Whether you prefer to travel light with minimal attachments or you like to bring the entire home studio with you, finding the right camera backpack can make moving with your gear possible.
Of course, you’re not buying a camera backpack just for the protective features on it. You’re buying a camera backpack to make it easier to carry your gear.
Gone are the days where you’re walking around with the camera strapped around your neck. You have a tripod, portable jib, possibly sound equipment, additional lenses and all sorts of odds and ends. For this kind of equipment, a regular backpack just won’t do.
You need a backpack made specifically for your camera.
There are camera bags designed for hiking with your gear and there are bags designed more for studio shoots with less rugged padding and more partitions to carry added lighting and lenses.
So before you even consider buying a camera backpack (or even looking for one), know what you want from the backpack and what you plan on using it for.
Do you want it to be just for a vlogging camera, or do you want a slot to keep your laptop?
Are you interested in taking it through airport security?
The more you know about how you’ll be using the camera backpack, the easier selecting one becomes.
Of course, you’re here for help in selecting the right backpack and for suggestions on what to actually look for. You’ll have all of that right here, so let’s get started.
When shopping for a camera backpack you need to keep a few specifics in mind. You may even want to invest in a few different camera backpacks, depending on different forms of travel.
After all, you might not need as much gear when wandering the streets of your hometown, yet you might want to bring multiple lenses, lights, and gear on an extended trip.
Whatever your photography style or your needs are, you’ll want to make sure each backpack checks off a few specific boxes prior to purchasing it.
Some of the things you need to consider include:
How much can that camera bag carry? It’s an important question.
Now, you need to determine what you’ll be taking with you. If you’re using the standard DSLR and maybe a tripod, you don’t need much in terms of weight.
However, if you have a half-dozen different lenses, plus tripods, audio equipment, a portable sandbag for tripod stability, plus your computer and other odds and ends, the weight adds up quickly.
In general, you probably won’t run into a problem where the backpack can’t support the weight of your gear, but as your equipment collection expands, the weight will grow with it. Knowing how much weight it can support is important.
From added pockets for quick access on the front of the backpack to pouches designed for lenses, batteries and business cards, extra compartments help boost the functionality of your backpack.
Some bags are designed with a sleek look. These are designed for when you want to blend into a crowd and not look like a photographer. However, these bags often come with a lack of external compartments and easy access pouches.
On the other hand, you might need to quickly grab something from your bag. The perfect photo capturing moment won’t last forever, so you need extra compartments to help you carry everything you might need to take the perfect picture.
Normally, you wouldn’t look at a backpack to see if there is a spot for a laptop. However, camera backpacks are partitioned off into individual sections, so placing a long, flat device it won’t work. Some of these backpacks have a secondary compartment designed for your laptop. Other’s don’t. It’s important to look for this.
Also, when looking for laptop compartments, know the size of your laptop. Have a 17-inch screen? Not all backpacks are big enough for this. Dimensions for your laptop and the backpack are important.
Is the camera gear easy to access, or do you need to fumble around and take the backpack off in order to grab your gear?
Can you adjust the interior to better hold the gear you are taking?
Some camera bags have quick-access panels while other bags allow you to adjust nearly every internal compartment. It’s all about finding the right fit.
You need to consider how you’ll be using the camera bag. Do you want to pull out gear while you’re on the move? If so, these quick-access panels are helpful, as are the external pockets and added compartments.
Also, look at how the bag opens. Do you need to take the backpack off in order to access the gear? Sometimes the access panel is pushed against your back. All of this depends on you and how quickly you need to access your gear.
Access plays an important role in the function of the bag and it’s extremely important to keep it in mind. Some bags require you to unzip the entire back compartment in order to access anything. That’s fine for shooting in a makeshift travel studio, but it’s not the best for stopping on a street corner because you like the natural lighting.
So keep in mind what you are using the camera backpack for when considering the access it provides.
Is the bag comfortable or will it weigh you down and fit awkwardly around your body?
The best way to determine if a backpack is comfortable is to look at the padding and how it sits on the body.
Does it naturally follow the contour of the back? More comfortable bags often shift weight to the bottom of the bag and taper off at the top.
Does it have added padding in the straps and in the lumbar of the back?
