Ten things I like about the LowePro Pro Messenger 200AW
I can't say enough good things about this bag, so I'll just say ten. I got this bag right before this Africa trip because my current (unnamed) camera bag does not really carry very well or easily, and the materials are way lighter weight than this bag. I guess before I start the ten I'll say the after six months of dust, sand, sun, saltwater, spilled juice and food, bird shit, goat shit, dog shit, and other abuse it basically still looks and functions like new. And I'm still excited to carry (albeit excited to be able to carry it less loaded)!
1. The smaller strap, a thin one for carrying with one hand and not on your shoulder, seemed kind of pointless to me at first. That was until I used it to wade across waist deep water holding the bag on my shoulder - or hung it from a bus seat to get the weight off my lap and sleep on the bag (see pic below).
2. The main strap is thick and padded, no one is going to cut it off you and it's comfortable to carry the bag fully loaded. I liked the strap when I first saw it, but thought it a bit excessive. After hauling it around Africa for six months I realized it was not.
3. The main opening of the bag, under the large main flap, has small pieces on each side that are amazing at keeping extra things in the main segment when you load things on top. There are times when I really needed to get a lot in the bag and without these flaps I definitely would have lost some things out the side of the bag. At one point I stupidly had a small cable and a ten dollar bill on the very top of the bag on neither fell out. I thought I'd lost both for sure when I had to open the bag while moving through a large crowd of people, but I didn't.
4. The rain fly. It tucks away and doesn't waste any space, but when you need it it covers even an extremely loaded bag very feel even with the contoured fit which makes it hug the bag perfectly. The fit is so good that I was basically wearing it in a monsoon and was really comfortable my stuff was safe. Not that you should get it if you plan on lots of monsoons, but in a pinch...
photo below © http://buddhaledread.weebly.com/
5. The back pouch. It's zippered, and I was hoping when I ordered it online that it would fit my 13" macbook pro (in its padded bag). It did, and a couple thin books. It not really ideal for carrying long term with a laptop, due mostly to the added weight, but if you don't mind the weight it does carry it well. It really shined when I needed to take the bag as a carry on. I saw a new Macbook Pro 13" Retina Display today which is much thinner and lighter, so I hope I can afford to travel with that soon.
6. Maybe this should be number one, but it holds a ton of stuff, and very well. I'm pretty sure I got more in there than they advertised as far as lenses and additional cameras, and definitely more cables and accessory stuff than I ever thought possible. I've had bags in the past that are way too huge and get awkward and cumbersome as soon as you put two things inside. I literally packed this bag to where I thought it was full (mostly in carry-on situations, or occasionally if I ended up feeling I needed a ton of stuff for a long day of shooting) and then was able to fit a ton more cables, books, phones, etc in without changing anything besides adding weight. It really uses its space well.
7. The velcro on the main flap is great, it adjusts to a less loaded (normal) size load or expands for a fully loaded bag. When the bag is overloaded the velcro is still able to hold everything in and feels safe that nothing is going to fall out, but when the bag is loaded normally all this extra velcro just folds away.
8. There aren't any clips to hold the flap closed when it's in the "normal load" setup, which I thought was an issue at first. After using the bag I realized that if you fold open the extra velcro and close the bag it provides tons of closure. Clips would just make it take too long to get into, if someone wanted to get into your bag they could get past clips as fast as they could through the velcro. Maybe, it's a lot of good velcro and at least you would definitely hear (and probably feel) it open more than you would if it was being unclipped.
9. There is a little magnet on the flap, yet another thing I wasn't sure about. When the velcro is folded back the simple little magnet keeps the flap down, and it holds really well. The magnet is a great and necessary addition. If anyone from LowePro ever reads this, I'm very curious how many revisions of this bag have been made.
10. The bag is advertised as fitting as carry on baggage, which it does. Unless you stuff it full of as much as it can carry, in which case it's technically bigger than the little bin they check bags with. Fortunately even an airline like Ryan Air that checks bags can't really tell how big or heavy the bag is from the front because it carries like a much smaller bag. With camera gear the bag (and especially a laptop) the bag is always heavier than the allowable airline limit, but again it's really hard to tell that by looking at it. Best is that even really overloaded it just gets wider, not taller, so still fits easily in the overhead bin.
