If you're a nature photographer, or someone who hikes a lot, in the rain, with a digital SLR, you should take a look at the Lowepro DryZone Rover bag. For around $200, you get a high quality, comfortable, camera-toting backpack that is the first to incorporate a hydration system. Not only will you stay hydrated, but your camera will stay bone dry in the waterproof lower compartment of the backpack.
Features and Design
The upper part of the backpack is constructed of a water resistant ballistic nylon while the lower waterproof compartment is a plastic coated nylon. All the buckles and straps are of a high quality. The shoulder straps are nicely padded and wide enough to stay comfortable. A padded waist strap, sternum strap and a hand-carrying handle along the top fill out the complement of straps. A DryFlo padded back panel works to keep you back dry and cool.
strap detail with hose and hose clip [larger]
The lower section of the backpack is the waterproof section. The compartment is sealed with a waterproof zipper and heat-sealed seams. The zipper requires some maintenance to ensure correct operation, but this just consists of applying some grease that Lowepro supplies with the bag. The dry compartment is also buoyancy-rated for 35 pounds to keep the loaded bag on top of the water. Within the compartment is another removable zippered soft-sided case that has plenty of Velcro panels that can be reconfigured, as needed, for your equipment. An included zipper pouch stores small, loose items or cables. A couple of Compact Flash sized pockets on the inner lid of the pouch provide waterproof storage for spare memory cards. The dimensions of this lower compartment are 11.8 inches wide x 6.9 inches deep x 8.7 inches high.
The upper compartment of the backpack provides additional storage. The space is a little more "free form" with no pockets or pouches except for a mesh pocket against the back of the backpack that is meant to hold the hydration pouch. The included hydration pouch has a fluid capacity of 50 oz. The hydration pouch, designed by Hydrapack, has a wide mouth for easy filling and cleaning. A hole at the top of the backpack allows the hose to extend up and around your head. A clip on the shoulder strap helps keep the hose out of the way. The upper compartment is 11.8 inches wide x 7.3 inches deep x 12 inches high.
The bag also includes a nice tripod carrier/pouch. On the back of the pack is a flap that folds up underneath some elastic cords. Pull that flap down and you have a perfect pocket to hold a folded up tripod under the elastic cords.
There are a few more features worth mentioning:
The backpack was very comfortable to wear. I highly recommend that you read the manual so that you know the steps to take to adjust the backpack to your body. Every strap has just the right amount of adjustability to get the backpack fitted correctly on just about any body shape. Even so, I would highly recommend that you try this on and get it fitted before you buy.
For my waterproof test, I turned to my wife's bathtub, since all the water outside was frozen. I took out the internal soft-sided pod, tossed in a couple large textbooks, and pulled the zipper closed. I pushed the waterproof compartment completely underwater and held it for about 30 seconds. When I opened it up, there was no evidence of any leakage. In reality, if you have a camera in the bag (in the soft pod), you will not encounter complete immersion, since the camera is not heavy enough to submerge the bag. Even if some leakage occurs, the water still has to penetrate the inner water-resistant pod.
There was plenty of room for a digital SLR (or film SLR, for that matter) and all the related accessories. There is room for 3-4 additional lenses up to an 80-200 mm f2.4 lens (according to Lowepro). The upper compartment is big enough for a jacket, lunch, or first aid kit.
If you're in the market for a backpack that provides waterproof protection for a digital SLR, the Lowepro DryZone Rover is a great option. As the first backpack like this to include a hydration pack, you'll be all set to spend extended periods of time out in the field. Known for their high-quality and comfortable packs, Lowepro offers a lifetime warranty (within reason, of course) to back up their products. I highly recommend this bag -- you won't be disappointed.
Where to Buy
The best way to find the bag is to head to the Lowepro website (www.lowepro.com) and follow the link titled "where to buy". You can also just google for the product name to see where you can find it. You'll probably find it around $200.