The Best Camera Backpacks of 2022
Whether traveling or hiking, you need to protect your photography gear with the best camera backpacks of 2022.
You can easily spend a small fortune on photography equipment, so it pays to protect your investment with the best camera backpack possible. Plus, you need to comfortably free up your hands between capturing shots when scrambling up rocky slopes, paddling a canoe, steering a cruiser, or carrying additional props.
We’ve found the top camera bags for every budget and use. Whether you need a simple, budget-friendly bag or a multicompartment gear-hauler, we’ve got you covered. If you want to learn more about the features that make camera bags unique, head to the bottom of the article to read the buyer’s guide and FAQ.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Overall
- Best Runner-Up Overall
- Best Women’s Adventure Travel Pack
- Best Budget
- Best for Urban Explorers
- Best for Snowsports
- Best Runner-Up for Snowsports
- Best for Organization
- Best for Travel
- Best Sling Pack
- Best for Daily Use
- Best for Hiking
- Best Mobile Office
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2022
Best Overall Camera Bag: Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II
The first thing you notice about Lowepro’s ProTactic 450 AW II ($217) is its understated design. A flat black exterior with webbing throughout perfectly blends style and utility. As great as the exterior looks, this bag really shines when you open it up.
With enough room to fit two DSLR or mirrorless cameras, additional lenses, and even a drone, you won’t need to decide which device to take on your trip. You’ll simply be able to bring the best gear for whatever situation arises.
The padded, flexible dividers can be adjusted to multiple configurations. This allows you to arrange your camera gear however you want. And the tough EVA-molded top padding all around the bag keeps it safe.
We love the ease of entry and gear accessibility of this design. We can grab our camera from the side of the pack on the go, thanks to a lower-corner entry point with a zip closure. There’s also a top entry point. We can also lay the pack flat and open the full face of the front via a U-shaped zipper.
The ProTactic 450 AW II features smaller pockets in the back panel to keep your batteries and cords organized. Further, quick-lock straps and a tripod cup let you attach a tripod for traveling.
Want to do your edits on the road? Lowepro has you covered with a protective laptop pocket that will hold up to a 15-inch laptop. And the integrated water-resistant rain cover keeps everything safe and dry if you get caught in a downpour.
No matter how protective a backpack is, it won’t matter if you hate carrying it around. But Lowepro thought of that as well. The brand added targeted support at the shoulder blades, lumbar, and waist so you can haul your gear all day in comfort. Ultimately, this is an excellent day-in, day-out photography pack.
- Volume: 25 L
- Dimensions: 14.2″ x 8.6″ x 20.5″
- Weight: 5 lb.
- Bonus: There are access points on four sides of this pack, so you can get your gear from almost any angle.
- Flexible, customizable dividers
- Includes rain protection and rain cover
- Water bottle holder
- Svelte, professional aesthetic
- Provides lumbar support but the hip belt and back support could be even more robust for the heavy load for some folks
- Durable but not the most durable pack we’ve tested
- Not the largest volume
Best Runner-Up Overall Camera Bag: Lowepro Fastpack Pro BP 250 AW III
The Lowepro Fastpack Pro BP 250 AW III ($163) is an equally stout and dependable everyday adventure camera pack as our primo choice. The main compartment fits a DSLR, several additional lenses, a folding drone kit, and a 15-inch laptop.
It also has extra space for personal items. The exterior pocket and security strap nicely carries a tripod, and accessory pockets inside and out help us keep all the accessories neatly organized.
Beefy, U-shape pull tabs on the zippers make access to the pack’s primary zone that much smoother. The topmost section of the pack is an open area and a nice storage hammock for everyday stuff — a midlayer, rain jacket, wallet, and the like.
The middle front pocket zips open with additional storage pockets inside, including one with a tricot liner that’s friendly against a phone screen or sunglasses lens. An external pocket on the front is spacious for keys, a wallet, or a small journal.
