The best camera backpacks are a much better choice for photo or video gear than a generic, everyday backpack. They tend to have tough exteriors designed to protect their contents from the elements, as well as padded interiors to stop fragile lenses and cameras from rolling around and bashing into each other. When you've spent a significant chunk of change on your cameras and lenses, you want to be sure they're secure!
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A common feature for camera backpacks is to have interiors that are not only padded, but also customisable, with velcro dividers that can be rearranged and reoriented to fit snugly around your equipment. This kind of modular system makes it easy to make your backpack work for you, whether you're packing a load of little lenses, or a couple of big ones.
Camera backpacks also often come with pull-out rain covers, tripod-holding straps, internal sleeves for laptops, and extra storage pockets for your personal items (like spare batteries and memory cards – don't forget those!). There are a few types of camera bag out there, so if you want to learn more about the specific advantages of a camera backpack over, say, a shoulder bag, you can scroll to the bottom of this page where we've put together a few of the key points.
With that said, however, not all camera backpacks are the same. Picking the one that's right for you can often mean thinking about what your main priorities are. Do you need as much space as possible, or are you more concerned with a bag that looks unobtrusive, with thief-proof zips. You also need to think about your budget, as camera backpack price tags can vary quite significantly.
For this guide, we've picked out a wide range of the best backpacks right now, from major manufacturers such as Lowepro, Manfrotto and Tenba, as well as newcomers to the market like Morally Toxic, an offshoot from tripod makers 3 Legged Thing. Many of the backpacks here are ones we've personally tested and reviewed – so you can be sure our recommendations are sound. So, let's get to the best camera backpacks you can buy.
The best camera backpacks in 2022(opens in new tab)
Have you never got the right bag for the job? Although this unusual and rather pricey modular system will likely have niche appeal, it’s actually great value for money because it can be easily modified for all kinds of scenarios. The Velcro dividers inside can be moved to accommodate specific gear (including a drone) or dumped in favour of open space, while the rear-opening lid contains a zipped compartment for a 13-inch laptop. However, the real genius is the front’s succession of loops that can be used to attach accessories such as a neoprene flash holder, a tripod toe-cup and straps, and a phone case, making this a truly versatile camera backpack.(opens in new tab)
It’s hard not to like this bag’s chic style, tactile materials and beautifully crafted hardware. At 46 x 30 x 17cm, it’s pretty compact for a camera backpack, but can still transport an ungripped DSLR with up to five lenses. There’s no front or rear opening, but rather large side flaps which afford very good mobile access. Inside are internal dividers that form shelves attached to the front and back. These are a clever design that can snap into thirds to allow a long lens to pass down one side, or can be instantly segmented so multiple small lenses can share one shelf. Up top is a large multi-use area that can expand by up to 8L thanks to a top flap with four latching positions. A travel tripod will stow on the side, there’s space for a 13” laptop and tablet in the back, and you can even lash a small drone on the front. A basic waist belt helps support heavier loads, and though it lacks hip pads, it can be completely trucked away.(opens in new tab)
The Tenba DNA 16 DSLR Backpack does a great job of providing your kit with plenty of storage space, protecting it from extreme weather and making it comfortable to carry on a shoot. It’s packed full of different compartments so that you can enjoy working out what you’ll store and where. The lower DSLR storage compartment lets you access your camera and lenses with ease. Because this section hinges back into the body of the backpack people won’t know that you’re carrying anything more valuable than your travel clothes, which should help protect your kit from unwanted attention. Up top is an expandable rolltop section, secured by a magnetic clip that slides sideways with a snap to safely secure the contents, though this can give your fingers a bit of a pinch if you're not used to it. You can carry this bag on your back, or via a handle at the top or even piggyback it on your airport suitcase’s extendable handle via a strap dedicated to this purpose.
A big, front-loading backpack, the Manfrotto Pro Light Flexloader L is probably not one for anyone who isn't going to be using the majority of its generous interior capacity, given its price and its size. But if you need a big old backpack that's going to give you peace of mind that your gear is well-protected – step right up, here it is. The shock-absorbing dividers inside the Pro Light Flexloader mean your gear is protected from impacts, and there's a decent degree of customisability – you can even whip all the internal stuff out and just use it as a regular backpack if you want, a manoeuvre that also makes it more likely the back will be accepted as carry-on luggage. This is a big and heavy bag, but its padded straps make it comfortable to wear, meaning it's a good choice for long walks and hikes where you need to carry a lot of gear.(opens in new tab)
The Morally Toxic Valkyrie has been five years in the making and comes from a new spin-off brand from British tripod manufacturer, 3 Legged Thing. It sports a clever design and eye-catching material, especially when it catches the sun, helping the Valkyrie stand out from the plethora of boring black camera backpacks out there. But this is certainly not a case of just style over substance, as everything is smartly designed to make carrying your camera kit and daily essentials as pleasurable and painless as possible. Quick access to all areas and some genuinely innovative touches make the Valkyrie a backpack to be treasured, plus it’s endlessly adaptable, and will cosset your gear in fine style.
