The best camera backpacks in 2024: carry all your cameras, lenses, and accessories

Best camera backpacks for adventures and photoshoots
(Image credit: Future)

Before you read this buying guide it’s worth considering whether you need a camera backpack, a messenger bag, or a sling bag - which is a smaller version of a traditional camera shoulder bag, a shoulder bag tends to be less capacious than a backpack, so there’s less room for non-photographic peripherals. 

Many backpacks can accommodate a mix of clothing, laptops, and camera gear as well as extra photographic accessories such as a drone. The camera backpacks in this guide range from a storage capacity of 7 to 35 liters, so there should be something to suit your specific photographic transport needs.

There will be a wide range of photographers reading this camera backpack guide. You may be a landscape photographer who needs to carry a collection of camera bodies, lenses, and accessories into the wilds while simultaneously keeping their precious kit protected from the elements. 

You may be a travel photographer who needs to travel light but also requires a backpack that they can fit a few clothes into while on a trip abroad. Travel bags may also need to comply with the strict luggage size requirements of various airlines. 

Whatever your needs as a photographer this buying guide should feature a backpack to suit your particular requirements.  

Best camera backpacks: Our top picks

The best camera backpacks in 2024

Why you can trust Digital Camera World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out how we test.

Best camera backpack overall

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
Best backpack for photographers who need to travel light and fast

Specifications

External dimensions (WxDxH): 45 x 34 x 18 cm (expanded)
Internal dimensions (WxDxH): Not specified
Backpack type: Cube/daypack
Camera access: Top
Laptop compartment: No
Tripod fastener: No
Chest / Waist strap: Yes / No
Baggage trolley strap: No
Rain-proof cover: N/A
Weight: 0.6kg

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and compact
+
Fits in a larger backpack
+
It’s a backpack in its own right
+
Saves you extra airline luggage charges 
+
Water resistant

Reasons to avoid

-
No padding on straps
-
Flimsy upper section

The Gomatic (or Nomatic in the States) McKinnon Cube Pack 21L is both a camera cube and a backpack. In its camera cube form, the Cube Pack is a small rugged box (7L) that contains space for a small DSLR or compact camera, a lens, and a range of accessories such as chargers. The contents of the cube can be separated by dividers that you can re-arrange using a ‘hook and loop’ velcro system.  

The cube is designed to fit inside the larger McKinnon Camera Backpack 25L (see our next review), but this is not necessary, if you want to travel light then you can transform the cube into a 21L backpack by simply unzipping a compartment. Think of the larger 25L McKinnon backpack as the mother ship and the Cube Pack as a shuttle that you can use to transport your kit on shorter trips.

When deployed in its backpack form you can use the McKinnon Cube Pack to transport camera gear and a collection of clothes in the space on the floor by your feet when flying (which saves you the cost of paying extra for overhead luggage space.) On a three-day trip to Poland, the Cube Pack was all we needed to carry kit and clothing (and we welcomed the concealed zippable passport pocket inside the backpack section of the Cube Pack.) It is also water resistant so our kit stayed dry when it rained on our shoot.

Read more: Nomatic McKinnon Cube Pack (21L) review

Best backpack for general use

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
The best backpack for general use

Specifications

External dimensions (WxDxH): 33 x 19 x 48 cm
Internal dimensions (WxDxH): 28 x 14 x 28 cm
Backpack type: Split photo/daypack
Camera access: Top, front
Laptop compartment: 16 inch
Tripod fastener: Yes
Chest / Waist strap: Yes / No
Baggage trolley strap: Yes
Rain-proof cover: Optional extra
Weight: 1.4kg

Reasons to buy

+
Clever ladder system
+
Optional storage cubes
+
Stylish but tough

Reasons to avoid

-
Not supplied with waist strap
-
Works out pricey with extras

This spacious 25L backpack has a ‘ladder’ system that enables you to adjust the size of its internal compartments so that there’s more space for camera gear and less room for other items such as clothes (or vice versa). The ladder is simply a hinged divider that you can reposition with ease. 

However, to make this backpack suit your photographic storage needs you may need to spend more money on modular accessories such as a range of camera cubes that are available in different sizes.  You can set up the interior of these cubes (using adjustable ‘hook and loop’ velcro dividers) to suit various shooting scenarios and then pop the appropriate cube into the 25L backpack. 

If you need to use the McKinnon as a non-photographic backpack then you can remove the cubes to make more space. You can also pop the McKinnon Cube Pack (see review above) into the 25 L backpack.

