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The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024

Hiking, battling through bustling airports, or strolling around town — you need a solid camera backpack to protect your sensitive lenses and gear on the go. After years of testing, we've narrowed in on the best packs for your precious cargo of 2024.

Senior Editor Chris Carter filming an ice climbing trip in Colorado with Peak Design's Everyday Zip 20L in tow; (photo/Emily Malone)
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You can easily spend a small fortune on photography equipment, so it pays to protect your investment with the best camera backpack possible. Plus, you need to comfortably free up your hands between capturing shots when scrambling up rocky slopes, paddling a canoe, steering a cruiser, or carrying additional props.

Camera backpacks have big shoes to fill. Not only do they have to carry comfortably over the long haul, but have to feature easy access to all sorts of gear, and provide ultimate protection for that pricey glass. With such high responsibility, comes hefty price tags. So — to ensure you aren’t wasting your money on junk — we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We took over 10 different camera packs into the wild in the past year alone, testing them on photo and video shoots around the world.

These packs traveled to Africa, Europe, and all over the U.S. loaded down with glistening lenses, drones, camera bodies, and gimbals to truly test their mettle. We kept an eye out for a number of key metrics when analyzing each model, including comfort, ease of gear access, and durability. Every backpack had to stand out in several categories to merit any real estate in this roundup.

Chris Carter, a Senior Editor for GearJunkie, and Kendra Smith, a GearJunkie contributor, teamed up for the creation of this guide. Carter comes from roots in freelance videography, shooting for shows on PBS, commercial work for outdoor brands, and personal travel documentary projects. His cameras accompany him to some gnarly locations — so he’s fastidiously fussy about the packs he chooses to protect them with.

Smith is an editorial photographer based in Minneapolis, MN. She has a multi-disciplinary background in photography, cultural anthropology, and communicative arts in marketing. She brought a number of the packs reviewed below on wild romps all over the globe to put them through their paces and gauge their merit.

Rest assured — each pack you see below has been vetted by our stone-cold pros and has proven to be worthy. Need a picture-perfect camera pack for your next adventure? We’ve got ya covered!

We’ve found the top camera bags for every budget and use — whether you need a simple, budget-friendly bag or a multicompartment gear hauler. If you want to learn more about the features that make camera bags unique, head to the bottom of the article to read the buyer’s guide, comparison chart, and FAQ.

Editor’s Note: We heavily refreshed this article on February 16, 2024, adding many new products, and re-writing a significant portion of the buyer’s guide. We also made sure our product list is up-to-date with current models, colorways, and designs, and added a slew of photos.

The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024

Best Overall Camera Backpack

Nomatic McKinnon 35L


  • Volume 35 L – 42 L
  • Dimensions 22" x 13.5" x 9" (external), 21" x 12.5" x 5.25" (main compartment)
  • Weight 5.75 lbs.
  • Materials N900D square ripstop with 0.20mm film-laminated TPU65 coating
Product Badge The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Padded interior is ultra-protective and includes a padded waist strap
  • Exterior fabric and zippers are durable and water-resistant
  • Expands for change of clothes and toiletries
  • Lots of sturdy storage


  • No rain cover
  • Heavy for long periods of travel
Best Budget Camera Backpack

CADeN Camera Backpack


  • Volume 14 L
  • Dimensions 11.5″ x 5″ x 14.2″
  • Weight 2 lbs.
  • Materials N/A
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Budget-friendly
  • Two exterior bottle holders


  • Lacks many interior pockets for organization
  • Smaller volume
  • Not the most quality construction
Runner-Up Best Camera Backpack

Peak Design Everyday Zip 20L


  • Volume 20 L
  • Dimensions 18.5" x 11.4" x 6.3"
  • Weight 3.42 lbs.
  • Materials 400D double poly-coated DWR nylon canvas shell, 900D waterproof bottom liner
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Sleek, extremely functional design
  • Simple to access all gear from any angle
  • Pass-through back for fixing to carry-on
  • Tons of organization in a tiny package
  • Beautiful construction and aesthetic
  • Solid weather resistance for outdoor use


  • Thin, sparsely padded straps get uncomfortable when pack is fully loaded with heavy gear
  • We wish the sternum strap had a traditional clip
  • Laptop can be a bit difficult to remove when bag is full
Best Camera Backpack for Flying

