As we grow as photographers, we often begin accumulating quite the collection of accessories. And while not a fan favorite, you’ll find a backpack a necessity to give you the versatility you want sooner or later. Not to mention, they’re a must if you plan on traveling with your equipment. Now, whether you prefer traveling light and you want to bring your entire arsenal, finding the right backpack matters. And it’s an accessory that will surely make life easier. Not only does it offer protection for your gear, but it also keeps things tidy and organized.
While you could transform a regular backpack to do this duty, they alone rarely offer the same protection or versatility. And camera backpacks, being inherently designed for the job, offer a far more complete system. Now, backpacks are an accessory that very much depends on personal preference and the gear you use. So, the best option, specifically, will depend on your preferences and use case. And today’s market has plenty of options designed for various photographers, from hiking to studio shooters—each with varying builds, versatility, and comfort.
In this post, we’ve created a detailed guide on what to look for in a camera bag. And we’ve also compiled a list of the ten best camera backpacks on today’s market.
Jump to a Section
- 10 – NOMATIC McKinnon Camera Pack
- 9 – Manfrotto RedBee
- 8 – LowePro ProTactic
- 7 – MindShift Gear Backlight
- 6 – Shimoda Explore
- 5 – Tenba Axis
- 4 – Lowepro Freeline
- 3 – WANDRD Veer
- 2 – WANDRD PRVKE
- 1 – Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2
- Buyers Guide
- How do I choose a camera bag?
- Compartments & Access
- Style & Design
10 – NOMATIC McKinnon Camera Pack
The Nomatic McKinnon isn’t the standard camera bag. Instead, it’s a complete travel system. They off this backpack in a single 35L size and black color.
It uses a water-resistant coating with lockable zippers and an RFID safe pocket for valuables. And it features a quick side access panel or unzips for full front access. The backpack also expands, adding an extra 5L for even easier packing while remaining under the max carry-on size for flights. Nomatic knows this backpack will get heavy, so they’ve thickened the shoulder pads, added adjustable tension straps, and an internal suspension system to lighten the load. Other bonuses include a 16″ laptop sleeve, luggage pass-through, sternum and waist straps, expandable side pocket, front and side tripod carry, and four grab handles.
Overall,The McKinnon Camera Pack becomes the perfect high-end bag for true adventure photographers. And it’s quite a comprehensive system for on-the-go creators wanting a discreet yet stylish option that packs all the essentials plus five days’ worth of clothing to boast.
9 – Manfrotto RedBee
Manfrotto’s RedBee line is the perfect complement to street shooters. They offer this backpack in two sizes up to 22L, both with a stealth black and red color scheme.
It uses ripstop nylon, with the Camera Protection System designed to guarantee the highest protection and shock resistance. Plus, it has Flexi Dividers, which are foldable for better customization. And it offers four points of access, from the rear, the top, and both sides for superior versatility. Other bonuses include a rainfly, a 15″ laptop sleeve, sternum and waist straps, external side pocket, luggage pass-through, and a five-year warranty.
Overall, the RedBee is a stylish option that’s an excellent compliment to street shooters wanting a discrete, yet capable package.
8 – LowePro ProTactic
LowePro’s ProTactic II is their second generation FormShell backpack that expands on the original model’s ruggedness and versatility. They offer this backpack in two sizes up to 25L and single grey color.
It uses a lightweight FormShell construction with a rigid EVA molding and protective padding that delivers superior impact protection. And the bag offers 4-point access with two side flaps, top access, and back panel. The rear panel is also coated with their wildly popular SlipLock attachment system, allowing you to attach cases, MOLLE pouches, and other accessories. The backpack’s removable waist belt also has this SlipLock system, converting into a utility belt supporting 16 compatible accessories. Other bonuses include a rainfly, a 15″ laptop sleeve, luggage pass-through, two accessory straps, a utility pouch, a tripod cup, and a warranty.
Overall, as a second-generation product, the ProTactic II offers the rugged versatility and high-performance protection the series is known for. But, it expands the line with more adaptability and durability, making it an even better solution for traveling photographers.
7 – MindShift Gear Backlight
The Backlight series by Mindshift aims to be the ideal suit for adventurers. They offer this backpack in three sizes up to 36L and two colors.
It uses a water-repellant 420D nylon shell with YKK zippers. It also has ice axe loops, extra lash points, and daypack storage to expand your carrying capacity. But critically, it has a padded waist belt for comfort and a webbing rail to attach MindShift accessories. And this waist belt allows you to work out of the back-panel without taking off the backpack—a key feature over traditional front-loading backpacks. Other features include a rainfly, 15″ laptop sleeve, a sternum strap, two expandable side pockets, a dedicated tripod cup, and a warranty.
Overall, as a subsidiary of the famous brand ThinkTank Photo, this bag indeed continues the tradition in quality and versatility. And it’s the ideal option for hikers looking for a hardcore solution.
