Traveler's Gear Box: The Lowepro Nova Sport 35L Camera Bag

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There's no losing sight of the "Pepper Red" version of Lowepro's Nova Sport 35L camera bag. Rebecca Latson photo.

I was recently given the opportunity to try out one of Lowepro’s newer camera bag creations: the Nova Sport 35L AW. My first three successive thoughts upon pulling this bag out of the shipping box were:

* Oooo! LOVE that bright color! (yes, the bag also comes in a more understated Slate Grey)

* Wow! The 35L is a big shoulder bag.

* That shoulder strap needs to be much wider.

This particular model is the largest in Lowepro’s Nova Sport AW series. I suppose I could have asked to work with a smaller version that might better fit my 5’2” frame, but here’s the thing: while it’s difficult to lug a large bag on the shoulders of a smaller person like me, there would not be enough room in a smaller bag to load much gear (yeah, we short people pack lots of camera gear just like you taller photogs do).

So, when asked which model of this series I wanted to try, I went with the largest (not really knowing what I would be receiving) and requested their “Pepper Red” color (because I love bright colors and figure I would never lose this bag, nor would anybody want to carry it off with them as they would definitely stick out in the crowd).

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There's plenty of storage room in the Nova Sport 35L. Rebecca Latson photo.

Of course, this bright color screams “Camera gear inside!” so for casual street photography, I suggest choosing Lowepro’s slate grey hue instead, as well as maybe picking one of their smaller models.

I took this bag with me to one of my favorite local haunts: the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. No, this is not really a place for any lengthy hiking, but I don’t think this bag was made for lengthy hikes. I believe the Nova Sport series of bags were created more for just walking around and for short little car excursions like this refuge trip.

Here’s what I like about the Nova Sport 35L AW:

* It’s well-padded and extremely roomy with plenty of nicely-sized pockets. There are little slide-release buckles at each corner of the front flap to help secure it when on the move. The fabric is thick enough and the stitching is sturdy enough that I don’t have to worry about over-packing and having those pockets tear. The stretchy mesh side pockets are large enough to carry a water bottle or cell phone or any number of other small-ish items.

* Within the 35L bag, I packed my Canon 5D Mk III with 16-35mm lens attached, my large flash, my 24-70mm lens, 2 spare batteries for each of my cameras (my 1-DX takes a different size battery from the 5D Mk III), spare batteries for the flash, a bunch of memory cards, several filters including my 4x6 Lee grad ND filters, and my wireless shutter release. I carried a water bottle in one of the side mesh pockets and I even managed to squeeze in my 15” HP travel laptop within the bag’s inner pocket (Lowepro’s description says it fits a “13-inch MacBook or similar laptop”). I would actually have been able to pack two more spare lenses into this behemoth, but the bag would have become extremely heavy for me to carry, even when wearing the strap cross-body.

Here’s where I take issue with the Nova Sport 35L AW:

* The entire compartment area, padded inserts and all, is removable. And there is a drawstring closure plus handles to make this compartment into a sort of little tote bag (Lowepro calls it a “day bag”). Ok, so that’s pretty cool. If I wanted to ditch the outer covering, I could, and just carry the essentials. Of course, I’d better make sure those essentials aren’t too heavy, because the handles are a little narrow and I’m not quite certain just how strong those handles are. Personally, I like to either carry a heavily-loaded tote bag cross-body or be able to put my arm through the handles and carry the bag at the elbow.

* AW means “all weather.” Stowed away in a hidden velcroed pocket at the base of this bag (and all other Lowepro AW-branded bags) is a weatherproof covering. I’ve used these with my camera backpacks, and I naturally figured this covering would be easily and quickly affixable (even with my arthritic hands) to protect the entire bag from the elements.

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The inner gear carrier can be pulled out to use as a tote. Rebecca Latson photo.

After fiddling with that $%#@% AW cover for longer than was necessary, I never managed to successfully (and completely) pull it over the entire bag. I even tried to find a YouTube video instructing a person how to use the AW covering with the 35L, but never found one (although there must be one out there). Good thing it was nice and sunny at the refuge the day I took the 35L out for a spin.

* My biggest beef is that I think the shoulder strap needs to be much wider for a bag of that size. It looks too narrow and out of proportion to the rest of the bag. And the strap top needs to be better padded. I noted that the strap began to cut into my shoulder due to the bag weight. When wearing the strap cross-body, the large, cumbersome bag kept bumping against my knee and thigh, impeding my gait as I walked along. Of course, that’s not so much an issue with the strap as it is with the size of the bag.

In a nutshell, I personally would never get much use out of this particular model of their Nova Sport series. The largest size of this bag is just too large for me. That being said, I think their smaller sizes in this series look pretty cool and would probably be far more useful for my purposes.

I do think this larger bag works if you are walking slowly along a nature trail or want to store your camera gear in something as you drive from viewing area to viewing area without walking any further than it takes to get from the parked car to the scenic spot.

The Nova Sport 35L AW (and it’s smaller siblings) would be great for wedding and event photography. And the Pepper Red color would certainly stand out so you could always spot it (or spot the person trying to walk away with it).

I’m going to give this bag one more try when I head out to the Texas Renaissance Festival this last weekend of November. The Texas renfaire is definitely an event and I’ll see how the bag works within that environment. I like Lowepro bags…a lot. Two of my favorite camera backpacks are Lowepros. But combining this Nova Sport 35L with my short stature leads me to simply say “meh."