The electronics garage in the bottom half. The Fastpack Pro BP 250 AW III’s device zone features interior molded-in dividers are adjustable, which makes them easier and quicker to switch up compared to Velcro attachment points.
On the side, there’s a quick door for fast, easy access even while the pack hangs over one shoulder. Once the glove-friendly safety buckles are opened, that same zipper wraps around to the front, allowing a greater range of access to gear.
To help withstand a sudden onset of rain, an included all-weather cover pulls over the pack for additional protection. Otherwise, the exterior fabric on the bottommost half of the pack is PU-coated to prevent damage from dirt, moisture, or rough vegetation. The fabric on the upper half is a robust 300-denier ripstop that’s weight-saving.
We really appreciate the padded waist belt, which means running a mobile office can be that much more comfortable and supportive of our long-term back health. Also, the security loophole is a nice touch — the wide U-shaped zipper pull fits into a buckle, so thieves can’t open the device zone as you wear the pack. (But a lock system would be necessary if you’re not wearing the pack.)
The pack can sit upright solo, too. It’s no surprise we like more than one camera pack from this solid brand.
- Volume: 25 L
- Dimensions: 12.4″ x 9.3″ x 21″
- Weight: Unavailable
- Bonus: The laptop sleeve suspends the laptop an inch off the bottom of the bag and ground for extra protection.
- Glove-friendly buckles
- Molded-in dividers that hinge flat or open to create or collapse interior compartments
- Bottom handle makes grabbing pack easy in an overhead carry or truck bed
- Would be great to see additional lock security that works when the pack is not being worn
Best Women’s Adventure Travel Pack: Shimoda Explore V2 35 Starter Kit
Burly, well-cushioned, built with smart pockets and a comfortable hip belt, and provides several women’s-specific shoulder straps at no extra charge? We’re on board with this investment.
The Shimoda Explore V2 35 Starter Kit ($373) is among the premium packs on our list, but the investment won’t let you down and your gear will be sturdy as you adventure overseas or at a local trailhead.
This water-resistant pack is truly for adventure travelers. Beyond the luggage handle pass-through and hidden passport pocket, there are also TSA-lock-friendly zippers for security on trains and buses or in the airport while you snooze.
An integrated rain cover has your back if you find yourself in a drizzle while watching the sunrise on a volcano. The pack is also sized for use as a carry-on and includes a base handle for easy transport.
The gear is accessed via a side entry or the back panel. Inside, a modular shockproof unit provides protection for mirrorless or DSLR cameras and lenses.
For creative support, there’s a mic mount, which is a unique addition. There’s a 16-inch laptop sleeve, whereas most packs have a 13-inch compartment. Another quick-access sleeve is a great spot to slide a book or documents on the go.
On the Explorer V2 35‘s exterior, there are tripod and water bottle pouches that are stowable for a sleek exterior, if needed. We really like the exterior phone and accessory pockets, too.
The front of the shoulder straps have a wide pouch with a zip closure (a good spot for a phone) and another stretchy pocket for a soft flask, satellite communication device, or snacks.
- Volume: 32 L
- Dimensions: 11.6″ x 21.2″ x 7.8″
- Weight: 5.8 lb.
- Bonus: The pack features an adjustable torso height to dial in a custom, supportive, comfortable fit.
- Laptop compartment fits up to a 16-inch laptop, among the largest sleeves of our favorite bags
- Sized for carry-on
- Luggage handle pass-through
- Zippers are compatible with TSA locks for security while on the road
Best Budget: CADeN Camera Backpack
If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive pack that will keep your camera gear safe, you can’t do better than CADeN’s Camera Backpack ($33). The name says it all — this bag gets the job done.
The Camera Backpack’s interior features the standard padded compartment walls. These can be configured to fit anything from two cameras with seven lenses to a camera and a drone plus accessories to just about anything else you can imagine.
As you’d expect in a no-frills pack, you’re not going to find a lot of organizational pockets. So you’re going to have to reserve some space in your main (only) compartment for your SD cards, batteries, and whatever other small items you want to bring. But it does sport a padded interior pocket that can fit a tablet or a 12-inch laptop.
