Lowepro likes to cultivate a rugged image. Maybe it's because the company's founder, Greg Lowe, is a world-class mountain climber and invented the world's first internal frame backpack, or maybe it's because they know the liberating feeling of having your camera equipment in a bag that can keep it safe while you scurry up the side of your local mountain. Either way, the company's Vertex series is just the thing if you have a lot of camera equipment and want to experience that liberating feeling for yourself.
The Vertex 200 AW occupies the middle of the line, and can hold up to two SLR bodies, four to six lenses, a 15.4-inch laptop, a tripod, and a slew of memory cards, batteries, filters, and other accessories. The backpack is deep, which means it can accommodate SLRs with vertical grips and big pro lenses as large as Canon's EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM.
Following what has become a fairly standard layout for larger camera backpacks, the Vertex 200 AW sports two zippered pockets on the front of the bag with a laptop sleeve behind them and the main compartment behind that. The main and laptop compartments' zippers are rubberized to help keep out water and dust, though the bag isn't actually waterproof, like the company's Dry Zone line. It does include a built-in rain cover with sealed seams, though, which is hidden away in a Velcro-enclosed nook in the bottom of the backpack.
Two zippered compartments on the front of the bag give you storage for accessories, while the laptop sleeve keeps your computer safe on the road.
The front zippered pockets are much larger than those on a lot of camera backpacks, covering the entire front of the backpack from top to bottom. One of those pockets has four small Velcro-sealing pockets perfect for memory cards and four slightly larger open pockets that are good for batteries or other small items. The other zippered front pocket has room for pens, an open pocket that can fit an iPod-size device, and two long zippered pouches that are perfect for cables. The inside of the main compartment cover has three plastic zippered pouches, one fabric-constructed zippered pocket, as well as a pouch designed for a photo viewer, but large enough for a hot-shoe flash. This pocket is lined with a soft material on one side to prevent scratches on a viewer screen and has Velcro to keep it closed. The interior of the main compartment comes with plenty of padded dividers that can be configured as you see fit.
The interior of the main compartment comes with plenty of padded dividers so you can configure it to fit your equipment.
While the Vertex 200 AW doesn't come with a cell phone pocket, the bag works with Lowepro's Slip-Lock accessory pouches, one of which is a cell phone pouch. The Slip-Lock accessories attach to the backpack at certain points on the bag and harness system, as well as the three Glide-Lock sliders on the bag's sides and front. The Glide-Lock sliders can be positioned higher or lower on the bag and are held in place by yet more Velcro. The bag also comes with a detachable tripod-foot holder, and a strap to hold the top of a tripod is hidden in a Velcro-sealable nook in the top of the bag.
The Glide-Lock system lets you add accessory pouches at whatever height you want along the sides and front of the bag.
Since the Vertex 200 AW is meant to carry a lot of gear, it makes sense that it has a hardcore harness system. The harness has eight adjustment points, ergonomically contoured shoulder straps, a well-padded waistbelt, and a chest strap that stretches, so it can expand and contract with your chest as you breathe. Once you have the harness system properly adjusted, the Vertex 200 AW lets you carry lots of gear very comfortably. Plus, if you need room for one or two more lenses, you can always add a pouch or two.
The Vertex 200 AW's harness system is as advanced as you can find on a camera backpack.
Lowepro's Vertex 200 AW has a lot going for it. If it has one major flaw, it's probably just that it's more camera bag than a lot of people need. Also, some people might complain that there are no wheels, since the bag can become quite heavy when it's fully loaded with gear. If you're looking for something slightly smaller, you should check out Lowepro's Vertex 100 AW, which is nearly identical, but smaller than the 200 AW. Similarly, if you need a bigger bag, the company's Vertex 300 AW offers even more carrying capacity.