The best camera bag for travel can mean a bag for hikers, for air-travel, for city-breaks, or a whole lot more. Ideally, a good travel camera bag should let you carry a decent amount of gear, without adding too much weight itself. It should have decent weatherproofing, some padding for the kit inside, and well padded straps and handles that make it comfortable to carry for extended periods.
So, quite a tall order then! Fortunately, manufacturers have proven themselves to be up to the task, and there are loads of fantastic camera bags out there. So much so that it can be hard to know where to start, which is why we've divided our guide up into sections for the different types of camera bag out there.
First, we've picked some of the best ultra-compact holsters, which are designed to take a camera and lens and essentially nothing else. Next, we've picked out our favourite one-shoulder messenger bags and sling bags, for those who like a stylish bag with plenty of accessibility. After that, we've got the best photo backpacks for those who are carrying a bit more kit, or taking it on an extended hike. If you're travelling through airports then the roller bags section will be worth a look, and finally, our picks of the best hard cases are there for those who need the most comprehensive gear protection possible.
Like we said, there's a lot of choice out there. So, let's dive straight into the best camera bags for travel you can buy!
The best camera bag for travel
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Holsters and pouches
This clever holster from Matador is ideal for those who like to head out for wet-weather hikes. It pack in a clever waterproof cover, which scrunches down so small you may not notice it, but can be pulled out at a moment's notice to cover the entire shell, making for a double waterproof cover for your gear. Capacity-wise, the Matador Camera Base Layer is about average for a holster – as we noted in our review, it's not going to hold a full-frame DSLR with a telephoto lens, but it can stretch pretty well, and most lightweight mirrorless and compact setups should be fine.
The Matador Camera Base Layer is more about weather protection than impact protection, and isn't really padded to any great extent. It's therefore an excellent choice for hikers and country-walkers – perhaps less so for city explorers who might want some padding against knocks and bumps.(opens in new tab)
The Camslinger is essentially a bag on a belt, which is more than capable of supporting full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless camera with a medium-sized lens. The belt takes the weight of the kit, meaning that your back or shoulder doesn't have to. It also has an ingenious closure mechanism, which can be undone with one hand – but can not be accidentally opened. With your camera on your waist, you can access your camera more quickly, and change lenses on the move, more easily with most other bags.
Let's get this out of the way now: if you're on a strict budget, Billingham camera bags aren't for you. They're premium products, hand-crafted and finished with fine materials, and they come with a price tag that reflects that. They're also made using real leather – so if you avoid animal products, best look elsewhere.
If neither of those criteria apply to you, the Billingham Eventer MKII is a top-tier camera bag. We were hugely impressed with the bag when it came in for a full review; it's superbly designed, with smooth dividers that keep your gear safe while allowing it to slide smoothly in and out. The two expanding front pockets are also amazing – they just swallow up gear, and keep swallowing it up with space to spare.
Fancy the convenience of a messenger-style bag, but not the cost of a luxury offering like the Billingham Hadley One? The No-reg messenger-30 is much easier on the bank balance, so you needn't worry as much if you're travelling off the beaten track. The urban camo look should also help you blend in as a city native and stop you standing out as a tourist ripe for unwanted attention.
Then there's the bag's standout feature: versatility. On the one hand it's a regular shoulder bag, but the removable padded camera insert also has its own shoulder strap, giving you an additional smaller photography bag for quick photo expeditions. Plus, there's a removable padded laptop sleeve on the back that's useful when you're back home, but can be detached when travelling light. And if you just need an overnight bag that fits airline carry-on regulations, you can take off the laptop sleeve, remove the camera insert and stuff in all the clothes, toiletries and other bits and bobs you need for your overnight stay.
The laptop sleeve is big enough for a 15-inch laptop and there's a sleeve for a 9.7-inch tablet too. On the front of the bag is a pair of straps for a lightweight travel tripod, covered neatly when you clip down the oversized lid. This also has a zipper to allow camera access without unclipping the lid again.