On the CADeN’s Backpack’s exterior are two elastic pockets to hold bottles. One has a strap attachment above it so you can secure a tripod. The other is a flat external pocket to slide in a notebook or other smaller items.
As for the materials, the durable fabric helps prevent rips or snags from surrounding vegetation. The foam shoulder straps are designed for breathability while strolling around the streets or climbing hills on hot, sweaty days.
Obviously, this pack doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other packs on this list. But it gets the job done, and you’d be hard-pressed to be able to say that about any other pack this affordable.
- Volume: 14 L
- Dimensions: 11.5″ x 5″ x 14.2″
- Weight: 2 lb.
- Bonus: The thick 18mm spacer is shockproof and rated for a load of 55 pounds to help protect the camera lens, flashes, and other equipment
- Two exterior bottle holders
- Lacks many interior pockets for organization
- Smaller volume
Best for Urban Explorers: Thule Covert
You probably know Thule from those sleek rooftop cargo boxes you see on that Subaru flying by you on the freeway toward some exotic destination, but the brand also makes excellent packs. And the Covert ($220) lives up to its reputation for quality and innovation.
The first thing we noticed was the SafeZone removable camera pod system with the dual-density bottom. This is a separate pocket that can fit up to a prosumer DSLR camera with an ultra-wide-angle lens and a DJI Mavic Pro drone.
Cleverly, you can pull the pod out and just take your camera and drone with you without hauling all your gear. The camera pod sports a unique design quirk — the interior organizer takes inspiration from origami, folding in multiple configurations so you can store your cameras however you’d like.
We also love the Covert’s roll-top compartment. It’s spacious enough to take along your personal items and adds a touch of flair to the pack. The customizable interior will hold two lenses, a flash, and all your drone accessories. The durable nylon exterior is also water-resistant.
Additionally, the back-panel laptop pocket will fit both a 15-inch laptop and a tablet. Keeping everything organized is a zippered separator between the roll-top compartment and the bottom compartment. Plus, a wide range of stash pockets offers quick access to your accessories.
- Volume: 49 L
- Dimensions: 17.7″ x 7.9″ x 21.3″
- Weight: 5 lb.
- Bonus: The camera pod is configured to be accessed out of a side panel in the backpack, so you can access your camera and your drone without taking the pack off.
- Durable construction
- Velcro dividers are quick and easy to use
- Resists a bit of water but not rain or heavy downpours
- We wish the design had a hip belt to help carry the volume
Best for Snowsports: Burton F-Stop 28L Camera Backpack
Jake Burton is one of snowboarding’s original innovators. And his company continues the tradition with the F-Stop 28L Camera Backpack ($250). Designed in conjunction with professional snowboarding photographers like Dean Gray and Adam Moran, this pack’s features show the countless hours of testing and refinement that went into its design.
The robust exterior is made from 500-denier CORDURA nylon and tarpaulin material, which is extremely strong, long-lasting, flexible, and water-resistant. You might be traversing through tight glades or alongside a rock face, and you can be confident your pack won’t bust open. The front panel access allows a full view and quick access to your equipment.
There’s a huge interior padded customizable camera compartment with deep cubbies. You can easily organize your cameras, lenses, flashes, and drones, while the top compartment and interior zip pockets hold your accessories, remotes, SD cards, and spare batteries.
We love that the top compartment houses a removable case for your smaller accessories, so you can find the right cord or battery with ease. Several exterior pockets offer even more room to stash travel necessities.
In addition to the camera storage, the F-Stop also features the requisite snowboard-specific details for circulating laps in the backcountry, in the sidecountry, or at the resort. That list starts with the vertical snowboard carry straps (which doubles as a tripod holder) and an external avalanche shovel blade pocket as well as an ice axe loop.