I tested the McKinnon 25 L backpack by transporting my mobile photography gear to shoot an orchestra. I didn’t use any camera cubes as I needed to fit a chunky SmallRig All-In-One Kit for Smartphones carry case inside the backpack. I also carried a wide range of smaller accessories such as a Hollyland Lark M1 microphone kit that I used to interview the conductor and various musicians. 

The smaller accessories such as cables and chargers fit nicely into the backpack interior’s zipped compartments. These pockets were made of mesh so I could easily spot and access the appropriate accessories stored inside them. I also enjoyed storing my iPad and its keyboard in a zipped storage section so I could write up my review on the train journey back from the shoot. 

Read more: Gomatic McKinnon Camera Backpack (25L) review

Best backpack for DLSR cameras

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
Best backpack for outdoor and adventure DSLR photographers

Specifications

External dimensions (WxDxH): 29.5 x 20 x 54 cm
Internal dimensions (WxDxH): 28.5 x 19 x 53 cm
Backpack type: Split photo/daypack
Camera access: Top, front
Laptop compartment: 15 inch
Tripod fastener: Yes
Chest / Waist strap: Yes / Yes
Baggage trolley strap: Yes
Rain-proof cover: Yes
Weight: 2.61kg

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of pockets
+
Comfortable, adjustable straps
+
Can order women's straps for it
+
Built-in whistle!
+
Water-resistant 

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy when filled

As the name suggests the Explore V2 backpack range is designed to suit the needs of the travel/adventure photographer and it does this with aplomb! You’ll enjoy populating the various compartments and pockets of this backpack with a range of DSLR accessories. You can then access various items quickly and easily using one of the multiple entry points into the bag.  As with the McKinnon 35L (reviewed above), you need to buy additional internal storage packs - or Core module units - to help keep your camera gear organized. 

When testing the Shimoda we used a medium Core unit which left us extra space to store kit (or clothing) outside of the Core. The larger Core unit fills more of the backpack’s interior, leaving less space for clothing.  There’s also a padded storage space for a 15-inch laptop in case you need to do any photo processing while away on a shoot. 

Once we filled the Shimoda with a wide range of DSLR kit it weighed in at a heavy 12 Kilos, but the backpack’s sturdy and padded shoulder straps and the supporting waist strap made it surprisingly comfortable to carry - even on hilly terrain. 

Female photographers can choose to ship the Shimoda with women’s shoulder straps at no extra cost, and these come in three sizes. Check out my colleague Hannah Rooke’s full review for a female perspective on the Shimoda Explore 35L.

The Explore V2 is made of water-resistant nylon which is essential if you’re heading into the wet wilds to capture some stunning landscape shots. Most of the external zips are protected by a seal that stops water entering the backpack when the zips are shut. A nice touch is a whistle that’s built into the chest strap so you can signal for assistance if you get into trouble and there’s no phone signal!

Read more: Shimoda Explore V2 35L review

Best backpack for comfort

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
Best backpack for carrying your gear in comfort

Specifications

External dimensions (WxDxH): 33.0 x 24.1 x 50.8 cm
Internal dimensions (WxDxH): Not specified
Backpack type: Split photo/daypack
Camera access: Either side
Laptop compartment: 17 inch
Tripod fastener: No
Chest / Waist strap: Yes / No
Baggage trolley strap: Yes
Rain-proof cover: No
Weight: 1.78kg

Reasons to buy

+
Adjustable storage layout
+
2-point kit access
+
Plenty of extra pockets and compartments
+
Comfortable to carry

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Chest strap clip can be a bit fiddly

Although the Dux (which is Australian slang for 'best-in-class') is not a dedicated camera backpack it will enable you to carry cameras, clothing, and computers thanks to its supplied adjustable padded dividers that you can reposition using a ‘hook and loop’ velcro system. So unlike the Shimoda Explore 35L and the Gomatic McKinnon 25L backpack, you don’t need to pay extra for modular storage units. 

At 30L in storage capacity, the Dux offers a compromise between the bulky (and heavy) 35L size of the Shimoda Explore and the smaller McKinnon’s 25L storage space.

If you do need to travel long distances with your kit then the Dux should make airport navigation a smoother experience. You can hook the Dux onto a wheeled suitcase by passing the luggage handle through the Dux’s lumbar support, making it easier to transport. When you need to provide your passport the Dux has a dedicated pocket at the top, so you can whip out your travel documents with ease.

The Dux also boasts a separate rear section that’s designed to hold a 17” laptop. This area is luxuriously padded so your device will slide in and out with ease. The bottom of the laptop storage area stops a few inches before the base of the backpack so if you drop the Dux the suspended laptop won’t bash against the backpack’s base. 

