When it comes to bags, I’ve come close to seeing it all. I have a bag for basically any situation plus spares in each category. Over the years I’ve seen different designs from a broad range of manufacturers, and that means I’ve seen both good and bad ideas. Bags are seen as a commodity, and I won’t argue they aren’t. But in their attempt to reinvent themselves and grow out of that box, sometimes we end up with bag designs we never needed or asked for. That’s why it’s such a relief when a bag company just makes a no gimmicks bag that just works. A bag that takes the best designs from years of testing and perfectly integrates them into something that I just want to use. With a nearly flawless design, Lowepro has succeeded in making my favorite bag ever, and one that I haven’t stopped using since that day I received it in the mail: the Transit 350 AW.
It’s not too big, it’s not too small, it’s (and I’m being totally serious here) just right. Often those of us who do destination work tread this line of needing to bring everything but also needing to carry everything to the airport, down to the set and back again. Our general solution is to just go big- as big as we can get and still be able to put a bag in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of us. Not the best solution, in my opinion (and my back's). The Transit doesn’t appear to be all that large, but it uses its space incredibly well.
The Transit is made from the standard tough vinyl that’s nearly impossible to tear or fray under normal (and even unusual) use. I’ve had this bag for three months now and it’s seen quite a bit of use. On no part of the bag does it even look remotely used. Just pat off some of the dust it picked up on a shoot I did at a construction site and it looks like it came right off the shelf. Astoundingly well made, it’s a bag that takes a beating and keeps on going.
Stylistically, I absolutely love the hint of red on the front of the bag. There is a small, thin pocket (which I use primarily for my memory card, business card and ear bud storage) that is lined with red vinyl and a red zipper. It’s a dash of color (which happens to be my favorite color) that gives an otherwise blandly colored bag a great splash of character.
The cool thing about this bag is that it unzips on four sides and fully splays open (but it doesn’t have to!). It also has Lowepro’s nifty side-zipper access panel for easy, quick access to a camera without taking the bag off. What’s great about the fully-opening ability is when I’m on site, I can just set the bag on my truck tailgate or on a table and I have everything neatly organized in a “box” for me to use. I don’t have to dig, which is a huge advantage when I need quick access to everything.
In addition, there is a laptop sleeve on the back that zips closed, which is great because I rarely take my kit out without also wanting to bring my laptop. I also like how the laptop sleeve is separate form everything, so I can either choose to immediately access it (which is often) or completely ignore it while on set. It’s easy to get to, yet never gets in the way. The inside of the laptop sleeve is also red, which makes me happy (did I mention I like red?).
The inside of this bag is completely modular, as you probably guessed since basically every camera bag on the market has this feature. There isn’t anything new in the design, but that’s really ok with me. It doesn’t need to “wow” me with new features to impress me, it just needs to work. The bag comes out of the box with a divider placed about 2/3 up the inside of the bag, separating the camera/lens area from the top. This is my favorite place on the bag, and I use it for those pieces of equipment or last minute additions to my day kit that were sitting on my desk right up until the second I sprint out the door. A hard drive, my phone, my glasses or a bottle of water. It varies on the day. I like how the space is non-specific. It’s large and serves a variety of purposes. The lip of the divider has a Velcro strip on it, effectively separating the space and allowing me to keep the bag from spilling open when I have it in a vertical position. This is a feature that is lacking on nearly every other bag of the zip-open design. Though you can remove this divider if you want to, I can’t imagine ever wanting to do that.
This bag fits three pro bodies and a smattering choice of lenses, lav mics, recorders, tripod heads and/or a mishmash of other miscellaneous cords, cards and cables. The entire bag is very well padded. It keeps its form because of this, and rarely will it look deflated, used or crumpled. This is great, and I don’t ever fear for the safety of the gear inside.
The bag comes with an all weather cover, tripod loop on the side, chest strap and waist strap. Unfortunately, and this is the one place I’m disappointed on the bag, the waist strap does nearly nothing. Because it lacks sturdy connection to an interior frame, the waist straps don’t successfully displace the weight of the bag onto my lower body. That said, for those of you who hate waist straps (I tend to be one of them, especially if the straps aren’t helping), they easily pack away unseen into side pockets specific to this purpose.
What does actually help with the weight is the chest clasp, which is adjustable based on your height. Though not perfect, it does make heavy loads easier to bear. Do I recommend hiking with this bag? No. But I can say that I easily made it to and from an airport without too much back pain. I’ve certainly experienced worse.
If I haven't sold you on it yet, maybe the price will: $92. That's it. It's priced to sell, and it's easily worth that in my book.
What I liked:
Great design and solidly built
Lots of storage space
Bag itself (totally empty) is lightweight
What could use improvement:
Sub-par waist strap
In many ways, the Transit is great for what it is just as much as for what it isn’t. It doesn’t get in its own way with unnecessary frills and fancy add-ons. No gimmicky dividers or attempts at a "game changing" new design. It’s not absurdly sized to where it becomes unreasonable to fit on your back. It's not priced above what people want to pay for a bag. There isn’t an inch of wasted space on the Transit. Its slim profile, cavernous interior, solidly cushioned body and an all around thoughtful design affirms my belief that Lowepro is capable of making a really great bag at a really great price. What is there, is there for a reason and that’s why it is easily the best backpack I have ever owned.