Lowepro Pro Trekker RLX 450 AW II


  • Volume 28 L
  • Dimensions 12.6" x 5.1" x 18" (internal), 14" x 10" x 20.5" (external)
  • Weight 8.9 lbs.
  • Materials 1680D ballistic polyester, 420D ripstop nylon, 500D polyester Kodra, Velex nylon
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Converts easily from backpack to roller bag
  • Sized to meet standard carry-on requirements
  • Optimal space for camera gear


  • No waterproofing on zippers
  • No separate area for carry-on clothing
  • Heavy and bulky
Best Sling Camera Bag

Lowepro Trekker Lite SLX 120 Sling Camera Bag


  • Volume 6.5 L
  • Dimensions 11.8" x 5.5" x 9.4"
  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Fabric 300D recycled polyester ripstop, 600D solution dyed polyester
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Padded interior is ultra protective
  • Exterior tripod holder
  • Compact pack for short travel and transport or storage
  • Recycled materials


  • Not waterproof & no rain cover
  • Slightly bulky
Best Lightweight Camera Backpack

Manfrotto PRO Light Backloader


  • Volume 22.5 L
  • Dimensions 12.60" x 10.24" x 20.47"
  • Weight 4.17 lbs.
  • Fabric Nylon, synthetic fabric
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Ultra shock resistant
  • Sleek design
  • Easily a daily professional camera backpack as well as a travel companion


  • Zippers are not water resistant
  • Hip and chest straps are not padded but possibly not needed
Best Camera Backpack for Backpacking

Moment Strohl Mountain Light 45L Backpack


  • Volume 45 L
  • Dimensions 31.5" x 10.5"
  • Weight 2.38 lbs.
  • Fabric 210D Waterproof Cordura Ripstop, Rugged Powermesh
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Carries full backpacking loadouts with tons of camera gear without being too heavy
  • Full feature set and plenty of cushion
  • Quick, easy camera access
  • Water- and tear-resistant fabric


  • Need to purchase camera insert separately
  • Light materials make the bag a bit floppy/difficult to load up
Best of the Rest

Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 450 AW


  • Volume N/A
  • Dimensions 6.30" x 10.63" x 18.90" (Internal), 12.20" x 9.45" x 21.26" (External)
  • Weight 3.73 lbs.
  • Fabric Water-resistant nylon
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • A plethora of dividers and storage options for camera gear
  • Easy camera access from all sorts of angles
  • Comfortable suspension system for an all-day carry


  • Personal storage compartment is a bit limiting
  • On the clunky/heavy side

Hex Back Loader V2


  • Volume 20 L
  • Dimensions 18.5" x 12.0" x 5.5"
  • Weight 3.25 lbs.
  • Fabric 900D poly exterior
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Lots of storage for work accessories


  • No rain cover
  • No water-resistant materials

Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II


  • Volume 25 L
  • Dimensions 14.2″ x 8.6″ x 20.5″
  • Weight 5 lbs.
  • Fabric Nylon & polyester
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Flexible, customizable dividers
  • Includes rain protection and rain cover
  • Water bottle holder
  • Svelte, professional aesthetic


  • Provides lumbar support but the hip belt and back support could be even more robust for the heavy load for some folks
  • Durable but not the most durable pack we’ve tested
  • Not the largest volume

Thule Covert 32L


  • Volume 32 L
  • Dimensions 14.2" x 9.1" x 20.5"
  • Weight 4.71 lbs.
  • Fabric Polyester
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Durable construction
  • Velcro dividers are quick and easy to use
  • Easy side access
  • Removable padded camera pod
  • Massive back panel opening
  • Roll-top closure for expandability


  • So much organization/pockets can get overwhelming
  • Resists a bit of water but not heavy rain
  • Zippers can be a tad sticky

USA Gear DSLR Camera Backpack Case


  • Volume 28 L
  • Dimensions 12″ x 8″ x 18″
  • Weight 2.5 lbs.
  • Fabric Nylon
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Includes a rain cover
  • Loads of storage options
  • Easily accessible camera compartment, including side door
  • Affordable


  • Waist strap is bare-bones without padding
  • Chest strap is not vertically adjustable
  • We’d like to see zipper pulls with rings large enough for locks
  • A bit clunky and boxy

Altura Camera Sling Bag


  • Volume 14 L
  • Dimensions 8.1″ x 6.4″ x 17″
  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Fabric Polyester
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Mesh interior pocket holds smaller items
  • Exterior tripod holder
  • Compact pack for short travel and transport or storage


