The best camera backpacks offer much more room for expansion while being comfortable to carry. They have tough exteriors designed to protect your gear from the elements, as well as padded interiors to stop lenses and cameras from rolling around and bashing into each other in transit.
DSLR and mirrorless camera kits have a habit of growing. Once you get beyond, say, a camera with a kit standard zoom lens, shoulder bags often run out of room. The best camera backpacks give much more room for expansion while helping to spread the load. Both shoulders share the burden, and weight is also distributed to your upper and lower back. It provides a much more comfortable and secure carrying experience.
The best camera backpacks also add versatility by including additional pockets for personal items, a separate compartment for a laptop or tablet (or both), and attaching a tripod to the outside.
The best camera backpacks in 2023
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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 favor 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 one of the most versatile camera backpacks we've ever tested.
Read our full Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II review for more details
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 - we found it a joy to use during our testing.
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.
Read our full Morally Toxic Valkyrie review for more details
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 our reviewer did find it could give his fingers a bit of a pinch before he got 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.
Read our full Tenba DNA 16 DSLR Photo Backpack review for more details
The Tenba Fulton v2 16L will suit photographers after a modern bag that houses all the essentials in a waterproof, ready-for-adventure design. It’s very secure, surprisingly spacious, and can be easily customized as a drone carrier, as well as a photography bag for urban shooters and content creators. The ability to carry a 16-inch MacBook Pro will really suit those who shoot and edit on the go.
When we tried cramming in a full-frame DSLR with longer telephoto lenses, we did find the internal storage a little tight - 70-200mm lenses are really the maximum the backpack can take. However, modern mirrorless shooters should have more than enough space for a full day's work. Smart and sensible, the Fulton v2 range provides versatile storage for a sensible price.
Read our full Tenba Fulton v2 16L backpack review for more details
Incredible images of wildlife are everywhere, but it’s rare to find a backpack that addresses 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-liter 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.
This is a bag that’s built for hardcore landscape or wildlife photographers - we found the padded back support and thick shoulder straps to be very comfortable on longer hikes. If you’re looking for a rucksack that’s built to withstand life on the trail, look no further.
Read our full Gitzo Adventury 30L camera backpack review for more details
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 room for a full-frame DSLR and a 70-200mm lens - we did try to fit this very set-up in the bag, but that's really not what it's designed for.
So you're using a light DSLR or 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 we can testify that it also works well as an all-purpose bag.
Read our full Tenba Shootout 14L Slim review for more details
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 that afford very good mobile access. Inside are internal dividers that form shelves attached to the front and back. These use a clever design that are we haven't really seen before on a bag we've reviewed - they 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.
Read our full Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L review for more details
A big, front-loading camera 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 customizability – you can even whip all the internal stuff out and just use it as a regular backpack if you want - we were then able to squash it down to a size where it might be more likely to fit into airline carry-on dimensions.
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.
Read our full Manfrotto Pro Light Flexloader L review for more details
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 and we found them surprisingly comfortable when walking round town.
Read our full Think Tank StreetWalker Pro V2.0 review for more details
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 an attached 70-200mm lens and up to four lenses around it.
The padding is some of the thickest we've seen on a camera backpack, 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 our full Vanguard Alta Sky 51D review for more details
Manfrotto's Advanced2 Befree Backpack is made for those who want a hard-wearing bag that protects in more ways than one. It is constructed of a weather-resistant material that keeps out the rain and is accessed from the rear, providing security.
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 traveling photographers.
The RunAbout Pack-Away Daypack is designed for short photo excursions away from camp. Lowepro’s lightest backpack weighs just 400g and rolls up into a compact 11x3.9-inch cylinder so you can slip it inside or attach it to your main rucksack with minimal impact on the overall load.
It’s a welcome alternative to making camp and then lugging around a 70L rucksack, and features a draw-string top and zipped back openings. It rolls up into a neat 11 x 3.9-inch bundle, super-light design, side pockets, and pull cords.
If you’re a photographer or hiker looking for an easy-to-stow daypack that’s genuinely easy to pack away, we think this little bag is a great choice.
