After 7 years of hard use the zipper on my old Lowepro Topload 70 AW finally failed and can’t be replaced. I used that good ol’ chest pack hiking, backpacking, canyoneering and climbing and grew to love the immediate access it provided to my camera. It did take a little while to get used to hiking without being able to see your feet.
Naturally, when it died, I picked up a replacement. Lowepro made some changes to their entire Toploader line and I was excited to get my hands on the latest model. We were in Phoenix so I headed over to Photomark and picked up a spankin’ new Toploader Pro 70 AW. I was disappointed to learn that the new Toploaders aren’t sold with a chest harness. You have to order one, and they aren’t even out yet. Lowepro gets a big ol’ suckola for that bonehead move.
The new design is a little more streamlined and the fabric seems to be tougher, and maybe even a little more weather-resistant. There are two external mesh pockets that weren’t on the original model. Lowepro kept the compression strap and an attachment strap for accessory pouches.
New to this model are a Fastex buckle that supplements the main zipper. I found myself leaving the pack unzipped and only fastening the buckle to allow even faster access to my camera. Also, the main zipper now opens to the side of the pack rather than from the rear. I’m not sure why this design change but I got used to it after only a few hours.
The rain cover now deploys from a hidden pouch on the side of the pack instead of from inside the front pocket. This was a smart design change.
Lowepro added a small zippered pocket to the top of the pack. I find this pocket to be perfect for my business cards, remote shutter release, microfiber cloth, hot shoe bubble level and the hotel room shower caps mentioned in this post. They kept the front zipper pocket but it’s now considerably smaller. In the old model I was able to carry 2 GND’s, a polarizer, a variable ND filter and a compass. In the new model I have to cram the polarizer and vari-ND in and the pocket barely zips over them.
The main compartment is also smaller than on the old model. Where I used to have room on either side of the attached lens to store additional small items, now there is none. It’s a tight fit with my Canon 5D2 and attached vertical grip, and either a 24-105mm or 16-35mm lens, including hood.
Lowepro provides a padded 3 point shoulder strap that I promptly trashed. Since the new chest harness isn’t yet available I attached the old harness for my field tests. To date I’ve done 4 hikes with the Toploader Pro 70 AW, two of which were several hours long in rugged desert terrain. The pack carries as comfortably as my old one, although I did note that it doesn’t sit as close to my body. I suspect this is a result of using the old harness with the new pack. After some use I grew to like the side opening design and I really like that I can use one buckle to keep the main pocket closed instead of having to zip and unzip it all the time. My camera carries securely inside the pack, which is well padded, and was comfortable to wear for several hours at a time.
Overall, I think Lowepro has done a respectable job designing this new pack. They should include the chest harness, and I hope it will carry closer to my body with the new harness attached. I do wish it could carry a few more small items like my old pack.
Would I recommend the Lowepro Toploader Pro 70 AW? Yep, I sure would.
See my response below for an update to this gear review. Also, here’s a photo of my 550EX flash trying to fit in the front pocket. As you can see, it ain’t gonna happen. Sorry for the poor quality but it’s an iPhone snapshot.