We’ve got a couple of Spring themed gear reviews and tests coming up for you guys. Themed is the word. We’re kicking off with one of latest releases from Lowepro; the Lowepro Field Station (£79.00 current in stock at Castle Cameras – Bournemouth). The Field Station represents the entry into Lowepro’s Optics range, designed specifically with the bird watcher in mind.
Interior size: 8.5W x 4.1D x 9.1H in / 21.5cm x 10.5cm x 23cm
Exterior size: 9.3W x 7.7D x 10.6H in / 23.5cm x 19.5cm x 27cm
Fabric: 210d Nylon, 600d Polyester, Airmesh.
Weight: 1.6lbs / 0.7kg
Lowepro have aimed this bag squarely at the light weight birder. The bag is small, neat and organised, with room for the essentials; 1x pair binoculars (up to 8×42) field guide, notebook and (very) small personal items. You can replace your notebook with an iPad or similarly sized tablet device should you wish, more on this later.
The pocket layout is well thought out. To get in the case you use the YKK rear zip entry that allows quick and easy access. The inside of the bag contains a central pocket with foam insert to hold your bin’s nice and central, with a buttoned padded flap to aid security, whilst retaining enough space on either side for a sandwich or similar. You could even fit a small folding umbrella in the same compartment. Behind the binocular pouch is a divider which houses the sliding notepad holder. This section of the bag suits a field guide and notepad to identify and jot down your days sightings, in our test it held a moleskin notebook beautifully and was easy enough to slide in and out for quick access.
The Field Station has 2 pockets either side, an Air Mesh pocket with elastic sealing to hold anything you want easily to hand, about the size of your fist and perfect for an orange or two. The opposite pocket has a sealing flap and is perfect for a mobile phone or compact camera. Both side pockets are neatly covered by 2 extra waist support straps making it a little harder to grab at your gear but also less ‘knickable’. The Field Station finishes off with a zipper pocket on the front of the bag, in this instance the perfect size for a couple of Cokin P series filters and a holder, although once the bag was fully loaded this did become a little trickier to get gear in and out of.
For me, the best part of this bag is the waist strap. Personally I’ve never had much luck with waist straps, they tend to either be uncomfortable, don’t fit (I’m a little on the skinny side) or just haven’t offered the support they’re supposed to. Lowepro have really nailed it on this bag. From either side of the case protrude a padded, yet grippy waist belt that clips together using a plastic clasp. On the outside of each of these straps is another support that uses the same Nylon fabric as the case and is joined to the bulk of the case. Each of the four supports is independently adjustable, allowing you to create a truly custom fit. The genius lies in the outside straps; as they’re connected to the main body of the case they hold the whole thing snug against your body, the case doesn’t flop from the top when loaded nor jump around when empty. The padded straps offered all the comfort found in Lowepro’s popular Street and Field series and the level of finish is excellent. I wouldn’t worry about using this bag over years of birding and many trips.
The bag is finished in a dark olive green that fits in with it’s intended use.
Real world Test:
I managed to take a sample on a trip to the RSPB nature reserve at Arne, just outside of Wareham, Dorset. The bag handled my Steiner 8×42 Skyhawk Pro binoculars and all the camera gear I’d taken with me; Cokin P series filters, Filter Holder, Lightcraft variable ND filter, Gorilla pod and even a backup Panasonic TZ30. I managed to keep a rain jacket (great british weather expert) attached to the bag by looping it around the waist strap.
All the Lowepro advertising images show the bag worn on the front, like a 90’s bum-bag (think Mr Motivator). I couldn’t bring myself to walk like that so instead wore the pack around the small of my back for comfort. Whenever I needed to dip in and out of the pack, which was pretty infrequent, I managed to ease the waist straps slightly and spin the bag to my front. I was amazed at the comfort of the pack immediately. We got in a fairly quick 2.5km route through the reserve as light was fading and the carpark closed at dusk. I felt no discomfort with the pack, even having enough confidence to go wading gung-ho style through a bog.
It took seconds to adjust the velcro on the binocular compartment to make a perfect fit for the Steiner’s, and getting the bin’s in and out was quick and easy. The rest of the bag held the car keys and a modest wallet with no complaints, as well as making use of the notebook pocket for the purpose of this review.
I’m not a twitcher, not even a closet one in denial. I am however obsessed with gear and anything that can carry what I want, when I want it, without me noticing it is a win. The Lowepro Field Station represents on of the most thought out and successful pieces of equipment I’ve used in an age. If you’re a bit of a part time birder, like taking a pair of binoculars on a photo trip or simply want something that keeps your hands free and your stuff safe then this is the bag for you. At £79.00 it’s not the cheapest bag in the world but this is more than offset by the features of the bag and the comfort and confidence it inspires.
Who’s it for:
The part-time or light weight birder. The techno savvy (remember the iPad sleeve?) birder. Anyone who wants a light weight and comfortable carrying system for short treks and walks.
Who’s it not for:
Wildlife photographers would be hard pushed for space unless they don’t mind carrying their body and lens all day. If you prefer using a scope or bigger pair of binoculars then you’ll want to look higher in the Lowepro Optics range.
8/10. The bag is excellent, for what it’s designed for it’d be incredibly difficult to better it. The price point is a little tough, but the features and comfort justify it.