Selecting the best camera bag doesn't need to be difficult. While it's true that there are absolutely loads of options out there, it's easy to narrow it down by figuring out what's the best fit for your setup. Using a small and light compact camera, or a mirrorless model with a single lens? Then you can use a small camera holster or other light bag. If, however, you're planning on carrying a DSLR or other large camera and multiple lenses with it, you'll need something spacious.
There are other factors at play, too. What kind of weather conditions do you anticipate encountering on your travels? Some bags are better suited to torrential rain or punishing heat, so it pays to choose accordingly. Also, what arrangement do you find most comfortable? Many photographers prefer the even weight-spread of a backpack, while others will opt for the breezy swing of a shoulder or sling bag. Still others will choose a rolling bag to let the earth do some of the work for them. And then we haven't even mentioned hard cases, which provide the ultimate in gear protection, with the drawback of being a good deal less portable.
Okay, fine, it is a little complicated. Let's say you've narrowed down that you need a holster-style bag for your point-and-shoot camera, or a bigger bag for your mirrorless or DSLR cameras with flashguns, filters and various camera accessories. Even then, there's still quite a lot to think about.
And so, we've put together a guide to the best camera bags on the market right now. And to make this even easier we've split them up into categories – just click on the type of bag you're interested in to learn more.
We've got every type of bag in our list of top choices, below, and if you want to see more of a particular type, don't forget to click on the links to take you to other guides where you can see more options to choose from.
Best camera bags and cases in 2021
Shoulder bags are arguably the traditional camera bag. They're simple to use without any fussy straps that might get in the way – plus a shoulder bag makes it easy to access your kit as quickly as possible. However, the major disadvantage is that carrying all of your gear on one shoulder can become unwieldy. Messenger bags are similar to shoulder bags, but they'll also include space for laptops and other work tools such as paperwork, pens and tablets. If you're a frequent commuter who also likes to carry your camera everywhere, this is definitely a good choice of "do-everything" bag.
The Peak Design Everyday Messenger is a classic photographer's bag archetype at this point. Its simple blend of classic styling with voluminous internal space and FlexFold dividers has been a winner with photographers for years. The Everyday Messenger 13 V2 is one of the more recent iterations, a streamlined bag for photographers of all stripes.
The interior compartment is impressively efficient. Using the FlexFold dividers, you can arrange and cosset your kit for maximum security. It works best for larger setups; you might find some careful arranging is warranted for small-camera setups to stop them rattling around.
There's also a sleeve for a 13-inch laptop, as well as what feels like a multitude of smaller pockets for sundry items. The main compartment opens and closes with a single flap that uses a "MagLatch" system to stay secure. This strikes a pleasing balance between convenience and security, one that makes the Everyday Messenger 13 V2 a winner as far as we're concerned.
Something of a design classic, in a school satchel kind of way, the Hadley Pro oozes class. Along with full-grain leather and brass fixings, the canvas-style construction looks smart-casual, but is nevertheless fully waterproof. Unlike many photographic shoulder bags, the build is slim and easily manageable, yet you can just about squeeze in a full-frame DSLR body with an attached 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom (without tripod collar) and a flashgun. Two additional front pockets enable extra gear to be stashed away, and the rear zippered pocket is big enough for a tablet. For heavier collections of kit, the optional shoulder pad is worth buying, and additional ‘AVEA’ side pockets are also available. Overall, this is one of the best camera bags there is.
Read more: These are the best shoulder bags and messenger bags for photographers
Backpacks are a firm favourite for photographers who have to travel long distances with their camera gear. If you're a walker, traveller or landscape photographer, you'll be looking for something comfortable, ergonomic and that will protect your gear from any accidental falls or scrapes. However, one downside is that you'll have to take the backpack off in order to access your kit, even if you've got one of the best camera backpacks.
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 favour 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 a truly versatile camera backpack.
Tenba offers Shootout backpacks in three different sizes, with 18, 24 and 32 litre capacities. The Shootout 32L is the largest of the three, with sufficient space for two DSLRs and up to eight additional lenses or other gadgets, and one of our picks for the best camera backpack on the market. As well as the main compartment, extra pockets and compartments enable you to stow yet more gear, including a 17-inch laptop. The clever design features a robust, aluminium frame and ‘pivot fit’ straps, which make this bag particularly comfortable to carry, as the weight is transferred very well to the back and hips. Even so, it’s a heavy beast, weighing in at more than 2.5kg, even before you start adding camera kit.
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 attached 70-200mm lens, and up to four lenses around it. Padding is good, 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.
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 which afford very good mobile access. Inside are internal dividers that form shelves attached to the front and back. These are a clever design that 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 more: These are the best camera backpacks right now
Sling bags aim to offer the comfort of a backpack with the access of a shoulder bag. They can swing round to the front to be opened like a shoulder bag and swing round to your back like a backpack. They are kind of halfway-house between a shoulder bag and a backpack.