Beyond that, the heavily cushioned shoulder harness, load-balancing waist straps, and adjustable sternum strap keep your pack secure and your shoulders comfortable while you carve to your next shooting spot. The pack carries weight well and also doubles nicely for hiking shoots in summery months.
- Volume: 28 L
- Dimensions: 12″ x 7.5″ x 25.5″
- Weight: 5 lb.
- Bonus: The F-Stop includes a cooler side pocket to stash a sandwich or two. And the other side has an oversized beverage holder so you can bring along a beverage of choice to celebrate wrapping your shoot.
- Tenacious material
- Storage for avalanche shovel
- Ergonomic shoulder straps
- No pockets on waist strap
- Excludes integrated rain cover
Best Runner-Up for Snowsports: Lowepro Whistler Backpacker 350 AW II
The Whistler Backpack 350 AW II ($300) is another top-notch Lowepro travel camera pack that can’t be overlooked. The powerhouse build fits a huge load of equipment including camera and video gear plus outdoor gear for travel during the wintry fourth season for skiers and snowboarders alike.
The front pocket can carry safety essentials for backcountry adventures including the shovel, probe, and extra apparel layers. Inside, adventure photographers can carry two mirrorless cameras, eight lenses, and a flash or another lens.
Carry straps rated for up to 220 pounds compress the main load and can snap in a snowboard or skis on the front, A-frame style. There are also straps for ice axes.
The hardy 420-denier nylon ripstop material is coated with a TPU/PU laminate for resistance against rocks or tree branches plus waterproofing. Inside the Whistler 350 AW II, a waterproof barrier (and a drain hole) separates gear inside the primary compartment.
Exterior compression straps can also hold a tripod or monopod. A pocket in the top of the pack is a nice cabin for extra goggles, a headlamp, or field notebook. To fit even more apparel, the front pocket is expandable too, which adds overall volume to the pack.
The padded waist belt helps to carry the heavy load, and a cushioned back panel supports weight against the lumbar. The 13-inch laptop sleeve sits snugly between a waterproof front pocket and the central compartment.
Additional padding is integrated into the pack for a drone. This is truly a workhorse build for adventuring during winter conditions with your precious photography gear.
- Volume: 33 L
- Dimensions: 11.42″ x 9.45″ x 20.87″
- Weight: 5.9 lb.
- Bonus: The pack includes a seam-sealed cover to pull over the pack in heavy rainfall.
- Extremely durable construction
- Front snowboard carry, A-frame ski carry, and dual ice axe carry options
- Pricier investment
Best for Organization: USA Gear DSLR Camera Backpack Case
If your biggest pet peeve is having to dig around in your pack to find a specific accessory, this pack from USA Gear ($65) is the pick for you. We’re astonished at the amount of storage and organization crammed into a pack of this size.
There are dedicated pockets all over this pack. The lower back panel lid has two rectangular Velcro pockets that can store charging cords. The top lid has a smaller mesh pocket for batteries and smaller charging cords. And a smaller zipper pocket on the very back has webbed elastic pockets to keep your SD cards organized.
The USA Gear DSLR’s main compartment splits into two sections. The padded bottom compartment sports customizable walls you can reconfigure to your liking, with room for your DSLR, lenses, flash, and other accessories. And it offers side access to your camera, so you can whip it out when an opportunity for a great shot comes up unexpectedly.
The spacious top compartment has space for any other gear you want to bring. The padded laptop case will fit anything up to a 15-inch laptop. And the drawcord side pocket can house a water bottle or your tripod, thanks to the securing strap above it.
Ultimately, the cost of this pack is an entry-level price and serviceable, the padding is fair, and the durability is moderate, so this design is a good fit for a risk-averse, super attentive photographer.
- Volume: 28 L
- Dimensions: 12″ x 8″ x 18″
- Weight: 2.5 lb.
- Bonus: The tuck-away shoulder straps can be configured for use as either a backpack or a sling, and they tuck away into the roller strap so you can slide it onto a roller bag’s handle for easy transport through the airport.
