In recent years market-leader Lowepro fell a little behind the curve as far as out-and-out backcountry focus is concerned. Specifically they didn't have a pack with dedicated ski-carry and this has allowed other brands to draw the attention of the 'adventure photographer.'
With the release of the Powder 500 AW, Lowepro hopes to remedy that. And on paper it looks promising; ski-carry is there (a-frame or diagonal, plus snowboards are catered for too), as is a dedicated pocket for shovel and probe. Along with dual ice-axe/pole attachments, deployable tripod pocket and an in-built raincover, the external carry options cater for about every alpine scenario.
What about the inside? Naturally there is a sizeable, removable and configurable camera compartment, with as many Velcro-fixed dividers as you're ever likely to need. It purports to carry a pro-sized DSLR plus 2-4 lenses, but of course, these things are dependant on the size of your glass and how you pack. I can fit two full-frame DSLRs, 4 lenses and a speedlight. When using my mirrorless set-up, every accessory is swallowed with tons of space to spare.
The real joy, space wise, is the separate upper compartment, designed for 'personal' gear. It's huge and expandable. It will take, for example, a laptop, drone, lunch and water bottle and still offer more space to stuff extra layers etc..
But what sets the Powder apart is its comfort; it has that rare quality in a pack of feeling lighter on your back, like it's taking some of the weight for you. That comes down to good design, and in that sense this pack is definitely worth waiting for.
One slight irritation is that the shoulder straps seem to wriggle loose after a while - particularly with a heavy load. Of course it's easily remedied with a pull on the strap, but can be awkward with gloves on mid-shoot.
Finally, value. The Lowepro Powder 500 AW performs like an alpine pack (especially at only 2.4kg). Its 55 litre capacity is ideal for a day on the hill with technical gear, or a stripped-down overnight ski tour, and its volume is matched by load-carrying comfort. This also makes it a superb year-round hiking pack, and a carry-on compatible travel companion (check with your airline!!) Over £300 for a 'camera bag' seems expensive, but this pack does it all, and does it superbly well.