Despite boasting a fairly small 10L capacity, and measuring a relatively narrow 24cm, the boxy shape of the Solstice 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 revealing 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.
Available in three sizes and two colour options (blue/indigo and charcoal), the ‘20’ is the largest of Think Tank’s TurnStyle camera bags. With one shoulder strap rather than the usual two, it’s worn as a sling bag. A particular bonus is that you can swivel it around on its strap to access your camera and accessories without needing to take the bag off and lay it down - although the downside is that it doesn’t spread the load like a typical backpack would. There’s enough room for a DSLR and up to four additional lenses or other accessories. The ‘10’ edition takes one less lens, and the ‘5’ is better suited to mirrorless camera outfits. Each bag has an additional tablet pocket and an extra front compartment. Even the largest 20 model is refreshingly lightweight, yet robust and trusty.
Read more: See more of the best camera sling bags
Holsters and pouches are designed to carry a single camera with lens attached. Depending on the size, these could be designed for compact cameras, mirrorless cameras or DSLRs. They're great if you're not planning on taking or changing lenses.
Think Tank really did have its thinking cap on when designing this holster, which is packed with clever features. The ‘10’ model has internal dimensions of 160x100x152mm and weighs 400g, making it an ideal size for a large CSC or smallish SLR with a kit zoom lens. Better still, it has an extending bottom, with a similar zippered arrangement that you’ll often find in carry-on luggage, enabling the internal height to stretch to 210mm. This makes it equally suitable for a camera with a larger lens fitted, like a compact telephoto zoom.
There are no less than seven different sizes in the entire Digital Holster V2 range, to suit everything from a medium-sized CSC right up to a pro-style SLR with a 150-600mm super-telephoto zoom attached. The 10 model we’re featuring includes two adjustable and removable inner partitions, enabling you to stash an extra lens underneath in the holster’s taller configuration. There’s an additional Velcro-secured accessory pocket inside the top flap and a zippered external side pocket, plus a stretchy front pocket.
The strap is removable, there’s a grab handle on the top, plus an over-sized belt loop which, again, has a Velcro fastening so it’s easy to attach to a belt or other strap. A slip-over rain cover is also supplied.
Lowepro is somewhat legendary in the field of camera bags, renowned for its clever design and tough build quality. The Dashpoint range of pouches come in ‘10’, ‘20’ and ‘30’ options to suit a range of compact camera sizes, each of which are available in slate grey or galaxy blue. For small point-and-shoot cameras, the Dashpoint 10 is likely to be the best fit, but it definitely pays to check the dimensions of your camera before buying. Each edition of the pouch comes with wide-opening zippers for easy access, impact-resistant padding and a removable shoulder strap.
Roller bags are designed specifically for travel, with wheels in the base, an extending handle for pulling them along like suitcases and often with dimensions chosen to fit international cabin baggage requirements.
For travel on trains, planes and automobiles (or at least coaches), the Manfrotto Reloader 55 is a great roller bag. You can fit loads of kit in the very well-protected main compartment, which has endlessly adjustable dividers. Additional pockets are built into the lid to safeguard both a tablet and a laptop of up to 17 inches in size. Further pouches are built into the underside of the flap for smaller accessories. Typical of roller bags, it has a sturdy set of wheels and an extending handle that makes it easy to maneuvering your kit around without having to carry it. There's now a new and slightly lighter Switch-55 which doubles as a backpack – even better!
Read more: These are the best roller bags for your camera right now
Hard cases for cameras offer the ultimate in protection against impact, rough handling and harsh environments. They're not really designed for carrying any great distance, but they can keep your camera gear protected in environments where no other bag can.
Pelican, aka Peli, is probably the best known brand for hard cases. The Air range has 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 just for the plastic shell. Load it with foam or a divider insert and the weight difference between this and the equivalently-sized Peli Protector 1510 hard case is more marginal. As for toughness, we did our best to burst the Air, but while it does flex slightly more under pressure than the Protector 1510, the difference is reassuringly small.
The default interior option is cubed foam. You can also spec a Velcro divider insert, however we went for Pelican’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 cosseting than the default foam setup.
For the ultimate in kit protection, you can’t beat a hard case, and the Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case is our pick of the best. This camera case from Vanguard is super-tough, fully dust-proof and waterproof, has steel-reinforced padlock rings and an automatic pressure release valve to cope with changes in air pressure and altitude, for example when consigned to the baggage hold of an aircraft. This strong case has an O-ring that will withstand being submerged in water to a depth of five metres, as well as a removable soft inner case with adjustable dividers. There are no fewer than three carrying handles for lifting the case, plus a set of wheels and a retractable pull-along handle.
Read more: These are the best hard cases for cameras
More buying guides
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- The best tripods for travel