- Includes a rain cover
- Waist strap is bare-bones without padding
- Chest strap is not vertically adjustable
- We’d like to see zipper pulls with rings large enough for locks
Best Camera Backpack for Travel: Hex Backloader DSLR Backpack
California-based Hex’s motto, “Equip the Creators,” is exemplified in the brand’s Backloader DSLR Backpack ($190). First, it just plain looks cool. We particularly like the glacier camo color scheme, which manages to be both understated and attention-grabbing.
The clean lines and thin profile are not only pleasing to the eye, but they also make it the best travel camera backpack on our list. It’s the perfect size for sliding under airplane seats when you travel.
This is not a case of form over function. The high-quality, fleece-lined, and padded main pocket can fit cameras, lenses, drones, and anything else you need to craft your story. And the removable partitions can be arranged to fit whatever gear you want to bring.
It’s got a zippered top pocket so you can grab your camera without having to open the main compartment, quick-access tripod straps, and EVA foam protection throughout.
The Hex Backloader DSLR Backpack’s exterior is constructed with tenacious ballistic nylon and CORDURA fabric, which is a tough blend against setting the pack down on rocks or the edges of skis in your enclosed truck bed. To help manage moisture on hot days, the back features mesh material for better wicking and breathability.
The padded faux-fur-lined laptop pocket will hold up to a 15-inch laptop. The complete back entry allows full scope access to your camera and accessories. The adjustable side pocket can hold a water bottle — or a tallboy, if you prefer.
A quick-access front pocket keeps your tablet or phone readily available, and a hidden pocket in the front strap for SD cards shows that this was made by people who understand photographers and what they want.
- Volume: 20 L
- Dimensions: 12″ x 5.5″ x 18.5″
- Weight: 3.25 lb.
- Bonus: The heavily padded straps and back panel make sure the pack will fit comfortably no matter how much gear you’re hauling.
- Padded shoulder straps
- YKK zippers
- There’s no front panel access in addition to the backload zipper
- Shoulder straps need to be pushed aside to access the main compartment via the back
- Robust cameras and tripods are too large to fit in the main compartment and security straps: double-check your gear dimensions
Best Sling Pack: Altura Camera Sling Bag
If two-strapping isn’t quite your style, Altura’s sling bag ($29) is perfect for you. This lightweight bag sports a side-accessible interior pocket with padded, adjustable dividers and enough room for a DSLR and extra lenses or accessories.
The top storage compartment will fit extra lenses or a flash unit. And mesh interior pockets and a small exterior zip pocket will keep your cables, batteries, and SD cards secure and organized.
We appreciate the broad and easy front entry, which features a three-sided zipper. And the farthest edge reaches to the backside of the pack. It’s deep and three-dimensional instead of offering two-dimensional access.
The padded sling design allows for rotation from the back to the front for quick access to your pack. And the exterior side pocket, strap, and buckle hold a tripod securely to your pack.
- Volume: 14 L
- Dimensions: 8.1″ x 6.4″ x 17″
- Weight: 1 lb.
- Bonus: An additional tuck-away strap in the front holds the bag more securely to your chest if you need to run to make your flight or climb to find a better shooting angle.
- Mesh interior pocket holds smaller items
- Exterior tripod holder
- Compact pack for short travel and transport or storage
- Fairly small pack for day trips
- Minimal room in pack
Best for Daily Use: Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 20L
Gear from San Francisco-based company Peak Design is well-known for its minimalist look combined with an ingenious design for travel and everyday life. And the Everyday Backpack V2 ($260) is no exception. The exterior’s clean lines and absence of excessive straps give it the impression of a dearth of features. But once you open the pack, you’ll find that plenty of thought and innovation went into its design.
You can configure this pack for photography. It holds enough room in the main compartment to fit a DSLR camera and nearly five extra lenses or a DJI Mavic drone and all the necessary accessories. It stores them in the form of three slide-out divider shelves that are accessible via the zippered side pockets.
