Behind the Design of the Flipside 500 AW

Filed in Pro Photographers, Products, True Stories by on March 1, 2012

Photographer Paul Morrison with the Limited Edition Flipside 500 AW at the Lake Louise Men’s Downhill races in 2009. © Nick Didlick

Editor’s note: Our friend and Loweprofessional Nick Didlick is a photographer, photo consultant and web designer who has tested and worked with our bags for many years. We relied on his expertise when we began the concept of our Flipside 500 AW in 2008. The Olympic Winter Games seemed like an ideal venue to test the mettle of a rugged, roomy and secure outdoor photo backpack, and Nick’s input was invaluable to the creation and reception of this purpose-built carrying solution. Here he shares the story behind the design.

 

“Back in 1984, while covering the Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo, I realized that backpacks are the only way to go when covering major winter sports. Since then Lowepro has been on my back for some of the most memorable winter and summer sporting events.

In 2008, Tim Grimmer (Lowepro director of marketing and product management) came to my home in Vancouver, British Columbia on a research trip. His mission was to talk to me (really, he grilled me!) on what would be the best design for a backpack for sports photographers. The discussion was lively and included all aspects of what a winter sports photographer does and the changing roles of sports photography.

I wanted a bag that would let me ski down an Olympic Downhill course in the morning, walk up an Olympic Bobsleigh course in the afternoon, and then travel by bus and cover an Olympic Figure Skating final in the evening—all the while keeping my gear safe and dry while shooting and travelling between events. It was a challenge that I thought was going to be impossible for Tim and the team. ‘Oh, and I need this bag to carry hand warmers, sunglasses, extra gloves, crampons, and monopod,’ I added.

Tim asked what camera gear I would need to carry in it, which was really the point of the backpack and this was a difficult one to answer, because different winter sports require different lenses, and different photographers carry different lenses to the same sport. I thought about this for a long while, reflecting on all the sporting events I have covered and the sports photographers I had worked with around the world at events.

The bag, I concluded, would have to carry the following:
2 Pro DSLR bodies
A big lens: like a 400mm f/2.88, 500mm f/4 or 600mm f/4
2 or 3 extra lenses
A teleconverter
Spare batteries, CF/SD cards and a few other accessories

Nick's Limited Edition Flipside 500 AW filled with the pro-sized gear needed to cover winter sporting events. © Nick Didlick

The backpack had to have a different way of opening to protect the gear inside from blowing snow. And I didn’t want a million pockets as they are difficult to manage with cold or gloved hands. ‘Oh yeah Tim, one more thing: I need the bag to fit in the overhead baggage area of an airplane!’

I introduced Tim to my friend Paul Morrison, a Whistler-based photographer who covers extreme skiing and with whom I have spent many hours on the side of a mountain waiting for an event to start. Paul and I have different views of what a bag should be, but I always find his insights to be valuable. And we have the common vision that being ready for the picture is what counts, and that should be the primary function of the backpack. And so the challenge was laid down.

Lowepro took all of this information that Paul and I provided and months later produced the Limited Edition Flipside 500 AW. They shared these backpacks with more than 700 pro photographers who covered the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. And now, the Flipside 500 AW is available to all pros and photo enthusiasts who need a backpack that’s ready for those big moments. After all, it’s really ‘the picture that counts’.”

To learn more about Nick Didlick, please visit his web site.

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About the Author ()

Katrina is the Senior Writer for Lowepro's Worldwide Marketing Communications team.

Comments (27)

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  1. Akshay Jadhav says:

    Hello,

    I have a nikon 600mm and i am tiered of finding a bag for a carry on luggage for this huge lens on the flight, so wanted to know that will this be able to occupy the 600 mm ? ..If it is yes , i will order it asap as i need it urgently.

    Thank you :)

    • Katrina says:

      Hello,

      I checked with our product specialist and he thinks “in theory” the 600mm lens may not fit in the Flipside 500 AW. These are the interior dimensions for the main camera compartment:

      28.0 W 18.5 D 48.0 H (cm)
      11.0 W 7.3 D 18.9 H (in)

      Perhaps you can measure your lens top to bottom and make a good estimate. I know our Pro Trekker 600 AW is built to fit that lens size and length.

