SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Gear Review: Lowepro Rover AW II

Lowepro is very well known for making exceptional camera bags and their backpack line continues in this tradition. In fact, it was difficult to sort through all of their choices to find just one backpack to highlight.

But in the end we chose the Rover AW II for all it offered snowshoers. This backpack is the best of both worlds. It is a regular backpack on the top and a camera bag on the bottom – all of it waterproof. It protects expensive equipment like cameras, cell phones, and iPods while still being affordable. I know what some of you must be thinking – how can Snowshoe Magazine recommend a camera bag? The answer – this is much more than a camera bag.

The first feature to highlight in the Lowepro backpack is the large general compartment with a protective weather flap zipper to keep the elements out. Other features include an adjustable waist belt, adjustable bungee cord system to attach winter gear, zippered and mesh side pockets and a Dry Flo mesh covered back pad. But for me, these features are dwarfed by functionality of the second compartment. Beneath the general compartment is a padded camera compartment with padded dividers. This area can be customized to accommodate anything from small digital cameras or iPods to large 35mm cameras and lenses.

When choosing a pack it is important to consider its function. I love to snowshoe because of the wildlife I encounter. In the deserted woods I can see everything from birds to fox and deer. And with even the simplest digital cameras costing a few hundred dollars, and others going more than a thousand dollars, I think they are worth protecting. Nothing kills electrical equipment faster than moisture. This second compartment can save your valuables when the unexpected storm hits.

I know that many summer users want a hydration reservoir. The Rover AW II does not offer this feature, and the reason is rather obvious. The whole point of offering all weather protection is to keep water away from your electronics. As an alternative, the pack has external pockets for a water bottle while keeping your interior dry.

So while it might appear that this bag is for camera enthusiasts only, I find it an economical way to have a traditional backpack and protective storage for around $115. The upper compartment measures 11 x 5.5 x 11 while the lower compartment measures 11 x 5.5 x 10. To buy these two packs separately would easily cost as much and be more difficult to carry.

And finally, Lowepro deserves to be recognized for its corporate commitment to the environment. They support organizations and educational institutions that are actively involved in conservation. Lowepro even spearheaded a five-year international campaign to save the Spirit Bear (a subspecies of the black bear, extremely rare, and completely white in color). Most people who snowshoe love the peace and quiet that comes with trekking through the wilderness. Lowepro invests in what we love.

When you are in the market for a backpack, I seriously recommend looking at the many choices available through Lowepro. Bags range in price from $20 for digital camera packs to up near $400 for the most demanding consumers. Check out their selection of backpacks at http://www.lowepro.com.

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About Judy Nugent

Judy Nugent is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast from Chicago. In addition to snowshoeing, Judy enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, and exploring the Wisconsin wilderness. Her articles and photography can be found in several regional publications.