It can be a liberating experience to leave most camera gear behind and travel very lightly with just one body and a couple of lenses. Arguably extra lenses or other small items can be stowed in coat pockets, but for those of us who like to keep gear in dedicated bags, there are a plethora of small, well specified models to choose from.
I enjoy taking a minimum of kit out with me – sometimes it will be limited just a single camera and lens. There are times when I like to take a change of lens but not be burdened by a large bag and array of choices. My answer to this is the LowePro Off Trail 1; a small belt style pack that allows me to travel with one body and two lenses. The Off Trail 1 is the smaller of two options, the larger being the Off Trail 2. I suspect the latter to be more useful for larger cameras as the main pocket is much deeper and wider, allowing storage of a DSLR with zoom lens attached. It also has a couple of additional pockets that can house memory cards, batteries etc.
As the cameras I tend to use are often smaller, the Off Trail 1 is ideal. The larger centre pocket usually contains one of my OM Bodies with lens attached. The detachable pockets on either side of this contain wide angle and short telephoto lenses.
Manufactured from a tough nylon material, both sizes are available in black or forest green finishes. All storage areas are well padded and sealed with sturdy zips. The finish offers some waterproofing against the elements but I have found water to seep through the material in heavy downpours. As the bag does not have a separate rain sheet it needs to be treated with a waterproofing spray periodically – particularly if washed.
As this is a belt or waist pack, there are no options to sling it over a shoulder. It is designed purely to fasten around the waist via an adjustable wide strap and plastic buckle, similar to that found on most ruck sacks.
On the whole it is comfortable to use, but I have found that it can limit hip movement particularly when scrambling up scree slopes or making other steep ascents. I have sometimes used it in combination with an 80 litre rucksack when wild camping for a few days. Coupled with this it makes ascending even more limiting but I am happy to put up with this as a trade –off, knowing my gear is securely stowed whilst being quickly accessible. I can only assume that the larger Off Trail 2 restricts movement even more. For me this is the only weakness, and I appreciate that it is not a failure of the manufacturer, but a limitation of the waist pack concept.
As for durability…I have been using the Off Trail 1 for around a decade now and it shows very few traces of wear. The stitching is sound and the padding has not collapsed or shrank. The zips are still working fine although (unsurprisingly) they show some paint loss. I see little reason that this useful little pack should not keep going for years to come.