I'm updating from a bus, the Bolt Bus, traveling from New York City to Baltimore. One week as a final layover on our long way back to Denver. The last 58 hours have been spent in planes and airports, waiting and flying, eating, sleeping, anticipating. Though the last leg of the journey is the one that takes us back to Denver next week, the Africa journey is now behind us and plans for the best way to spend the next trip to Africa have already begun.
Ethiopia, the last stop in the six month African safari. The previous months had been spent in excited anticipation of the food, the coffee, and most notably the coffee farm: Burka Gudina. Though my first visit to Burka Gudina was an abbreviated stay, the project was straightforward- to get some video for web clips that captured the life and heart of the farm. All projects aside, my personal goal was to meet the people, and in a couple quick days to meet and find portraits of the farm staff in their home among the coffee trees.
In addition to the people, the farm landscape is quite spectacular. Here are a few things I saw while soaking up every second of the experience at the farm.
That was the farm and the shooting, in the field amidst the fresh air and ripe coffee cherries. This is the office, and some shooting there, city life:
Until next time shooting at an Ethiopian coffee farm... Stay tuned for gear reviews from the trip, depending on the wifi situation in Bahrain there may be a “way home” update as well.
Since this trip began back in June, there's always been a bit of excitement looking forward to Ethiopia. Everything has been great, in fact it all keeps getting better, and here is no exception. The rains have just ended, the ground is lush and green, and our last stretch of a two day journey to a coffee farm in the Limmu region ends tomorrow. Well, the rains have mostly ended, there's a little bit of a storm on right now, lightning and all but I expect it to clear by morning. Not only do we have real (and Ethiopian) coffee, we have proper macchiatos. Life is good.
On the front page of the Citizen, bigger than Obama. I'm the fourth person from the right, you can just see the back of my head. We were coming back from an evening camping on the river bank.
"Tourists cross the crocodile infested Kilombero river in a canoe on Tuesday after the MV Kilombero II ferry broke down last Friday. Fisherman have been having a field day ferrying people across the river, which seperates Ulanga and Kilombero districts in Morogoro region, since the vessel was grounded."
The Tazara train, completed by the Chinese in 1975, runs from Zambia to Dar es Salaam. The train is notoriously delayed, and we found this to be true waiting over 24 hours for our first ride and only about twelve hours the second time. Here are some photos of our time spent at the station in Dar es Salaam.
I was outside in a little barber shop I set up, on this banana tree, cutting my hair and I thought that maybe people at home would like to see where I've been living in addition to the photos I've posted from Tanzania. I finished the haircut and decided to post some photos of the place we've been staying.
Travel had brought us to Ifakara, Tanzania, a place full of great people, foreigners (mzungu) and locals, dust, heat, mud, rain, and now a lot of fond memories. And today we're leaving, the 4th of November, a day for departing Ifakara by Train and heading for the big city, Dar es Salaam.
Here are a few of the msabi photos I've taken. There are several big areas that the project covers including water pumps, sanitation, and education. These are just a few of the shots that I've pulled out as I edit them, each has a description describing what each photo shows.
On top of the work I was working on, video editing, photo editing, and mostly killing mosquitos the electric tennis racket, I decided a blog update might be nice, to show what I'm up to. Here, in Ifakara, has been two weeks yesterday of shooting photos and video for msabi, a small NGO for clean water. It stands for Maji Safi kwa Afya Bora Ifakara, swahili for Safe Water for Better Health Ifakara.
Through taking photos and videos here in Ifakara I've gotten some cool chances to get out and see a lot of people and villages. I've also been able to visit schools and to photograph msabi projects. There, and everywhere I've been in Africa, the kids absolutely adore having their photos taken and react with the most high pitches laughs and squeals when they see their little digital image on the back of the camera. A boy on a barge today asked me in his best, most polite classroom English if I would take his photograph. I did, showed him, and he replied with a huge smile and a thank you. The same group of tiny people this small boy was with were all also dressed in tiny suits and ballroom dresses, apparently for the holiday. Some photos from around town are from below, soon some from the msabi shoots, and maybe even some night photos from this evening across the river depending on how the clouds cooperate.