Plus: Compact design; modular accessories; customized layout
Minus: Looks messy when fully accessorized
The Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II is a modular camera backpack that can be accessorized to increase capacity, with separate tripod grips, lens compartments and drinks bottle holders that clip-on.
Astrophotographers carry a lot of gear. Usually. Some shoots depend on a couple of full-frame DSLRs, a selection of lenses, two tripods and more besides. Other times, a one-camera set-up is perfectly fine.
A modular backpack designed to grow with your gear, the ProTactic BP 350 AW II (and its larger sister bag, the ProTactic BP 450 AW II) is aimed at photographers who want to easily increase or decrease the size of their camera bag according to the shoot they’re planning.
We’re reviewing the smaller 16-liter ProTactic BP 350 AW II, which skews towards the astrophotographer traveling with a lighter load, though it still squeezes in a terrific amount of gear for its size. Weighing a super-light 4.8 pounds (2.2 kg) when empty, the ProTactic BP 350 AW II nevertheless is an incredibly sturdy bag centered on one main compartment that opens from the rear behind the shoulder straps.
Inside are Velcro dividers that can be rearranged to house up to two full-frame DSLRs, one with up to 24-70mm lens attached (or one DSLR and a pair of 10×50 binoculars), and about five lenses. The lid closes in a U-shape using sturdy zips, but also holds a 13-inch laptop and two waterproof pockets for SD cards, filters, lens caps and other low-profile accessories.
The ProTactic BP 350 AW II is accessible from all areas; on each side is a zipped door for extracting a camera, while on the top there’s another entry point that’s hardened to protect a drone.
It’s all exceptionally well designed and easy to use, but what about tripods? That’s where Lowepro’s SlipLock system comes in. A design of fabric loops across the front and sides allows accessories to be attached ad nauseam. They’re all secured using Velcro.
Standard inclusions include a tripod leg holder and a strap to secure it to the top; you could easily add a second set if you need to carry two tripods. There is also a drawstring bag for taking a water bottle. Optional accessories include a sturdier water bottle for a flask, a phone case for the shoulder straps, a utility bag for an extra camera, and a lens case complete with its own rain cover. As well as a (removable) waist belt, there’s an optional utility belt that can itself hold accessories.
However, the ProTactic BP 350 AW II isn’t just about cramming as much (or as little) astrophotography gear in as you can. It also works really well as a hiking backpack, something that so few camera backpacks successfully achieve. Astrophotographers hunting dark skies and celestial compositions in all kinds of destinations and elements will love the ProTactic BP 350 AW II’s ActivZone padded back, with channels for ventilation and a chest strap for altering the bag’s position.
When fully loaded and accessorized, the ProTactic BP 350 AW II can look a little messy and feel a bit of a squeeze, but it’s always comfortable to wear, and the build quality is tough enough to cope with whatever you cram into it. It’s hardy.
Oversize zips can close around a full-to-bursting pack, while its undercarriage holds a pouch containing a snug fitting rain cover. There are grab handles all over, and even a loop for fitting the ProTactic BP 350 AW II over the telescopic handle of wheeled luggage. That’s handy for dragging to and through airports, though at 11.8 by 7.1 by 18.5 inches (30 by 18 by 47 cm) the ProTactic BP 350 AW II is sized to be a carry-on photography bag that easily slips under the seat in front.
For travel photographers hunting for dark skies – and taking mainly wide-angle lenses – the compact and remarkably low-profile ProTactic BP 350 AW II is lightweight, strong and endlessly versatile enough for any kind of nocturnal adventure.