The best camera backpacks are among the best ways to keep your photo gear safe. With tough exteriors and padded interiors, they provide protection inside and out, and this is why a dedicated camera backpack is so much better than a generic one. You don't want to take chances when it comes to keeping your camera and lenses safe!
Camera backpack interiors are not only padded, but also tend to be customisable. It's a pretty standard feature for camera backpacks to have Velcro internal dividers that can be reconfigured to fit around the shape of your camera and lenses.
Many camera backpacks also are constructed of rainproof material, or have pull-out rain covers to keep them safe in the event of a downpour. Some also have thief-proof zips, and extra straps, loops or pockets for holding a tripod. It's also common to see a dedicated pocket for a laptop or tablet as well.
So when and why should you choose a camera backpack over a shoulder bag, for example?
1) Backpacks tend to offer more space. This means you have more room for larger setups, for carrying more lenses and even accessories like a small drone.
2) Backpacks spread the weight. The more gear you carry, the more it weighs. And its much better to have that weight spread over two shoulders than one, especially if you have to do a lot of walking.
3) Backpacks offer more protection. Often you just need protection for your camera gear when you're travelling, and you can sling a backpack into an overhead locker or under the seat of a bus without worrying too much about your gear – or any of it falling out!
The extra space in a backpack also gives you more latitude for adding in little non-photo extras, and many have dedicated pockets for exactly this purpose. Whether you want to bring a book, a water bottle, a power bank, an extra jumper, a flashgun, or even a drone, a good photo backpack will probably be able to accommodate you.
Picking the best backpack for you depends on what you need it for. Are you prioritising space or weatherproofing? Are you bothered about how it looks? Also, of course, there's the matter of your budget, as backpacks can come with wildly different price tags,
For our guide, we've picked a range of the best backpacks right now, from the most notable manufacturers of photo accessories. We've selected products at a range of price points and in a range of sizes, so whatever your needs, whatever your style of photography or videography, there should be something here for you.
The best camera backpacks in 2021
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.
Read more: Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II review
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: Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L review
The Morally Toxic Valkyrie has been five years in the making and comes from a new spin-off brand from British tripod manufacturer, 3 Legged Thing. It sports a clever design and eye-catching material, especially when it catches the sun, helping the Valkyrie stand out from the plethora of boring black camera backpacks out there. But this is certainly not a case of just style over substance, as everything is smartly designed to make carrying your camera kit and daily essentials as pleasurable and painless as possible. Quick access to all areas and some genuinely innovative touches make the Valkyrie a backpack to be treasured, plus it’s endlessly adaptable, and will cosset your gear in fine style.
Many backpacks are a little on the bulky side, especially if you're rocking a fairly light setup. The Tenba Shootout 14L Slim is a great choice for those who want the two-shoulder comfort of a backpack (as opposed to a sling bag) but don't need loads of a room for a full-frame DSLR and a 70-200mm lens. Which, let's be clear, will not really fit in this bag.
So you're using a light DSLR and a mirrorless camera and want a backpack? Here you go. The Tenba Shootout 14L Slim is lightweight and affordable, but pleasingly tough, constructed from water-repellent nylon. It has several extra straps and pockets that make it easy to store a tripod or monopod, and there's also a slot for a 10-inch tablet (though not a laptop). Also, handily, there's a space designed for a hydration bladder, making this a great choice for hiking photographers. Or, indeed, hikers full stop – take out the dividers for camera gear and this works great as an all-purpose bag.
Read more: Tenba Shootout 14L Slim review
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.
Read more: Vanguard Alta Sky 45D review (similar but smaller)
The StreetWalker from Think Tank is a compact, city-friendly option. Its narrow 25cm external width keeps you streamlined; while this restricts the internal layout to two columns rather than three, these are wide and deep, and will neatly house a pair of full-frame cameras with large-diameter attached lenses; one facing down, the other up. Depending on your lens choice, extra dividers can fit around additional optics. You can also strap a tripod to the front, and there’s room for a 10-inch tablet in a pouch at the rear. Access is via a single no-nonsense front flap. You don’t get a waist belt but the shoulder straps and back padding are excellent.
Read more: Think Tank StreetWalker Pro V2.0 review
Manfrotto's Advanced2 Befree Backpack is made for those who want a hard-wearing bag that protects in more ways than one. Not only is it constructed of a weather-resistant material that keeps out the rain, its main compartment is also accessed from the rear, providing protection from opportunistic thieves. The flipside of this is that it can make grabbing a camera quickly into a bit of a cumbersome process, but if this doesn't bother you, this is an excellent and capacious backpack. We particularly like the fact that you have multiple options for storing a tripod – secure it externally via the straps, or use the expandable pocket. It's designed for use with Manfrotto's Befree tripods, as you might expect, but it'll work with other models
Given that it also has plenty of space for a DSLR and lenses, a 15-inch laptop compartment and extra pockets for personal items, the Manfrotto2 Advanced Befree is a good one-size-fits-all bag for travelling photographers.
