Whether you’re spending the day photographing Barcelona’s historic center or hiking the Grand Canyon, there’s no denying that your camera equipment always feels heavy after a few hours of carrying it on your back.
Once you have all your gear packed, you’ll be lucky to find extra space for snacks or sunscreen! If you need to bring around a heavy tripod set, you might be better off hiring a taxi, but you can often get by fine with a backpack.
The problem is that many backpacks aren’t well suited to carrying cameras and photography equipment since they aren’t designed to protect fragile devices.
If you’re looking for a good pack for your camera gear, I’ve spent some time researching and testing the top camera backpack models.
As a backpacking photographer who’s always on the move, this is the list I wish I had back when I was choosing my electronics and photography backpack. At least now, I’m making your search a bit easier!
What to Look for in the Best Camera Backpacks: A Buyer’s Guide
Finding the right camera backpack depends a lot on how you plan to use it and what type of equipment you’re carrying. In this brief guide, we’ll go through a few of the main considerations to keep in mind when shopping for camera backpacks.
In the best camera backpacks, you can count on having a separate pocket to keep a laptop and some extra space to store other camera accessories like lenses, SD cards, cables, external hard drives, and so on. And of course, some personal essentials like documents, passport, your phone, and so on.
You can usually count on having at least one point to mount a tripod, plus secure and padded storage areas for more delicate equipment, like lens filters and pretty much the camera body and lenses.
If you’re planning on traveling on an airplane with your camera backpack, check the dimensions to see if it counts as a personal item or carry-on bag. Normally, the personal item is stored under the seat in front of you, while the carry-on is stored in the overhead compartment.
Backpack sizes are usually measured in liters. They can range from smaller bags with 15L capacity that can only fit one camera to large packs of 40 liters or more, where you can carry multiple cameras and other travel gear – even your clothing!
Larger packs are more expensive, but they are worth the investment in the long run if you’re planning long trips or multi-day photoshoots. Trust me! It’s so much easier to carry just one camera backpack where you can also fit your clothing, vs. carrying two backpacks. I’ll share below the best camera backpack that does this!
Photography equipment and electronics are heavy by themselves, so it’s crucial that if you’re going to be lugging your equipment on your back from place to place, your backpack should be as light as possible.
Photography backpacks tend to be a bit heavier than typical hiking and travel backpacks due to the padding and sturdier build, but you can still find light options ranging from 1.5 to 5 pounds (1kg to 2.5kg)
It’s also a good idea to weigh the backpack with all your gear inside it to ensure you don’t get any unpleasant surprises at the airport. While the weight limit varies per airline, I try to keep my camera backpack under 15 pounds (7kgs), which is roughly the most restrictive weight limit on Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Jet Airways, and a few other airlines.
Outdoor vs. Urban
The type of photography you’ll be doing will significantly impact what type of camera backpack you should get.
Outdoor photography often requires a lot more hiking and possibly overnight stays on the trail, depending on just how adventurous you’re planning on being! For outdoor photography, you’ll probably want a slightly bigger backpack with extra-padded shoulder straps for comfort.
If you’re out in the city, smaller and lightweight camera backpacks are usually a better option, especially if you’re planning on using public transportation. Try to avoid any extra dangling straps, buckles, or loops that can get easily caught and snagged when maneuvering in crowded areas.
In either situation, it’s a nice touch to have a water bottle pocket in your camera backpack, so it’s easier to stay hydrated while you’re out taking photographs.
Just because it’s a camera backpack doesn’t mean it can only be used to carry camera equipment. Some days, you might want to leave your camera and gear at home or in the hotel room while you go off and do something else.
It’s also a drag to carry around more bags than you need while traveling, so if your camera backpack can function to carry your gear and be a general use day-bag, all the better!
Ever important to keep in mind, the price can be the final say in which bag you choose to carry your camera gear. Many camera backpacks are reasonably affordable, but some can get a little pricey, depending on the features.
If you’re a hard-core photographer who never goes anywhere without your camera, it’s probably worth spending a bit more money for something high quality that will last a long time.
On the other hand, if you’re going on a week-long vacation and want a backpack to carry your camera during that time, you can find a good-quality budget bag that will do the job just fine.
Material and Construction
If you’re like me and travel a lot, your camera bag will be exposed not only to the elements quite often, but also subjected to all kinds of situations on planes, buses, hostels, and such where it might get banged, brushed, scratches, etc.
