On Assignment with the Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW

I usually like to stay as mobile as possible, and on previous backpacking shoots I’ve gone super-light, with running shoes, a daypack with a weeks worth of food and essentials, and a tiny camera bag like the Orion.

But sometimes you have to carry a lot more – you are out for more than a week, or in conditions that dictate more gear.

That’s where Lowepro’s Pro Trekker line of “expedition camera backpacks” comes in. The sizing numbers are based on the approximate largest lens you should be able to carry in each about the size of a Nikon 300mm, 400mm and 600mm fast prime. For me, the important part of these bags is that they are weatherized, have backpacking-style suspension, and lots of room for non-camera gear like sleeping bags, tent & stove, and they also dedicated seam-sealed pouches for a 70 oz water bladder.

In March 2011, Boys Life ran a story on cold-weather backpacking I shot last year in the Smoky Mountains . My assistant Sharif Hassan and I spent four days in the Middle Prong Wilderness area of North Carolina in January to shoot the story. It’s not a long time for backpacking, but gear for deep snow and sub-zero temps really adds up.

I took two camera systems: The Nikon D3s and the Olympus E3, in case it got too wet/rainy/snowy to shoot with the Nikon (it did, all three of those). We each also needed winter sleeping bags, multiple outer layers for all conditions (which you get, notoriously in the Smokies this time of year) and the usual backpacking stuff: stove, fuel, tent, food, pads, etc.

left: waterproof zippers and big zip pulls are easy to use with winter gloves. Right: The top of the Pro Trekker converts to a waist pack. Photos by Sharif Hassan.

The Pro Trekker 600 AW is the biggest beast in the lineup and at 8 1/2 lbs, it aint light, but it was the obvious choice, so I could carry everything in one bag and leave my hands free to posthole snow, shoot, and cross icy rivers (I did all three). Some details that make it expedition-worthy: big pull tabs you can operate with winter gloves and water-sealing zippers. The Pro Trekker’s top pouch converts into a waist pack, big enough to hold some food, and a small camera/lens.


Jake Proctor emerges from his tent after a wet first night in the Middle Prong Wilderness. His was one of the tents that survived the night's ice storm




For a short jaunt, the trip was pretty epic. The scouts encountered it all: disorienting ice storms, my-tent-blew-away-last-night blizzards, day-long routefinding, and lots and lots of stream crossings.

big water bladder/bottle pockets


Great gear, great crew: Sharif Hassan hands me the Olympus E3 when the weather moves in, and seconds an icy river in the Middle Prong Wilderness, NC

At one point the Scouts crossed a 50-foot-wide river, one-by-one with a safety line, in ice water up to their waists. I couldn’t have picked a better partner for this fun. For Sharif and I it was truly a blast – its the kind of backcountry adventure we both love.

The Pro Trekker on the move and on assignment in the backcountry


The goal of all this fancy gear is to disappear. When you feel like you are one with your gear, one with the environment, only then can you focus on your job: taking great pictures. I know, that sounds like some marketing bullshit, but it really is true, especially when you are in a backcountry environment where a misstep could result in a serious injury for you or your team (or worse, missing a good photo op).

Usually Sharif and I were one step ahead of everyone, finding alternate routes to get above or beyond the scouts so I could shoot them without interfering with their efforts. These scouts were really pushed to the limit. You could see it in their eyes, and I wanted to show it in my photos.

(left to right) Jeffrey Bannon, Johnson Dooley, and Samuel Sherrod talk to older scouts about the trail conditions, before deciding to cross 50-foot-wide icy stream to avoid deadfall. The younger and older groups met up on the trail during their second day backpacking the Middle Prong Wilderness.

Senior Patrol Leader Tyler Powell crosses a particularly hazardous iced-over stream in the Middle Prong Wilderness.

Grant Janich cooks dinner on a compact canister stove in the rain before his troop's first night in the Middle Prong Wilderness.


Three scouts form abstract figures against the snow while passing an open bald in the Middle Prong Wilderness. Right: nighttime along the nearby deserted (and closed) Blue Ridge Parkway.


I’ve been looking for a pack that will carry my gear into the mountains with the groups I volunteer with. After reading your article it’s clear I need to try this pack. I tried on a Tamrac Expedition 7 and the “camera bag” aspects were great but the “backpack” aspects just aren’t there; it’s just not what they do. I’ve been a fan of Lowe Alpine for a long time so this just reaffirms my opinion about their products. So, as a result I’ve sent back the Tamrac and ordered the Trekker 600.

I also checked out the article in “Boy’s Life” that you shot while using the Trekker 600 (http://boyslife.org/wayback/#issue=FYfrzXeKQDQC&pg=78) and it looks like it was a lot of fun for you and your subjects. Great photos.

posted by Mick Davies on 04.04.13 at 2:08 am

The Trekker is definitely a worthy backpack, though some find it a little big. I also have the smaller version which is great when I dont need to carry lots of winter gear like I did on that Boys Life assignment.

Lowepro also makes a newer pack called the Rover Pro – designed like a lightweight alpine-style pack. It’s my favorite right now. http://www.lowepro.com/rover-pro-aw

I’d love to know what you thought of the Trekker – feel free to reply right here!

posted by akornylak on 06.04.13 at 5:05 pm

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