Are you a travel photographer? Maybe you’re into capturing landscapes. Or perhaps you occasionally indulge in wildlife photography? However you define yourself, it’s likely that you take all kinds of photos in all kinds of places and one thing's for certain – you need one of the best camera backpacks to carry all of your gear.
Cameras – and all of those lenses and accessories that come with them – are at their best when they’re being taken to different locations, be that the local beach or a desert on the other side of the world. Every good photographer is always on the move.
There are lots of options for photographers, but if you plan to get into the great outdoors to capture beaches, sunsets, wildlife, landscapes and even starry night skies, a purpose-built camera backpack is what to go for.
How to choose the best camera backpack
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Most camera backpacks are all about how a camera and lenses are stored. However, a mirrorless camera with a couple of lenses is going to demand a lot smaller a backpack than one designed to accommodate a couple of DSLR bodies, three lenses and a 600mm telephoto lens. That said, most camera backpacks, whatever their size, have two compartments, often with Velcro dividers inside one that can be rearranged to fit snugly around your specific gear.
Always look at a camera backpack’s dimensions because no photographer would ever check-in a camera backpack. It must always come with you into the aircraft cabin.
Is it waterproof? For any photographer hiking up a mountain or just walking a good distance away from a car, or shelter, waterproof fabrics and ballistic nylon is what to go for. That will protect your stuff against showers. An integrated waterproof rain cover is even better and makes long downpours less damaging.
However, the biggest consideration for a camera backpack is always comfort. Look for one that’s well-balanced when full (some are very bottom-heavy), has high-quality shoulder straps, a back support system that encourages airflow, and a hip belt for added stability.
Camera backpacks have all kinds of other, extra features designed to fit in with various lifestyles. Some photographers always travel with a laptop or tablet. Maybe you always take one, sometimes two, large tripods. Perhaps the most important thing to you is the speed of access to your camera. If the latter, know that some camera backpacks let you get your camera out quickly from a side by swinging the backpack around in front of you without having to take it off. However, if you swap between lenses a lot, consider a backpack that opens at the rear behind the backpack straps, often U-shaped like a suitcase.
Whatever your needs you’re going to find something here that will match your photography ambitions.
These are the best camera backpacks:
Have you ever wished your backpack was expandable for a big trip, or that you could detach the side-pockets and use it for a short hike? Loewpro has here come up with a regular camera backpack that’s endlessly adaptable and customisable. Firstly, by itself; there are two areas for cameras and lenses that not only have many (many) Velcro-powered dividers, but can be accessed on either side, from the top, and even from the back (the lid also contains a laptop sleeve and some pockets). Even the hip-belt can be removed. Secondly, there are accessories a-plenty; an exterior covered entirely by loops can host everything from a clip-on drinks bottle holder, a phone case and/or a tripod harness. What’s more, it’s got a compartment to safely store a small drone and a pair of sunglasses.
Tough ballistic nylon is what you get with this expensive, but well designed camera backpack. A rear-opening gives complete access to the 23-litre bag’s full contents, which can include up to two cameras and three lenses, though exactly how you arrange the Velcro dividers is up to you. A few pockets are provided for SD cards while rather unusually its the front that has a slip pocket for a 15-inch laptop. It’s also got two large reflective Velcro straps across the front that can be used to secure almost anything you front, from a tripod to a jacket.
A smart, compact and well-designed camera backpack, the Tenba Shootout 14L Slim is comfortable to carry, waterproof and has some excellent outdoor-centric features. Though suitable only for users of compact mirrorless and DSLR set-ups, we think this is also an excellent bag for anyone with a compact drone and plans to hike into remote areas.
However, with room for a tablet and a useful loop for attaching to the handle of rolling laugh, the Tenba Shootout 14L Slim is also a good candidate for mirrorless camera owners after a camera backpack they can also use as carry-on luggage.
Designed to carry a DSLR and three lenses in a separate zipped area, this unusual camera backpack also has a dedicated area for a drone. A top section is sized for a drone (DJI Mavic Pro, DJI Mavic Pro Platinum, Breeze Yuneec or DJI Spark), while a side pocket is big enough to take a DJI OSMO or a OSMO mobile gimbal. The entire section for the camera can be yanked out to use the bag for non-photography trips, though when you’re on an outdoors shoot, its pop-out rain cover and tripod pocket will come in handy.
Full-size camera bags are great for those who have an excessive amount of photography gear. But admittedly, it's cumbersome to carry around a massive backpack if you only need a mirrorless camera with a pancake lens with you; it might do more harm to your camera, rattling inside the large bag.
Enter the Peak Design Everyday Sling. This small yet versatile carrier can store a fair amount of equipment, depending on its size. The smaller 3-litre version might only be enough to hold a mirrorless camera with a smallish lens, but the tested 6-litre option was able to gobble up a Sony A7 iii, a Samyang AF 45mm F1.8 FE and a Sigma MACRO 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM lens with ease.
But wait, there is more! There is also a 10-litre version sizeable enough to store a 13” tablet or 13” laptop in its padded sleeve. Should you decide to go with either of the smaller versions, you will be able to wear those as a hip bag or a sling bag, adding to the versatility of the Everyday Sling.
We found it hilarious that on its website, Peak Design states that the 6-litre version can store five beers, maybe even six if you "really stuff 'em in". The 3-litre option is big enough for "3 Beers; 4 white claws". The more you know.
For the record, we tested the recently revamped V2 Everyday Sling that features a wider main opening with dual zip pulls, improved strap design with anti-slip strap adjustment hardware, new UltraZip external zippers and an outer fabric that is 100% recycled and Bluesign certified (not the Black version, though).
The Peak Design Everyday Sling is the perfect little carrier for your camera gear. Nuff said.
Few bags are made for outdoor survival, but for committed wildlife photographers prepared to get up before dawn and stay in remote places just to get the shot, that’s exactly what’s required. Cue the Manfrotto Gitzo Adventury 30L, which takes a DJI Phantom drone, four lenses, and a couple of oversized Pro DSLRs, one with a 70-200mm f/4 lens attached (or one Pro DSLR and a 400mm f/4 telephoto lens). Complete with pouch for a 13-inch laptop, a tablet and a rain cover, this one is for dedicated wildlife, nature and landscape photographers.
Is there any need for an official Canon backpack? Possibly not, but this basic backpack with an attractive (and waterproof) roll-top design is serious as well as stylish. Easily able to store a DSLR camera, a couple of lenses, and a tripod in its lower section, it has the usual adjustable dividers to snugly fit around equipment. What makes it a good day-tripper camera backpack is that it also has room for personal possessions. That’s all accessed at the top of the bag via that foldable top opening (inside is room for a 9-7-inch tablet), though there are also two side pockets. Made for polyester and only available in grey, the BP10 is small enough to act as carry-on luggage on flights.
Camera backpacks are typically designed around protecting camera equipment, with some thought to comfort. Hiking backpacks, meanwhile, are all and only about comfort, lightweight materials, and weatherproofing. So what are outdoors and landscape photographers supposed to go for? Cue the Off Road Hiker, a 30-litre effort that seeks to corner the market with a design that suits both worlds. Available in blue, red, grey and green, the Off Road Hiker Backpack keeps it simple and presume that most hikers don’t want to carry all of their camera gear. So there’s room inside for a DSLR with a 70-200mm lens attached – a classic landscape photography lens size – and one other lens. The camera can be accessed at the side of the bag, holster-style without having to set the bag on the ground first, while the entire bag is made from water-repellent material. It also comes with a dedicated raincover.