Buying one of the best camera backpacks can make a huge difference in how you store and carry your equipment. When designed well, these bags take the strain off hauling around a large amount of kit, and with the right support can help prevent injury. Many options are also a neat freak’s dream, with excellent organization and compartments to help sort your gadgets. More importantly, they also offer some protection to your best cameras when you’re traveling, keeping them safe from the elements.
Consider the type of photography you're likely to do while choosing the best camera backpack. If you're shooting in the city or on the street, you'll need a smaller bag — possibly one with multiple entrance points. Check the bag or backpack's durability before using it for the trip, and see whether it has any additional luggage. If you’re out taking photos of the night sky, you’ll probably be somewhere in the wild, so a larger bag set up for travel may be more appropriate. Additionally, if you happen to own a range of the best lenses for astrophotography, you may need a bag with a larger capacity and multiple lens storage options.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are a number of different categories of bags — from roller to over-the-shoulder, sling and side-carry. We’ll be covering this in more detail below and explaining which bags have what systems associated with them.
- Related: Best cameras for astrophotography
We liked the PhotoSport for its no-nonsense approach to being a comprehensive day hike and adventure travel backpack. When we reviewed the LowePro Photosport backpack, the first thing that struck us was how light it felt. For a 24L backpack, it weighs practically nothing. We really loved the strap system because it is made for various carrying positions. Additionally, 75% of the fabric used to make the backpack was recycled. The bag can fit one full-frame sized camera (of the mirrorless or DSLR variety) and up to two lenses (one attached to the camera and one extra zoom lens), but we’d suggest that if you have any extra kit like GoPros and drones you may find this bag a little bit of a squeeze.
It does feel a little on the smaller side, but what this does mean is that it’s incredibly comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. The support straps can be adjusted to find the correct fit, so it’ll fit a range of body sizes, and the bag feels snug without being restrictive. The lack of weight helps significantly with this, and it contributes to why we think this would be the best bag for longer hikes or adventures, provided you don’t have loads of kit to take with you.
- Read our LowePro Photosport 24L Backpack review.
Staying with the travel theme, Peak Design has created their 45 L backpack to be the perfect companion when out and about — and they’ve done a great job of packing a lot of versatility into it. What impressed us was the range of organization options — this works primarily as a camera backpack with organizational camera cubes (sold separately) installed, but also as a large gear hauler, a small day sack, or a commuter bag.
The rigid sidewalls and the sturdy back panel are a real bonus when organizing your packing, allowing items to stay put. Additionally, there is a useful zipped divider panel that allows you to divide the bag into two compartments as needed. Little details set the bag apart. The dual side zippers are a bonus, and unique magnetic catches on the pouches help everything stay in one place.
Another point worth mentioning — we also liked the weatherproof ability of the bag and thought it was one of the best options for wet-weather operation. There’s a DWR interior liner and rugged weatherproof bottom to ensure nothing inside the bag gets wet.
The Vanguard Veo Select 43RB takes its design cues from popular commuter and day bags available at the moment — indeed, Vanguard expressly say on their website that the Veo Select 43RB has been designed to not look like a camera bag.
The bag is an attractive piece, as expected, with a top-entry roll top and a front-opening backpack compartment that is deceptively large. It’ll hold a large DSLR camera and between 4-6 lenses depending on their size, as well as multiple accessories such as cables, tripods, batteries, and memory cards.
When we reviewed the Vanguard VEO Select 43RB, we liked the day pack option that’s installed on the top — this section is totally removable should you wish to separate your kit out and just take a few lightweight items on a day out rather than all of your equipment. The bag itself has a seam-sealed waterproof cover, which is a bonus for trips out and about.
We think it offers excellent value given the size, amount of gear it can hold, and versatility of the bag. It would work well for any photographer who wants one bag to hold a growing kit list.
- Read our Vanguard VEO Select 43RB review.
This hybrid backpack from Manfrotto is designed to be a 3-in-1 solution for carrying your kit around.
Firstly, it operates as a conventional camera backpack, with standard adjustable straps. These, however, can be neatly tucked away inside a small compartment at the back of the bag, making way for a shoulder strap. The bag also has two handles on top so it can easily be carried around in the hand too.
As you’d expect, access to the bag is designed to be complementary to how you choose to carry it, with a number of different access zips from every side to ensure you can reach your gear easily. When we reviewed the Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III backpack we liked the fact that the internal camera compartment can be removed to turn the bag into a conventional rucksack, and that despite its size it features a tripod connection for a small or travel-sized tripod. The 14" laptop compartment is a good feature too.
