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|| News Item: Posted 2001-08-29

Let It Roll
By Rod Mar, Seattle Times

Sports fans can debate all kinds of important questions -- who would you rather have batting leadoff -- Kenny Lofton or Ichiro? What's a better sports movie --- "Caddyshack" or "Field of Dreams"? And, did Chan Ho Park "groove one" to Cal Ripken, Jr. in the All-Star Game or didn't he?

But sports shooters are a different bunch. For us, the questions are more along the lines of which is better, Canon or Nikon? When will the new Canon be announced? Which is better --- airline miles or hotel points? And, which is better- -- a rolling bag or a camera backpack?

Photo by
Well, to answer the last question at least, the answer is quite possibly BOTH!

Lowepro, one of Sports Shooters' favorite bag makers, has recently released a new bag that should be a hit with sports photographers.

Called the Lowepro RoadRunner AW, this new bag is a combination rolling bag and backpack.

Like a Swiss Army Knife, this is all accomplished in one!

The idea is that most of the time, shooters like a rolling bag --- into the airport, from the car to the hotel, car to the stadium, etc. However, there are many times when the wheels are useless -- like when facing flights of stairs, or getting on and off media shuttles (the Olympics, golf tourneys), or when the terrain is not smooth enough to roll. Hence, the backpack option.

Other companies, Tamrac in particular, have made rolling bag/backpack combinations. Their version was very popular with shooters at last year's Olympics in Sydney. One complaint from shooters, though, was that when wearing the bag as a backpack, the wheelswould often dig into their back or waist.

Lowepro, in their ever-thoughtful manner, has solved this problem by locating the wheels on one side of the bag, and the backpack straps on the other. Voila! No more wheels into the back! And the backpack harness has a zippered cover so when you're rolling it doesn't just flap around.

As a camera bag, the Roadrunner is built very similar to the Lowepro Trekker series of backpacks, in terms of external and internal materials and padding. It includes Lowepro's All-Weather cover, which I've found indispensable at rainy football games (hey, I work in Seattle!).

Its size most resembles that of the Pro Trekker AW. It will handily accommodate a 400/2.8 with body attached, as well as another body, lenses, flashes, etc.

As one would expect, the wheel assembly is very sturdy. The wheels are large, and are spread wide for better balance.

But Lowepro did not skimp on the backpack portion either. An internal frame, and the same basic backpack harness setup as the Trekker series packs assures a comfortable fit. Well, as comfortable as one could come to expect hauling around 40-50 pounds or gear around!

Of course this bag is sized for carry-on. And that may be the slickest part of the whole idea. Not only does the RoadRunner come with wheels and a backpack assembly, it also includes a small daypack for raingear, paperwork, or even a small laptop.

Lowepro even provides an instruction booklet to help you maneuver the bag through an airport, with tips on attaching the daypack to the main bag (it's just ONE bag, sir!), to separating the two parts for the sizer at the xray (where they don't count bags) to reattaching it before getting on the plane (back to one bag, so you can have another carryon).

Also, the completely modular setup also allows for removal of the backpack harness for if you don't need it, need the bag to be smaller, or want to ship it with your clothes to be reattached at your final destination.

All in all, I don't hesitate recommending this bag at all. It's really two-bags-in-one, and is built to withstand all the traveling, dirt and rain you'd want to subject it to.

(Rod Mar is a staff photographer at the Seattle Times. While he does have a fetish for gear and bags, he's nowhere near as fanatical as Robert Hanashiro, who is to camera bags what Imelda Marcos was to shoes.)

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