      Good luck to you on your travels and thanks for checking in with us.

  2. Paul says:

    Hi

    Do you or any of your Flipside 500 AW users know whether its overall dimensions qualify it as carry on hand luggage with the likes or EasyJet, Ryanair or BA.

    Thanks

  3. Mike Rodwell says:

    Hi there! Apols if this is duplicated as pc doing funnies. Have just bought a Flipside 500 AW for my new Canon 400 2.8 II. The lens certainly fits in the bag which is great but I’m having problems getting a layout that makes the most of the bag. As it stands the lens is taking up three quarters of the right hand side leaving relatively little space for anything else other than my 1D body and probably a small lens or 2x Extender. Any guidance appreciated. Thx, Mike

    • Katrina says:

      Hello Mike,

      I believe one of our customer service specialists, LauraLee, has been in touch with you. Today our product specialist is back in the office and he shares that there is no perfect answer to this one beyond the efforts that you have already made: rearranging the adjustable dividers and fitting them into your pack in priority order.

      He did reference a web site that might be of use to you.

      If you’re not familiar with it, it is this:

      http://www.cambags.com

      Users post images of how they pack their particular packs.

      I hope this is somewhat helpful. I apologize that we are not able to provide a more specific solution.

      Best regards,
      Katrina

  4. Mike Rodwell says:

    Hi there. Just purchased a Flipside 500AW for my new Canon 400 2.8 II. The lens certainly fits in the bag but is there a recommended layout for the cushioning etc? I am struggling to get the most from the bag and would appreciate any advice. Thx, Mike

  5. Britney says:

    If this bag could fit a 13″ macbook it would be absolutely perfect. Hope to see that in the next model.

    • Katrina says:

      Hi Britney,

      I think the MacBook Pro 13 is just a tad too big for the front pocket of this pack. I checked the specs on Apple’s site.

      If you want to measure your laptop to be certain, these are the specs for the front accessory pocket on the Flipside 500 AW: 8.7 W 2.4 D 15.4 H (in).

      Depending on your camera model and extra accessories, we do have other outdoor backpacks that fit a 13-inch laptop. Check our bagfinder to see if there is one that matches your needs. It’s a pretty helpful tool! Best of luck.

      http://bagfinder.lowepro.com/lp/choose-profile

  6. I’m wondering if I can fit a 400mm f/2.8 without a body attached in the Flipside 400. Those are the only two things I’ll be carrying in this bag in the field.. I know the Flipside 500 is advertised to fit it, but I’d like to know if the Flipside 400 can handle that as well. I’m using this for a 3 day long shoot into the forest to photograph elk animals. I have a feeling that the Flipside 500 would be too big for this purpose.

    • Katrina says:

      Hello,

      Thanks for your question. I checked with Maury, our product specialist, and he feels your gear would fit best in the Flipside 500 AW. We realize this bag is larger than the 400 AW, but it is also pretty lightweight (unpacked weight is 4.8 pounds). It has a very comfortable backpad and waistbelt with moisture-wicking mesh also. All will help keep you comfortable as you trek to photograph elk. Sounds like a wonderful adventure. Best of luck finding the right bag. We hope the 500 AW might be the answer!

  7. Kee says:

    Hi there,

    Can the Canon 1D4 body attached to a Canon 500mm lens f4.0 fit inside the flipside 500aw?

    Regards,

    Kee

  8. simone says:

    looks like i’m in the right place to ask the following question! my standard travel equipment is. 2x pro body + a 500 mm is f4 from canon and 70-200 mm 2.8 and a 24-70 mm lens and 1 x flash. my question is… will I be able to carry all this equipment in a flipside 500 aw? thank you regards Simone

    • Katrina says:

      Greetings Simone,

      Thanks very much for asking about the fit. Our product specialist says “Yes, the Flipside 500 AW will hold all your gear…and probably more!”

      You can use the interior adjustable dividers (they’re each padded, too) to create spaces to fit and protect the camera bodies, lenses and flash.

      Best of luck with your travel and your photography.

