiing with this pack you aren’t going to feel the constant bounce and wiggle of your tripod as it tries to free itself from your bag.  I used it with a small travel tripod (Really Right Stuff TQC-14) and also a very large tripod (Really Right Stuff TVC-33).  The adjustable side straps were able to handle both ends of the scale equally well.

Trekking pole loops

Moving inside the back panel gives us the only pocket that is meant to hold your accessories.  The problem is, as it always is with back panel pockets is that as soon as you put something thicker than about 10mm in there you can clearly feel the bump in your back when you wear the pack.  I could not put my filters, memory card holder or batteries in this pocket for that reason.  Typically I don’t find anything to put in that pocket at all.

Shutter Muse Photography eBooks

 

For reference, i'm 5ft9

Gear Capacity

The 15L Flipside Sport that I tested was able to hold a surprising amount of equipment.  I’ve included some setups below but as you can see there is a little more room in each of them.  One setup that I couldn’t demonstrate, as I needed my second camera to take the photo, was a dual camera, dual lens setup with both cameras ready to go.  70-300 on one body and wide angle, or wide zoom on the second camera.  This is easily configurable and unlike the smaller Photo Sport 200,  there are no issues at all with pro-sized bodies in the Flipside Sport AW.  With a one body setup and reasonably regular sized lenses (ie no 300mm+) you can easily expect to fit 4 or 5 lenses in there.

If you were to decide to go with the 10L version, Lowepro suggest you will be able to get a body with 70-200 mounted, plus 1-2 more lenses.

I don’t like having my camera accessories in with the lenses like this, they are vulnerable to getting accidentally extracted when I’m swapping lenses and pulling cameras and straps from this compartment.  The Flipside Sport really leaves no other option though.

Including Canon 300mm

I’ve removed the lens hood from the 300mm in this image to get it to fit.  If you want to take the hood with you then you wouldn’t be able to bring both of the other two lenses but it’s nice to know this fits if needed.  You could easily use a soft hood from Aquatech and one of their rubber telephoto lens caps.  Always the best solution when really trying to minimize the footprint of your super-tele and keeping this sort of setup a viable option.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Well priced
  • Extremely light weight
  • Removable camera protection
  • Best tripod carry system of any camera bag I’ve used
  • Water bladder compatible

Cons

  • Not enough pockets for photography basic accessories like memory card holders and batteries
  • Waist belt not able to take any weight, why not maintain at least the same as the Photo Sport ?

 Conclusion

Lowepro position this pack as one for “active adventures” and on a hot summer day the lightweight design with breathable back panel and shoulder straps provides some benefits.  Unfortunately, serious adventurers always travel with things other than camera equipment such as extra layers, food and first aid kits.  The Flipside Sport doesn’t even have enough organizational pockets for basic photography accessories let alone those that you might want to go on your adventure.  They also decided to ditch the nice, lightweight waits belt padding that was on the Photo Sport bags.  Both bags are designed for lightweight adventure photography so I can’t see why there are missing features from this one.  Likewise with the lack of pockets, plenty of space in the previous Photo Sport.  If Lowepro took the Photo Sport and the Flipside Sport and put the two together then they would be on to a real winner.  A Flipside Sport that also contained a top opening like the Photo Sport, tripod holder like the Flipside Sport with the Flipside’s shoulder straps and Photo Sport’s wait straps -> WINNER!  As it stands though I simply can’t recommend this bag for the same things that Lowepro does, you simply won’t have enough storage and doubt you’d be happy with the lack of comfort from the waist belt when you strap it up tight to stop it all flying around in your ‘active adventures’.

Here’s the catch though, this is still a great bag!  It’s just not a great bag for what Lowepro seem to have intended.  I still love the removable camera unit, I do love the lightweight materials and I like the should straps and back panel.  It makes it a decent pack for what I call grab-and-go photography.  By that I mean just throwing some kit in a bag to have with you ‘just in case’.  Heading to the theme park with your kids on a hot summer day ?  This is your bag.  Heading on a family summer vacation and need to carry your camera while you travel ?  This is your bag.  Any situation where you don’t want to feel like you are carrying around a bulky bag, but still want to have a reasonable selection of lenses with you.  In a travel situation the back panel opening is the safest and the lack of any external pockets could be seen as a feature.  Nobody is going to get at any of your gear when you are wearing this!  During my testing I actually took this bag on a vacation to Italy and wandering the streets of Rome or through the Cinque Terre national park it proved to be an excellent choice for a hot destination.  This kind of situation would be my recommendation for this bag and for that I would rate it much higher.

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