Does it have secondary straps to help evenly distribute the weight of the camera?
This is something you’ll need to rely on reviews (if the camera backpack isn’t comfortable, user will note this in their reviews) and on the build material, but it is a critical aspect of a bag to consider. You don’t want a backpack that’s painful to wear.
Always keep the price in mind.
Backpacks can range from under $50 to well over $200.
This often comes down to the build material. Some camera backpacks might be waterproof, others come with added insulation to absorb shock.
And then there are other times you’re paying more for a brand name instead of quality. With a camera backpack, you don’t need to look specifically at the company name. When buying the actual camera the company name is important.
With a backpack not as much. You just need to focus on the build, compartments and if it fits your needs.
The editor’s pick comes down to selecting a camera backpack made specifically for the camera.
There are a large number of packs that have a bit of an identity crisis. The backpacks can’t decide if it should be for a camera or for everyday use.
That’s why we went with the Lowepro ProTactic 450. This comes with everything you’d want on a camera backpack.
The price is higher than many, but when you’re a professional, want the ability to customize the interior and yet take the backpack with you anywhere, this is the way to go.
Some of the features we love include:
It’s why you can drop $50 on a regular backpack and you’ve got a great backpack that’ll last. With the camera world though, that’s not always the case.
The Manfrotto MB isn’t built with the strongest material. Looking at it you can tell there isn’t an abundance of padding. So it’s not going to be for your extreme hiking trips.
But there are benefits to this bag. For starters, it does have a dedicated padded laptop sleeve. The padding aspect is important to consider because it will be against your back. This not only prevents your back from being banged by the hard edges of your laptop, but it will prevent you from sweating onto your laptop.
The last thing you want is a soggy computer.
There’s a small field tripod compartment inside.
Basically, that means there’s a built-in partition designed to prevent the metal tips of a smaller tripod from smashing into glass lenses.
There are a few partitions built into this backpack, but there are also many solid, can’t move this out of the backpack, partitions.
The tripod is one. This takes up a third of the interior. As long as you have a smaller tripod (can fold down to around 15 inches or smaller) it will be fine.
In terms of build quality, the backpack, for the price, is fine. But there’s one potential issue with the backpack.
The zipper used to open the compartment is nearest to your back. It then zips all the way down. This means you can’t just unzip the top and pull out a piece of equipment. You have to physically take the backpack off and lay it on the ground.
Sometimes you don’t have that kind of space.
It also means you need to do that to fetch your laptop.
What happens if you’re on an airplane and you need your computer?
This opens up for some potential issues. So in reality, it’s a fine backpack, but the zipper placement is a bit of a letdown.
Some of the highlights of the backpack do include:
Toss it over your shoulder and you’ll instantly look like you’re heading out on safari. If Indiana Jones had a camera backpack, this would be the backpack he’d wear.
Most camera backpacks more or less look the same. There’s the black design and that’s it. There isn’t much in way of color or visual aesthetic to it.
While the physical design and features of a camera backpack are what sells it, the looks of this one already set it apart. It really does scream “adventurer.”
The backpack claims it can be converted from a traditional school backpack to a DSLR camera travel backpack. It does have that kind of rugged feature, which is nice.
With this backpack, there are two major compartments. There’s the top half, which can be accessed by flipping over the top of the canvas, and the bottom half, which can be removed via a zipper. You don’t need to fully open up the entire backpack to grab something, which is great.
However, the backpack doesn’t have movable partitions. The base portion is designed to hold lenses, but there’s nothing that really separates the lenses from one another, and you don’t want your lenses clanking against one another.
You can use the old photographer trick and slip a sock over each for some added protection, but deep down, do you really want a cool looking backpack, only to pull out a lens wrapped in a tube sock?
There also isn’t a true laptop sleeve in the backpack. There’s room for a tablet, which may be enough for you, but if you do a good amount of photo editing, you probably want your laptop.
This is the kind of bag where you need to decide if you want a backpack that can function as a suitable camera backpack, or do you want a very specific camera backpack. If you don’t have much in way of gear, this is a great looking bag that feels exceptional while you’re walking around with it.
