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Gear Scout: LowePro 180 AW Messenger

The quest for the perfect camera bag is a torturous enterprise. Just when you think you’ve found the perfect bag, you outgrow it, discover the one design flaw you can’t possibly overcome, or simply accept the bag you’ve tried to love for years is awful. I’ve been down that path many times, and I’m sure I’ll endure it again, but until then the LowePro Messenger 180 AW has proven to be the closest thing to the perfect bag as I have ever had. What first attracted my attention was the rugged, almost vintage aesthetic of the Messenger 180. It has the brawn and utility reminiscent of a bag a war correspondent might have slung over a shoulder. Having used it for many months now, I bet it would be up to that task.

This is without question, a professional grade bag built to endure years of hard use. Constructed of abrasion resistant fabric with the look and feel of durable canvas, the bag has retro styling without sacrificing durability or function. The shoulder and hand-carry straps are almost overbuilt. This bag is about maximum utility, and it delivers on that promise.

The unique FlexFlap allows users two closure options. For ultimate security, the flap closure can be extended to cover the full face of the bag, locking in place with heavy duty hook and loop patches. For fast access, the FlexFlap can be folded in half making entry to the bag’s interior quick and effortless. A large front pocket can accommodate a variety of accessories and is big enough to easily accept a full-sized DSLR body. Interior organizers and a zippered pocket in the back of the bag keep things secure and accessible.

In talking to some of Expedition Portal’s most respected professional photographers, one requirement for a good camera bag is the ability to protect cameras from dust and moisture. To achieve this end, the LowePro Messenger 180 AW, or All Weather, has a built in rain and dust cover. Stowed neatly in a pocket at the base of the bag, the water and dust proof cover can be deployed in a matter of seconds, even while shouldered. Available in three sizes, the 180 is the perfect size to portage a DSLR, pair of lenses, flash, and all the necessary accessories. It really is an excellent bag, and for now, the perfect bag for me.


Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.