Weight is a big deal to me when I travel. I’m not as young as I used to be, and if my masseuse is to be believed, every part of my body is sore or carrying undue tension. Last week I did a project in Texas through my commercial video agency Planet Unicorn, and we had to carry a lot of bags between two people. All that lifting is really doing a number on my back, so when I can, I try and go with the lightest possible carrying situation. That’s why I’m so impressed with the Lowepro Highline RL x400 AW: it weighs almost nothing.
Sure, it’s not a photo bag made by a company known for making photo bags. Instead, it’s a roller designed for one thing: carrying clothes and living essentials when on the road. But as a traveling photographer, carrying my gear is just as important as carrying the things that make a hotel room feel like home. All of my bags weighed at least 45 pounds (two of them weighed over 60 pounds), but my Highline came in at a cool 11, making it feel like a feather lifting it in and out of cars and airplanes and moving it between locations.
The best part about the Highline is it is a really nice rolling bag with a unique style that doesn’t try to be more than it is. It carries a laptop and tablet, holds clothes and toiletries, and that’s it. I think when bags try to get too clever with what they’re doing, with their zipper or interior design or with their looks or integrated tech, you end up with a sort of Frankenstein monster of a product that tries to be everything while only succeeding at being nothing.
On the flipside, it’s hard to write a review of a product with so few features, but I’m going to try. I’ve taken this bag on four cross-country flights now, and I think I have been able to form a pretty well informed opinion on this roller.
For build quality, the bag is pretty darn perfect. No, it’s not a hard-shelled case like I’ve come to love in my photo bags, but it certainly doesn’t require one. The laptop fits neatly in the front pocket, there are plenty of smaller pockets for things like business cards and pens, and the zippers and handle all feel really nice.
Sure, you can’t sit on it like you can the Echelon, but you never are going to need to. The various handles on the sides and top of the bag make pulling it out of overhead bins and taxis very easy, and nabbing it off the luggage carousel is also a breeze.
The Highline manages to fit an impressive amount of clothing as well. Because the sides are a bit flexible and the main zippered compartment can bulge a bit, I am easily able to fit five or more days worth of clothes, an extra pair of shoes and a toiletries bag and never feel like I have to cram anything inside of it. After years of using a bag that I constantly fought with, it’s a wonderful change of pace to have a roller that seems to take everything I want to carry along with me in stride.
The Highline comes with two interior bags, one for toiletries and the other for your choice of dirty laundry or perhaps socks and underwear or even shoes. The latter is great. It packs down small when not in use and fits nicely back in the bag when full of my dirty clothes. The former is the only downside to this bag: the “ziplock” plastic bag Lowepro included with the Highline is a crushing disappointment. The material doesn’t even fully expand to the area of the plastic since the type of plastic they chose is sticky, unresponsive and too thick. It doesn’t even zip closed very well. I tried to jam a travel size shaving cream, tooth paste and hair gel into the bag and I couldn’t get the tiny shaving cream canister to fit right. I couldn’t even get it to go to the bottom of the bag, since it stuck to the sides and refused to go in any further. Not sure how this made it out of QA, as it’s a wholly frustrating product.
But that’s it as far as “things I don’t like” goes when it comes to the Highline. Luckily I just threw away the hapless plastic bag and was left with a basically flawless rolling suitcase. Plus, it looks sexy too.
One thing worth mentioning is that the interior of the Highline is identical in size to the removable insert in the Whistler backpack. What that means is you can take that insert and place it into the Highline, and suddenly you have a photo rolling bag. That’s some pretty nice information for those looking to condense how many bags they have in the house (I really need to do that…).
For $300, it might seem a bit high for a bag not designed for anything other than clothes, but nabbing a high equality roller that you can depend on for years is surprisingly expensive. The Highline hits a good price point for a bag that is going to stay by my side for years to come.