6 – Shimoda Explore
Shimoda’s Explore lineup is designed for today’s adventure photographers. They offer this backpack in three sizes up to 60L and two colors.
It uses a lightweight nylon resin-coated shell with YKK zippers, and genuine leather pulls. Each adjustable shoulder strap also features storage pouches large enough for a smartphone. And the backpack offers several access points and a large multi-configurable front panel for tripods or other accessories. The front panel even has a water bladder with a dedicated hose routing. Plus, the pack has a removable side pocket that doubles as a camera sleeve when mounted to the chest. Other features include a 13″ laptop sleeve, a sternum strap, a built-in safety whistle, removable accessory straps to secure gear, and a five-year warranty.
Overall, the Explore lineup was designed as a response to real-world challenges. And at 60L, there’s little it can’t fit. Thus, it’s a strong choice for hardcore adventurers looking for a comprehensive, versatile, adventure-driving bag.
5 – Tenba Axis
Inspired by their military history, Tenba’s Axis lineup aims to give photographers an ultra-durable option. They offer this backpack in three sizes up to 32L and a single tactical black color.
It uses a hydrophobic coated exterior and YKK zippers and clips with heavily reinforced stitching. It also features a reflective MOLLE webbing across the front, allowing you to attach external accessories, pouches, or wallets. And it has height-adjustable shoulder straps to ensure a snug fit on any torso size, a rare but useful feature. The bag itself provides three access points, either from the side, top, or the rear. And it’s fully compatible with the DJI Mavic series and similar compact drones. Other bonuses include a 15″ laptop sleeve and reinforced side pocket.
Overall, with its military-grade design, the Axis pack is an ideal bag for extreme adventures and blatant abuse.
4 – Lowepro Freeline
The Freeline series by LowePro is a high-end option for backpackers who carry more than camera gear alone. They offer this series in a single 25L size and two different colors.
It uses a high-grade nylon and carbonate coated exterior with YKK weather-proof zippers. The bag itself offers three access points, either top-loading or dual side panels. And it uses QuickShelf dividers that unfold into a 3-tiered shelf, for easy setup and removal. Plus, removing it converts the backpack into a day bag or large protective laptop bag. It also offers front and side straps, and two removable anodized buckles to attach accessories and a phone pocket on the contoured shoulder strap. Other bonuses include a rainfly, a sternum strap, 15″ laptop sleeve, expandable side pockets, and luggage pass-through.
Overall, with its smart and discrete design, the Freeline series is a reliable option for street shooters and a great traveling companion. And it’s a highly adaptive, rugged option designed for today’s storytellers.
3 – WANDRD Veer
WANDRD’s Veer is a first of its kind and easily the most versatile option for backpackers wanting maximum portability. They offer this backpack in a single 18L size and three different colors.
It uses a N100D Dynatec construction with weather-resistant zippers. And it opens via a quick-draw side access panel with top and front pockets for small items. The top pocket even inverts, creating a pouch that stores the entire backpack. Plus, they’ve avoided a pitfall by creating a patented inflatable back insert, adding strength, rigidity, and comfort. But, at only 14oz, it remains about as heavy as the typical hardcover book. Other bonuses include an expandable side pocket and a key clip.
Overall, as the lightest backpack ever released, the Veer offers quite a unique design that ups the standards in portability and function. And it’s the ideal take-anywhere option for on the go creators.
2 – WANDRD PRVKE
WANDRD’s PRVKE delivers class-leading durability that’s ideally suited for the demands of traveling photographers. They offer this backpack in two sizes up to 31L and four colors.
It uses a 1680D ballistic nylon shell with YKK weather-resistant zippers. And the backpack features quick-draw side access and an expandable roll-top, adding 5L of extra space and better water-resistance. The bag also features a hidden passport pocket built into the back panel, which sits securely against your back. Plus, it has a felt-lined tech pocket, perfect for phones or sunglasses, and a multi-point accessory strap for external carry. Other bonuses include a rainfly, tote-style grab handles, a sternum strap, expandable side pocket, a removable waist strap, 16″ laptop sleeve, a key clip, and warranty.
Overall, as an award-winning design, the PRVKE offers high-quality that’s ready for a lifetime of abuse. And it’s minimal and unique design make it an outstanding choice for travel photographers.
1 – Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2
Peak Designs Everyday Backpack is a complete overhaul that’s ideally suited for everyday carrying. They offer this backpack in two sizes up to 30L, with four different colors.
It uses a 100% recycled 400D waterproof nylon shell, with anodized Ultra Zip zippers. The backpack itself offers dual side access points and a top section with updated MagLatch hardware for instant one-handed access. And this top section also doubles as built-in expansion, increasing the capacity. Other bonuses include a sternum strap, luggage pass-through, a 15″ laptop sleeve, 4 external carry straps, expandable side pockets, and three padded grab handles.
Now in its second generation, the Everyday Backpack is more durable, ergonomic, and thoughtful. And it’s an outstanding choice with a tactile design and exceptional craftsmanship.