Dig around inside and you'll also find a rain cover which stretches over the top to keep out the worst of the weather.
This tough bag is the first sling-style bag from Niko, and it's an admirable attempt to marry the comfort and utility of a backpack with the to-hand convenience of a sling bag. Does it succeed? Well, we've had the bag in for a full review, and would have to say that it broadly does – the top-opening and design and crossbody strap make it easy to access your gear within seconds' notice. Also, the optional extra security clip that attaches to the cross-body strap is a rally handy extra for those who worry a sling bag won't be secure enough.
It fits a full-frame system – though is probably more comfortable with APS-C DSLR or smaller mirrorless cameras. We also love the fold-out front pocket, which is a great place to store extra accessories like batteries and SD cards.
Vanguard is known for its innovative photo accessories, such as its tri-footed monopods (it makes sense when you see it), and this bag is another fine example.
The Vanguard Alta Rise 43 Sling features a useful expansion system, using a single zip to add 6cm of storage width to the interior in a single motion. It's capable of fitting a camera of pretty much any size, up to pro DSLR specs, as well as 4-5 lenses and other accessories.
All this does make it pretty bulky, especially for a sling bag, but if you don't mind the size and weight, it's one of the most versatile bags for travel out there.
Camera backpacks have got a bit samey over the years, and we can all admit that the boxy black designs, while functional, are not the most exciting. The Morally Toxic range, a spin-off from tripod manufacturers 3 Legged Thing, is an attempt to blow some of the dust out and rethink what camera bags can look like – and their backpack, the Morally Toxic Valkyrie, is a triumph.
The smart design gives you access to your gear from all angles, without compromising security or weatherproofing thanks to the tough zips. Also, the "Morally" in the name refers to the fact that the bags are manufactured responsibly, with minimal plastic, and recycled ocean plastics used where possible.
If you like the sound of the Morally Toxic Valkyrie but would prefer a messenger of sling, then consider the Morally Toxic Wraith (opens in new tab), which is the second debut bag in the range. We're hoping for a lot more in the future, as we reckon the makers are onto a good thing here.
While mirrorless cameras my be the tools of the moment, there are loads of photographers out there who still find the good old DSLR to be their ideal workhorse camera. The Tenba DNA 16 DSLR Backpack is designed for those who have a chunkier setup and a lot to carry – it's got a dedicated, removable section for DSLR-carrying, and you can use the top section to carry all sorts of miscellaneous kit. Our reviewer used it for a gimbal and a smallish JOBY panning/tracking electric tripod, to give you an idea of the kind of space you have to work with. The large sleeve for a laptop or iPad is handy too, and we like that the water-repelling fabric pairs with a water-resistant weatherwrap cover for serious bad-weather protection.
When you need to travel with multiple cameras and lenses, even carrying it all in a camera backpack could become a burden. Transporting everything in a wheeled roller bag and letting the ground take the strain may therefore be a better option.
At first glance Manfrotto's Reloader Switch-55 looks like a typical roller bag. Its external 55 x 35.5 x 23cm dimensions meet most airline cabin baggage requirements, and this translates to an equally practical 47 x 32 x 18cm interior - enough for a decent selection of full-frame cameras and lenses in a variety of configurations. A large, top-loading slot on the front panel can accommodate a 17” laptop, and there’s a tripod attachment on one side.
The Reloader Switch-55 is also beautifully made and feels reassuringly rugged. Its internal skeleton resists hard knocks and abuse, while generously thick internal padding cossets your gear.
But the standout feature of this bag is that it can also be worn as a backpack - ideal if some parts of your journey will be over terrain too rough for the bag's wheels. Discreetly stowed in a concealed front pocket are two wide shoulder straps that pack impressively flat. The conversion isn’t the quickest, but the end result is surprisingly comfortable.
Despite the straps and quality build, the bag still weighs a reasonable 4kg.
