For more stories like this, please subscribe to The Phoblographer.
I’ve used the Lowepro Flipside backpacks almost religiously. The design allows photographers to do a lot! You can swing the bag forward on the waist belt, open up the full back panel, grab anything from the main compartment, flip the bag back, and keep shooting. Few backpacks offer full access to every single lens slot without removing the bag. The flip design mixes the best benefits of a backpack with access that’s almost as quick as a messenger bag. I fell in love with the first generation of the Lowepro Flipside — which was affordable enough to pick up when I first started out — so naturally, I picked up the second generation. Now, its successor has arrived, but the Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III has big shoes to fill.
Unfortunately, Lowepro has taken the Flip out of the Flipside. The support straps that allowed access to gear while still wearing the bag are gone. Instead, Lowepro has replaced them with a molded front panel designed for (gasp!) placing the bag on the ground to access gear. The move turns a great bag into a bag that’s just good and a bag that blends into the rest of the backpacks on the market. Is it a bad backpack? Not at all. But is it still my favorite camera backpack?
“The support straps that allowed access to gear while still wearing the bag are gone. Instead, Lowepro has replaced them with a molded front panel designed for (gasp!) placing the bag on the ground to access gear.”
Too Long, Didn’t Read
The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III backpack is comfortable, affordable, and roomy. But, the bag doesn’t “flip” like earlier generations. Further, I don’t care for the tripod pocket, rain cover, or limited interior organization.
Pros and Cons
- Comfortable straps and waist belt
- Lots of room for gear and accessories
- Durable front panel
- Completely unzips for full access to everything
- Laptop and tablet sleeve
- No more flip access
- Limited ways to organize the interior
- Tripod/water bottle pocket is snug
- The older version had more latch straps and a better rain cover.
I packed the Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III with the Nikon Z7 II, the Z 50mm f1.2 lens, the Z 24-70mm f2.8 lens, and a Nikon SB-700 flash plus accessories. I also arranged my own D850 and lenses in the bag to see what types of gear fit best.
When the original Flipside launched, bags that opened at the back panel were a rarity. Lowepro used that feature both for added security and for easier access for gear. That opening is still there but more difficult to access without putting the bag on the ground. Instead, Lowepro changed up the front of the bag with little risers to keep most of the bag out of the dirt. While I like the new front design, I don’t see why Lowepro couldn’t have still kept the ability to easily access the full bag without taking it off.
But what’s actually new and innovative? Well, there is a new strap/handle to grab it from the back area, which we haven’t seen before with any other camera bag.
- Weight: 1.7 kg
- Internal dimensions: 28 x 14 x 41 cm
- External dimensions: 33 x 24 x 48 cm
- Laptop compartment dimensions: 26 x 1 x 36 cm
- Tablet compartment dimensions: 24 x 1 x 32 cm
- Total volume: 20 L
- Camera compartment dimensions: 28 x 14 x 41 cm
- Front compartment dimensions 27.5 x 2 x 41 cm
- GearBox interior dimensions: 27 x 11 x 9 cm
- Exterior material: 600D polyester, 600D polyester ripstop
The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III has a much more streamlined, minimalist look compared to its predecessors. The bag has more smooth edges and curves, giving it a more modern look. This is a bag that’s aesthetically going to fit in equally well at a wedding, in the city, or on hiking trails.
The front of the bag has two stiff outcroppings. These act like built-in risers: when you place the bag on the ground to access gear, it’s not all the way in the dirt. A large front pocket covers most of the front. Inside that front pocket, there are two more pockets and a key leash. While the front pocket is a good height and width, it’s not terribly deep. I could, however, still fit a small lunch box in there. The smaller pockets are deep enough to fit my hand in a bit past my wrist. (I have relatively small hands). They’ll work for a smartphone and similarly sized items.
