A backpack is one of the best ways to carry your gear. With two straps, the weight is evenly distributed across both shoulders. They’re often big enough to carry all your gear, or at least the gear you’ll need for that particular shoot. Comfortable enough to hike with or wear for extended periods, they’re often the favored choice among many photographers.
But when it comes to actually choosing a camera backpack, the options are rather overwhelming, and span anywhere from $30 to several hundred. So what camera backpacks will carry all your gear without leaving you aching after the first five minutes? We’ve detailed what to look for in a camera backpack, as well as listed five of the best options on the market right now.
What to consider
Like buying any piece of gear, it’s not a matter of finding the best one, but finding the best one for you. There are a few different features that may make a backpack more comfortable to you, or help you accommodate all your gear.
- Split pack vs. full backpack. Both split backpacks and regular backpacks are a similar size, but the split pack is split in two, with the bottom portion for your gear and a roomy top pocket for stashing accessories, your wallet, or even your lunch. It leaves a lot of room for extras, but full backpacks can accommodate more camera bodies and lenses, and usually have a small pocket for accessories too.
- Strap thickness is a big factor in whether or not a bag is comfortable. Every bag will have stiff straps at first, but thin straps will quickly leave your back aching. Look for lots of strap padding, especially if you have a lot of heavy gear.
- Waist straps are also a big help for making backpacks more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. By allowing you to support some of the weight on your hips, heavy backpacks don’t feel so heavy. Of course, they can also get in the way sometimes.
- Tripod straps are also handy to have, especially if you’re a landscape photographer that hikes with a tripod.
- Is there enough room? Camera backpacks come in all sizes. Some will only accommodate a body and two lens kit, while others will cary multiple camera bodies plus several lenses and flash units.
Best Camera Backpacks
Lowepro Flipside 500 AW Pro DSLR Camera Backpack
The Lowepro Flipside 500 AW is designed to carry a lot of gear, comfortably. The thick straps are accompanied by a well-padded waist strap, so even when you fill this bag, it’s pretty comfortably to carry considering all that weight. The bag will fit a DSLR with an attached 500mm lens along with seven other spots for lenses, flashes or an extra camera body. If you don’t have a 500mm lens, you can fit even more lenses inside with the customisable dividers. If you don’t have that much gear, the Flipside comes in a few different sizes: the 200, 300, 400 and 500. But the bag also does a pretty good job of keeping all that gear easy to get to. Access to the main compartment is actually through the backside of the pack, so if you leave the waist strap fastened and slide the shoulder straps off, you can swing the bag around on your waist and access all of your gear, not just the camera and one lens like bags with quick access side compartments. You can usually find this backpack for $200 or less.
Manfrotto Bumblebee-200 PL
The Manfrotto Bumblebee is another comfortable bag that fits plenty of gear. Pack in two or three DSLR bodies and up to eight lenses, even a big 500mm with the tripod mount off. Oh, and there’s space for a 17” laptop too. The designers of this bag spent a bit of time working on a harness system for the most comfortably carry. Thick foam straps are comfortable on the shoulders and the waist and sternum strap help ensure the weight is distributed for the most comfortable carry. There’s no quick access zipper, but this pack carries a lot of gear without too much backache. It’s a bit more expensive, but the comfort is worth the extra cash.
Lowepro 350 AW Transit Backpack
The Lowepro Transit backpack is an excellent bag for carrying a three-lens camera kit, plus a tablet or small laptop, tripod and accessories. The beauty of this bag is the versatility. You can use it as a split pack with room in the top compartment for photo accessories as well as your wallet and keys. Or, if you have a big telephoto lens, the camera can sit in the top compartment with the telephoto attached. There’s a side pocket, so you can slide one strap off and reach your gear without having to take the bag completely off. While it’s a smaller, more casual bag, it’s still comfortable to wear, thanks to the lightweight design, thick straps and waist strap. The smaller bag also makes it a bit more affordable, sitting pretty at around $120.
KATA Camera Sling Backpack 3N1-PRO 25
The Kata 3N1-Pro 25 is a comfortable bag, whether you’re carrying around a five lens kit or just one or two. The design makes it easy to fit multiple lenses inside, including some telephotos. There’s still plenty of pockets left for organizing filters and other accessories too. A tripod can also be strapped on to the outside of the pack. The bag is also both a sling and backpack in one, so you can use one strap instead of two to quickly access your gear from the side, or use both straps when comfort is top priority. The bag retails for about $225.
Tamrac 5549 Adventure 9 Camera Backpack
The Tamrac 5549 is a split pack that will still comfortably accommodate a short, medium and long lens along with a camera body and hot shoe flash. That leaves plenty of room for other items in the top portion of the pack, like a lunch and sweatshirt or whatever else you may need on your excursions. There’s also a well-concealed laptop compartment at the back, along with a detachable organizer for laptop cords and other accessories. While not as large as other bags, it’s comfortable to wear and offers a decant size for smaller kits. You can usually find this bag for less than $200.
Shopping for a good camera backpack is no easy task. Along with accommodating all your gear, it’s tough to find one with comfortable straps and space for extras like a laptop or tripod. Lowepro, Manfrotto, Tamrac and Kata make some of the best camera backpacks on the market, with plenty of space without sacrificing on comfort.
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