That’s why you must get a sturdy bag with durable materials and high-quality craftsmanship and seams. Ideally, it should be weather/water-resistant to protect your gear from rain or the occasional water mishap.
Canvas, and its varieties, is one of the most used materials in travel camera bags thanks to its durability, water resistance, and low cost. Newer synthetic materials achieve the same, but they tend to be a bit more expensive.
What distinguishes a camera bag from a typical bag are the foam inserts that protect your gear inside it. Ideally, your bag has not only these foam paddings all around, but also several foam dividers to keep your equipment from banging within each other while on the road.
Comfort and Ergonomics
The comfort of your bag is essential! As a travel photographer, you’ll most likely carry your gear on your back all day as you travel around the city. Having a comfortable bag will make a significant difference in how light or heavy your equipment feels.
Pay attention to the shoulder straps. How well-padded are they? Does it also come with hip straps to help distribute the weight?
If it’s a small camera bag, hip pads are not essential, but the bigger and heavier the bag, the more useful the hip pads become.
Regarding ergonomics, how easily accessible is everything? How many access points do you have, and are they designed to work the way you need them to?
Whether you’re in a safe destination or one with many petty crimes, one thing is certain; cameras are always a target for thieves.
Ideally, your bag shouldn’t scream, “I’m carrying a camera!” But, even if it does, does it provide measures to deter pickpocketing? Does it come with latches, locking zippers, and other material and features that would make it harder for anyone to steal your gear?
One of the best features of a good camera bag is the flexibility to customize its interior configuration to accommodate your equipment exactly how you need it. This can be done with padded dividers that can be easily accommodated to snuggle your equipment safely within your bag.
Also, how versatile can it be? Can you rearrange the bag to carry one or two cameras with a few lenses? Or maybe a camera with a drone? O add a lense and some hard drives?
Type of Bag
Depending on how you use your camera equipment, how accessible you want it to be, how well protected, how much gear you have, and how you want to carry it will dictate the type of bag you should get.
While there are dozens of different bags out there, they are generally classified within these six types:
- Backpacks – These are the most common and tend to have plenty of interior space for cameras and lenses, making them the best travel camera bags for DSLRs. They often have a laptop and tablet compartment as well. If appropriately designed, backpacks can distribute your gear’s weight between your hips and shoulders, so you don’t feel all the weight on your shoulders.
- Roller Bags – Similar to backpacks in terms of capacity, but these are rolled on the ground instead of being carried on your back. These bags are fine within urban environments, but not as great to carry in remote and rugged terrain.
- Shoulder Bags – Usually, shoulder bags are smaller bags carried over one shoulder or across your chest. Shoulder bags tend to be very light and easy to access, but they are limited in space.
- Messenger Bags – These are similar to shoulder bags but are slightly larger and with a longer strap. They usually fall around the hip and can be strung across your body or over both shoulders.
- Holster Bags – A bag meant to be attached to some garment, like a chest harness or sturdy belt. These are usually much smaller than shoulder bags and are meant to hold just a camera and a lens.
- Backpack Inserts – These are mostly accessory bags meant to fit inside another larger backpack. These are convenient if you already have a comfortable large travel backpack that can fit an insert to protect your camera gear.
THE 12 BEST CAMERA BACKPACKS IN 2020
Now that we’ve gone through some of the essential factors to consider when shopping for a camera backpack, here are the top picks for great all-around bags for traveling photographers.
This list contains what is currently considered to be the best backpacks for traveling photographers looking to carry their essential photography gear in the most efficient, comfortable, and organized way.
Overall best camera backpack and top choice for most traveling photographers.
Outdoor adventures present some of the best photo opportunities and some of the highest risks for delicate camera equipment. But, never fear when you have the PRVKE Travel Camera Backpack!
I’ve had this backpack for about two years now, and I love it! It is light, easy to carry, offers excellent protectiveness, and provides excellent and flexible gear organization and easy access. Also, I love its compact, minimalist, and sleek design.
Depending on my trip, I either carry my camera with up to three lenses, four external hard drives, my laptop, and extra accessories. If I’m not carrying that many lenses, I sometimes even fit my DJI Mavic Pro Drone in it.
