After years of using a backpack to carry my core equipment I finally relented recently and bought myself a rolling camera bag, at which point my back gave a little sigh of relief. Even with what I consider to be a very lightweight kit I’m travelling with at least four bags these days, plus my backpack was starting to look a little overpacked and so with a week-long foreign assignment ahead of me involving trains, planes, and automobiles as well as a different hotel every night I figured it was high time I did myself a favour and ordered one up. I’ve always used Lowepro bags and although not generally a brand loyalist I will stick with what I know works and as I’ve had no complaints with the Vertex 200 AW I’ve had for the past three years or so Lowepro were the first company I looked at when shopping around, and I eventually went with the Pro Roller X200 as it’s the largest roller bag that Lowepro produce that still meets the airline carry-on luggage size allowance. I always carry-on my main bag as it’s the most valuable (practically and financially) and thus ensures that regardless of what the baggage throwers do with the rest of my luggage I’ll always have the most important items when I arrive at the destination, and true to Lowepro’s claims I’ve had no problems at check-in and the bag fits perfectly in the overhead compartment.
One of the first things I noticed was only three memory card pouches; not a big problem as there’s plenty of space in the larger pouches but with four in the Vertex 200 I was surprised to see less rather than more in the Pro Roller. Otherwise the extra space and sturdy casing are all good and I was pleased to see that the Nikon SB-800 speedlights fit in perfectly with the head in the vertical position so less space is wasted (update: I have since replaced my aging SB-800 strobes with SB-900 models and I’m sad to say that they’re far too big to fit in the bag in this way). There are also two pockets on the front of the bag; one large one for a laptop which happily swallows my 13in MacBook Pro and a smaller pocket which comes in useful for holding paperwork/tickets etc, and each pocket is separated into two compartments.
I appreciate the little details and the Pro Roller has a few nice touches such as the tripod mount built into the handle (pictured above); not something I’ve had the need to use but it’s good to know that in a pinch I’ll have something to hand that would serve as a tripod, or as a lightstand for that matter. Another feature I haven’t used but appreciate having is that the interior of the bag actually unzips from the main case to become a simple backpack so if you’re flying on a smaller plane with tighter carry-on limits (such as some domestic flights) the case can be checked in and the smaller and lighter interior carried on as normal.
The three-digit TSA combination lock (above) works well and is yet another handy integrated feature; once the combination has been set the self-retracting cable can be pulled out and through the hoops built into the zips and then locked back into the unit. It’s ocurred to me that this could be used to also secure the bag to an immovable object although I’m still to think of a situation where this could be used that would not result in the bomb-squad getting called out. The wheels have a wide spacing which makes for a pretty stable roller bag and the large rubber-tread wheels roll and grip well even when taken off road. They’re also fastened with a standard 4mm Allen key which should make for simple replacement when the time comes.
So I’ve had the Lowepro Pro Roller X200 for long enough to have given it a bit of a beating and so far it’s done very well. I really like the fact that my lighting bag – a Lowepro Magnum AW – sits perfectly atop the X200 and clips on to the handle so it doesn’t fall off. Probably not something the manufacturer recommends but it does mean a total of two bags that I don’t need to carry through airports on my shoulders anymore.