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Best photo vests: waistcoats and jackets with big pockets for photographers

Included in this guide:

Best photo vests
(Image credit: Getty )

The best photo vests might not be the cutting edge of fashion, but they will save your bacon when you've got a lot of kit to carry. We've rounded up the best photo vests available to help you choose the best vest for you.

A few things to consider

1. Find the right size: Most of the sizes available will be as expected, but if you're in doubt then you might want to size up – many of the vests will have drawstring waists and adjustable cuffs.

2. Pockets galore: The most useful thing about the best photo vests is how much they can carry. Some even have pockets that are big enough to hold a lens or two!

3. The sound of silence: If you're a wildlife photographer, you'll know how important it is to invest in wildlife-friendly clothing. Look for a neutral color that won't attract attention and a rustle-free fabric without any noisy hook-and-loop (also known as Velcro) fastenings to be as stealthy as possible.

While the best waterproof jackets for photographers and the best rain covers for cameras might be better equipped to handle sudden downpours of rain, the best photo vests are designed for pure practicality and ease when you're on a kit-heavy photoshoot. With pockets aplenty to choose from, photographers can easily store away their memory cards, spare batteries, lenses and more – the hardest part will be remembering where you've put everything! 

Being able to keep all of your photo gear on your person can be crucially important, especially if you're in a situation where you don't want to carry around a camera bag. Plus, a photo vest or photo jacket that's designed with wildlife photography in mind is usually constructed from quiet fabrics that won't rustle. Plus, it'll also feature slits and openable flaps that should help make crouching down easier. Some photo vests or photo jackets will even come with a hood with a wired peak, which is designed to keep the rain off your face as you watch for your subject.

Deciding on whether you want a traditional photo vest sans sleeves or a photo jacket is the biggest decision you'll have to make. However, if you already have a trusty waterproof rain jacket, then we'd recommend going for a photo vest.

(Image credit: Future)

1. Just Photographers Shooting Vest

Great value photo vest for everyday use

Color: Beige
Material: Lightweight polycotton
Size: Small to XXL
Reasons to buy
+13 different-sized pockets+Two zipped inner pockets.
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof-Not as durable as we would have liked

It’s by far the cheapest option here – yet this waistcoat still features 13 pockets, including a selection of large front pockets capable of stashing some lenses. Extra accessories will find a home in numerous smaller zippered pockets, and this is another waistcoat with a large back compartment, suitable for a lightweight raincoat.

There are also extras like a removable identity card pouch and a small sun hood that packs discreetly away in a slot behind your neck. This isn’t designed to keep the rain at bay, though, and neither is the rest of the vest, with the fabric letting water soak through to your gear. The material and construction also reflects the price tag: compared with the rugged Raptor, this doesn’t feel as though it would stand up to frequent use. At least there’s some extra neck and shoulder padding to help ease strap strain, even if you don’t get a collar.

(Image credit: Future)

2. Country Innovation Raptor Waistcoat

Tough, durable and with 15 pockets – you might opt to leave your kit bag at home!

Colors: (Olive) Green
Material: Rip-Tec – a tough military-grade fabric
Size: Small to 4XL
Reasons to buy
+15 generously sized pockets+Two expandable lower front pockets

Packing more pockets than a pool hall – 15, to be precise – this waistcoat can store a huge amount of gear. Two expandable lower front pockets easily swallow a lens each, and a pair of chest pockets above can house another two optics. Behind these are spacious side-access slots ideal for maps or guide books; if you fancy carrying a rain poncho or even a tablet, these can be stowed in huge internal and external rear pouches. Extra inner compartments provide a home for smaller accessories.

Military-grade Rip-Tec ripstop fabric and rugged construction ensure the waistcoat can cope when fully loaded, and it repels water well. Other nice touches include shoulder padding and a substantial neck collar to help ease the strain of a camera strap or shoulder bag.

Sizes range from Small to XXXXL, and we found our Medium example shaped up to expectations.

(Image credit: Future)

3. Country Innovation Traveller Jacket

Protective jacket with loads of pockets for all your smaller gear

Color: (Olive) Green
Material: Cotton-Tec outer fabric and Innovation XL lining
Size: Small to XL
Reasons to buy
+13 outside pockets+Full vision detachable hood 
Reasons to avoid
-Not for use in winter conditions

Compared with the Raptor, this jacket’s outer fabric doesn’t feel quite so substantial, but it’s easy to move in, and quiet. It’s also windproof yet breathable; water instantly beads off the waterproof coating, so you and your gear will stay dry.

The Traveller shares the same size range as the Raptor and fits as expected, but has the added advantage that it can double as an everyday raincoat. It’s not compromised on a shoot, though, with 13 pockets scattered outside and in to provide decent kit stowage. Two huge lower front pockets are ideally suited to lenses, and there’s a pair of side slots for maps, and a couple of hand pouches. The detachable hood incorporates a drawstring and wired peak.

Inside the Traveller jacket, the soft Innovation XL lining provides some warmth without adding bulk, while also wicking away moisture.

(Image credit: Future)

4. Páramo Halcon Traveller Jacket

A great lightweight, quick drying, breathable jacket

Color: Brown, Dark grey, Green
Material: Nikwax Analogy
Size: XS to XXL
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly lightweight+Hand-warmer pockets are a good addition
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof

The Halcon Traveller gets off to a good start, thanks to a light design that packs small. It’ll also look the part in the city as well as the country, especially if you go for this dark grey version. Brown and green options are also available, in sizes between XS and XXL, and there were no sizing surprises with our Medium sample.

In such a lightweight jacket, the four main front pockets feel a little less substantial than those on the Country Innovation products, but they are large enough to hold a lens each. You get a further eight pockets, including four inside and a couple of hand-warmer pockets. Another nice touch are the popper-side slits that stop the jacket rucking up when crouching for a shot.

Páramo markets this jacket as being best suited to sun, wind and shower protection. It’s not waterproof, though, as droplets soak into the Cotton+ fabric rather than beading off it.

Read more:

Best rain covers for your camera gear
Best waterproof jackets for photographers
Best camera bags and cases for photographers in 2020
Best messenger bags for photographers
Best camera sling bags in 2020

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.