Gadling Gear Review: Lowepro Event Messenger 250 and Flipside 500 AW

One of the greatest travel innovations of the past two decades is, without a doubt, the digital camera. Not only have they made photography more fun but more accessible as well, allowing us to capture travel memories like never before. Over the years, digital cameras have gotten smaller and lighter, increased their megapixels, added new features and greatly reduced their prices. As a result, it is difficult to find anyone who doesn’t own one these days.

As amateur photographers have gotten more sophisticated, the digital SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) cameras have grown into the best selling segment of the market. These cameras are popular because they not only offer great image quality and fast performance, but they also have the ability to change lenses to capture just the right photo. The problem is that SLR’s tend to be considerably bigger and heavier than point-and-shoot cameras and when you throw in a few extra lenses, it can be a real challenge to lug all of that gear around. Fortunately for us, Lowepro makes a number of fantastic bags for travelers that make it much easier to carry our photography gear and keep it well organized. Here is a look at two of those bags, each designed for different uses.

Lowepro Event Messenger 250
The Lowepro Event Messenger 250 is the largest of the Event Messenger series packs and features everything that an aspiring or experienced photographer could ask for in a compact camera bag. This shoulder-sling style pack has room for a large pro-style DSLR body and up to four extra lenses, depending on size. A zip pocket on the front provides storage for accessories such as extra memory cards, USB cables, batteries and so on. The bag even has a well-padded slot for a laptop or iPad, which was a bit surprising as it doesn’t initially appear large enough to carry that much gear.I was impressed with how slim and compact the EM 250 is while still providing plenty of padding to protect the precious cargo inside. The interior of the bag is easily customizable to fit your needs and it can carry plenty of gear with ease as well. I managed to fit my Nikon D90, three Nikkor lenses, a Macbook Air, cellphone and a variety of other accessories. A well-designed shoulder strap rounded out the package, making it a breeze to carry all of that gear for a full day in the field.

Using the EM 250 was a revelation for me. Typically in the past I kept all of my gear in a standard backpack, which did little to keep my gear well organized. When I needed to access another lens or spare battery, I was often forced to rifle through the pack to find exactly what I needed. But Lowepro’s pack not only kept everything well organized but also close at hand, which made it much easier to change out a lens and capture the perfect shot.

Pro photographers will appreciate the Event Messenger 250 as a slimmed down bag for carrying just their bare essentials, while well-equipped amateurs will find that the pack more than meets their needs. At a price of just $79.99, it is a fantastic investment for protecting your expensive camera gear while traveling, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Lowepro Flipside 500 AW
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Event Messenger is Lowepro’s Flipside Backpack. Designed for professional photographers, this pack provides far more storage than the typical amateur would ever need, wrapping it all up in a pack that is comfortable to wear on extended trips to just about anywhere on the planet.

The spacious interior of the Flipside has room for three DSLR bodies, 2-4 extra lenses (Up to 500mm!), a large flash, collapsible tripod, extra memory cards, an iPad and plenty of accessories. Much like the Event Messenger, the interior is fully customizable and very well padded, and the seemingly endless number of pockets will keep all your gear very well organized.

For a backpack dedicated to photographers, I was surprised to find a number of features that would be more common on packs designed for climbers and hikers. For instance, the shoulder straps and back padding were extremely comfortable, allowing the wearer to easily carry a large, heavy load over challenging terrain. Other nice touches include a built-in rain cover that provides extra protection from inclement weather, a tripod mount and leashes for trekking poles and more. It is even hydration ready, providing a dedicated pocket for carrying a 1-liter water reservoir. In short, this pack has everything an active photographer could hope for and then some.

The Flipside 500 AW was built from the ground up for the professional level adventure photographer. It was designed for someone who needs to be able to move quickly and easily with all of their gear, while still having their hands free to shoot photos. As such, it is overkill for the average traveler who is only carrying a DSLR body and a lens or two on a group trip. But if you’re an active, adventure traveler with lots of camera equipment, this is a no-brainer purchase. Simply put, every action photog should own one of these bags.

Lowepro lists the MSRP on the Flipside 500 AW as $249.99 and considering the market that it targets, that seems like a steal. This is a pack that will carry thousands of dollars worth of equipment with ease and protect it from all kinds of dangers. Aside from it being a bit bulky, it is an amazing piece of gear that is difficult to find fault in. If you fit the target market, and don’t already own one, add the Flipside to your gear closet now.