Gone with the Grins

My Perfect Travel Photography Bag: The Lowepro Hatchback 22L

My Fuji X system in front of the Lowepro Hatchback 22L

OK, let’s be honest. Finding the “perfect” travel photography bag is like searching for the holy grail. We can see it in our dreams. We can describe its perfect features. But no matter how long we search, it’s always just out of reach. That doesn’t mean that we ever quit searching, but eventually we settle on the “almost perfect” bag. In my case, that bag is the Lowepro Hatchback 22L.

Let me start by saying that I’m not a professional photographer nor am I a full-time traveler, but my two big passions are traveling and photography so I take this search seriously. Here’s why I like this camera bag so much.

Favorite Features of the Lowepro Hatchback 22L

Easy to Carry-on

I’m big on traveling as light as possible and being able to carry all of my luggage on the plane. This means that my suitcase goes in the overhead bin and my camera bag goes under the seat. This is important to note, because if you want to actually have room for your feet, you will need a bag that doesn’t take up every inch of the floor in front of you. The Lowepro 22L fits this bill… if just so. There will be just enough room for your feet on either side of the bag or to stretch out both legs together on one side of the bag. It’s not ideal, but it works.

Fits my Travel Camera

The decision to travel light has also led me to carry a mirrorless camera. In this case, the Fuji X System is my gear of choice… I have both the X-E1 and the X-T10, but lately I’ve been partial to the latter. (I would love to travel with my Nikon D7200 and the 18-200 lens, but it is just way too big and heavy to fit my travel style.) The Fuji X takes amazing images, is intuitive to use, and I can carry several of my favorite lenses without adding a lot of weight or bulk.

When I travel I almost always have the following photo gear with me:

Fuji X-T10 camera

Fuji 18-135mm lens

 

Fuji 35mm lens

 

 

Fuji 27mm lens

and the Rokinon 12mm lens.

 

 

 

Check out my photography gear page to read more about my Fuji X travel system.

Backpack Style

The Hatchback is, like the name suggests, a backpack, which I prefer. I’ve tried sling bags, shoulder bags, messenger bags, and just about any other combination of bags, and I always return to the backpacks. Sure they aren’t as good-looking as a nice shoulder bag, but they are way more comfortable and practical while traveling.

More than a Camera Bag

This backpack is not just a camera bag… it’s a multi-purpose bag. By that I mean it carries stuff other than camera gear. I think we are all familiar with camera backpacks that hold nothing but camera gear. They are basically one big compartment with lots of dividers for lenses and bodies. I don’t know about you, but when I travel I like to carry things like a jacket, water bottle, tablet, etc.

Read my post here for all of the items that I carry in my Lowepro when traveling (see photo below.) I would say only half are photography related.

What's in my bag? A fuji XE-1, Lowepro Hatchback 22L, and MeFoto Backpacker tripod among other things.

Fits a Travel Tripod

Another feature I like, and this is important to me, is that it fits my travel tripod. I’m currently using the MeFoto Backpacker which folds down to 12.6 inches and weighs 2.6 pounds. It’s small and lightweight yet sturdy. I always have it with me when I travel. The MeFoto tripod will fit in either one of the side mesh pockets or the top pocket of the Lowepro Hatchback which gives me options when I’m loading the bag.

See my full review of the MeFOTO Backpacker here.

Holds a Water Bottle

This seems like a no-brainer to me, but I can’t tell you how many bags I’ve rejected because they don’t have a water bottle holder. Seriously, how hard is it to add a water bottle holder to the side of the bag? The Lowepro Hatchback 22L has two mesh pockets, one on either side. I’ve used those pockets to hold my water bottle, my tripod, my jacket, my wife’s water bottle, a mini umbrella, my wife’s mini umbrella. You get the idea.

Holds a Tablet or Laptop

I usually prefer to travel with just a tablet, but lately I’ve been keen on taking my MacBook Air. The Hatchback has a single outside sleeve with a divided interior compartment. But I’m sorry to say that it’s just not wide enough for the 13″ MacBook Air. The laptop does fit in the main camera compartment with some fiddling. Both my 10″ tablet and my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, however, slide into the outside pocket with ease.

Comfortable to Wear

One of the reasons that I don’t like using non-backpack-style bags, like a sling bag, is comfort. I love my messenger bag for daily work use, but I hate carrying it while traveling. I have bony shoulders, and I really need the weight evenly distributed across padded straps. This is where most non-backpack bags fail for me. The Hatchback doesn’t have this problem.

Has a Rain Cover

I’m not sure a rain cover is a “must have” item, but I’ve definitely used it more than once with good results. A lot of modern bags either have a built-in rain cover or come with an external cover. The Hatchback has an integrated cover that comes out of the bottom which I prefer for convenience. This was very handy during torrential rains in Costa Rica.

The Lowepro Hatchback has an integrated rain cover.

So, to recap, here are my favorite things about the Lowepro Hatchback 22L:

Pros:

1- It fits under an airline seat and leaves some room for a human with legs and feet.

2- It holds all my camera gear with ease.

3- It’s a multi-purpose bag and not just a camera bag.

4- It fits the MeFoto travel tripod.

5- It has two external mesh pockets that can holder water bottles or other items.

6- It has two padded slots for a tablet and an e-reader.

7- It is actually comfortable to wear.

8- Bonus! It has a rain cover.

Despite all the pluses, the Hatchback is not the “perfect” bag. There are a few items that I would change if my magic wand was working. They are as follows:

Cons:

1- I wish it was designed to hold my 13″ MacBook Air.

2- When fully loaded… OK, overloaded… it can get a little out of shape and not be as comfortable to wear. This happens when you put too many items in the top compartment. The bottom compartment is more rigid because of the camera padding so it holds its shape, but the top can bulge and press on your back. This mostly occurs when you’ve crammed too much stuff in it.

3- You can have any color you want as long as it’s Grey, Blue, or Pepper Red. I bought the “Galaxy Blue” version because it was low key yet still had some color. Another item of note is the large “Lowepro” stenciling down the back. It is subtle but still screams camera bag.

4- The waist strap is a plain 1″ nylon strap. It does keep the bulk down over a heavily padded strap, but it definitely reduces comfort. It would be nice if it had just a little padding.

Keep in mind that these are my “must have” items and that everybody should develop their own list of items that they would like to see in their “perfect” travel photography bag. I’ve also found that my “must have” list has changed over the years as my gear and travel style have changed, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. In the meantime, I’ve always got my radar up for my next favorite camera bag, and if I’m lucky, maybe one day I’ll find that Holy Grail.

*Update: As of 2016, Lowepro has released a refreshed version of this backpack called the Lowepro Hatchback BP 250 AW II. It appears to be the exact same backpack with a few cosmetic tweaks. The updated version can be found here.

Here are some quick links to my favorites:

Lowepro LP36434-PWW Photo Hatchback 22L AW

Fuji X-E1 Camera

Fuji X-T10 Camera

Nikon D7200 Camera

Fujinon XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens

Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R Lens

Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens

Rokinon 12mm F2.0 NCS CS Lens

MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Do you have a favorite photography backpack? Please let me know about it, because I’m always on the lookout for a better one!