The durable, water-resistant tarpaulin and ballistic nylon keep the bag weatherproof. The PRVKE also comes with a rain cover in case the weather takes a turn for the worse, but honestly, I’ve never used it, given that it is already pretty water-resistant as it is.
If needed, the rolltop cover can be expanded for an additional five liters of storage space, making this a very flexible bag in terms of space.
The PRVKE has dedicated compartments for a laptop up to 15 inches and a tablet. It also has a separate pocket for your phone and/or sunglasses.
There are three access points to the bag; from the top, the back, and the side for quick and direct access to your camera.
One of my favorite features is the passport pocket. It is located outside on the back area, so it is easily accessible when needed, but hard to pickpocket when carrying your bag, since your body is covering it.
Thanks to the magnetic tote handles, this camera backpack can be worn on your back or carried as a handbag, depending on the situation.
When traveling on a plane, this bag fits perfectly under the seat in front of you, so it can be considered as a personal item. I have the PRVKE 21L, but it also comes in 31L.
Now, while I have tons of praises for this bag, I think this bag is great only for photographers without too much gear or for photographers who are only carrying enough equipment for a job.
Also, this bag only big enough for your camera gear, so if you’re traveling, your clothing must be carried separately.
If you’re planning on carrying a lot of gear, or plan to travel for several days and want to carry your gear and clothes in one bag, then my top choice is the following bag…
Overall best camera backpack for traveling photographers who want to carry just one bag for everything.
Nomatic is a top-notch backpack company by itself. Still, when they partnered with Peter McKinnon, one of the best and most famous photographers on youtube, together, they created an epic photography backpack!
The Nomatic McKinnon 35 L Camera Bag is a fully-featured travel backpack crafted and detailed for all the gear photographers need to carry while keeping everything flexible and extremely organized.
McKinnon is known for his OCD organization and attention to detail, and that is translated into the bag’s design.
The main compartment gives easy access to your camera, lenses, batteries, filters, etc. And just like with the PRVKE, there’s side access to easily reach your camera on the go without having to open the main compartment.
Depending on the bundle you get, the Nomatic McKinnon comes with a battery case, filter case, and memory card case, that can be securely stored either in the backside see-through mesh pockets or in the main compartment – depending on how you arrange your equipment.
The Nomatic McKinnon bag also has a separate side pocket that fits a 15 in laptop and a tablet, in addition to other documents.
This backpack has a 35L size, which is more than enough for most photographers carrying one or two camera bodies with a few lenses, hard drives, a laptop, and even a small drone.
The bag also comes with a hip strap to help distribute the weight evenly, but a nice touch is that it can be easily removed (velcro) when not needed.
But, one of the best things about this Nomatic bag is that it can be expanded up to 42L to fit enough clothes for a 1 to 5 days trip. This is one of my favorite features of this bag when I don’t want to carry two bags for a short trip.
Even at 42L, it is still small enough to be a carry-on bag on a plane.
Now, my absolute favorite feature about this bag is an accessory that comes with its bundle – the Cube Pack.
Seriously, if you don’t get the McKinnon backpack, at least get the McKinnon Cube Pack separately. This is a small 21L daypack designed to fit within the bigger backpack, but it gives you the flexibility of carrying your camera and lens (or a drone) protected within a padded day pack.
That way, you don’t have to haul all your gear when you don’t need to. Also, it is much easier and lighter to carry this throughout the day.
Now, the only downsides about the Nomatic McKinnon backpack, in my opinion, is that it pushes on the larger side – especially for someone small and short as I am. It weighs roughly 5.75 pounds, which is on the heavier side (but expected given the generous padding and size). So, when full, your bag could be weighing anything from 15-25+ pounds.
For me, if it’s a city trip or a trip where I know I won’t have to hike with this, then the Nomatic is my top choice. But, if I know I’m going to be hiking, I’d probably pick just the McKinnon Cube and insert it into my Gregory Z40 travel backpack.
This bag might be among the most expensive options on this list, but seriously, the Nomatic McKinnon is on top of its game and an excellent choice for any photographer.
Top choice for an all-around daily camera backpack.
Not too big, not too small, and not too expensive, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack lives up to its name. It’s an excellent camera backpack for all-around everyday use with ample storage room but doesn’t become bulky.
I love the design of this camera backpack. It is very urban, compact, and stylish. It also has a waterproof 400D nylon canvas shell and premium weatherproof zippers.
