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The best camera bag for travel

best camera bag for travel
(Image credit: Getty)

What is the best camera bag for travel? When you're off on your travels, chances are you'll want your camera close by. However, simply dangling it from a neck strap may not be the greatest idea if you don't want to attract unwanted attention. Carrying your gear in a camera bag is a much smarter solution, and fortunately there's no shortage of bags out there to suit cameras large or small.

From ultra-compact holster bags that'll wrap around just your camera and a choice attached lens, through more conventional messenger-style shoulder bags to streamlined sling bags that are worn like a backpack but hang over one shoulder for easy access.

When you need to travel with more extensive camera kit, there are always traditional camera backpacks. But if even these aren't enough for all your gear, why not consider a roller bag. Much like a rolling suitcase, a roller bag can swallow a huge about of camera kit and thanks to built-in wheels, you don't even need to lift it.

Finally, for those that want to travel to the back of beyond and need ultimate camera protection, there's the hard case. Designed to withstand extreme environments, hard cases are almost indestructible and are the transportation of choice for most travelling professional photographers.

In this list we've got the best camera bags for travel, ordered from the smallest holster bags, through to the most rugged hard case.

(Image credit: Future)

MindShift Gear OutBound Holster 20

Need to travel as light as possible? A holster bag like this could be just the ticket

External size: 26.5 x 21 x 16.5cm | Weight: 0.3kg

Multiple wearing positions
Superb fit and finish
Will fit a variety of DSLR cameras
Only suitable for one camera and lens
 Exterior storage could be better

Conventional camera bags are great, but there isn’t much point in lugging a big backpack or shoulder bag around if you’ve pared your gear down to a single body and lens. A holster bag provides snug storage for just such a set-up, while also offering better camera protection than simply hanging your pride and joy from a sling or neck strap.

The OutBound Holster is more versatile than most. It can be hung from the shoulder as a conventional holster, with a supple neoprene shoulder pad making it very comfortable in this configuration. But you also get a selection of extra straps included, enabling the bag to strapped to your waist, or positioned on your chest, either by hanging the bag from your neck, or attaching it to the straps of a backpack.

Size-wise, the Holster 20 falls in the middle of the OutBound holster range and is sized to store a full-frame DSLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens fitted. The front pouch is generously sized for accessories like lens filters, and there’s a surprising amount of space beneath the domed lid for memory cards

Your camera will also be well protected, as everything about this bag feels top quality and very robust.

(Image credit: Cosyspeed)

CosySpeed Camslinger Outdoor

Innovative belt bag that you wear on your waist

External size: 12.7 x 17.8 x 25.4cm | Weight: 454g

Belt design takes the weight off your shoulder
Quick access to camera
Available in different colors
Only suitable for one camera, and a couple of accessories

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.

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(Image credit: Billingham)
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(Image credit: Billingham)

Billingham Hadley One

This stunning messenger bag is perfect for travelling with a camera, 2-3 lenses and daily essentials

External size: 37 x 14 x 28cm | Weight: 1.38kg

Stunning material and quality
Spacious, classy design
Lots of color options
Fiddly flap fasteners
Restrictive sized insert

When you need to travel with your camera and a small selection of lenses, but still want the convenience of having you gear right beside you, rather than tucked away in a backpack, a messenger bag is the answer. Suspended from one shoulder, a messenger bag is slimmer in depth than a conventional camera shoulder bag, meaning you're less likely to knock it against doorways and passing crowds.

Billingham's Hadley One messenger bag is beautifully made and should survive any far-flung excursion. It’s a practically sized bag without being unwieldy, although you only get a half-width padded insert included as standard. This will swallow a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, plus an ungripped full-frame body with a 50mm lens attached.

The remaining space in the main compartment is great for other travel essentials, or you can add an optional second camera insert. Two large front dump pockets are perfect for keeping lenses easily reachable while shooting. 

But the real reasons you buy a Hadley One are its supreme quality, and a timeless style that’ll suit any environment. The smell of the leather straps and reinforcing trim is worth the money alone, while the rugged canvas outer material and slightly domed flap shrug off abuse and a heavy rain shower.

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(Image credit: Manfrotto)
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(Image credit: Manfrotto)

Manfrotto Noreg messenger-30

Adaptability is the focus of this messenger bag - it can convert to almost any travel requirement

External size: 40 x 27 x 17cm | Weight: 1.4kg

Versatility and adaptability
Camera insert is also a shoulder bag
Detachable laptop sleeve
Laptop sleeve feels tacked (zipped) on
Camera insert leaves little space
Small tripods only on the front

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.

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Tenba Solstice Sling 10L

A cross between a messenger bag and a backpack; this bag's a streamlined travel companion

External size: 24 x 18 x 44cm | Weight: 0.71kg

Compact and accessible
Versatile interior size
Good quality
Few fun frills
Only wide enough for a tablet, not a laptop

Shaped like a camera backpack and worn in the same position, a sling bag is distinguished by having just a single shoulder strap that’s worn diagonally across your body, like a car seatbelt. This enables you to easily swing the bag to your front in a single move, with the bag's side opening facing up at you. You can then access your gear without having to put the bag down. Accessibility is almost as easy as with a shoulder bag, but even though both are suspended by a single strap, a sling bag’s rearward resting place makes it more comfortable on longer excursions.