We found that the Dux was also comfortable to carry due to its padded dual-foam shoulder straps which were thick enough to spread the weight of the backpack’s contents. The thick gaps between the chunky molded foam back panel allowed air to circulate, reducing the chance of you getting a sweaty back while wearing the backpack

Read more: STM Dux Tech Backpack (30L) review

Best for outdoor sports photographers

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)
Best backpack for cross-purpose sport and photography use

Specifications

External dimensions (WxDxH): 31 x 24 x 54 cm
Internal dimensions (WxDxH): 30 x 22 x 52 cm
Backpack type: Split photo/sports
Camera access: Back and top
Laptop compartment: No
Tripod fastener: Yes
Chest / Waist strap: Yes / Yes
Baggage trolley strap: No
Rain-proof cover: Yes
Weight: 1.56kg

Reasons to buy

+
Constructed from sustainable material
+
Weather wrap for extra protection
+
Comfortable to carry
+
Safe and secure smartphone pocket
+
Shock cord webbing to secure sporting accessories and tripod pouch

Reasons to avoid

-
Camera insert (GearUp Pro Box) costs extra
-
Fiddly straps to attach GearUp PRO Box to bag interior
-
Not enough separate storage compartments for smaller items

The X in this backpack’s name indicates the cross-functionality of its design as a transporter of sports gear (such as mountaineering paraphernalia) or photography equipment. As with most backpacks in this guide, you have the option of purchasing internal storage units (Lowepro’s are called GearUp Pro boxes) that are designed to contain camera kit such as lenses, camera bodies, etc. Each box features adjustable dividers to suit your camera storage needs. 

GearUp boxes are available in different sizes so that you can completely fill the interior of the backpack, or use a smaller box to contain your camera kit and squeeze in some extra items. Each GearUp Pro box opens via a zip and it gives your camera kit an extra layer of protection. You can use straps to secure the GearUp Pro box to the interior of the backpack so that it doesn’t fall out (though we found these straps rather fiddly to attach).  

As you’d expect from Lowepro the PhotoSport X bag is sturdily constructed. A 45L version is available, though we tested a 35L backpack. The backpack’s Nylon and Polyester exterior helps protect your kit from wet weather (which was appreciated during our test shoot when it started to rain). If the rain gets more torrential you can unzip the bottom compartment and whip out a bright orange weather wrap that fits over the entire backpack. Like the Shimoda Explore V2, the PhotoSport X keeps its shape thanks to a rigid metal frame.

The carbonate-coated Diamond Ripstop material on the bottom of the backpack helps protect it from damage when you set it down for a breather. To access the main compartment you need to place the backpack face down and unzip it. We found that the shoulder straps could get in the way when we wanted to access the bag’s contents. You can also access the main compartment using a drawstring at the top of the backpack.

Read more: Lowepro PhotoSport X (35L) review

Best all-purpose hybrid camera backpack

(Image credit: George Cairns)
Best backpack for converting between DSLR and an everyday bag

Specifications

External dimensions (WxDxH): 28 x 20 x 51 cm
Internal dimensions (WxDxH): 25 x 13 x 23 cm
Backpack type: Split photo/accessories
Camera access: Bottom compartment
Laptop compartment: 16 inch
Tripod fastener: Yes
Chest / Waist strap: Yes / Yes
Baggage trolley strap: Yes
Rain-proof cover: Yes
Weight: 1.4kg

Reasons to buy

+
Expandable rolltop
+
Water repellant
+
Removable dedicated DSLR section
+
Plenty of pockets and compartments
+
Comfortable to carry

Reasons to avoid

-
Magnetic clasp is a bit nippy

The Tenba DNA 16 DSLR backpack has two main storage sections. The base section hinges out to reveal a classic DSLR bag interior, with padded pockets for a camera body and up to six lenses  So unlike the Shimoda Explore, the McKinnon 25L backpack, and the PhotoSport X there’s no need to buy additional storage cases for your DSLR camera kit. 

We were able to fit a Canon EOS 650D with an attached 24 - 70 mm 2.8 L lens into the center compartment of the Tenba DNA’s lower section. The camera and extra lenses are separated and protected by padding which you can remove or reposition thanks to hook and loop velcro strips. You can even lift out the whole of the DSLR storage area’s padded compartments if you want to use this lower section to store other items as an everyday bag. 

Because this lower section hinges back into the body of the backpack people won’t know that you’re carrying anything more valuable than your clothes, which should help protect your camera kit from unwanted attention.

The top of the Tenba is a general storage area for miscellaneous kit (or clothing). The top compartment also features a couple of little pockets which are handy for storing smaller items. This top section is accessed via a water-resistant rolltop which has velcro seals that enable you to extend storage capacity if required. After you’ve rolled and sealed the top there’s no danger of water invading the Tenba. 