It has an expandable design, so it only takes up as much space as you need it to. It can hold a full-frame DSLR camera body and 3 to 4 lenses.
The interior protected laptop sleeve can fit computers up to 16 inches in length.
Inside, there are 3 Flexfold Dividers to keep your camera and other gear safe and organized while traveling. These Flefold Dividers can be adjusted to fit your lenses, drone, or camera bodies with the perfect amount of space needed for each.
There’s a side access panel that gives you direct access to your camera, and within that panel, there’s another pocket to store and organize your batteries and other accessories.
You can strap a tripod on the outside, and even your camera with one of Peak Design camera accessories.
If you’re looking for a small day bag that can fit a lot, then this is a good choice!
A low-profile camera backpack.
The great thing about the Streetwalker Pro V2.0 is that it doesn’t necessarily look like a camera backpack. If you don’t like to advertise the fact that you’re walking around with a bunch of photography equipment, you’ll love the simple yet highly functional design.
This is an excellent choice for urban photoshoots since there aren’t loops or straps dangling off it that might get snagged. Unfortunately, there isn’t a waist strap, but the shoulder straps have good padding to maintain comfort.
The bag gives you the flexibility of using the velcro attached dividers to your preference or remove them altogether to fit bigger items. You can fit two full-frame cameras (one facing up the other facing down) inside the two-column internal pouch. There’s also a spot to strap a tripod and a tablet pouch for devices up to ten inches.
A great carry-on camera backpack.
Lowepro is well known for its high-quality photography backpacks, so no best camera backpack list would be complete without them.
For photographers taking a lot of international flights, having a safe carry-on backpack to store your gear is a must. Thanks to the Lowepro Pro Runner 350 AW, you can keep all your essential photo gear close at hand while on an airplane.
It’s easy to maneuver around a busy airport with two easy to grab handles, a padded back panel, and contoured shoulder straps for comfort for heavy loads.
It is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, but it is spacious enough to fit a camera body and several lenses, and by several, I mean more than four!
In addition to your camera gear, there are padded pockets for a 13-inch laptop, a 10-inch tablet, a Wacom type tablet, and a large smartphone pocket to keep all your electronics safely in place. Outside, you can easily strap a tripod for easy carry-on.
The backpack also comes with a small pouch where you can store external hard drives, batteries, SD cards, and more.
This low-profile backpack doesn’t advertise “camera equipment,” but it still has all the safety features you need for peace of mind. There are front pockets for additional gear, YKK locking zippers, and a sternum strap for extra carrying ease.
A great camera backpack for hiking and outdoors.
If you know you’ll be doing some hiking while carrying your camera gear, you’ll definitely want a comfortable, sturdy backpack like the Thule Aspect. Thule are well known for making excellent outdoor equipment, and their camera backpack is no exception. So, it’s no surprised their camera backpack is a top choice for hiking.
The backpack is so nicely designed (and in my opinion beautiful) that the moment I first laid eyes on it on the store, I knew I must have it!
The large, padded storage pocket can fit a DSLR camera with multiple lenses and other equipment. There’s also a separate padded laptop storage pocket, and even room to carry a drone the size of a DJI Mavic Pro!
A padded hip-belt can be used for extra support on long hikes but can be removed if you feel like it will get in the way in more crowded environments or when not needed.
Like any well-designed camera bag, it has a side pocket and straps to hold your tripod and a quick-access front-zippered pocket to store snacks and go-to items.
Best messenger camera bag.
If you’re looking for something more casual-looking, small enough, but with enough space for your camera gear, then the spacious Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30 is your best bet — a perfect choice for someone not looking to carry a backpack.
Even though it looks smaller, this travel camera bag is larger than some of the previous options on this list. The main compartment, which measures 15” x 6” x 9.5”, can comfortably and safely hold a mirrorless camera plus 2-3 additional lenses.
Weighing 3.2 pounds, the Retrospective is still light enough to carry over your shoulder.
Also, several other pockets give you enough room for all your extra accessories, and features like the rain cover add more value to this bag.
Appearance-wise, the Retrospective 30 bag might look unassuming and straightforward, but it is well constructed with a sturdy canvas to protect your gear.
Best rolling camera bag.
For professional or amateur photographers who travel often and need a carry-on bag that’s not a backpack, the CADeN Camera Backpack Trolley Case is probably their best choice.
