Nobody Makes the Perfect Bag, so Roll Your Own

If you read my review, you’ll know I really like my Lowepro Freeline 350 BP backpack. If you haven’t, you can read it here. Despite all of it’s improvements over the Peak Design backpack, there’s one outstanding regression in the design and that’s the shelving and dividers. Peak Design’s origami inspired shelving system is possibly the best solution I’ve seen for carving up bag space to organize and protect your camera gear. Lowepro’s solution is adequate but inferior.

After loosely taking a few measurements of my bag, comparing the measurements listed for both bags, and then searching Amazon, I discovered they don’t have the Peak Design shelves available for sale. The next site I went to was the ever reliable B&H Photo and Video where they DO have the shelves in stock for individual sale (link here). I chose the 30L shelves, as the measurements more closely lined up to the Freeline’s, and ordered 3 of them at $15 each.

The fit is just about spot on. They’re maybe half an inch larger in depth than the actual bag’s interior but that’s better than a half inch too small when they’re held in with Velcro. The fit also helps the dividers stay in position more firmly when they’re flipped up. They’re pretty much spot on in width. So, no drawbacks.

As for additional benefits over the original divider system included with Freeline, the flip up dividers are obvious, as it allows you to reconfigure the bag for as many as 3 lenses abreast on each shelf, significantly increasing the payload capacity without compromising the cushioning. Where I could previously manage to securely fit my Fujifilm XF 50-150mm and 10-24mm, with my 16-55mm mounted on the body, I can now fit a fourth lens because of the dividers, and easily access it by flipping the divider out of the way. And because of their thinness and the way the shelves are attached and slung, there’s actually more room in the top storage area of the bag than before with the integrated dividers better holding my excess gear up top without it getting jumbled about. Plus, the whole divider system collapses and comes right out should you need a general purpose backpack, just as originally advertised.

More often than not, even the bag you like and use the most still forced you to make compromises. Fortunately, you can improve upon it. In this case, I was able to take a bag that fit 99% of my needs and wants and get it to meet 100%. No doubt Lowepro has made a great bag in the Freeline but Peak Design has a truly ingenious divider system. The combination of the two has resulted in a superior backpack that meets all of my photographic needs. Whether you have a backpack or messenger, if your dividing system utilizes Velcro connections and leaves something to be desired, give the Peak Design dividers a go if they work within the dimensions of your current favorite bag. You might be surprised.

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