  • Fairly small pack for day trips
  • Minimal room in pack

Lowepro Fastpack Pro BP 250 AW III


  • Volume 25 L
  • Dimensions 12.4″ x 9.3″ x 21″
  • Weight 3.2 lbs.
  • Fabric Polyester
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Glove-friendly buckles
  • Molded-in dividers that hinge flat or open to create or collapse interior compartments
  • Bottom handle makes grabbing pack easy in an overhead carry or truck bed


  • Would be great to see additional lock security that works when the pack is not being worn

Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 20L


  • Volume 20 L or 30 L
  • Dimensions 13″ x 11.8″ x 18″
  • Weight 4.5 lbs.
  • Fabric 400D double poly-coated DWR-impregnated nylon canvas shell
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Expandable side pockets for water bottles or tripods
  • Optional hip belt (purchase separately)
  • Four external carry straps and sternum strap are all stowable


  • Expensive
  • A bit on the heavy side for a daily driver



  • Volume 21 L (only option for photography bundle), 31 L, 41 L
  • Dimensions 19" x 11" x 6.5"
  • Weight 2.8 lbs.
  • Fabric Waterproof tarpaulin, robic 1680D ballistic nylon
The Best Camera Backpacks of 2024


  • Waterproof materials and water-resistant zippers
  • Optional accessory straps have six different attachment point options
  • Sternum strap is adjustable and removable
  • Luggage pass-through thanks to webbing on back panel
  • So many pockets!


  • Need to purchase camera elements separately if not buying it as a bundle
  • Pricey

Camera Backpacks Comparison Chart

Camera BackpackPriceVolumeDimensionsWeightFabric
Nomatic McKinnon 35L$33135L – 42L22″ x 13.5″ x 9″5.75 lbs.300D recycled polyester ripstop, 600D solution-dyed polyester
CADeN Camera Backpack$3614L11.5″ x 5″ x 14.2″2 lbs.N/A
Peak Design Everyday Zip 20L$22020L18.5″ x 11.4″ x 6.3″3.42 lbs.400D double poly-coated DWR nylon canvas shell, 900D waterproof bottom liner
Lowepro Pro Trekker RLX 450 AW II$47028L14″ x 10″ x 20.5″8.9 lbs.1680D ballistic polyester, 420D ripstop nylon, 500D polyester Kodra, Velex nylon
Lowepro Trekker Lite SLX 120 Sling Camera Bag$856.5L11.8″ x 5.5″ x 9.4″1 lbs.300D recycled polyester ripstop, 600D solution dyed polyester
Manfrotto PRO Light Backloader$21522.5L12.6″ x 10.24″ x 20.47″4.17 lbs.Nylon, synthetic fabric
Moment Strohl Mountain Light 45L Backpack$25045L31.5″ x 10.5″2.38 lbs.210D waterproof Cordura ripstop, rugged Powermesh
Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 450 AW
$290N/A12.2″ x 9.45″ x 21.26″3.73 lbs.Water-resistant nylon
Hex Back Loader V2$20020L18.5″ x 12″ x 5.5″3.25 lbs.900D poly exterior
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II$23025L14.2″ x 8.6″ x 20.5″5 lbs.Nylon & polyester
Thule Covert 32L$32032L14.2″ x 9.1″ x 20.5″4.71 lbs.Polyester
USA Gear DSLR Camera Backpack Case
$7028L12″ x 8″ x 18″2.5 lbs.Nylon
Altura Camera Sling Bag$5014L8.1″ x 6.4″ x 17″1 lb.Polyester
Lowepro Fastpack Pro BP 250 AW III
$17825L12.4″ x 9.3″ x 21″3.2 lbs.Polyester
Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 20L
$28020L – 30L13″ x 11.8″ x 18″4.5 lbs.400D double poly-coated DWR-impregnated nylon canvas shell
WANDRD PRVKE 21L V2$29921L – 41L19″ x 11″ x 6.5″2.8 lbs.Waterproof tarpaulin, Robic 1680D ballistic nylon
Testing camera backpacks on ice climbing trips in Colorado; (photo/Chris Carter)

How We Tested Camera Backpacks

With decades of experience behind the lens, GearJunkie’s rabble of creatives is no stranger to flashy photography trinkets — and they know the importance of keeping that precious glass safe and sound in any environment.

