We here at MBT find ourselves in a near-constant conundrum. We often view the act of riding as an escape from civilization, technology and other such institutions. On the same token we realize hauling photo gear and tablets is a fact of life if we're going to deliver the goods to your screen every other month. We also know we're not alone on this dilemma because you, our royal readers, are always writing in to ask us to recommend a good bag for carrying camera equipment out on the trails. The moment the LowePro Nova Sport arrived to our office, we knew the go-to brand had arrived.
LowePro started in a small Colorado garage over 40-years ago and has spent the time since traveling the world on the backs and shoulders of the best photographers on the planet. Their passion is to develop and perfect camera carrying systems and as they put it, "maybe to the point of obsession".
Just looking at their site is instant verification that the past 4-decades have been time well-spent. LowePro offers bag solutions for just about any situation/ condition. We got to spend some time with the Nova Sport AW (that's All Weather) in two of the three available sizes: 35 & 17L capacity. There is also a 7L size available for those with smaller camera needs. They retail for $109.99, $79.99 and $59.99 respectively.
We might as well cut to the chase and tell you from the get-go that these bags are all an outdoor enthusiast looking to transport photography equipment could ask for. Hardy ballistic nylon exteriors, smooth polyester interiors with (removable) Velcro camera compartments, flawless stitching, and thick padding all combine to deliver a weather-resistant package that speaks for itself. Add to this the fact that you can essentially customize the included inserts to suit the needs of your photo gear and it's a given that everything's going to feel snug and secure in even the roughest conditions. We are no stranger to hammering terrain that would otherwise cause fragile bits (like camera lenses) to clank around in transit. Fortunately such concerns are completely nullified with the Lowepro.
The 35L is actually large enough to transport a laptop (15" in width) and both models were perfect for items like tablets, cell phones, MP3 players and other fragile electronics that would be susceptible to weather or transportation damage.
Both sizes offer external pockets perfect for thumb drives, memory cards and the like. Mountain bikers like us will invariably find such spaces handy for spare tubes, multitools, gels, money and so on. Stretchy mesh side pockets are perfect for frequently accessed items such as a bottled water, cell or what have you.
The bags also include a rain cover adding to the all-weather appeal. It functions a lot like the rain awning on a canvas tent but wraps over the entire case in the event of some serious downpour action. We found it wasn't even necessary for light drizzle as the case's exterior proved plenty efficient at beading up light accumulation.
About the only complaint we can report is actually our own fault for failing to conduct our pre-purchase research in that the Nova Sport series of bags are over-the-shoulder models and hence rather obtrusive if you're planning on riding (rather than just accompanying your pals to do some photographing). Make no mistake, it doesn't make riding with the bag completely impossible but there are literally dozens of more riding-compatible backpack models available on the LowePro line like the Rover Pro AW or Photo Sport AW. We'll be sure to take that route next time and recommend you take a look into these as well if the Nova sounds like what you've been looking for but you wish for the riding convenience of a backpack. And on that note the shoulder-strap on the Nova is sturdy and well-padded. We understand the older Nova models also contained belt loops for additional hands-free stability (which may have actually been beneficial for riding applications). We should note that there is an integrated trolley loop however that we were able to rig to attach to a bike trailer.
All in all, LowePro's offerings are precisely what we've been seeking for some time here at MBT. The reality that dusty, muddy and oft-inhospitable environments we frequent and fragile, expensive digital camera equipment often don't mesh well. These rugged bags take a lot of the fear out of transporting such equipment. We came away impressed and are certain you will as well.
More information all three sizes of the Nova Sport AW line can be found here: www.lowepro.com/nova-sport