I was given my LowePro Scope Porter 200 AW as a birthday present last November and I must admit I was quite surprised. I never saw myself as needing such a thing. Most times when I go birding (and I do go birding a lot) I prefer to be a Highly Mobile Unit (HMU) and go sans telescope. However, there are times when a scope is a much needed accessory so maybe I would find occasion to use the Scope Porter.
The blurb on the website states that:
The inventive Scope Porter 200 AW backpack gives wildlife watchers a hands-free, protective and supportive way to carry a large spotting scope and tripod in the field.
Scope Porter first impression
The first impression on taking the Scope Porter out of the packaging is that it is a well-upholstered rucksack. There’s a central compartment designed to take the scope, and two smaller side pockets for other gear, which can be accessed separately. All have good quality zips on them. It even has a slot for one of those “camelbak” drinks pouches, although you’d have to buy that separately.
The idea is that the tripod can be attached either via two adjustable loop straps on the front of the pack, or via a small “click-in” loop strap on either shoulder strap. You can either have the scope mounted on the tripod on the outside of the pack, hanging from the shoulder strap or inside the main compartment, while still attached to the tripod. So many choices!
The website gives several photos showing the various ways to wear your scope on the pack, better than I can describe them here, (although the guy looking through his scope with his clearly empty backpack hanging off one of the tripod legs is definitely going to struggle with windshake if it starts to blow!)
All well and good but how practical is the whole set-up? Looking at the website pictures, there’s lots of shots of wildlife watchers with the scope and tripod mounted on the outside of the pack, just ready to be put to use at a moment’s notice. So what else is in the bag in that case? Why not just buy a tripod strap and carry it on your shoulder, like in days of yore?
Field trials… and tribulations
On my first trial of the Scope Porter, I was going on fieldwork, which would involve a bit of a walk from the car and then sitting around for two to three hours. I put the scope in the main compartment. But hang on, where do I put my fleece, coat, breakfast roll, crisps, chocolate, drink, notebook, camera, radio etc.? There wasn’t much room in the two side pockets for all that! I was beginning to see why the lads on the website were wearing their scopes on the outside!
However, I persevered. The two side walls of the main compartment are velcroed in place, so are detachable. By removing one wall, and putting the scope in the other side compartment (my scope is 65mm, I’m not sure an 80mm scope would fit). I now had a bigger compartment for my coat, breakfast roll, crisps, chocolate, drink, notebook, camera and radio. Couldn’t fit a spare fleece in, but it was a definite improvement. With the tripod clipped onto the shoulder strap I was in business. The backpack was comfortable to wear and was easily adjusted with a waist strap and chest strap.
Some weeks later I got an awful shock when I discovered the price of the Scope Porter.
At €200 they are not cheap! And I can’t help wondering if they are really any better than a medium sized rucksack for the scope & gear, plus a shoulder strap for the tripod. Or maybe if you really just want something to carry your scope and tripod around, one of the cheaper, less bulky “tote-a-scope” alternatives might be a better bet (reviews coming soon on Ireland’s Wildlife!).
So, to sum up, a well-made product, but perhaps not that well conceived! If it was a bit bigger and could hold more gear (and crisps!) then I would recommend one, but with the hefty price tag and limited amount of storage I would have reservations without giving the alternatives some serious consideration!
You’ll get a lot of change for crisps out of €200 if all you need to buy is a shoulder strap for your scope!
Photo Credit: LowePro Website