Unlike most camera packs this one opens from the back. When I first heard Lowepro had released the FS20L I was pretty excited. My first pack with back access was the Flipside 400aw. I remember the day I got it being blown away at how much easier it was to access my gear. I was hiking on the coast in torrential rains and winds. This required me to cover the pack with the all-weather cover. With most packs, to access the contents you have to remove the all-weather cover first. With the flipside I was able to leave the cover on.
The new FS20L brings the same idea in a pack but is geared more towards the outdoor adventure photographer. Where the 400aw was bulky and became a tad uncomfortable for mid range hikes, the FS20L is light and offers good support. Fully loaded I was able to hike 4+ miles with the pack and not feel any fatigue.
The pack has one of the best suspension systems I have seen in a camera pack. The sternum strap and waist strap do a good job of transferring weight away from the shoulders. The tightening straps on the waist were a little awkward. When tightened they leave an open loop that has the potential to snag. My favorite is when the straps can be easily tightened by pulling outwards.
The bag is best suited for day hike situations. While the pack can hold quite a bit of camera gear in the main compartment it does not offer much room for a jacket, lunch or other various hiking accessories. I was able to fit an iPad and small jacket in the front. On the side of the pack is a zipped compartment to put your hydration reservoir. It can fit up to a 1.5 bladder. I opted to put a skinny Klean Kanteen bottle on the side. It fit but I was not able to close the zipper and I was not super trusting of the bottle being held securely. I would have liked to see the ability to hold up to a 32oz Nalgene Bottle.
The camera pack shines where it is most important, the gear compartment. The pack can hold a lot of gear. I love that I can fit a 24-70mm upright in the pack (with the FS400aw I had to lay the lens flat). This saves a good amount of room for other lenses. I was able to fit my 5DMKIII with 6 lenses in the bag (35mm L f/1.4, 50mm L f/1.2, 85mm L f/1.2, 14mm L f/2.8, 24-70mm L f/2.8, and 70-200mm L II f/2.8 IS). For most shoots though I only bring 3-4 lenses. This allows room for my extra batteries, memory cards, and CamRanger (a wireless tethering device).
Overall this pack is a winner. It retains almost all of the strengths of the Flipside 400AW while dramatically improving on that bag’s weaknesses. The new FS20L will be my new go to pack for short hikes and photo shoots around town.