      • Simone says:

        Thank you Katrina…I have just ordered 1 flipside 500aw from B&H… will let you know my comments on it after my trip in Zambia this May. regards Simone

  9. VKP says:

    Hi,

    Currently I’m using Lowepro Flipside 300 and I totally love the Flipside design. However I’m upgrading my gear and I’m running out of space. I have no intentions of selecting anything other than Flipside. I have few questions before I could buy Flipside 400 or Flipside 500.

    1) Can I place the Canon 5d II with Grip, vertically? Generally we place the camera horizontally but I want to place it vertically on its shorter side to save some space. Will 400 and 500 take this? at least without the grip?

    2) Will the Lens Canon 100mm 2.8 IS, 16-35 2.8 II IS fit in the bags (400, 500) vertically with hoods?

    3) Can we have 2 bodies lens mounted, stored at the same time. Say 5D II with 70-200 2.8 IS II and 7D with smaller lens like 16-35?

    I’m trying to understand the design of Flipside 500 so that I don’t have to look for other models.

    My gear
    Canon 5D II + 70-200 2.8 IS II (hooded)
    Canon 7D + 16-35 2.8 IS II (hooded)
    Canon 100mm 2.8 IS (hooded)
    Canon 85mm 1.2L (hooded)
    Canon 35 1.4L (hooded)
    Canon 1.4x III
    Canon 580EX II
    Canon 480 EX II
    Batteries + Charges
    Cables

    Please suggest the right backpack. Flipside 400 or Flipside 500?

    I understand that Flipside cannot be designed with a laptop compartment (>13″) but that bag would be the ultimate!

    Thanks

    • Katrina says:

      Hello,

      We looked to our incredibly knowledgeable and helpful product specialist Maury to help answer your questions.

      Here is his advice; we hope you find it helpful as you search for the ideal bag for your gear.

      1) Can I place the Canon 5d II with Grip, vertically? Generally we place the camera horizontally but I want to place it vertically on its shorter side to save some space. Will 400 and 500 take this? at least without the grip?

      ANSWER: This is a big confusing. Without the grip, it would be shorter sitting on its base. We show the 5D model as 6″ wide, so this should fit either the 400 AW or 500 AW.

      2) Will the Lens Canon 100mm 2.8 IS, 16-35 2.8 II IS fit in the bags (400, 500) vertically with hoods?

      ANSWER: Yes, they should fit vertically in both.

      3) Can we have 2 bodies lens mounted, stored at the same time. Say 5D II with 70-200 2.8 IS II and 7D with smaller lens like 16-35?

      ANSWER: Yes, in the 500 AW.

      I’m trying to understand the design of Flipside 500 so that I don’t have to look for other models.

      My gear
      Canon 5D II + 70-200 2.8 IS II (hooded)
      Canon 7D + 16-35 2.8 IS II (hooded)
      Canon 100mm 2.8 IS (hooded)
      Canon 85mm 1.2L (hooded)
      Canon 35 1.4L (hooded)
      Canon 1.4x III
      Canon 580EX II
      Canon 480 EX II
      Batteries + Charges
      Cables

      Please suggest the right backpack. Flipside 400 or Flipside 500?

      ANSWER: The Flipside 500 AW would be better suited to holding the two bodies with attached lenses. You could probably slip the laptop (in a padded sleeve for extra protection from possible impact) into the outer organizer pocket.

  10. Arnaud says:

    Hi,
    I use a Flipside 400 AW since two or three years. This is a perfect bag for my gear and my activity (concerts photos).

    Nowadays I have :
    - 1 Nikon D3s with 70/200 2.8 lens mount
    - 1 Nikon 50 1.4 lens
    - 1 Nikon 85 1.4 lens
    - 1 Nikon 24/70 2.8 lens
    - 1 Nikon 14/24 1.4 lens
    - spare space for a Nikon 24 1.4 lens
    - 1 Ipad of the front bag

    I may buy a D4 in a few months and I wonder if It can fit in a Flipside 500 AW included of my gear (It can’t in a Flipside 400)

    Thanks for you answer

    • Katrina says:

      Greetings Arnaud,

      Thank you for your question. That’s a lot of gear in your bag! And based on our product specialist’s very good instincts, it all will fit in the new Flipside 500 AW.