However, if you have a good amount of gear, the lack of moveable partitions will be an issue (the base portion does allow you to move from a single bottom to partitioning it off into thirds, but outside of this there aren’t any customizable features).
Some of the main benefits of the backpack include:
Is different good?
This is the kind of bag you’d want to wear on a short outing to the city or a local museum. A destination where you might not need a ton of gear.
This backpack doesn’t have a ton of external pockets. Outside of a few zippers, you’ll need to access everything inside the main compartment. However, for the size, the main compartment is excellent.
First, there’s a dedicated laptop sleeve, which is fantastic.
The backpack is also, much like the canvas backpack, broken down into two sections. There’s a top portion, where it’s an open space, allowing you to drop in your camera, extra sweatshirt or other odds and ends. The bottom portion is really where the camera backpack feature comes in. It has a number of partition options, each of which allows you to customize it to fit your needs.
Now, if you have a telephoto lens it probably isn’t going to fit, but anything smaller than that and you’re good to go.
There’s even a fantastic quick-release battery compartment. This way, you can just pop the top and grab the batteries.
And we all know, you’ll need to change your battery or the memory card at the worst time, so having this feature is nice.
There is no internal compartment for a tripod, but there are a side clip and strap for one, which secures the tripod to the backpack. This is a nice feature and helps free up some internal space for other equipment.
The padding on the backpack is a bit thin, so it’s not something you’d want to go hiking with.
However, for those city shoots, this is a great backpack for the price.
Some of the features of the bag include:
As long as it’s not the 17-inch kind. If you have a bigger laptop, it still won’t fit (15.6 inches or smaller).
This is another camera backpack designed more for city shooting. It has the colorful design that relies on more than just black, which is nice.
It has a top compartment which you can place odds and ends into. Then there’s the camera compartment, which has enough space for up to five lenses.
The only issue with this design though is the access point for the laptop is in the portion against your back.
This means you’ll need to completely take off the backpack and spread it out on the ground. That can be inconvenient in a variety of ways. There are some quick access panels on the sides for some gear, but the access panels in the back of a backpack are not all that desirable.
A fold-out side pocket on the backpack makes it easy to strap a tripod to your pack. The external tripod is often the way to go as it frees up more space internally while allowing you to carry larger tripods.
Some of the benefits of this backpack include:
This bag is the first to really give a professional the kind of space needed.
The backpack has a number of helpful, easy access compartments, with slots for tablets, laptops, writing equipment and other gear you might want to have on hand.
It doesn’t have any free, open pouches like the other equipment. Everything is a partition, so you can secure everything.
Open up the rear zipper, which opens up the entire backpack, and you have room for all of your lenses (including a telephoto lens). This total open zipper is good when you have space to place the backpack down on the studio floor.
At the top of the backpack, there’s a quick access compartment, which allows you to easily pull out your camera.
The entire interior can be optimized for your personal needs.
The only downside at all to this backpack is the lack of a tripod carrying strap.
Some of the benefits of this camera backpack include:
The air vented padding on the back and shoulder straps make all of this possible.
If you’ve suffered through bad shoulder and back sweats from poorly vented backpacks before, you know how important this feature is.
The backpack also has a dedicated laptop compartment and some slots for other gear, although most of the space is dedicated toward the interior partitions.
There’s room for just about everything here and you can really make it your own. Whether you need extra flashes, lenses, audio recording equipment or something else, you’ll have space for this.
There are also quick access points, both at the top of the backpack and at the side. This way, you can quickly grab a different lens or the camera itself.
There is a dedicated laptop compartment on this, although it’s only an 11-inch compartment, so in reality, it’s better suited for a tablet (most laptops are at least 13 inches in size). That’s realistically the biggest problem with the bag.
Some of the benefits of this camera backpack include:
It has more padding so when you’re out in rugged areas, you won’t need to worry about your gear.
There’s also a dedicated tripod attachment for this backpack, which is great.
It still has the air ventilated padding, allowing it to feel more comfortable.
Thankfully, this backpack ups its laptop compartment game to 15 inches, so you will be able to fit most laptops in.
The interior of the backpack is similar, allowing you to partition off the backpack as you need to.