A good camera backpack is the foundation of a successful shoot. It keeps thousands of dollars of heavy, fragile gear cocooned in cushy compartments, and is the difference between getting that perfect shot, or endlessly fumbling around while the sun sinks below the horizon.

For that reason, our team doesn’t take our testing lightly. We rummaged around online forums, bugged our pro photog contacts, and scoured the tables at gear shows to narrow in on the absolute best roundup of camera backpacks on the market. Rest assured — this list represents the crème de la crème of these niche, fancy packs.

Senior Editor Chris Carter and GearJunkie contributor Kendra Smith joined forces for the most recent revamp of this guide. Taking over 10 different camera backpacks on shoots and adventures all over the world, they reviewed this fresh stock of packs over a 7-month testing period before feeling comfortable settling on the list you see above.

These backpacks wound their way along cobblestone streets in Europe, bounced across the dusty African savannah, and slowly plodded up endless Sierra switchbacks in California. We clocked some serious distance with each model, and would feel confident recommending any one of them for your various photography ventures.

Senior Editor Chris Carter on a video shoot in Kenya with PD’s legendary Everyday Zip; (photo/Emily Malone)

Drawing from years of documentary work, commercial gigs for outdoor brands, and stints as a freelancer and PBS cameraman, Carter pulled from a diverse film and photog resume to help inform the direction of this guide. His cameras are unwittingly toted to some seriously wild locations, and he is extremely picky about the backpacks he grabs to protect them with.

Smith is an editorial photographer based in Minneapolis. She has a multidisciplinary background in photography, cultural anthropology, and communicative arts in marketing. She hauled a number of the packs reviewed above on wild romps all over the globe to put them through their paces and gauge their merit.

For an extended multiday production on complicated sets, or a simple day shoot at a local wedding — we’ve got a camera backpack for your specific needs.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Camera Backpack

Camera backpacks come in all shapes and sizes, for different lengths and intensities of shoots. Moment’s Strohl Mountain Light 45L Pack is designed for multiday backpacking trips, and guards sensitive gear in a hard zippered box at the base of the pack; (photo/Chris Carter)

When considering the perfect camera backpack for your personal or professional pursuits, it’s important to think of location, distance, accessibility, and capacity. Additional considerations are materials and capacity, comfort, and value. Things like weather, durability, body type, and budget will also come into play when making the best personal choice in a camera bag.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you may want a simple hip pack to carry your camera and other essentials, while a professional photographer will need a bag with substantial weight capacity along with storage and good padding for protection. In any case, thinking through when and where you’ll use your camera backpack will help guide your purchase. Below are a few good questions to ask yourself before making your purchase.

  • Is this for professional or personal use?
  • Do I need a daily camera bag or does this have a specific use such as travel, hiking, or commuting? 
  • How many cameras, lenses, and accessories are necessary to fit into the camera bag?
  • What is my comfort level with weight?
  • How accessible do I need my camera to be in my bag?
  • Do I need a computer insert? How large is my computer or tablet?

It’s worth noting that all of the packs we listed above serve the niche purpose of transporting and protecting sensitive camera gear. If you’re on the hunt for other backpack categories, be sure to check out our comprehensive review on the absolute best backpacking backpacks, or our streamlined roundup of the best daypacks for everyday use. All of these packs could also be converted to DIY camera backpacks with the inclusion of some nifty camera cubes — but it sure is nice to have an all-in-one package.


Being able to quickly whip your camera out from a variety of angles is a key feature for a quality camera backpack on any shoot — particularly on outdoor gigs; (photo/Emily Malone)

As every photographer knows, location is everything, and with that comes weather, lighting, and terrain. These aspects will inform some of the most important elements your camera pack should be prepared for — and hopefully help narrow down your options. 

Based on location, a common accessory to many photographers is the tripod. Most camera backpacks have clips to hold a tripod but this very much depends on the size and weight of the trip, so look out for the specs of the pack and your tripod when considering how important a tripod holder is to your camera backpack. 

If you know there is a higher risk of inclement weather, you will want to look for waterproofing or water-resistant materials on the fabric and zippers or a rain cover. Another major element to consider is dirt and dust. At the very least, good camera backpacks keep out the dirt from getting inside your pack so check out the materials section below for more information.

Consider the full range of conditions and environments you plan on shooting in when choosing your camera backpack. This will largely determine the capacity, materials, and overall organizational features of the pack that are best for your needs.


