|Martin Schuster, a member of my Antarctic crew, using the Super Trekker AW II to carry a large broadcast camera around a penguin rookery.|
|The Lowepro Pro Roller 250 AW Lite|
I used a Super Trekker AW II to carry around my Hollywood-sized Sony HDCAMs for four expeditions in Antarctica. I’ve always carried the bulk of my camera gear using their superb camera backpacks (the Nature Trekker AW II backpack was one of my favorites), and I’ve used their waterproof Dryzone packs for numerous trips through the Grand Canyon and river expeditions. Their Pro Roller series of rolling airline cases have been my constant companions through years of air travel.
I have to constantly keep familiar with the details of airline travel and what a photographer can or cannot bring on a plane these days. On my most recent trip, to Australia and Indonesia, I was flying Qantas Airlines to South Australia, and I therefore realized that I had to be sure that all my carryon bags would fit Qantas’ restrictions.
Qantas Airlines is known for being extremely strict about forcing passengers to adhere to their size and weight restrictions for carryon bags. I have not flown Qantas Airlines in many years, and the last time I flew with them, the flight attendants gave me a tremendous amount of trouble since I was carrying a long 500mm f4 lens in its own box, along with a backpack and another case. I’ve learned by talking with other travelers that Qantas remains as bad as ever about charging for excess bags or too many carry-ons.
For this trip, therefore, I started packing a full two weeks before leaving. In fact, packing my carry-ons within their limits was on my mind for several weeks. I was careful to make sure that my carryon gear would fit within all of Qantas’ restrictions. I was fortunate to browse through the North American Nature Photography Association’s (NANPA) newsletter and read a news item that Lowepro had just come out with a new Pro Roller Lite AW series. These looked perfect for my upcoming trip. After carefully studying Qantas’ restrictions on carry-on bags, I traded in my old, largish carryon bag for a new Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 250 AW. It was the best thing I did to plan for my entire trip.
Lowepro hit a home run with their newest line of rolling cases for air travel. I used a Pro Roller Lite 250 AW for my recent trip to Indonesia and Australia. It was the perfect fit for my travels and numerous connections in various airports.
The Pro Roller Lite 205 AW is a rolling case that contains Lowepro’s usual fabulous set of padded dividers, which let you organize, pad, and separate all your gear. Unlike earlier Pro Rollers, this model has the padded dividers within the case itself, rather than in a separate bag that fits within the rolling case. I prefer this, as space is at an absolute premium when traveling by air today. I used the dividers to separate, pad, and divide my larger and heavier items.
Whenever I travel, I pack a change of clothes in my carryon bag, a DSLR body, a wide zoom lens, and a long zoom lens. I always pack some energy bars and my favorite, a pack of Pepperidge Farm Geneva cookies, in case I arrive somewhere and there is nowhere to eat – or if I am suck on a plane for 12 hours with no food. In this case, I also packed some heavy underwater photography gear and scuba gear in my carryon so that I would not be charged excess baggage fees. Lastly, I packed my usual complement of electronic and computer cables, my 15” Macbook Pro, laptop power adapter, and iPad. All of this fit in the Lowepro Pro Roller! I could barely lift the case, but that was not a problem. If I needed to lift the case into an airplane overhead compartment, I just took out my computer and iPad. When making my mile-long walks from airplane to customs counters – I put my laptop and iPad in one of the inner or outer pockets of the Pro Roller, and the wheels took all the weight off.
I was astounded at how easy packing the Pro Roller was, and this is because the padded dividers can be so easily set up and changed to accommodate different items. I was also pleasantly surprised at how easy having this carryon made my trip. The various pockets, both inside and outside, are well thought out, so that I could quickly put in or take out a laptop, for instance. There is a flexible, mesh outer pocket that I found was perfect for sliding a MacBook Pro or iPad into; and two smaller, zippered pockets on the outside and inside flap of the Pro Roller were perfect for my passport and assorted customs papers.
If I had anything critical to say about the Pro Roller Lite 250 AW, it would be that the telescoping handle seems a bit flimsy. It does move around a bit, but I have a feeling that this is something that Lowepro planned – the handle will allow you to put a heavy second bag on top of it and while it does seem flimsy – it is likely not all delicate as it held up just fine through all my travels. Having four, rather than two wheels on the bottom would make those mile-long treks through airports a bit easier. As it is, if I put a second bag on top of the Pro Roller and walked a long distance, the weight of the second bag on the handle became significant. Having a dedicated second bag designed to fit the top of the Pro Roller in a fashion that minimizes the weight on my arm would be a welcome touch, and it would make a perfect bag even better.
By the way, my flights to Qantas went without a hitch. The flight attendants did not hassle me about the size of my carryon bag, and the Pro Roller fit easily in the overhead compartment. Small things like this make a huge difference in relieving the stress of airline travel.
This Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 250 AW will be my constant traveling companion for years to come. It is a perfect fit for me and my travels, and it should be a perfect solution for most traveling photographers.