On the side of the Flipside 400 AW III, one side has a water bottle pouch or tripod holder, the other has a quick access door to the main compartment. The pouch, however, is too small; an 18-ounce drink barely fits in. I could only get a leg or two of my compact BeeFree travel tripod in the pouch, though it still seemed to stay in place using the buckle at the top of the bag. I preferred the previous generation’s tripod solution, which had a hidden pouch that pulled out of the center of the bag and straps at the top to keep it in place. That older design kept the tripod’s weight centered, allowing you to carry both a tripod and a water bottle. And it had more room.
For full access to gear, the entire rear panel of the bag unzips, so every lens slot is easy to access. The rear panel stays open all the way, so it’s easier to access the lens slots on the bottom of the bag. On the reverse of the back panel, the bag houses two tech sleeves, one for a laptop and one for a tablet, as well as a zippered mesh pocket for accessories like filters and extra batteries. This is my least favorite location for a laptop sleeve — though most bag companies love to put them here. With the laptop essentially right against your back, the back panel is stiff and more uncomfortable compared to pack’s predecessor. The cushioned back panel prevents this set-up from being too terrible, but I would have preferred if the laptop sleeve were located in the big front pocket.
The organization of the main compartment relies heavily on two larger, stiffer dividers that are shaped to a camera and lens (the darker gray dividers in the photos). These pieces sit just below a removable pouch that’s ideal for chargers and cords. The smaller divider pieces attach to these large pieces with velcro, and two of the larger pieces have built-in velcro-closure SD card pockets.
However, these large, stiff divider pieces can’t really move from their default position, placing the camera with an attached lens at the top of the bag. Physically, you can pull them off and move them, but they only fit in the bag horizontally. The smaller, light gray dividers need to be attached to those larger, dark gray dividers. Unfortunately, that means you can’t rearrange the bag so that you can grab your camera from the quick access door at the side. This feels a bit counterintuitive, but Lowepro clearly intends the quick access door for lenses. You can arrange the bag so that you can reach for two lenses from that side door.
The 400 size of this bag feels a little too deep. There’s at least an inch above the Z7 II body, which means it’s going to move around a bit. On the other hand, if the bag were narrower the Z 50mm f1.2 would have a hard time fitting in. Including a cushion for under the camera body — which Lowepro did with the Flipside II — would have created a more secure fit.
Back on the outside of the bag, the shoulder straps are attached to the top of the bag, not the top of the zippered back panel. That means you have to pull the straps out of the way before unzipping it. (Bags like the Wandrd PRVKE have the straps attached to the back panel, so they stay out of the way better.) But, the shoulder straps are sufficiently padded and fairly comfortable.
Besides the shoulder straps, the Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III also has a new grab handle on the back panel, which I love. You don’t feel it while wearing it because it’s tucked between the nice padded sections. You can also easily grab the bag from a handle at the top.
Worn, the bag is quite comfortable. That’s thanks in part to a nicely padded waist belt. The bag also has a sternum strap with adjustable height (a must to fit different body types).
The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III is constructed from polyester. I’ve used the previous generation of this bag for years and it’s still holding up well. The front of the bag is a bit tougher since it’s designed to be placed front down, with additional coatings and those two stiff points to hold the bag a little off the ground. The zippers all pull smoothly but don’t have a weather-resistant seal.
The backpack includes a separate rain cover. This accessory covers the front, sides, and bottom, but not the panel that rests against your back. I preferred the earlier version’s rain cover, which was hidden in the bottom of the bag: you didn’t have to pack it and it didn’t need to take up interior space. Honestly, the rain cover in the earlier version is so well hidden that I imagine some users complained there wasn’t one included.
Ease of Use
I loved the Flipside series because the bags were designed to offer full gear access without completely removing the bag. This was a huge plus for me. Messenger bags have fast access but put all the weight of the gear on a single shoulder. The Flipside was a great compromise, distributing the weight on two shoulders yet almost just as easy to access.