This bag is an excellent option for urban photographers doing lifestyle, product, wedding photography, among others.
This sturdy bag is designed to meet most airlines’ carry-on luggage standards, so you won’t have to worry about having to check it in. Its four sets of dual-wheels give you effortless maneuvering while walking (or running!) across the terminal.
The CADeN is big enough to hold multiple DSLRs in addition to 6-8 lenses. It also has several pockets and extra compartments for all your camera accessories. It also comes with a rain cover to protect against inclement weather and a theft-proof double-lock zipper that’ll keep your gear safe.
There’s also space for your laptop in the front pocket. But, be aware that depending on how you load this bag, it can be front-heavy, so it can topple.
A large camera backpack for pro photographers.
This is one of the more expensive options on this list, but with the higher price comes excellent quality. If you’re a pro photographer who needs a lot of equipment and can’t compromise on safety, then the Lowepro Pro Trekker is the backpack for you.
You can fit 2-3 DSLR cameras with lenses attached, plus extra gear, a 15-inch laptop, a 10-inch tablet, and a smartphone all safely tucked in the padded compartments.
To make the backpack carry-on compatible, you can remove the compression lid for proper dimensions.
Carrying around all that gear can get tiring; thankfully, the Trekker has thick padded shoulder straps and a hip belt to make the haul a bit easier.
In a way, the Trekker compares a lot with the Nomatic McKinnon Backpack in terms of size and features, including a removable equipment pouch with is equivalent to McKinnon’s Cube. It also has the removable hip strap, and enough space to fit two camera bodies, a few lenses, a drone, a 15-inch laptop, and more.
I prefer the Nomatic McKinnon since it pays more attention to details, has a nicer design (in my opinion), and I think it is a bit more versatile with the Cube. Even though the Trekker is at a similar price point as the Nomatic, it gives you a bit more bang for your buck.
A good multi-use camera backpack.
For all-day or even multi-day trips with your camera equipment, you’ll want extra space for your personal belongings. The MindShift Gear Backlight has several front pockets, with 9L of space for personal items besides camera gear!
One standard sized DSLR camera can fit in the main compartment, along with 4-6 standard zoom lenses. There’s also a padded compartment for a laptop up to 15-inches and a full-sized tablet.
This camera backpack has excellent padded shoulder straps and back ventilation, making a long hot day more tolerable. For extra support, there is a padded waist belt and a sternum strap.
If you like the backpack’s design but need even more storage space, MindShift also makes a Backlight camera backpack that is 36L. However, if you need something that will fit under an airplane seat, the 26L is a better option.
A high-quality and super cool looking camera backpack.
Manfrotto is another top-notch photography products company, including everything from tripods, stabilizers, camera bags, lighting, and more.
There’s no denying that the Manfrotto Bumblebee gets top marks on appearance. Super-sleek and stylish, this camera backpack is also durable and comfortable, made out of a breathable fabric to make it lightweight while keeping all your gear safe.
In addition to the main camera pouch, there are additional storage pockets for personal items and a strap to attach a pro tripod. To easily transfer lenses while on a photoshoot, there is a lens pouch attached to the waist. The padded back pocket can fit a laptop up to 17 inches.
A rain cover comes with the Manfrotto Bumblebee in case you get caught in a downpour. Because of the size and the large laptop compartment, this is a good option if you’re looking for a larger camera backpacking for traveling.
A great compact camera backpack.
And last but not least, another Lowepro backpack! I told you they were good.
The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW is an excellent option if you don’t want something too big or cumbersome. This bag may appear smaller on the outside, but it can fit a decent amount of gear inside!
The main pocket can fit a DSLR camera, four lenses, and other accessories. Like with most camera backpacks, you can easily attach a tripod to it. To quickly access your gear, the backside unzips, and there is a front pouch dedicated to personal items.
If you need to carry more gear than can fit inside the backpack, there are SlipLock attachments on the outside where you can hook on extra items. Although this might not be ideal in a crowded public bus, it can save you the extra bag requirement.
Although the backpack itself is not waterproof, it comes with a rain cover that can easily be put over the backpack in case of a sudden shower. The shoulder straps and waist belts are padded to help balance the weight and make the pack more comfortable.
For photographers who want a smaller, sturdy camera backpack, the Lowepro Flipside is a perfect choice at a reasonable price.
Have you tried any of these photography backpacks? How did you like them?
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