Many backpacks are a little on the bulky side, especially if you're rocking a fairly light setup. The Tenba Shootout 14L Slim is a great choice for those who want the two-shoulder comfort of a backpack (as opposed to a sling bag) but don't need loads of a room for a full-frame DSLR and a 70-200mm lens. Which, let's be clear, will not really fit in this bag.
So you're using a light DSLR and a mirrorless camera and want a backpack? Here you go. The Tenba Shootout 14L Slim is lightweight and affordable, but pleasingly tough, constructed from water-repellent nylon. It has several extra straps and pockets that make it easy to store a tripod or monopod, and there's also a slot for a 10-inch tablet (though not a laptop). Also, handily, there's a space designed for a hydration bladder, making this a great choice for hiking photographers. Or, indeed, hikers full stop – take out the dividers for camera gear and this works great as an all-purpose bag.(opens in new tab)
The Vanguard Alta Sky 51D is designed to carry camera gear, a drone, or a combination of both. The main compartment has room for a pro DSLR with attached 70-200mm lens, and up to four lenses around it. Padding is good, and there’s a hatch on one side for mobile access, although openings on both sides would be better. Primary access to this area is via a large rear panel that contains a slot for a 15-inch laptop. The flap opens wide, but you’ll need to bend the shoulder straps out of the way for unobstructed camera access. Comfort is assured by good-sized hip pads, thick back padding and generous shoulder straps.
Read more:Vanguard Alta Sky 45D review (opens in new tab) (similar but smaller)(opens in new tab)
The StreetWalker from Think Tank is a compact, city-friendly option. Its narrow 25cm external width keeps you streamlined; while this restricts the internal layout to two columns rather than three, these are wide and deep, and will neatly house a pair of full-frame cameras with large-diameter attached lenses; one facing down, the other up. Depending on your lens choice, extra dividers can fit around additional optics. You can also strap a tripod to the front, and there’s room for a 10-inch tablet in a pouch at the rear. Access is via a single no-nonsense front flap. You don’t get a waist belt but the shoulder straps and back padding are excellent.(opens in new tab)
Incredible images of wildlife are everywhere, but it’s rare to find a backpack that address the needs of those who need to get themselves and their equipment into remote places for long periods. Cue the Manfrotto Gitzo Adventury 30-litre backpack – also available as a 45-litre version – that can carry a couple of pro DSLR cameras, one fitted with a 200mm telephoto lens. Now that’s unusual, though this rugged bag and its interchangeable dividers can also take four more lenses (one of them up to 400mm in size), mirrorless cameras, a DJI Phantom drone, a 15-inch Macbook and a 12.9-inch tablet.(opens in new tab)
Manfrotto's Advanced2 Befree Backpack is made for those who want a hard-wearing bag that protects in more ways than one. Not only is it constructed of a weather-resistant material that keeps out the rain, its main compartment is also accessed from the rear, providing protection from opportunistic thieves. The flipside of this is that it can make grabbing a camera quickly into a bit of a cumbersome process, but if this doesn't bother you, this is an excellent and capacious backpack. We particularly like the fact that you have multiple options for storing a tripod – secure it externally via the straps, or use the expandable pocket. It's designed for use with Manfrotto's Befree tripods, as you might expect, but it'll work with other models
Given that it also has plenty of space for a DSLR and lenses, a 15-inch laptop compartment and extra pockets for personal items, the Manfrotto2 Advanced Befree is a good one-size-fits-all bag for travelling photographers.
How we test camera backpacks
At DCW, photo and video accessories are tested out in the field by experienced, knowledgeable reviewers who know the product area and have used them before. Our reviewers test camera backpacks for capacity, durability, weight, and other common concerns such as whether they fit in standard airline carry-on luggage dimensions. We use our findings in the testing process to inform our comments in buying guides, so that we can be sure we're recommending products that we would buy and use ourselves.
Why use a camera backpack?
When and why should you choose a camera backpack over a shoulder bag, for example?
1) Backpacks tend to offer more space. This means you have more room for larger setups, for carrying more lenses and even accessories like a small drone.
2) Backpacks spread the weight. The more gear you carry, the more it weighs. And its much better to have that weight spread over two shoulders than one, especially if you have to do a lot of walking.
3) Backpacks offer more protection. Often you just need protection for your camera gear when you're travelling, and you can sling a backpack into an overhead locker or under the seat of a bus without worrying too much about your gear – or any of it falling out!
The extra space in a pack also gives you more latitude for adding in little non-photo extras, and many have dedicated pockets for exactly this purpose. Whether you want to bring a book, a water bottle, an iPhone power bank (opens in new tab), an extra jumper, a flashgun (opens in new tab), or even a drone (opens in new tab), a good photo backpack will probably be able to accommodate you.
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