Despite boasting a fairly small 10L capacity, and measuring a relatively narrow 24cm, the boxy shape of Tenba's Solstice sling makes it a practical size. It’s well suited to carrying a full-frame body with two or three lenses, and they’ll be well protected. Generous front, rear and base padding, along with substantial interior dividers, give the Solstice a tough feel, as do the quality water-resistant outer materials.

Access is via a full length side flap that gives a wide opening to the whole bag. On the opposite side is an expanding pouch suitable for a bottle, or a typical travel tripod, anchored by an additional side strap. Up front is a long slot opening that reveals storage for a tablet and filters.

Speaking of anchoring, this camera sling bag also features a secondary cross-body strap for keeping things stable when you’re really on the move. The main strap sits on your left shoulder. It’s supple and well padded, and combined with the decent back padding makes the Solstice a comfortable companion.

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(Image credit: Vanguard)

Vanguard Alta Sky 51D

Whether you want to travel with extensive photo kit, video gear, or a drone, this backpack can take it all

External size: 37 × 26 × 56.5cm | Weight: 2.92kg

Multiple storage configurations
Very comfortable
Well made 
On-the-go access could be better
Straps can restrict the rear opening 

You're spoilt for choice if you're in the market for a camera backpack, but we reckon this backpack from Vanguard is the best option for travelling. The Alta Sky 51D backpack is designed to carry camera gear, a drone, or a combination of both, and still leave space for travel essentials.

The main compartment has room for a pro DSLR with attached 70-200mm, and up to four lenses around it. Padding is good, and there’s a hatch on one side for mobile access, though 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” laptop. The flap opens wide, but you’ll need to bend the shoulder straps out of the way for unobstructed camera access. Alternatively, another body and a trio of small lenses will stow in a separate compartment in the base, accessed by folding the rest of the bag back like a lid. It’s more convenient than it sounds.

Up top is reasonably spacious area for travel essentials, and its floor is removable so the mid compartment can be enlarged to allow long lenses to pass through from above.

Comfort on long excursions is assured by good-sized hip pads, thick back padding, and generously sized shoulder straps.

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(Image credit: Think Tank)
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(Image credit: Think Tank)

MindShift Gear BackLight 26L

A full-size but lightweight camera backpack designed to be a genuine globetrotter

External size: 29 x 51.5 x 20cm | Weight: 1.8kg

Excellent interior layout
Good accessibility, yet secure
Still space for daily essentials
Utilitarian hiking backpack look may not suit all environments

A backpack like the Vanguard Alta Sky 51D is great if you need a really versatile interior, but if you'll be travelling just with camera equipment, this backpack from MindShift Gear could be a better bet. There’s no split-level interior, as its main compartment is laid out solely for camera gear. The 49cm interior height is tall enough for a full-frame body with 24-70mm f/2.8 attached to sit directly above a 70-200mm f/2.8. A row of more full frame lenses can slot down one side, with filters and flashguns on the other.

The main dividers are reasonably stiff, which combined with the impressively stout back panel gives this bag a solid feel. The only access is via the opening rear panel - great for security - but there’s clever on-the-go access, too. Take off the shoulder straps while the hip belt is still done up, rotate the bag round to face you and the rear flap can be opened and kept out of the way thanks to an elastic cord at the top that goes over your head.

You can still transport some travel essentials as well, stashed in the large, expandable full-height front pocket. This also contains a 15-inch laptop slot and tablet compartment, while a tripod can be strapped to either side, or the front panel.

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Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Switch-55

A backpack and roller case in one - it's the ultimate travel companion for larger camera kits

Exterior dimensions: 55 x 35.5 x 23cm | Weight: 4kg

Great quailty
Practical size
Backpack conversion
Backpack conversion a little slow
A serious investment

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.

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(Image credit: Future)
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Think Tank Airport International V3

Specifically designed for frequent flyers - this roller bag is beautifully designed

Exterior dimensions: 53.3 x 35.6 x 20.3cm | Weight: 5.2kg

Stunning build
Extremely robust
Space for pro gear
Relatively heavy
Not cheap
Slightly thicker than advertised

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.

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Peli Air Case 1535

A super-solid yet surprisingly portable hard case that'll withstand the harshest environments

Exterior dimensions: 55.8 x 35.5 x 22.8cm | Weight: 3.95kg (empty)

Very light for its size and toughness
Optional TrekPak insert works well
Wheeled and cabin-friendly
Optional divider inserts can be costly
Not quite as tough-feeling as heavier cases

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.

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Vanguard Supreme 53D

When you need to carry serious gear to seriously tough places, this no-compromise hard case has you covered

Exterior dimensions: 63 x 52 x 24cm | Weight: 11.2kg (with divider insert)

Huge carrying capacity
Excellent toughness
Divider insert doesn't add much cost
Very heavy, even when empty
Will have to fly as hold luggage

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.