      As with the 400 AW model, the interior is extremely roomy and versatile. You can use the adjustable, padded dividers to fit the two bodies and all of those lenses. You can place your iPad in the front zippered pocket (it includes padding behind it, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a protective sleeve or thin case so it has impact protection at the front of the pack).

      Shooting concerts is quite an art. We hope you can use this pro backpack to suit your needs.

      Best of luck.

  11. dirk says:

    I have been looking for quite some time already for a way to carry my 600mm telephoto lens from Canon, camera house, some more smaller stuff and a tripod with Wimberley head back and forth and that would, at the same time, be fit for air travel IN the cabin itself. (hand luggage – I will not turn in my expensive equipment into the hull) I was looking at the Lens Tracker 600 AW, but that one would be doubtful for taking into the plane.
    So, now I stumbled onto the Flipside 500AW. And my question is obvious: Does my 600 mm fit into that bag ? If yes, that bag will be mine shortly. Otherwise I have to continue my quest … It does not need to carry the 600mm with a body attached, If it fits separately, that would be great. I guess the 600 mm hood would not fit in there ?
    Thank you for your response. I really hope your answer to be positive.

    • Katrina says:

      Greetings Dirk,

      Ah, you have a challenging question! I checked in with our product specialist, outdoor pack designer and category manager on this one. As your main goal is to get that big lens on a plane, we want to give you good information. The consensus is that you can fit the Canon 600mm f/4 lens in the Flipside 500 AW, but with the hood removed and the camera body detached. There will be a bit of room around the sides of the pack (possibly to fit the body and other accessories). This pack is really well padded–good protection for your lens investment.

      One other scenario comes from a customer who used his Rover AW II to fit a 600mm f/4 lens; in this case, the center divider was removed.

      Our other packs that were built specifically to fit a 600mm lens are the Pro Trekker 600 AW and Lens Trekker 600 AW II. But as you noted, these two packs exceed the standard international carry-on size requirements.

      Our Flipside 500 AW and Rover AW II each measure less than the 45 linear inch/114.3 centimeter size posted by most international airlines.

      We hope this helps.

  12. Andy says:

    What weight of tripod will this backpack support? I use a Gitzo 5-series (carbon fibre) with gimbal mount (Wimberley II).

    • Katrina says:

      Hello Andy,

      This is a good question and we appreciate your interest in “kitting out” this pack with your gear. We checked in with our design team and here is the feedback.

      We do not have your specific tripod in-house, but we have fit the Flipside 500 AW with a few Manfrotto tripods. The largest that will work with the pack weighs 5.2 kg and has a circumference of 43 cm. Based on this, we feel that your tripod will fit. There is an additional SR (side-release) buckle strap that functions as both side compression for the pack, as well as a secondary tripod attachment strap. We recommend that you use this strap with your set-up.

      Hope that helps and good luck with your future photo adventures, Andy.

  13. Will this one also carry a laptop?

    • Katrina says:

      Hello Curtis,

      I just double-checked with our design team on this. There is a tablet-designated pocket in the front storage panel (this is indicated by a sewn-in label with a tablet icon). We did not build a dedicated laptop pocket in the Flipside 500 AW, but you could fit an 11-inch MacBook Air© in this front compartment; if you do this, we suggest you add a laptop sleeve or cover for added protection from impact. Hope this helps.

  14. Robin says:

    I wasn’t sure where I could ask this, but will there be any child carrier packs for Photographers? I think it would be a great addition to your many great packs! The pack could have a compartment for the camera and it’s accessories and then a small top compartment to put any personal items in, then have the stand on the pack, so the pack can be propped on the ground when needed. Is in the near future at all?

    Thanks!

    • Katrina says:

      Hello Robin,

      It never hurts to ask a question! Designing and manufacturing child carrier packs for photographers is not a part of our strategy at present. We have deep knowledge in protecting camera and video gear, but not in the realm of child-carrying safety. Thanks for your idea and we wish you the best in your photographic endeavors.

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