Unfortunately, the third generation isn’t built for that type of access. Lowepro mentions nothing of this type of access in the marketing materials and instead brags about that side access door. I could still pull off the shoulder straps, swing the bag around, and open it up with the waist belt on. But, I have to keep one hand on the bag to prevent it from flipping too far forward and dumping gear.
The earlier generation has two support straps on the waist belt that allow the bag to open like a tabletop. I’ve regularly swapped lenses without a hand on the bag, with the waist belt and support straps holding the open bag flat. These support straps are missing in the third generation, and the main part of the bag tips forward roughly 30 degrees instead of remaining flat.
Lowepro, why did you change the best thing about this bag? There are endless backpacks on the market with that side access door. The Flipside was one of few where you could access the entire bag without putting it on the ground. Yes, you can still sort of do that, but now you either have to keep a hand on the bag, which makes lens swaps near impossible, or crouch so the bag rests against your knees.
The tabletop access of previous generations has been switched in favor of putting the bag on the ground. The re-shaped, tougher front and grab handle on the back is great for this. I just don’t understand why the bag couldn’t have those features and that full access with the waist belt still attached.
Comparison: Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III Vs. Lowepro Flipside 400 AW II
Lowepro made several changes jumping from the second to the third generation. Both backpacks are about equally comfortable, built from similar materials, and have a rear access zipper. Sadly, the second generation has been discontinued and is difficult to find.
I prefer the easy access of the AW II, where I can swing the bag around and, using the waist belt for support, open the entire back panel to access what I need. In contrast, generation III has side access that allows you to access maybe two lenses or encourages you to place the bag on the ground to have full access to everything.
I also prefer the tripod and side pockets of the second generation. The earlier model had lots of extra straps. You could latch a tripod on the front center of the bag and still have access to both side pockets for a water bottle or whatever else. I’ve used those straps to roll up a sweatshirt and attach it to the top on occasion. The third generation lacks these extra straps. It also seems to have fewer small pockets, and the rain cover is detached instead of built into a hidden pocket.
What I love about the update is the molded front of the bag. This does help keep the front of the bag cleaner when putting the bag down to grab gear. I also appreciate the more streamlined look. The material of the straps and back panel also have a sturdier feel to them. And I love the removable mesh bag for cords and chargers.
- The backpack is pretty comfortable.
- The 400 size has plenty of room.
- The front panel is durable and made to be put in the dirt.
- The rear panel fully unzips for full access to everything.
- You can carry both a laptop and a tablet, with your camera gear.
- At $170, it’s reasonably priced, with more comfort than a bare-bones budget bag, but for less than a high-end bag.
- The bag doesn’t flip for full access as well as earlier generations.
- The interior has more limited organization, and there’s a bit too much wiggle room for a mirrorless camera.
- The tripod and water bottle pocket is too small.
- I also preferred the extra latch straps and rain cover of the second generation.
I like the Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III, but I don’t love it like I do the AW II. After using the first and second generations of the Lowepro Flipside series, I’m not planning on using the third generation. Sadly, the bag is no longer made for accessing all the gear with a simple rotation of the bag: now photographer have to use the side access door or take the bag off. Had the Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III kept the flip in Flipside, I would readily recommend this bag to pretty much everyone. I also don’t care for the new tripod pocket, rain cover, and the limited interior organization.
That’s not to say that some photographers won’t like this bag. The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III is very comfortable and roomy. Photographers who would take the bag off the access full gear regardless will love that the front of the bag doesn’t sit completely in the dirt and that’s there’s a new grab handle at the back. At $170, it also sits at a great price. Other rear-access backpacks like the Wandrd PRVKE are nearly twice that and don’t include the waist strap or require the purchase of a camera cube.
I love Lowepro bags for camera storage that’s comfortable but not terribly pricey. The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW III is a comfortable, roomy, affordable bag. But, the flip feature is missing. Without that feature, I can only like the bag — not love it. I’m giving the Flipside 400 AW III three out of five stars.