How do I choose a camera bag?
Well, beforehand, it’s essential that you consider your individual needs and preferences. Think about what you’ll carry and when you’ll use it. Maybe you don’t need something waterproof or rugged. And instead, something more stylish and discreet is preferable. Maybe you need multiple bags, one for day trips around town, another for an extended holiday.
Your individual preferences and use case will ultimately determine which bag is best. In some cases, you may not even need a backpack, and a sling or messenger would be sufficient. But, in either case, look at the specific factors to gauge which are most important to you.
Let’s cover a few factors you’ll want to consider now.
Is it built to last? How durable are the zippers, flaps, and compartments? If you plan on hiking and doing adventure photography, you’ll want to consider weather sealing and a waterproof cover. Since you’ll likely be hiking to get to various locations, and the last thing you’d want is a sudden downpour destroying your gear. But, know, not all backpacks offer waterproof coatings or weather-resistant zippers. And not all have added insulation for absorbing shocks or impacts. But, the best options in each price bracket do.
For this, if you’re a traveling photographer, you’ll want extensive weather sealing. And it’s essential so your gear is appropriately protected. However, if you’re not a traveling photographer, this factor may be slightly less important.
How can the bag carry? This is usually measured in Liters (L) and ranges from 15 to 40L.
Most backpacks provide enough space for a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera mounted with a telephoto lens and a complement of 3-5 extra lenses or flashes. But, others provide even more space, easily accommodating, 3 or 4 bodies, and upwards of 10 lenses. For this, the best camera bag for you will offer the capacity and storage size that meets your needs.
But, in general, if you don’t need a backpack that supports a 400mm lens and several bodies, skip them. And if you don’t want to travel with a dozen lenses, a drone, and other accessories, skip them and get a smaller capacity bag instead. There’s no need to get a larger bag unless needed, as they’ll only increase weight and bulk when traveling. But, also, don’t get a bag that barely fits what you have now. And if you plan on expanding your camera collection later, a little room won’t hurt.
A good backpack is also customizable and can store not only camera gear, but extra clothing, snacks, accessories, and even a drone if needed. And most options can double as carry-on bags when traveling or an overnight bag by simply removing the internal dividers. If this is important, look for options that transform accordingly.
Whatever your needs here, the bag should offer the size needed to suit your camera and lenses and give them the required protection. And it should provide the versatility you need.
How much does the bag weigh by itself? And how much does it weigh when fully packed? These are things to consider if you plan on using it as a carry-on when flying. Most airlines have strict dimension and weight requirements, and not all backpacks meet these requirements. If you don’t plan to travel with it this way, you can skip this particular section.
Chasing the perfect picture will likely require some traveling. And the last thing you want is a backpack that adds stress and back pain to your journey. Thankfully, the best backpacks are comfortable and offer high-quality materials that provide ample padding. They usually also have contoured waist and shoulder straps to distribute heavy loads.
For this, consider the weight of your setup. Then look at the contouring of the shoulder straps, their adjustability, and the waist belt. If the shoulder and waist straps are poorly made, the bag will be uncomfortable during prolonged use.
Compartments & Access
How do you access the contents? Do you do so via the sides, top, rear, or front panels? Is it easy, or do you need to fumble a bit? Does the bag also offer extra pockets or pouches for small accessories, phones, or papers? The way you access the contents determines its overall functionality to you. Granted, this section is entirely personal preference. But, considering the perfect photo opportunity won’t last forever, pick the style that helps you access your particular setup fastest. The last thing you want is to miss an opportunity by rummaging around in a bag.
If you desire to bring a laptop or tablet along with you, look for options with a secondary compartment designed for them. Not all backpacks offer protective sleeves for these devices. Just beware of your laptop size, most only support 15″ devices, not 17″.
Style & Design
Find a backpack that meets your definition of attractive and one that looks “cool” to you. But, know, while some bags offer a sleek minimalistic look, which is great, so you can blend into the crowd and remain discrete. They usually trade external pockets and functionality in the process.
For this, consider how you plan on traveling with the bag. If you plan on shooting street, you’ll want a discreet bag and doesn’t warrant attention from possible thieves. But realize, it may lack some extra pockets, pouch, and bonuses.
Expect a minimum of one tripod mount, be it an expandable side pocket or accessory strap. And a separate compartment for a full-sized laptop, somewhere around 13-15″. Also, expect breathable vents and contoured shoulder straps. These are design standards. But anything outside of that is a bonus. If these bonus features are important, consider them while shopping around.
Backpacks range in price from $50-400, which is quite a range. But what separates bags is ultimately build quality, versatility, and durability. And these collectively add up to the value it offers at the price it competes. When looking at options, it’s not essential to look for reputable brand names here, as the backpack industry isn’t riddled with many knockoffs. Focus, instead, on what it offers and how it’ll suit your workflow.