While we wouldn't necessarily recommend this bag for long-distance hikers, adventure travel pros, or those with a lot of stuff to carry, it's a fantastic choice for urban or street photographers.
- Read our Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III Backpack review.
Staying with the Italian manufacturer Manfrotto, this is another backpack option that would be perfect for anyone just starting out in photography and building their gear and kit list.
For a small unit, The Chicago backpack is surprisingly versatile, holding a DSLR-sized camera and up to three lenses, plus a laptop. The Manfrotto website states that you can transform the bag from a 100% camera bag to a 100% lifestyle bag — the removable photo insert can be used as a shoulder bag, separating out the items and freeing up the main compartment for clothing or other weekend items.
There isn't an additional waist strap like on some of the other bags on our list, but the shoulder straps feel wide enough to support carrying larger equipment. It does mean, however, that we felt the bag was designed for smaller, urban trips, which given the ‘Chicago’ name is probably exactly what it was designed to do.
We also really liked the feel of the fabric used on the bag, much like other Manfrotto products. It’s tactile, it feels durable and strong, and well suited to the urban testing we carried out. The bottom fabric is made out of Kevlar, which is a particularly nice touch, and stops the bag from getting scuffed up on pavement or asphalt.
Gitzo is well known for creating mountaineer-grade tripods and heads that are at the more premium end of the market — they have a wide range of traveler tripods and monopods that are made from a lightweight, carbon-fiber construction. Although not necessarily a household name when it comes to bags and other accessories, we were very impressed with one of their latest offerings, the Légende.
The Gitzo Légende is, we think, perhaps one of the most timeless and elegant camera bags we’ve tested for this article. It has a classic, adventure-style look reminiscent of the glory days of film photography, and uses a soft brushed fabric exterior to highlight its build quality — it certainly feels like a sturdy, well-put-together bag. It does have a couple of downsides — we found that weatherproofing wasn’t at its best and it doesn’t feature waist or chest straps, so that’s definitely worth bearing in mind.
The bag operates with a single side access so that gear is always within easy reach, and it also has a roll-top pocket to access smaller items when traveling. We liked the fact that the top compartment features dividers to keep everything neatly contained, and the 15" laptop compartment fits a modern MacBook Pro-sized device easily. There’s enough room for a DSLR-sized device with one zoom lens, plus an additional two separate lenses.
For its place in the market, we think the Légende is well priced, but be sure also to look out for their bundle deal — they neatly package this bag with one of their 4-section carbon fiber travel tripods with eco-leather straps made for convenient carrying. Rather more expensive, but we think it’s a desirable package.
For those who have rather more traveling to do, this offering from Vanguard comes very much recommended, and we like the fact that it easily doubles up as a conventional carry-on roller suitcase, too.
In standard camera bag configuration, the organization compartments separate out the main section to hold two DSLR or mirrorless cameras, up to 4-5 lenses, a flash, and other accessories. It also has a compartment for a drone as well as a 13" laptop alongside a tablet, such as an iPad, which is a nice touch. A tripod can also be attached to the side too, but we found this becomes a little unwieldy when rolling the bag along unless it’s secured very tightly.
The bag's versatility is another great feature. Yes, it has four wheels and initially seems to be a typical suitcase, but it also has two backpack straps that attach to the bottom of the bag. It then becomes a surprisingly comfortable backpack, with a waist strap to keep everything neatly in place.
For astrophotography and nighttime photography, we’d probably use this in conjunction with another backpack-style bag to take out into the wild, but we’d certainly trust this one for any aircraft or train journeys.
In the world of camera bags, Billingham has established a reputation for producing some of the finest handmade pieces you can buy. Each bag apparently has more than 100 different parts!
Detail is important, which is why the Hadley Pro, their best-selling bag, was updated in 2020 with a luggage trolley retainer strap and an improved leather top handle for extra comfort. They’ve also introduced some pleasing new colors, too.
You have the option of leaving the interior of the bag open or installing a padded insert with four adjustable or repositionable foam dividers to keep everything organized. The top flap secures down well with the leather straps, and the buckles ensure everything inside the bag itself stays weatherproofed and away from the elements. The carrying strap is comfortable and easy to adjust to different weights and positions.
Our only complaint is that, while the bag itself is beautiful, it lacks a little in terms of room and flexibility compared to certain other camera bags. The front pockets make up for it somewhat, but it perhaps doesn’t fit as many items as some of the other camera backpack options on this list.