Some camera backpacks, like Lowepro’s PhotoSport X, are specifically designed for long-distance backpacking trips, allowing you to capture moments on trail with cinema quality; (photo/Emily Malone)

Knowing how far you need to travel with your camera backpack will help inform how durable your pack should be and how much weight you’re willing or able to carry for that distance.

In general, thicker materials with double-stitching in the seams and straps will help your pack manage normal wear. Ripstop and other strong materials help with extensive wear for increased or long-term use. It’s important to note how much or little space that your pack allows compared to your gear. Ironically, the tighter your gear fits into your pack the better, as extra room allows your gear to get knocked around while traveling. Either get the perfect fit or find ways to make that space tighter.

Senior Editor Chris Carter filming on trail with the Strohl Mountain Light 45L Pack. We chose this pack as our favorite for multi-day romps while hauling a full film/photography loadout; (photo/Chris Carter)

If you’re carrying your pack longer distances with substantial weight, you’ll definitely want to consider choosing a backpack with waist and chest straps to balance the weight distribution of your gear. A good long-distance pack also has substantial padding around the walls of the front, back, and side of the backpack as well as the interior separators.

We narrowed in on the Moment Strohl Mountain Light pack as our heavy hauler of choice for long backpacking trips. The AtlasPacks Athlete Camera Backpack is another — slightly smaller — stellar pick in this category. Packs like these allow you to safely carry a full camera loadout in addition to a basic backpacking kit for multiday travel in the backcountry.

Flying With Camera Backpacks

Perhaps our favorite luggage combo when flying: a hard-sided case with camera cubes inside, plus a personal item-sized camera pack like PD’s Everyday Zip 20L for the truly fragile, expensive stuff; (photo/Chris Carter)

Inevitably, you’re going to have to cross some big ponds during your filmmaking/photography exploits — which can be an understandably disconcerting experience. Not everyone — TSA *cough cough* — understands just how fragile and expensive this glass can get. Horror stories abound of camera gear getting ruined in transit between countries.

Your best line of defense against these woes is to carry all of your pricey gear in either your carry-on or your personal item. You can then stash more durable gear like a tripod, mounts, or a bulky camera cage, in your checked bags.

Our favorite combo for schlepping gear for even moderately complicated shoots abroad is to slot a large camera cube, such as PD’s Medium or Large Camera Cube V2, into a hard-sided carry-on like the one above, and fill it with any assortment of lenses, mics, or sensitive filters. We then pack our pricey camera bodies and some of the more expensive lenses in a smaller personal item-sized camera backpack — like PD’s Everyday Zip 20L or Lowepro’s Trekker Lite SLX 120 Sling Bag.

This streamlined combo has allowed us to haul an absurd amount of film gear all over the world for everything from simple photo gigs, to complicated multi-month international video projects. Never once have we had to put anything fragile in a checked bag. Though this does make our personal items quite heavy, it’s a price we’re willing to pay for peace of mind.

Checked bags get chucked haphazardly around while loading and unloading onto planes, and we’d rather not worry one bit about a cracked lens or broken body. With that said, we’d still recommend purchasing gear insurance before going anywhere too wild.

If your camera loadout is simply too massive for your personal luggage, you can splurge on something like the bombproof 1615 Air Case from Pelican to check sensitive gear — but this gets pricey fast.

A sprawling gear vomit that was magically all (barring the gimbal) swallowed by PD’s Everyday Zip 20L pack for a complex video project in Africa; (photo/Chris Carter)

We recently were able to shove multiple camera bodies, a slew of bulky lenses, camera cages, gimbals, mics, monitors, and all manner of awkward-shaped tech accessories into this carry-on/personal item combo and travel stress-free to Africa for a months-long video project in brutal conditions.

The multiple access points of PD’s Everyday Zip, and easily accessible organization of the camera pod in our carry-on, allowed us to quickly reveal our suspect film gear to prying airport security eyes without having to spill all of our personal contents on the ground at checkpoints. A cherished detail.

When traveling internationally, it’s safe to assume that expensive camera gear will be scrutinized while going through airport security. It’s therefore best to have everything as easily accessible as possible if/when your bag gets pulled aside to be rummaged through.

It’s also helpful to have an itemized list on hand of what camera gear you’re bringing into the country, and its rough monetary value — as we’ve been asked for this on multiple occasions while traveling abroad. Having to scroll through your recent Amazon purchases to wrangle this info together last minute while folks wait impatiently behind you is less than fun.

