Ten things I like about the LowePro Pro Messenger 200AW
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...
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.