This may be one of the priciest camera roller bags you can buy, but you get what you pay for. It's built for pro photographers, and the interior is cleverly shaped to fit a pair of gripped DSLR bodies and lenses as large as a 500mm f/4. There’s also space for a 15” laptop and 10” tablet, plus a tripod on the side. It’s carry-on suitable at 53.3 x 35.6 x 20.3 cm, though we measured the external thickness at 23cm.
Though all of the bags in this guide are built to last, the Airport International V3 exudes supreme quality at every point, from the handle down to the zippers. It lacks the sheer rigidity of a full-blown hard case, but zipped shut it still manages to retain its shape when stood on, partly thanks to the excellent, well-padded rigid interior dividers.
Smart touches include a four-stage extending handle that only intrudes half-way down the bag when stowed, generously-sized underside scuff panels, a stout zipper lock, and even a coated cable and combination lock to tie the bag to an immovable object.
Hard cases for cameras offer the best possible protection for your gear, short of locking it in a safe, and they’re still fairly portable for travelling. Peli’s Air cases are more portable than most rivals, having been designed to be 40% lighter than a regular Peli hard case of the same size.
Consequently the Air 1535 weighs just 3.95kg, though that’s only for the plastic shell. Load it with foam padding or a divider insert and the weight difference between this and the equivalently-sized Peli Protector 1510 hard case is more marginal. That said, the Air Case 1535 is fitted with wheels, so even though this is one of the heavier modes of transport on this list, you won't have to carry it far.
With external dimensions of 55.8 x 35.5 x 22.8cm, this case has been designed to stay compliant with most airline cabin luggage rules. But if it does have to go in the hold, you needn't worry, as your gear will stay unharmed even if it encounters the most careless baggage handler. We did our best to burst the Air Case 1535, and while it does flex slightly more when crushed than some heavier hard cases, the difference is reassuringly small. This case is also fully waterproof in addition to being crushproof - your camera gear will stay dry even in a monsoon downpour.
The default interior option is diced foam. You can also spec a Velcro divider insert, but we sampled for Peli’s innovative TrekPak system. This uses sheets of corrugated plastic sandwiched between layers of dense, closed-cell foam. There’s a bespoke cutter included so you can slice each sheet into strips to fit around the gear you want to carry, and the joins are secured by special hooped pins. It’s a very nicely engineered padding system that’s more elegant than basic Velcro dividers, but it's a bit less soft and cossetting than a more conventional foam interior.
We love a camera bag/case that can fit in airline hand luggage, but sometimes you just have to travel with too much camera gear for that, so checking it into the hold is your only option.
In this case, you may as well go large, and at 63 x 52 x 24cm on the outside, the Supreme 53D hard case from Vanguard certainly is that. The payoff is a capacious 56 x 45 x 20cm interior - large enough to carry a serious amount of gear. Thankfully the 53D also has wheels, which are a real must as the case weighs over 10kg, and that's when it's empty.
The D in 53D signifies this case carries a removable padded divider insert, rather than the 53F which contains cubed foam. The 53D is little more expensive than the 53F, but the price difference isn't vast and the D is the smarter buy if you need to reconfigure your interior to carry varied kit requirements. The divider insert is highly customisable, but annoyingly it doesn’t quite fill the whole case, leaving some room for it to wobble around.
Despite its large size, the 53D feels every bit as invincible as more compact cabin-sized cases, with its lid held shut by no fewer than six latches. It’s also rated to withstand 120kg of crushing and is waterproof to a 5m depth.
How we test camera bags
At DCW, we thoroughly test the camera gear that comes our way. With camera bags, we look at build quality, capacity, weatherproofing, ease of use, and any other features that feel relevant to the photographers and videographers who will be using the kit. We have a team of in-house experts who take bags out into the field to see how they perform in real-world shooting scenarios, and we use their findings and opinions to inform our comments in buying guides.
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