If you need to carry a lot of camera equipment any kind of distance, then you need a backpack. We've picked the best camera backpacks around right now.
The increased capacity and comfort of the best camera backpacks makes these some of the best camera bags you can buy. The best backpacks will usually contain enough space for a full-frame body mounted to a sizeable telephoto lens, along with a complete complement of extra optics and accessories. Expect at least one tripod mounting point, plus a separate space for a full-size laptop. A good backpack will also typically carry not only camera gear, but also essentials like an extra layer of clothing, more camera accessories, or even a drone.
Before you select a camera backpack, consider your own specific needs. If you’re after the best landscape shots you’re probably going to be hiking to get them, so choose a bag with comfortable straps, a waterproof cover, and a water bottle holder. For those driving between landscape locations, those features are much less important. If you’re after urban landscapes, go for as slim a bag as possible, and avoid dangly straps and hip belts, which are a pain on public transport.
You should also think about versatility, since many backpacks can be transformed into regular bags of the kind you might take to work, or on an overnight trip. If you travel light, some can double as carry-on luggage when flying and are a great alternative to even the best roller bag.
Whatever your needs, a backpack needs to protect your camera. Its inner movable dividers should suit your camera and lenses. A 30cm interior width is ideal for three rows of full-frame lenses, while around 25cm is better suited to the same arrangement of smaller-diameter APS-C or Micro Four Thirds optics.
Here’s our pick of the best camera backpacks you can buy right now…
The best camera backpacks in 2020
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.
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.
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.
The versatile Manfrotto Pro Light pack is designed for a DSLR kit, video set-up, or a small drone. In DSLR mode the lower two thirds of the bag will house a body with attached lens, surrounded by up to five extra lenses. Flaps on either side let you easily access your camera on the go, but the main front panel can slightly restrict access to lenses stored at the top. Comfort is acceptable, but the shoulder straps feel a bit cheap and aren’t the widest. They can turn the bag into a sling, however, and will tuck behind the back panel when you need them out of the way. We also like this camera backpack's simple, secure tripod attachment.
The StreetWalker from Think Tank lines 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.
If you need to carry a lot of camera kit for extended periods and across land and air, this is the bag to have. Its 35 x 24 x 62cm exterior size will meet most long-haul cabin bag regulations, while the all-weather outer materials and additional seam-sealed rain cover will keep your gear well protected, rain or shine. And there's certainly a lot of gear you can keep in here. The 31 x 17 x 46cm interior is spacious enough for a full-frame DSLR with up to a 600mm lens attached, plus up to 6 extra lenses stored on either side. There's also a slot for a 15-inch laptop, and further space for a 10-inch tablet. What's more, the bag's lid incorporates additional storage for other items or personal effects, and this whole section can be detached and worn separately as a shoulder bag. Straps on the front panel can secure a tripod or hiking poles, and there are numerous other smaller pockets dotted around the bag for memory cards, batteries, and other accessories. Factor the sumptuous gear padding inside, plus the extremely comfortable shoulder straps, back padding and detachable wide hip belt, and you really do get what you pay for with this top-notch backpack.
Another side-opener, the Fastpack 250's main camera zone can be opened up all the way across the front, so it's easy to organise. It takes a DSLR with a big zoom lens attached, and there's room enough for at least three other lenses. The back panel has a side-zipped pocket for a 15in laptop and tablet, and there are two other zones for storing accessories and clothes. It's designed to be worn for long periods out on a shoot, so the ergonomically padded shoulder straps and hip belt are useful. There's even a strap that attaches the Fastpack 250 to the handles of rolling luggage at the airport. Too big? A smaller Fastpack 150 is also available.
Thule has thought of everything on the hiking-ready Aspect camera backpack. A side-opening area is big enough for a DSLR and a few lenses, with a stretch pocket in the lid for SD card pockets and accessories. Almost hidden from view within the cushioned back panel is a large laptop pocket, which also stows a tablet, while a top compartment is roomy enough for lunch or even a small drone, such as the DJI Mavic Pro. It's even got comfy straps and a supportive hip belt that's removable. The only thing we're not so keen on is that the main DSLR area could be easier to access and customise. Overall, this is a brilliant backpack that deserves its spot in our list.
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 laptop and a 12.9-inch tablet.
If you’re traveling with a lot of expensive camera gear, it’s best not to be obvious about it. A mostly watertight and toughly made backpack, the beauty of the 23-litre Niko is that it doesn’t look like a camera backpack. With a rear-opening allowing easy access to all gear simultaneously, the Niko’s main compartment has six areas for lenses and gear, though it’s all totally customizable thanks to Velcro dividers. Three pockets store SD cards while a zip on the side of the bag opens-up a slip pocket for a 13-inch laptop. However, although a pocket on the side is designed to take a foot of a tripod, the front has two very large, heavy-duty (and reflective) Velcro straps that can secure virtually anything.