Lowepro Hardside 300 Review

Lowepro recently added three new hardcases to their line of quality camera and video bags. The three different Hardside models are “tuned” to different applications, but can be user configured to meet any need. The baby bear Hardside 200 Video is positioned for GoPro users who want to store several of the action cams in a protected environment; the mama bear Hardside 300 is designed to accommodate a single DSLR camera with a couple of additional lenses and a flash; the papa bear Hardside 400 is meant to house one or two DSLRs, two flashes, several lenses and plenty of accessories. The 300 and 400 are designated “Photo,” but can certainly be used for video gear as well. We tested the Hardside 300 Photo over the last couple of months with four different reviewers — their comments in quotes below.

Lowepro Hardside Review

There’s no shortage of hard, waterproof cases for camera gear available on the market, which perform admirably. Thus, Lowepro knew if they were going to enter this arena, they couldn’t just “fax in” a standard hardcase and slap their logo on it. Lowepro started with a solid ABS polymer shell and a full-length, piano hinge with a 1/8″ inch metal rod providing the pivot. The shell doesn’t have the same thickness of a SKB case, but none of our evaluators found it to be an issue. In fact, Lowepro seems to have found the right balance between safekeeping and heft. Weighing in at just under 8 lbs. (without gear), the 300 is not overwhelming, but “if you’re loading it with a lot of heavy gear, you may want to consider adding a shoulder strap,” remarked one evaluator. Lowepro thought of this and has furnished two slots on the outside of the hinges for just this purpose.

 

Lowepro Hardside 300 review internal backpack


Lowepro’s real innovation for the Hardside series is the design of the padded interior. New specialized materials? No. A fresh approach to the user-configurable padded interior? No, basically the same velcro cushions they utilize in their protective bags. So what then? The padded interior is actually a separate backpack, which can be removed from the hard shell exterior. Simple, yet ingenious, since the photographer / videographer now has a “Plan B” when an irritable Flight Attendant demands that the Hardside must be checked just as you enter the plane (even though the case does meet most carrier’s carry-on requirements). Merely, pop open the Hardside, remove the padded interior, which has backpack straps on the underside, and hand over the shell to the cantankerous attendant with a wink. “Is the removable padded case groundbreaking? Probably wouldn’t go that far, but savvy, you betcha!” commented one reviewer.

 

The Hardside cases from Lowepro have a dustproof/waterproof rating of IP67 and Lowepro claims the Hardside’s can be submerged in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes without leaking. Performing a “Tissue Test” (where we put tissue into each compartment and submerge a waterproof case for a specified amount of time) we sank the Hardside 300 in two feet of water for five days and found no sign of leakage. Additionally, the Hardside 300 was exposed to direct sunlight in 85 degree temperatures for an entire day in salt water conditions, to extreme 10 degree temperatures while skiing, and retained it’s integrity.

Features:
» Hardside 200 Dimensions: Internal – 15.75″ x 3.27″ x 9.45″ / External – 17.60″ x 5.20″ x 11.69″
» Hardside 200 Weight: 7.04 lbs
» Hardside 300 Dimensions: Internal – 15.75″ x 4.65″ x 9.45″ / External – 17.60″ x 7.09″ x 11.69″
» Hardside 300 Weight: 7.92 lbs
» Hardside 400 Dimensions: Internal – 20.12″ x 6.57″ x 12.32″ / External – 21.69″ x 9.21″ x 14.80″
» Hardside 400 Weight: 13.42 lbs
» Formed ABS polymer
» Waterproof and dustproof rating of IP67
» Silicone gasket
» Integrated release valves in latches
» Stackable form factor
» Sized to meet standard airline carry-on requirements (45 linear inches)
» Full-length hinge
» Removable Padded Interior
» Cushioned Carrying Handle
» Interior Stash Pockets

Lowepro Hardside Review - Interior
 

The only negatives that emerged during our long term test focused on the latches. Instead of having a safety mechanism that needs to be triggered to “unlock” each latch, Lowepro requires the user to open and close the latches using force. This is not so much of an issue when opening, but closing “required [me] to use the heel of my hand to snap the latch shut every time.” Although it never malfunctioned or became an issue during our test, one evaluator commented, “I kept waiting for one of the latches to break.” The other problem is “without a safety lock mechanism, the case can be accidentally opened if one of the latches catches on a rock or another protruding object.” The other matter in question centered around the integrated pressure release valves built-into each latch. They simply didn’t equilibrate enough when exposed to changes in altitude or submerged, making the case even more difficult to open. The two other reviewers didn’t site any difficulty with the latches aside from “in the beginning, I missed the ease-of-use of the latch system on my Nanuk case, but I got used to the methodology, and being able to remove the interior trumped all other considerations, including always have to open the case twice.” (The latches and then the zippered interior case —Ed.)

 

 

The Lowepro Hardside 300 case met our rigorous testing when utilized on a deep sea fishing expedition in Florida, to brittle, sub-zero temperatures on a Vermont skiing trip, as well as our submerged tissue test. Although our testers found the latch system to be somewhat wonky, Lowepro certainly put a lot of thought into the mechanism, incorporating a pressure release system, external lock rings and loops for a shoulder strap. Considering everything you get for just under $200, Lowepro’s Hardside series is Highly Recommended.

Lowepro’s Hardside 200, 300 and 400 cost $169.95, $199.95 and $249.95 respectively, and are available now.

Lowepro Hardside Series

The Future: The removable backpack insert is brilliant, but Lowepro should develop a methodology for attaching the top of the backpack to the lid of the hardcase, so you don’t have to open the case twice to get to your gear. Since the bags are super versatile, there’s no need to label the cases Video or Photo, and they should just lose those monikers. More thought could also be put into the three interior zippered pockets on the lid, since they’re too flat to hold much. Finally, Lowepro should consider adding a simple safety lock to each latch. Nothing elaborate, maybe something like a sliding post that will set into one of the molded protectors on either side of the latch. This way you can just slide the locks into place when you need it, or not utilize it once you’re at your location.

Cheers:

+ Quality Construction

+ Innovative, removable padded backpack

+ Full Length Piano Hinge

+ Shoulder strap loops

+ Comfort handle

+ Case Integrity at extreme temperatures

+ Attractive

Jeers:

– Have to open case twice to get to your gear

– Latches may open when snagged

– Force needed to open/close latches

Lowepro Latches Closeup

Lowepro Hardside Review Rating

Lowepro’s Hardside cases can be purchased direct, or via Amazon.
 
 
Lowepro
 
 

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