Read our full Lowepro RunAbout BP 18L backpack review for more details
Plenty of thoughtful touches in the design of the Manfrotto PRO Light Multiloader Backpack make it ideal for photographers with multi-camera setups. Thanks to the side flaps, you can pivot the bag around on one shoulder and access your camera without needing to lay it on the ground. There’s also full access to the main lower section through a larger front flap.
Tripod fastener straps and the waist strap tuck away when not needed, making the bag more streamlined. The separate rear compartment fits a 16-inch laptop and there’s an additional zipped pocket on the right-hand side. The front flap and top flap feature small internal mesh pockets, and the front flap also has an external zipped pocket, so there are plenty of dedicated spaces for small items.
The backpack performs well in its standard configuration and you can also remove the divider between the main and top compartments, making one extra-large space. That can be a bonus if you’re shooting with a large super-telephoto lens. Build quality is good and versatility is excellent.
Read our full Manfrotto PRO Light Multiloader Backpack M review for more details
Once we’d filled the Tenba Axis V2 with a traditional DSLR and placed mobile photography devices such as a Vimble 3 gimbal in other compartments the combined weight of our backpack and kit was a hefty 7 KG. As you know, a heavy kit bag gets ‘heavier’ the longer you carry it, but the Tenba V2’s combination of thick padded shoulder straps and pads on the rear of the backpack kept the load bearable and comfortable.
The Tenba Axis V2’s multiple compartments, pouches, and pockets also offer you plenty of choices when it comes to organizing your kit. Its padded straps make it more comfortable to convey your equipment to a shoot and extra touches such as reflective webbing and a discrete Bluetooth tracker compartment help you feel safer and more confident in any location.
Read our full Tenba Axis V2 20L backpack review for more details
We found that the Dux was comfortable to carry and very capacious when it came to storing kit and clothing. Although it’s not dedicated to meeting the specific needs of photographers the adjustable velcro (hook and loop) shelves can be re-positioned to separate various devices.
The Dux is especially suitable when it comes to safely storing devices such as a laptop or tablet in separate padded sections. A plethora of pockets and pouches let you store useful accessories such as a passport and water bottle.
Read our full STM Dux 30L Tech Backpack review
How to choose the best camera backpack
What size of camera backpack do you need?
It’s common to concentrate on the external dimensions, but the internal size of the main camera compartment can be more important. Consider how much kit you carry on a daily basis – telephoto lenses will take up more room than pancake lenses.
What's the ideal interior layout for my gear?
A common feature for camera backpacks is to have interiors that are not only padded but also customizable, with Velcro dividers that can be rearranged and reoriented to fit snugly around your equipment. Try laying out all of your photography kit on a table, in the rough configuration they will go into your backpack. Leave a little space for internal dividers, then measure the size of the overall width, depth, and height.
What's the most convenient way to get into the camera backpack?
With traditional camera backpacks, you have to take the bag off and lay it down to access your camera and other gear – not ideal if the ground is wet or muddy. A couple of the backpacks in our list have rear access, so you can lay the bag down on its front – the Manfrotto PRO Light Multiloader M has no fewer than four entry points for your camera kit.
How we test camera backpacks
The camera backpacks reviewed in this guide are tested out in the field by experienced, knowledgeable reviewers who know the product area and have used them before. We test the quality of construction for each backpack, checking robustness as well as the ease of use and security of all zips and other fasteners.
We also check that the range of adjustments enables a comfortable fit for photographers with small, medium, and large builds. This extends not only to the main shoulder straps but also to the chest and waist straps if featured.
We check that the main camera compartment is well padded and offers good protection from bumps and knocks. Speed and ease of access to the kit is gauged, and some backpacks offer a range of front, rear, and side access point to the main compartment.
We test all additional features where included in the design. These can include tripod fasteners, laptop and tablet compartments, extra pockets and organizers for both photo kit and daily essentials, and pass-through straps for attaching the backpacks to luggage trolleys.
Why use a camera backpack?
When and why should you choose a camera backpack over a shoulder bag, for example?
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.
Backpacks spread the weight. The more gear you carry, the more it weighs. And it's much better to have that weight spread over two shoulders than one, especially if you have to do a lot of walking.
Backpacks offer more protection. Often you just need protection for your camera gear when you're traveling, 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, an extra jumper, a flashgun, or even a drone, a good photo backpack will probably be able to accommodate you.
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