Pods/Camera Cubes

Camera cubes allow for quick, safe camera gear storage in everyday luggage and backpacks, or can be used to add additional storage to camera backpacks; (photo/Chris Carter)

Camera pods/cubes are another important feature to consider, and can be immensely helpful when flying or road-tripping around — as mentioned above. Pods, or “camera cubes” can make many different backpacks into camera backpacks, and are smaller inserts that fit within a larger pack. They generally have foam dividers for cameras and lenses, and vary in sizes.

First, be on the lookout for pods that are and are not included. Many packs are now offering pods as an add-on to create a more customized bag that can double as a camera backpack or regular pack. The add-on options allow you to choose what size of pods you need. In any case, try to visualize where your gear will be placed in the pods, how many you need, and how to customize them to your needs.

Lowepro’s GearUP Pro Camera Boxes have kept our expensive cinema cameras safe and sound on a few recent backpacking trips we’ve embarked on; (photo/Chris Carter)

Some of our favorite camera cubes are Peak Design’s Camera Cube V2s and Lowepro’s GearUP Pro Camera Boxes. We’ve been using the small and medium PD cubes to make our regular carry-ons into full-fledged camera rollers, and the GearUP Boxes for carrying loads of heavy bodies and lenses on backpacking trips.

The ability to slide them in and out of any backpack makes these shoo-ins for just about any adventure we’ve gone on during this testing period. The PD cubes also work seamlessly with all Peak Design bags — such as their sleek Travel Duffels — and can be securely clipped into attachment loops within the bag.

We love being able to store a body and one or two lenses in LP’s GearUP Boxes, and slide them vertically into our backpacking backpack for quick, multidirectional access to our camera mid-trek. The GearUPs have a large zippered opening on the front to access everything when you pull it out of your pack, or you can open a smaller door on the top to slide the camera out when the pod is slotted vertically, nestled among your gear (see above). If you aren’t using a dedicated camera backpacking backpack — like Moment’s Strohl Mountain Light pack — this can be a great solution for the trail-trotting creative.

Camera cubes can also be used to add more gear storage to camera backpacks. Often times, the included camera compartment of camera backpacks just isn’t enough, and cubes can be added to personal gear sections of the pack to safely store additional sensitive gear.

Peak Design’s small and medium Camera Cube V2s have quickly become our favorite pods for converting any pack or luggage into a gear-organizing machine; (photo/Chris Carter)


This is perhaps the most important feature that we sniff out when analyzing a camera backpack’s worth, and each pack seems to have its own unique way of allowing you to quickly snag your gear. Manufacturers of these packs face the difficult challenge of crafting a design that keeps fragile glass safe, while still allowing you to swiftly rip the pack off your back, and easily access your camera the moment that perfect shot materializes.

Multidirectional zippers, various access points, and strategically placed Velcro dividers all aid in this complex process. Perhaps our favorite accessibility layout can be found in PD’s Everyday Zip 20L. The pack features top and dual side access via a single 270-degree wrap-around zipper, with four different zippers to open whichever compartment of the pack you need.

Handles on each side of the pack allow you to rip it around with ease to quickly access each segment, and the rotating shoulder straps let you drop the pack onto one shoulder and rip it open without plopping it on the ground.

Not all packs have this level of complicated tech — nor would you necessarily need it. It’s important to determine how complicated or simple you want your back to be, which largely depends on the type of shoots you plan to be involved in.

Being able to quickly whip your camera out from a variety of angles is a key feature for a quality camera backpack on any shoot — particularly on outdoor gigs; (photo/Kendra Smith)

Some photographers need quick access to their camera backpacks while others use them purely for transportation. Knowing whether you need to easily access your camera while on the move is another important step in choosing the right backpack.

There are packs with top and side access, as well as loops on the straps to add camera clips. One of the best features of well-designed camera packs is a side door entry that folds open, so you can reach in and grab your camera, even with your pack still on.

Being able to fully open the front or back of your camera backpack is key for quick, easy accessibility to all of your gear at once; (photo/Kendra Smith)

Usually that zipper extends further to the other side of the pack, too, so you can get a full bird’s-eye view of your equipment (while stopped with the pack lying flat on the ground). A clamshell opening is also a solid design, so that the bag’s exterior completely opens up for visibility on all of the gear.

