Buying one of the best camera backpacks can make a huge difference to how you store and carry your equipment. When designed well, these bags take the strain off hauling around a large amount of kit, and with the right support can help prevent injury. Many options are also a neat-freak’s dream, with excellent organization and compartments to help sort your gadgets. More importantly, they also offer some protection to your best cameras when you’re traveling, keeping them safe from the elements.
When you’re trying to find the best camera backpack for yourself, consider what kind of photography you’ll likely be doing. If it’s street photography, or more urban based photography, you’ll want a smaller bag, perhaps with multiple entry points. For travel, look at the durability of the backpack or bag, and whether it has any additional luggage. If you’re out taking photos of the night sky, you’ll probably be somewhere in the wild, so a larger bag that’s set up for travel may be more appropriate. Additionally, if you happen to own a range of the best lenses for astrophotography, you may need a bag with a larger capacity and multiple lens storage options.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are a number of different categories of bags – from roller, to over the shoulder, sling, and side-carry. We’ll be covering this in more detail below and explaining which bags have what systems associated with them.
Best for day hikes
We liked the PhotoSport for its no-nonsense approach to being a comprehensive day hike and adventure travel backpack. The first thing that struck us is how lightweight it feels – for a 24L backpack it weighs next to nothing, and we also particularly liked the strap system that is designed for multiple different carrying configurations. 75% of all the fabric used on the backpack is recycled too. The bag can fit one full-frame sized camera (of the mirrorless or DSLR variety) and up to two lenses (one attached to the camera and one extra zoom lens), but we’d suggest that if you have any extra kit like GoPros and drones you may find this bag a little bit of a squeeze.
It does feel a little on the smaller side, but what this does mean is that it’s incredibly comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. The support straps can be adjusted to find the correct fit, so it’ll fit a range of body sizes, and the bag feels snug without being restrictive. The lack of weight helps significantly with this, and it contributes to why we think this would be the best bag for longer hikes or adventures, provided you don’t have loads of kit to take with you.
Best for multi-activity trips
Staying with the travel theme, Peak Design have created their 45 L backpack to be the perfect companion when out and about – and they’ve done a great job of packing a lot of versatility into it. What impressed us was the range of organization options – this works primarily as a camera backpack with organizational camera cubes (sold separately) installed, but also as a large gear-hauler, a small day sack, or a commuter bag.
The rigid sidewalls and the sturdy back panel are a real bonus when organizing your packing, allowing items to stay put. There’s also a handy zippered dividing panel that can separate the bag into two compartments should you wish. Little details set the bag apart. The dual side zippers are a bonus, and unique magnetic catches on the pouches help everything stay in one place.
Another point worth mentioning – we also liked the weatherproof ability of the bag and thought it was one of the best options for wet-weather operation. There’s a DWR interior liner and rugged weatherproof bottom to ensure nothing inside the bag gets wet.
Best everyday commuter bag
The Vanguard Veo Select 43RB takes its design cues from popular commuter and day bags available at the moment – indeed, Vanguard expressly say on their website that the Veo Select 43RB has been designed to not look like a camera bag.
True to form, the bag is an attractive piece, with a top-entry roll top and front-opening backpack area that is deceptively large. It’ll hold a large DSLR camera and between 4-6 lenses depending on their size, as well as multiple accessories such as cables, tripods, batteries, and memory cards.
We liked the day pack option that’s installed on the top – this section is totally removable should you wish to separate your kit out and just take a few lightweight items on a day out rather than all of your equipment. The bag itself has a seam-sealed waterproof cover, which is a bonus for trips out and about.
For the size, the amount of gear you can carry and the versatility of the bag, we think that it’s great value for money and would suit any photographer who wants one bag to house a growing kit list.
Best for street photographers
This hybrid backpack from Manfrotto is designed to be a 3-in-1 solution to carrying your kit around.
Firstly, it operates as a conventional camera backpack, with standard adjustable straps. These, however, can be neatly tucked away inside a small compartment at the back of the bag, making way for a shoulder strap. The bag also has two handles on top so it can easily be carried around in the hand too.
As you’d expect, access to the bag is designed to be complementary to how you choose to carry it, with a number of different access zips from every side to ensure you can reach your gear easily. We liked the fact that the internal camera compartment can be removed to turn the bag into a conventional rucksack, and that despite its size it features a tripod connection for a small or travel-sized tripod. The 14″ laptop compartment is a good feature too.