The dividers can fold into different shapes to allow you to customize the configurations to fit different styles of gear. A protective laptop compartment will accommodate up to 15-inch laptops, and it can be adjusted to fit smaller laptops.
It has additional pockets for tablets and documents, and the side access panels have smaller zippered pockets to store memory cards, batteries, and smaller items. For ease of travel, three padded grab handles are placed on the top and side for a briefcase-style carry.
The Everyday Backpack V2’s bottom is lined with 900-denier waterproof fabric. Otherwise, the durable fabric is a blend of nylon, polyester, EVA, and super-weather-resistant Hypalon.
We appreciate the brand’s innovative, earth-friendlier manufacturing choices: a 100% recycled 400-denier weatherproof shell and the solution-dyed charcoal color option, which saves energy and water. The weatherproof zippers help prevent moisture entry, and the mesh padding along the back is breathable and comfortable.
Designed to be used every day, the pack works well even if you’re not taking your camera gear with you. Sliding out the dividers provides plenty of room for your laptop, along with anything else you need for your day — lunch, a jacket, and a 12-pack of adult beverages — with some extra room for anything you pick up during the day.
- Volume: 20 L or 30 L
- Dimensions: 13″ x 11.8″ x 18″
- Weight: 4.5 lb.
- Bonus: A magnetic buckle clip gives you one-handed secure access to the top compartment.
- Expandable side pockets for water bottles or tripods
- Optional hip belt (purchase separate)
- Svelte: Four external carry straps and sternum strap are all stowable
Best Camera Backpack for Hiking: WANDRD All-New PRVKE
If you need a bag that can go anywhere regardless of the weather, the WANDRD PRVKE 21L photo bundle ($199) is the way to go. Consisting of the PRVKE 21 pack, accessory straps, a waist pack, and a rainfly, this rugged set is the best for hiking on this list.
The back panel and shoulder straps feature improved comfort through a more ergonomic shape and additional padding. Plus, there’s a quick side access port to quickly grab the camera while you trek. Otherwise, the clamshell opening makes gear access so quick and easy on the fly. Plus, magnets in the handles mean they can snap together for a tote-style carry.
This 21L pack’s main body can fit your camera body, extra lenses, a drone, and a flash unit in the main compartment with its removable padded separators. If you need to bring more along, the expandable rolltop unfurls to add an extra 5 L of space to the pack. Smaller internal pockets keep your accessories organized.
Pockets galore! We especially like the elastic mesh internal pockets that allow you to store your SD cards individually for easy access. No more digging around in the bottom of your pack looking for that SD needle in the haystack.
We also love the large, streamlined front organization pocket, which is a solid spot for a journal or field notebook. The hidden passport and cash pocket (which is built into the lower half of the back panel) is a tad larger than the pack’s earlier edition, and three accessory pockets are now on the laptop and tablet sleeve.
The laptop sleeve will store up to 16-inch laptops, and the tablet sleeve will fit up to 12.9-inch screens. The felt-lined tech pocket will keep your phone, sunglasses, or other scratch-prone items safe.
True to the bag’s “go anywhere” design, the removable waist belt allows you to customize your harness system to wherever you go. You can take off the straps for taking pictures around town, and then add them again for photo shoots out in the backcountry.
- Volume: 21 L (only option for photography bundle), 31 L, 41 L
- Dimensions: 11″ x 6.5″ x 17″
- Weight: 3.4 lb.
- Bonus: A hidden pocket in the lumbar section of the back panel keeps your passport, money, and other valuables safe in high-traffic areas.
- Waterproof materials and water-resistant zippers
- Optional accessory straps have six different attachment point options
- Sternum strap is adjustable and removable
- Luggage pass-through thanks to webbing on back panel
- So many pockets!
- A tad more costly
Best Mobile Office: Amazon Basics DSLR Camera Backpack
One of the only bags we’ve found that will hold a 13-inch laptop, Amazon’s Basics DSLR Camera Backpack ($48) is a solid pack with the features you need and none you don’t. The main compartment sports padded, removable separators you can rearrange to fit whatever gear you need.