Another consideration is where the camera compartment is located in the pack. The zipper could be closer to the back, near the front, or down along the sides. Some like their gear uber secure, leading to more difficult access but added protection, while others prefer to be able to get to their camera from the back or outer zipper. Accessibility really depends on your primary focus for your gear.


Every good camera backpack will have a tripod holder. If the bag you’re considering has one, it’s usually located on the exterior of the pack. Many packs use a pocket that usually acts as a bottle holder to support the bottom of the tripod, with a strap near the top of the pack to secure it.

Best Camera Backpack
Most camera backpacks will feature some creative way to hold various sizes of tripods for easy transport; (photo/Lowepro)


Most standard camera bags will come in around 20-30 L. This is plenty of room for camera gear, a laptop or tablet, and other essentials.

If you go out on longer multiday trips, opt for a larger pack — 50 to 60 L might be a good size. And find a padded camera cube so you can pack your camera and lenses safely in the pack if you don’t plan on getting one with integrated camera storage.


As far as pack durability goes, double-stitched straps and high-denier (thicker) materials will help your bag withstand standard wear and tear. For keeping your gear safe, the more padded the backpack, the safer your equipment will be.

Toting sensitive camera gear through rough terrain — like Zion’s narrow slot canyons — requires packs with thick fabric and burly stitching. PD’s Everyday Zip 20L stood up to the task; (photo/Chris Carter)

Also, the more snug the compartment design is, the better. Extra space leaves room for gear to jostle around whether you’re running through the airport, riding your cruiser to the park, or steering a dirt bike to an overlook for sunset.

Look for a pack that has padding that surrounds the main compartment, not just on the separators. If you tend to be extra hard on your gear, some bags have hardshell liners for extra impact protection.


It’s important to know the difference between waterproofing, water-resistant, and how long these materials last. If you want to be prepared for any weather, definitely look for a backpack that is waterproof with waterproof zippers.

Many camera backpacks will have water-resistant materials, zippers, and stitching to help protect your sensitive tech; (photo/Kendra Smith)

Water-resistant bags are great for minor exposure to liquids and in between throwing on an additional rain cover or rain jacket. They will eventually become saturated if there is substantial water so be sure to consider a game plan if you’re out and about during rainy or snowy seasons. In any case, you can always plan to move your camera backpack underneath a rain jacket for coverage on the move.

If you tend to shoot in rainy weather, look for a pack that comes with a rain fly. Many packs stash these in a small pocket on the exterior for quick deployment.

Be wary of packs that are advertised as waterproof. Even if the bag’s material is waterproof, the zippers usually aren’t. So, while a waterproof exterior may repel rain, humidity, mist, or splash action from the bottom of the canoe, there’s a chance that it can seep in through the zippers and get your camera wet.


A comfortable camera backpack boils down to a few key essentials, including cushy shoulder straps, hipbelts, and back panels; (photo/Kendra Smith)

Camera backpacks can get heavy fast. If you’re planning to pack multiple cameras, lenses, and accessories along with your laptop, it’s important to consider how much weight is bearable for your body and find a backpack that distributes weight evenly.

Many backpacks include chest and hip straps. Really great packs add padding to all the straps with adjustments to fit your body. Look out for these features and consider spending a little extra if you’re someone who often carries heavy gear.

Another thing to consider is how heavy the backpack is before you put your gear in. It’s a hard balance as extra comfort and padding usually lead to more weight while ultralight gear can be flimsy and less likely to distribute weight evenly. There are packs that do a great job of balancing both comfort and protection with good padding and weight distribution to help offset the discomfort.

Packing your backpack correctly and thinking about load distribution is another important element in keeping your pack comfortable. Thule’s Covert 32L makes this easy with its plethora of pockets and pouches; (photo/Chris Carter)

Shoulder Pads & Hip Belts

Some camera packs put these two important comfort qualities on the back burner, which is a bummer because a loaded pack of electronics is a fair load to carry around! Ideally, the shoulder pads are breathable, ergonomic, and well-cushioned.

Likewise, the back panel should have cushion, support, and hopefully breathability through a mesh material and airway channels between the pads.

Hip belts that are constructed of a simple strap will help secure the load from swinging around but will not support the load off the shoulders and upper back. They are also not the coziest to snap on.

Cushioned hip belts help to protect the hips from rubbing and carry a portion of the pack weight, relieving the upper back; plus, they are generally more comfortable. For folks with back or neck pain or injuries, be sure to look for adequate pads in your camera pack.