If you need to carry a lot of camera kit for extended periods and across land and air, this is the bag to have. Its 35 x 24 x 62cm exterior size will meet most long-haul cabin bag regulations, while the all-weather outer materials and additional seam-sealed rain cover will keep your gear well protected, rain or shine. And there's certainly a lot of gear you can keep in here. The 31 x 17 x 46cm interior is spacious enough for a full-frame DSLR with up to a 600mm lens attached, plus up to 6 extra lenses stored on either side. There's also a slot for a 15-inch laptop, and further space for a 10-inch tablet. What's more, the bag's lid incorporates additional storage for other items or personal effects, and this whole section can be detached and worn separately as a shoulder bag. Straps on the front panel can secure a tripod or hiking poles, and there are numerous other smaller pockets dotted around the bag for memory cards, batteries, and other accessories. Factor the sumptuous gear padding inside, plus the extremely comfortable shoulder straps, back padding and detachable wide hip belt, and you really do get what you pay for with this top-notch backpack.
Another side-opener, the Fastpack 250's main camera zone can be opened up all the way across the front, so it's easy to organise. It takes a DSLR with a big zoom lens attached, and there's room enough for at least three other lenses. The back panel has a side-zipped pocket for a 13-inch laptop and tablet, and there are two other zones for storing accessories and clothes. It's designed to be worn for long periods out on a shoot, so the ergonomically padded shoulder straps and hip belt are useful. There's even a strap that attaches the Fastpack 250 to the handles of rolling luggage at the airport. Too big? A smaller Fastpack 150 is also available.
Thule has thought of everything on the hiking-ready Aspect camera backpack. A side-opening area is big enough for a DSLR and a few lenses, with a stretch pocket in the lid for SD card pockets and accessories. Almost hidden from view within the cushioned back panel is a large laptop pocket, which also stows a tablet, while a top compartment is roomy enough for lunch or even a small drone, such as the DJI Mavic Pro. It's even got comfy straps and a supportive hip belt that's removable. The only thing we're not so keen on is that the main DSLR area could be easier to access and customise. Overall, this is a brilliant backpack that deserves its spot in our list.
Incredible images of wildlife are everywhere, but it’s rare to find a backpack that address the needs of those who need to get themselves and their equipment into remote places for long periods. Cue the Manfrotto Gitzo Adventury 30-litre backpack – also available as a 45-litre version – that can carry a couple of pro DSLR cameras, one fitted with a 200mm telephoto lens. Now that’s unusual, though this rugged bag and its interchangeable dividers can also take four more lenses (one of them up to 400mm in size), mirrorless cameras, a DJI Phantom drone, a 15-inch Macbook and a 12.9-inch tablet.
Read more: Gitzo Adventury 30L camera backpack review
If you’re traveling with a lot of expensive camera gear, it’s best not to be obvious about it. A mostly watertight and toughly made backpack, the beauty of the 23-litre Niko is that it doesn’t look like a camera backpack. With a rear-opening allowing easy access to all gear simultaneously, the Niko’s main compartment has six areas for lenses and gear, though it’s all totally customizable thanks to Velcro dividers. Three pockets store SD cards while a zip on the side of the bag opens-up a slip pocket for a 13-inch laptop. There's a pocket on the side designed to take a foot of a tripod, although the front also has two very large, heavy-duty (and reflective) Velcro straps that can secure virtually anything.
Here's proof that a camera backpack doesn't have to cost big bucks. The Bagmsart Camera Backpack can be had for a rock-bottom price, yet it has all the key features of a backpack costing twice as much.
The core layout is based around a camera compartment occupying the bottom two thirds of the bag. This is large enough for a full-frame camera with attached 70-200mm f/4 lens, and up to four extra lenses can be carried alongside. Above the camera compartment is a spacious daypack section, accessed via a drawstring opening at the top of the bag. You can choose to enter the camera compartment through a panel on the front, or if that's not fast enough, one side of the bag also opens up to allow on-the-go camera access. Round back is a separate slot compartment large enough to take a 15-inch laptop, while a travel tripod can be stowed on one side.
This bag doesn't feel quite as robust as some pricier options on our list, but the exterior canvas material feels hard-wearing, and there's enough interior padding to keep your camera gear sufficiently cossetted. Another nice touch are the extra-secure zips which can be clipped together to deter thieves, though the bag's casual styling (available in multiple color options, including black, tan, blue and khaki) and leather accents hardly suggest this is even a camera bag at all, helping you stay under a thief's radar.