And there’s enough room for two DSLR camera bodies, three to four lenses, and other accessories, including the aforementioned 13-inch laptop in its own padded sleeve and a light meter.
On the side, there’s an external water bottle carrier. External side straps secure a tripod to the pack. And a thinner, full-length back compartment will hold everything from notebooks to smaller items like batteries, SD cards, and charging cables. The dense 840-denier polyester face fabric is tough, lightweight, and water-resistant.
A big perk of Amazon’s Basic DSLR Camera Backpack is the harness system. In addition to heavily padded shoulder straps, the chest strap and the wide, padded waist strap distribute weight and keep you comfortable on long walks with a full pack.
- Volume: 28 L
- Dimensions: 13.4″ x 8.8″ x 17.7″
- Weight: 3 lb.
- Bonus: A mesh U-shaped liner zips up to help stabilize your goods in the cubbyholes.
- Side pocket and strap to hold and secure tripod
- Sharp aesthetic
- Plush, comfortable waist belt and shoulder straps
- Integrated rainfly to add protection against the elements
- A built-in battery compartment would be a nice addition
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2022: Buyer’s Guide
The first thing to consider when looking for the right camera backpack is how you plan to use it. Where and what do you most often shoot?
If you’re an outdoor photographer, you’ll want to consider a more rugged backpack that offers a rainfly in case you’re caught outside in a rainstorm. Also, look for one with more volume, so you can stash any hiking or safety essentials, like a headlamp or first-aid kit and satellite communication device that you’ll need.
For short use, you’ll probably only need to carry the basics. A lighter-weight pack like a sling bag will allow you to bring your camera and some additional lenses without weighing you down.
Some packs work well as everyday bags or commuter bags for the office or coffee shop. So if you’re looking for one bag to rule them all, look for a bag with removable separators to make room for non-camera gear on days when you aren’t shooting and consider a laptop sleeve.
The dimensions of each laptop and tablet sleeve differ from pack to pack, so be sure to choose one that fits your devices. Some laptop sleeve designs also suspend the laptop well above the ground to help prevent any bang-ups.
Most standard camera bags will come in around 20-30 L. This is plenty of room for camera gear, a laptop or tablet, and other essentials.
If you go out on longer multiday trips, opt for a larger pack — 50 to 60 L might be a good size. And find a padded camera cube so you can pack your camera and lenses safely in the pack.
Storage & Organization
Organization is key when looking for a good camera bag. Most camera bags have internal dividers to keep your larger equipment safe and separated.
But the best ones come with a myriad of internal and external pockets so you can make a smaller item like an SD card easy to find. They also have an external water bottle holder and strategically placed hand straps for grabbing and transporting the pack.
Every good camera backpack will have a tripod-holder. If the bag you’re considering has one, it’s usually located on the exterior of the pack. Many packs use a pocket that usually acts as a bottle-holder to support the bottom of the tripod, with a strap near the top of the pack to secure it.
If you tend to shoot in rainy weather, look for a pack that comes with a rainfly. Many packs stash these in a small pocket on the exterior for quick deployment.
Be wary of packs that are advertised as waterproof. Even if the bag’s material is waterproof, the zippers usually aren’t. So, while a waterproof exterior may repel rain, humidity, mist, or splash action from the bottom of the canoe, there’s a chance that it can seep in through the zippers and get your camera wet.
As far as pack durability goes, double-stitched straps and high-denier (thicker) materials will help your bag withstand standard wear and tear. For keeping your gear safe, the more padded the backpack, the safer your equipment will be.
Also, the more snug the compartment design is, the better. Extra space leaves room for gear to jostle around whether you’re running through the airport, riding your cruiser to the park, or steering a dirt bike to an overlook for sunset.
Look for a pack that has padding that surrounds the main compartment, not just on the separators. If you tend to be extra hard on your gear, some bags have hardshell liners for extra impact protection.
