I called the rugged Rocky Mountains home for 6 years prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2013 for a work opportunity. Out here, the Pacific ocean provides a unique photography challenge, but the allure of the mountains always tugs at my wanderlust. Since being absent, I make a point to return once a year for an extended trip to satisfy my crave – typically during the fall. This year I brought some friends along to introduce them to Colorado’s high-altitude 4 wheel drive trails in the remote San Juan mountains.
Typically this time of year brings mild to cool temperatures with most of the treacherous winter holding off until late October at the earliest. This year proved different, however. Colorado’s altitude can be a bit of an adjustment, so coming straight from sea level to 18 inches of fresh snow humbled us and quickly let us know we were at the mercy of whatever weather the Rockies decided to show us.
Throughout the ten days we paddleboarded in sub-freezing temperatures at 13,000 feet, photographed waterfalls amongst autumn aspen trees, and saw century-old mines next to old towns that used to be the home to thousands.
Finding loads of adventure is a strong criteria in planning these trips, but capturing great photos is always priority number one. Properly carrying photo gear presents plenty of challenges in itself, but since taking on aerial photography 2 years ago, I’ve yet to find both a convenient and comfortable way to carry a drone on my adventures. I’ve tried both strapping bulky drones to backpack exteriors and lugging Pelican cases around the backcountry, but no solution has come close to perfection. I had long dismissed finding a drone pack that works perfectly and resorted to just wrapping my Mavic in t-shirts to stuff in the bottom of my traditional hiking pack.
Specifically, my wishes are that a drone pack will:
1# Be comfortable enough to have on my back all day
2# Accommodate one full day’s worth of gear (15-25 liters)
3# Withstand harsh weather without damaging gear
4# Provide easy access to my camera and drone.
The Aviator Hover-25 exceeds all of these expectations.
Since the pack is a traditional top-loading backpack, I use a third party insert which easily fits in the wide-mouth top and settles in comfortably keeping most of the heavy weight at the bottom and close to my hips. Above this I can fill with snacks, accessories, and extra layers, which came in handy on this particular trip.
All of that is great, but it’s the side of the pack where the Aviator Hover-25 earns its spot in my toolkit. I gravitate towards capturing moments as they happen rather than setting them up, and oftentimes need to have a camera ready to shoot at any moment. While hiking, you can find a camera body always strapped to my chest, but drones are more difficult to take to the skies at a moment’s notice. With the quick access of this pack, I can have my Mavic out and launched quickly – saving precious seconds when it comes to getting the shot. Take the below photo, for example. Heavy clouds blanketed the landscape in shadows, but occasionally portions of the sky would open up allowing spotlights to illuminate the mountains below. They would come and go quickly, so fast access was essential. No sooner had I got my drone at high enough altitude to take this shot, the clouds closed and the scene returned to a full shadow.
The Hover-25 not only holds the Mavic snugly, but the pack is extremely comfortable to wear. I’ve seen back supports on other packs before, but the lumbar support on the Hover-25 provides a luxurious feeling and works amazingly when the bag is packed to the brim with camera equipment and hiking gear. My pack was typically around 20 pounds, which can certainly feel heavy after more than a half hour or so. I rarely felt load fatigue while wearing this pack.
Finally, the one thing I did not expect to get to test was the weather sealing and water repellent fabric. Turns out, the winter weather tested every time it left my 4Runner. Rarely were there moments where snow or rain didn’t fall and never once did any gear get wet. The neon color of the rain fly has the added benefit of being seen for miles.
Now back home in California, the Aviator Hover-25 will continue to have a place in my bag arsenal and will remain my go-to choice when making quick trips to the beach and weekend outings to Yosemite.