There are also five modular accessories that come with it. This includes the tripod cup, water bottle pouch, slip lock (for hanging from the base of your tripod) and other accessories.
Now, you can’t always use all the accessories at once, as some do attach to the backpack in similar locations. However, these added customizable features are excellent.
If you have the money to spare, this backpack is well worth the added investment over its smaller brother.
Some of the backpack benefits include:
While a smaller size, it still gives you room to fit up to eight additional lenses within the backpack.
It had a dedicated laptop compartment. It will fit all 13-inch laptops. Some 15-inch laptops with wider bezels will not fit though.
The design of the backpack is closer to a carry-on piece of luggage than a backpack. That’s good for airports, but if you intend on wearing it for long periods of time it may not be the best option. It does ditch a much of the back and shoulder support.
It also doesn’t have a ton of the quick access compartments you’d find on backpack specific equipment.
This backpack is better suited if you’re traveling and headed toward dedicated locations where you can use the backpack more as a camera case. It’s not designed for rugged travel, hiking or other activities where you’ll be moving about.
Some of the benefits of this backpack include:
The backpack does have a fully customizable interior, allowing you to hold a DSLR with up to five lenses.
It is made of a water-resistant material.
Magnetic straps also make it easy to secure everything.
One of the better features on the bag is the crisscrossing front straps. You may find this a bit odd at first, but it does improve the support and weight distribution. It also makes it impossible for anyone to snatch the backpack off your shoulders (if you’re worried about that).
The VINTA backpack isn’t the pack when you want a ton of compartments for your camera gear. But when you want to travel with select lenses and equipment, all while looking great, there’s no better option for the price.
Some of the features of this camera backpack include:
The build grade is excellent on this backpack and it looks excellent.
It also comes in several different color options to meet your personal style needs. it’s also an exceptionally comfortable bag with the way it contours along your back. Weight placement in the bag is fantastic.
It also has clip-on attachment features, allowing you to quickly expand to carry a water bottle, tripod or anything else you need to grab quickly.
If you want a combination of great looks and design, this is a solid option.
It holds up to a 15-inch laptop and has side pull-out panels that are great for storing added gear.
However, the backpack isn’t all that large and doesn’t hold a large amount of gear. Nor does it have a large amount of protective cushion. The interior also doesn’t give you as many customizable features (and it can be a bit tricky to get into sometimes).
Some of the benefits of this camera backpack include:
Sometimes you need a full camera studio.
Perhaps you’re traveling across town (or across the country) to a photo shoot and you need everything you’d have in a studio. Tossing everything into most camera bags wouldn’t work, but it would with this Lowepro PRO Runner.
This bag gives you all the room you’d need for a portable studio, making this a fantastic bag for when you are a professional and you need as much portable space as possible.
The fully customizable interior allows you to pack just about anything, including a laptop up to 15.4 inches in size.
There is a tripod strap on the rear, although this is best suited for smaller laptops.
The wheels are also nice unless you plan on hiking or wearing the backpack for long periods of time. If you are, wheels pushed against your back is not a great long-term feeling. It’s also missing some of the quick access compartments.
Some of the benefits of this backpack include:
It’s a sturdy construction and looks good, but you don’t have much room for anything.
It does fit up to a 17-inch laptop, which is fantastic, plus up to seven additional lenses (although unless you’re counting small, fisheye lenses, you’ll only fit around four or five attachments.
This is a nice looking backpack and some helpful side compartments, but if you’re shopping for a camera backpack specific pack, this is missing a number of features you’d want. And for the price, you’re better off going with something else.
Some features of the backpack include:
Selecting the right backpack is really a personal preference. You need to decide if you want it to be specifically for use with your camera, or if you want to swap out camera gear for clothing from time to time.
You also need to decide how you plan on using the backpack. Do you want it to travel with you in museums or on hiking trails? That will help you decide what backpack works for you. For the money, we like the Lowepro ProTactic 450 as it really has everything you’d want in a camera backpack. But in reality, it comes down to what works best for you.
So which camera backpack did you buy? What features do you look for? Let us know!
Disclosure: The product recommendations are not sponsored and are chosen by our editorial staff. We may earn an affiliate commission when you purchase an item through our links.
Photo Credit: Unsplash