Shoulder Pads and Hip Belt
Some camera packs put these two important comfort qualities on the back burner, which is a bummer because a loaded pack of electronics is a fair load to carry around! Ideally, the shoulder pads are breathable, ergonomic, and well-cushioned.
Likewise, the back panel should have cushion, support, and hopefully breathability through a mesh material and airway channels between the pads.
Hip belts that are constructed of a simple strap will help secure the load from swinging around but will not support the load off the shoulders and upper back. They are also not the coziest to snap on.
Cushioned hip belts help to protect the hips from rubbing and carry a portion of the pack weight, relieving the upper back; plus, they are generally more comfortable. For folks with back or neck pain or injuries, be sure to look for adequate pads in your camera pack.
It’s important for photographers to be able to quickly and easily access their equipment in seconds. One of the best features of the best camera packs is a side door entry that folds open, so folks can reach in and grab their camera, even with their pack still on.
Usually that zipper extends further to the other side of the pack, too, so photographers can get a full bird’s-eye view of their equipment (while stopped with the pack lying flat on the ground). A clamshell opening is also a solid design, so that the bag’s exterior completely opens up for visibility on all of the gear.
What Makes a Good Camera Bag?
Protection, organization, weight, access, gear fit, and comfort are the key components of good camera bags. Look for a bag with a padded interior, plenty of internal and external pockets for keeping your small, easy-to-lose accessories handy, and a well-designed harness system that distributes the pack weight well.
Look for a pack that allows you to grab the camera on the fly thanks to a seamless side entry point.
How Do You Keep Your Camera Safe in a Backpack?
Every camera bag has a padded compartment that’s designed to keep your camera safe from bumps and scratches. The best way for you to keep your camera safe in your pack is to pack it correctly.
Also, know that your average camera pack is not bombproof. Use common sense with your bag: Avoid throwing your bag around, sitting on it, or piling other bags on top of it, and your camera should be safe.
While camera backpacks are built with durable, often water-resistant material, note that zippers are not typically waterproof. Be aware that moisture, humidity, splashes, setting it in puddles, traveling through pouring rain or snow, or a spilled water bottle have the potential to reach your equipment.
Pay attention to your surroundings when you travel, too. If you’re overseas or in a crowded bus or train station or at an airport, consider using a lock on your pack. Not all camera pack zippers are compatible with TSA locks.
Can I Take My Camera Bag on an Airplane?
The TSA allows bags with cameras, tripods, and lenses if they fit in the overhead bin or under your seat. Drones are allowed through checkpoints. But individual airlines’ rules may vary. Check with your specific airline to see if your drone is allowed in your carry-on.
Do You Really Need a Camera Bag?
Short answer: no. If you feel like risking it, you can keep your camera in a regular bag. But the likelihood that your camera will be damaged is increased. And if you’re attached to your bag, you can always buy a padded camera cube, put your camera in it, and then place it in the bag.
That said, a camera bag will not only be safer for your camera but will also keep all your peripherals organized, allowing you to access everything you need when you need it.
What Do Professional Photographers Carry in Their Bags?
Like a painter or graphic artist, every photographer is slightly unique with their technique, tools, and how they carry and operate their gear outside or indoors on a film mission. Generally, a few things that pros will carry include multiple memory cards, batteries, a lens wipe, a tripod, plus, of course, their camera and a couple of lenses tailored to the shots that they have in mind for that destination.
Sometimes they’ll also bring an extra camera, reflector, or light meter, but it really depends on how quick, fast, and lightweight they need to travel and what their objective or contracted project entails.
How Do I Take Care of My Camera Bag?
Just like any other piece of gear, it’s important to provide routine TLC to your bag. Clean the exterior and interior according to the product tag, and reapply water repellent, too. Make sure the zippers are well lubricated and clean.
Repair and patch any tears or deep scratches. Also, be sure to air out the interior pockets and camera cubes, as storing your equipment in a dry, clean space is important.
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