You can carry the Tenba on your back, 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 more: Tenba DNA 16 DSLR backpack review

Best heavy duty camera backpack

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
The best camera backpack for heavy duty kit

Specifications

Weight: 3000g
Number of lenses: 8
Tripod connection: Yes
Personal items storage: Yes
Laptop storage: Yes (15in)
Dimensions: 56x36x35 cm

Reasons to buy

+
Shock-proof dividers
+
Comfortable for long wear

Reasons to avoid

-
Too big for airline carry-on
-
Heavier than others

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

Best ultra light camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)
Best ultra-light camera backpack for trail walking

Specifications

Dimensions: 25 x 17 x 50 cm
Weight: 400 g/0.9 lbs
Capacity: 18L
Materials: Nylon and carbonate (84% recycled fabric)

Reasons to buy

+
Folds up easily
+
Surprisingly sturdy
+
Extremely light

Reasons to avoid

-
You need a Lowepro GearUp insert to get the most out of it
-
You can get more bag for your buck

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

How to choose the best camera backpack

As you can see from this buying guide there is a wide range of backpack sizes available, so you need to decide if you need a capacious 35L backpack like the Shimoda Explore V2, or a smaller airline cabin-compatible backpack like the 21L McKinnon Cube Pack.  Many of our recommended backpacks require the purchase of additional camera storage units (or ‘cores’ or ‘boxes’ depending on the manufacturer) that you can pack with camera gear and insert into the backpack.

Although these modular units add to the expense of a backpack they can be very convenient as you can insert different units into your backpack depending on the type of shoot that you’re planning. For example, one unit might be packed with your DSLR, lenses, and external flash gun, while another box might be filled with your drone kit and its accessories. You can insert the relevant pre-packed storage unit quickly and easily. 

You may not need to buy an additional internal storage unit as some kit (such as camera cages and gimbals) come with their own specially designed carry cases that can slot straight into a larger backpack. If you don’t want to pay extra for storage units then consider backpacks such as the Tenba DNA 16 DSLR and the STM Dux which ship with DSLR hook and loop dividers.

How we choose the best camera backpacks

When choosing camera backpacks for this buying guide we tried to be relatively topical, so many of our featured backpacks (including the McKinnon Cube Pack 21L, the McKinnon Camera Backpack 25L, and the Lowepro Photosport X) were released within 12 months prior to this buying guide being compiled (though the Shimoda Explore V2 harks back to August 2022).  We also chose a spread of manufacturers to give you more choice and variety of backpack styles and prices. There are two Gomatic (or Nomatic in the States) backpacks in this guide but as one is designed to be stored inside we felt we should include them both.

How we test the best camera backpacks

I’ve had hands-on experience with all of the backpacks featured in this buying guide and I’ve also written all of the full reviews that this guide’s mini-reviews link to, with the exception of the full review of the Shimoda Explore V2 35L from Hannah Rooke, who gives a female perspective on using this bulky camera backpack. I still took the Shimoda Explore V2 35L on location to get hands-on experience. 

I used each backpack in this guide to transport video and photographic gear to various shoots. I filmed a video review of every backpack on location (from the South Downs in the UK to Krakow in Poland) and transported my gear in the specific backpack that was featured in each review, so I have hands-on experience using the camera backpacks for real shoots in a variety of rural and urban locations.

FAQs

How does a waterproof zip work

Many of the backpacks in this guide (such as the Shimoda Explore V2 and the McKinnon Cube Pack) have a water-resistant seal that overlaps the zips that give access to the backpack’s interior. As the zip closes the top of the seal connects with the bottom (like closed lips), ensuring that no water will enter the bag’s interior.  Many bags also ship with an additional water-resistant weather wrap that fits over the entire backpack for extra protection (such as the Lowepro PhotoSport X and the Ten DNA 16).

What is a roll top?

A rolltop (such as the one featured on the Tenba DNA 16 DSLR backpack) is a water-resistant flap of material that is folded inside the top of a backpack. If you need to extend the bag’s interior space then you can un-roll the material and fasten it with a clip. When the material is rolled in on itself it forms multiple water-resistant layers, so there is very little chance of any water getting into the backpack.

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 – some backpacks can also be found with side access, so you don't even need to put the bag down to get at your camera.

George Cairns

George has been freelancing as a photo fixing and creative tutorial writer since 2002, working for award winning titles such as Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N-Photo and Practical Photoshop. He's expert in communicating the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as producing video production tutorials on Final Cut Pro and iMovie for magazines such as iCreate and Mac Format. He also produces regular and exclusive Photoshop CC tutorials for his YouTube channel.