Which camera backpacks are best?
Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a professional, a camera backpack is a great way to safeguard your camera equipment on your next excursion. And since they come in different designs and styles, you can still look fashionable while wearing one. The best one is the Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II, as it’s durable, has plenty of storage for your gear and will keep your camera from getting damaged.
What to know before you buy a camera backpack
The main styles of camera bag include:
- Over-the-shoulder bags: Also called shoulder bags or messenger bags, these are highly popular among photographers because they can hold a lot, including your main camera, a lens or two and larger accessories such as chargers.
- Sling bags: Similar to messenger bags in design, these are ideal for small to midsized cameras, a couple of lenses and other basic gear.
- Pouches: These are great for smaller cameras, cables and extra memory cards. They typically go around the waist, but some have one or two straps for over-the-shoulder use.
- Standard backpacks: With two straps for even weight distribution, these look like regular backpacks. They’re good for outdoor photography and hiking purposes. Some also have an external clip for a tripod.
- Rolling cases: Available in hard and fabric shells, these are handy if you need to carry a lot of different photography gear or equipment. They have wheels, but some also have straps you can use to wear on your back.
Depending on the design, carrying capacity and pockets, camera backpacks can fit anything you need for photography. This includes:
- Digital cameras
- Cords or cables
- Spare memory cards
- Lens cleaners or wipes
- Remote shutter releases
- Camera stabilizer
If you typically shoot with a standard DSLR or digital camera and don’t need a lot of extra equipment, choose a smaller bag with the right pockets to hold your things. But if you need several lenses, a tripod and other large gear, go with a bigger bag designed to hold everything.
Take inventory of what you usually need for your excursions before choosing a backpack. If you plan to get more equipment later, consider getting a slightly larger bag so you have space when the time comes.
Capacity and compartments
Most backpacks for cameras come in the following sizes:
- 20 to 30 liters: These standard-sized backpacks have several compartments and are big enough for a day trip or hiking.
- 30 to 70 liters: These larger capacity bags are ideal for overnight photography sessions or those who use a lot of gear.
- 70 liters and up: For outings that last multiple nights and require a lot of equipment, this size is generally perfect.
Regardless of size, many of these backpacks have internal inserts or dividers that separate smaller equipment from larger equipment. This can keep things from bumping into one another while you’re walking. This is especially important if you have more than one lens since it keeps them from getting scratched or irreparably damaged. Oftentimes, the inserts are removable or can be adjusted with Velcro, thus letting you customize how you store things.
Most also have a main compartment for the camera and two to five smaller ones for other gear or equipment, such as water bottles, lenses and storage cards. Depending on the bag, each section has either zippers, buckles or adjustable straps to keep the items secure.
What to look for in a quality camera backpack
Unlike regular backpacks, camera backpacks are uniquely designed to protect your photography equipment. They mainly do this with padding, which keeps everything in one place, so it doesn’t move around when you’re mobile. This padding is sometimes adjustable, letting you tailor it based on the size of whatever it is you’re carrying.
These bags also typically have a strong shell protecting against the elements, such as wind, snow or rain. This is especially important for outdoor enthusiasts and landscape photographers hoping to get the perfect shot. Since water damage is a major issue, make sure every zipper or other closure can completely close to keep out any moisture.
Check the bag for the quality of its stitching. Those with double stitches tend to last the longest and are stronger than others. Also, see if the backpack has a thick base, as this can make a difference in how well protected your gear is.
The most common materials found in camera backpacks are:
- Nylon: Resistant to water and dense, bags consisting of nylon are durable.
- Canvas: This moisture-resistant material can carry heavy equipment without losing its shape.
- Polyester: Great at repelling water, polyester is durable and can hold heavy loads.
- Hard plastic: Although it’s not very flexible, this material is resistant to damage, dries quickly and is easy to keep clean.
- Cotton canvas: Durable and reliable, this heavy-duty fabric is water-resistant.
- Leather: Flexible and sturdy, this natural material is waterproof and stylish.
- Ballistic nylon: Often used on the interior, ballistic nylon can keep moisture away from your gear.
Regardless of type, the straps should have enough padding to provide shoulder support and comfort for long-term use. They should also be adjustable for a perfect fit. Some backpacks come with a hip belt or strap that provides extra stability and support while limiting how much the bag moves while you’re walking.
Choose a camera backpack based on your torso length and the circumference of your hips. This ensures the bag fits well, reduces sway and maximizes comfort. This is especially helpful if you plan to wear it across long distances.
How much you can expect to spend on a camera backpack
Entry-level backpacks cost $40-$100, while more professional ones usually cost $150-$250.
Camera backpacks FAQ
Can I use a regular backpack to carry my equipment?
A. Traditional backpacks aren’t recommended for camera gear and other fragile equipment. This is because the compartments don’t always have enough padding and, in many cases, don’t come with inserts or dividers to keep things in place.
Do I need multiple camera bags?
A. It’s a good idea to get at least two backpacks, a smaller one for quick outings and a larger one for longer trips.
What are the best camera backpacks to buy?
Top camera backpack
What you need to know: This durable, modular backpack is insulated and has stretchable padding to keep all your camera gear safe and secure.
What you’ll love: This backpack has two comfortable straps. It also has movable panels to fit a lot of photography equipment. It consists of water-resistant, reliable material and is padded all around. It also comes with a water bottle pouch.
What you should consider: The zippers are inside, making them tricky to use at first.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top camera backpack for the money
What you need to know: This fashionable backpack is perfect for DSLR cameras, lenses and any other gear you need.
What you’ll love: Available in five colors, such as light pink and khaki, this high-capacity bag comes with customizable padded dividers you can adjust to fit your equipment. It consists of a strong, waterproof canvas and has lockable zippers to prevent theft.
What you should consider: There’s not a lot of padding at the base of the bag or waist strap, though the rest of the bag is well-padded.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This large, secure bag can fit everything from a camera and a tripod to a 15.6-inch laptop.
What you’ll love: It has a customizable interior with padded dividers. It also has multiple compartments for carrying smaller gear, such as chargers, cables and other accessories. Although it’s large, it’s not bulky. It’s available in six colors, including blue, purple and green.
What you should consider: The zippers aren’t very strong.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.