Cozy shoulder pads and hipbelts help lighten the burden of carrying heavy camera gear long distances; (photo/Kendra Smith)


Expect to pay more for your camera backpack than you would any other pack, as the materials and construction entail added costs. It’s important to consider how much your gear costs, countered with how much you are able and willing to pay to safely travel with all you need for your next gig. As mentioned, your camera backpack has extra padding, increased pockets, and enclosures, as well as varying levels of waterproofing to protect your gear.

Whether for personal or professional use, be prepared to spend a little extra on a good backpack. Prices can range anywhere from $80 – $400 depending on size and value. Because there are so many options and price tags out there, we’ve dug deep to find camera backpacks that match their value with the price, and included a whole range of them in this guide.

Categories of Camera Backpacks

While designed with front country style and function in mind, we hauled our Everyday Zip 20L pack along on some wild backcountry adventures — and it withstood them all; (photo/Chris Carter)

Different camera backpacks serve different creatives’ needs. Whether you gravitate to simple day or wedding shoots, or frequently find yourself filming technical expeditions lasting for months, there’s a pack out there with your name on it. We’ve broken down some of our favorite camera backpacks into three main categories. Most of these packs are featured above, while some we have reviewed in previous years.

Cozy shoulder pads and hipbelts help lighten the burden of carrying heavy camera gear long distances; (photo/Kendra Smith)


What makes a good camera bag?

Protection, organization, weight, access, gear fit, and comfort are the key components of good camera bags. Look for a bag with a padded interior, plenty of internal and external pockets for keeping your small, easy-to-lose accessories handy, and a well-designed harness system that distributes the pack weight well.

Look for a pack that allows you to grab the camera on the fly thanks to a seamless side entry point.

How do you keep your camera safe in a backpack?

Every camera bag has a padded compartment that’s designed to keep your camera safe from bumps and scratches. The best way for you to keep your camera safe in your pack is to pack it correctly.

Also, know that your average camera pack is not bombproof. Use common sense with your bag: Avoid throwing your bag around, sitting on it, or piling other bags on top of it, and your camera should be safe.

While camera backpacks are built with durable, often water-resistant material, note that zippers are not typically waterproof. Be aware that moisture, humidity, splashes, setting it in puddles, traveling through pouring rain or snow, or a spilled water bottle have the potential to reach your equipment.

Pay attention to your surroundings when you travel, too. If you’re overseas or in a crowded bus or train station or at an airport, consider using a lock on your pack. Not all camera pack zippers are compatible with TSA locks.

Camera backpacks will almost always have plenty of foam and stiff structures to keep your pricey gear safe and sound; (photo/Kendra Smith)
Can I take my camera bag on an airplane?

The TSA allows bags with cameras, tripods, and lenses if they fit in the overhead bin or under your seat. Drones are allowed through checkpoints. But individual airlines’ rules may vary. Check with your specific airline to see if your drone is allowed in your carry-on.

Do I really need a camera bag?

Short answer: no. If you feel like risking it, you can keep your camera in a regular bag. But the likelihood that your camera will be damaged is increased. And if you’re attached to your bag, you can always buy a padded camera cube, put your camera in it, and then place it in the bag.

That said, a camera bag will not only be safer for your camera but will also keep all your peripherals organized, allowing you to access everything you need when you need it.

What do professional photographers carry in their bags?

Like a painter or graphic artist, every photographer is slightly unique with their technique, tools, and how they carry and operate their gear outside or indoors on a film mission. Generally, a few things that pros will carry include multiple memory cards, batteries, a lens wipe, a tripod, plus, of course, their camera and a couple of lenses tailored to the shots that they have in mind for that destination.

Sometimes they’ll also bring an extra camera, reflector, or light meter, but it really depends on how quick, fast, and lightweight they need to travel and what their objective or contracted project entails.

How do I take care of my camera bag?

Just like any other piece of gear, it’s important to provide routine TLC to your bag. Clean the exterior and interior according to the product tag, and reapply water repellent too. Make sure the zippers are well-lubricated and clean.

Repair and patch any tears or deep scratches. Also, be sure to air out the interior pockets and camera cubes, as storing your equipment in a dry, clean space is important.

Thule’s Covert 32L in all its glory. This has one of our all-time favorite designs for gear-intensive shoots with a million different camera trinkets, since it has such a wide array of pockets and compartments; (photo/Chris Carter)

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