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this bag for long distance hikers or adventure travel pros, or people with loads of gear to carry, but for urban or street photographers, it’s a great option.
Best for short city trips
Staying with the Italian manufacturer Manfrotto, this is another backpack option that would be perfect for people just starting out in photography and building their gear and kit list.
The Chicago backpack is surprisingly versatile for a small unit, holding a DSLR-sized camera and up to three lenses plus a laptop. The Manfrotto website states that you can transform the bag from a 100% camera bag to a 100% lifestyle bag – the removable photo insert can be used as a shoulder bag, separating out the items and freeing up the main compartment for clothing or other weekend items.
Unlike some of the other bags on this list, there is no additional waist strap to provide extra support when carrying, but the shoulder straps feel wide enough to accommodate the carrying of heavier kit. It does mean, however, that we felt the bag was designed for smaller, urban trips, which given the ‘Chicago’ name is probably exactly what it was designed to do.
We also really liked the feel of the fabric used on the bag, much like other Manfrotto products. It’s tactile, it feels durable and strong, and well suited to the urban testing we carried out. The bottom fabric is made out of Kevlar, which is a particularly nice touch, and stops the bag getting scuffed up on pavement or asphalt.
Best for classic design and style
Gitzo is well known for creating mountaineer-grade tripods and heads that are at the more premium end of the market – they have a wide range of traveler tripods and monopods that are made from a lightweight, carbon-fiber construction. Although not necessarily a household name when it comes to bags and other accessories, we were very impressed with one of their latest offerings, the Légende.
The Gitzo Légende is, we think, perhaps one of the most timeless and elegant camera bags we’ve tested for this article. It has a classic, adventure-style look reminiscent of the glory days of film photography, and uses a soft brushed fabric exterior to highlight its build quality – it certainly feels like a sturdy, well put together bag. It does have a couple of downsides – we found that weatherproofing wasn’t as its best and it doesn’t feature waist or chest straps, so that’s definitely worth bearing that in mind.
In terms of the bag’s operation, there’s a single side access allowing gear to stay within easy reach, and a roll-top pocket for smaller items when out and about, too. We liked the fact that the top compartment features dividers to keep everything neatly contained, and the 15″ laptop compartment fits a modern MacBook Pro-sized device easily. There’s enough room for a DSLR-sized device with one zoom lens, plus an additional two separate lenses.
For its place in the market, we think the Légende is well priced, but be sure also to look out for their bundle deal – they neatly package this bag with one of their 4-section carbon fiber travel tripods with eco-leather straps made for convenient carrying. Rather more expensive, but we think it’s a desirable package.
Best for frequent air traveling
For those who have rather more traveling to do, this offering from Vanguard comes very much recommended, and we like the fact that it easily doubles up as a conventional carry-on roller suitcase, too.
In standard camera bag configuration, the organization compartments separate out the main section to hold two DSLR or mirrorless cameras, up to 4-5 lenses, a flash, and other accessories. It also has a compartment for a drone as well as a 13″ laptop alongside a tablet, such as an iPad, which is a nice touch. A tripod can also be attached to the side too, but we found this becomes a little unwieldy when rolling the bag along unless it’s secured very tightly.
Another nice feature is the versatility of the bag. Yes, with four wheels it appears at first glance to be a standard suitcase, but it also comes with two backpack straps that clip onto the bottom of the bag. It then becomes a surprisingly comfortable backpack, with a waist strap to keep everything neatly in place.
For astrophotography and night time photography, we’d probably use this in conjunction with another backpack style bag to take out into the wild, but we’d certainly trust this one for any aircraft or train journeys.
Best for handmade quality
Billingham have over the years made a name for themselves in the camera bag world creating some of the finest handmade pieces you can buy. Apparently, there are more than 100 individual components in each bag!
Detail is important, which is why the Hadley Pro, their best-selling bag, was updated in 2020 with a luggage trolley retainer strap and improved leather top handle for extra comfort. They’ve also introduced some pleasing new colors, too.
Inside the bag, you can either keep it open, or install a padded insert with four removable or repositionable foam dividers that keep everything organized. The top flap secures down well with the leather straps, and the buckles ensure everything inside the bag itself stays weatherproofed and away from the elements. The carrying strap is comfortable and easy to adjust to different weights and positions.
Our only criticism is that although the bag itself is a wonderful object, it doesn’t quite have the flexibility of some other camera bags and is lacking a little in space. The front pockets make up for it somewhat, but it perhaps doesn’t fit as many items in as some of the other camera backpack options in this list.