The 7 Best Camera Backpacks for Travel
Embarking on a photographic journey around the world demands a camera backpack that marries style, functionality, and durability. When traveling, every moment is a potential masterpiece, making your choice of gear transport a crucial decision. From bustling city streets to remote wilderness, the best camera backpack must not only safeguard your equipment but also grant easy access for capturing that split-second shot.
In this guide, we explore a curated selection of camera backpacks that cater to the specific needs of travel photographers, ensuring that your gear remains secure, organized, and ready for action as you traverse the globe in pursuit of your next captivating frame.
Disclosure: We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation.
The Tenba Axis, a backpack we’ve relied on for almost two years now, has unquestionably earned its title as the best all-around camera backpack for travel. It’s been a reliable companion on countless photographic adventures, offering not only a high level of comfort but also a heightened sense of security. The quick access points, whether from the top or rear, have proven invaluable for those moments when a shot can’t be missed.
What sets the Axis apart is its adaptability, seamlessly transitioning from urban streets to rugged hikes, all while discreetly concealing camera gear. For travel photographers like us, who demand both practicality and protection for our kit as we explore the world, it’s the top choice.
We’ve used the Nomatic McKinnon 35L for over two years now, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. It effortlessly claims the title of the best camera backpack for one-bag travel. What sets this bag apart is the exceptional comfort it offers, making long journeys a breeze. With its impressive capacity, it’ll easily accommodates all of your travel essentials alongside your camera gear, eliminating the need for an extra bag.
The McKinnon’s internal organization is second to none, ensuring that your equipment stays neatly arranged and protected. While it comes with a premium price tag, the benefits it provides in terms of comfort, capacity, and organization make it a worthwhile investment.
The Peak Design Travel Line 45L is the ultimate choice for hybrid shooters, catering to the needs of photographers who also engage in video work. With this backpack, the size and modularity are unbeatable, making it a top pick for those who require versatility. It effortlessly accommodates travel items as well as an extensive collection of camera and video equipment.
Whether you’re heading out on a photo-centric expedition or delving into a video-focused client project, the Travel Line 45L proves to be an ideal backpack, offering the capacity and adaptability necessary to meet the demands of hybrid shooting.
The Shimoda Action X30 stands out as the best choice for photographers going on outdoor adventures. This exceptional camera backpack has been designed with the demands of challenging environments in mind, offering tank-like durability and a thoughtful organization system that can withstand the rigors of extended expeditions.
Having been used and tested extensively in various outdoor settings, it’s evident that the Action X30 excels at providing both protection for camera gear and ease of access, which is crucial when you’re out in the elements and don’t have time to waste.
The Think Tank Retrospective stands out as the prime choice for photographers seeking a camera backpack with a compact form factor. This sleek and stylish bag not only exudes understated heritage aesthetics but also offers practicality without compromising. It’s been designed with a slim profile, making it ideal for photographers who prefer a more refined look.
Whether you’re navigating through crowded urban streets or capturing moments in discreet settings, the Think Tank Retrospective provides the perfect blend of style and functionality for photographers who appreciate a compact yet capable camera backpack.
The Lowepro ProTactic AW, akin to a robust hard shell with comfortable straps, is the perfect camera backpack for photographers seeking durability, adaptability, and efficient access to their gear, all wrapped into one reliable package.
Its standout feature is the four access points to the interior: two quick-access openings on the sides, a top opening, and a flip side full open for complete access to the entire interior. Combined with the unlimited divider arrangement options, the ProTactic transforms into the most versatile and easily accessible bag on the market.
Brevite’s The Jumper emerges as the ideal camera backpack for budget-conscious photographers who refuse to compromise on quality and functionality. With this backpack, you get the best of both worlds: a wallet-friendly price tag and a feature-rich design. It offers spacious storage for camera gear and personal items, quick side access for your camera, and adjustable dividers to suit your specific gear setup.
The Jumper’s robust construction ensures that it can withstand the rigors of travel and outdoor shooting, making it a budget-friendly choice that doesn’t skimp on quality or performance.
The Peak Design Everyday Zip earns an honorable mention for being the go-to camera backpack for photographers who prioritize easy side access to their gear. While it didn’t make our top 7 list, it’s a popular choice that stands out for its unique functionality.
If you prioritize speed and accessibility in your photography, the Everyday Zip is a solid option worth considering, despite not making the top ranks of our selection.
Choosing the best camera backpack requires careful consideration of your specific needs and gear. Below are some detailed factors to consider:
Gear Inventory: Start by taking an inventory of your camera equipment, including cameras, lenses, tripods, and accessories. Knowing the size and quantity of gear you carry is crucial.
Capacity: Determine the amount of storage space you need for your gear. Camera backpacks typically come in various capacities measured in liters. Look for one that comfortably accommodates your equipment without being too cramped.
Accessibility: Decide if you prefer top access, side access, or both. Some bags offer quick access through zippers or flaps, which can be beneficial for on-the-go shooting.
Comfort and Fit: Pay attention to the backpack’s ergonomics. Padded shoulder straps, a ventilated back panel, a sternum strap and hip belt can help distribute weight and improve comfort, especially during long hikes.
Protection: Ensure the bag provides adequate padding and customizable dividers to protect your camera and lenses. Water-resistant or weather-sealed options can be valuable for outdoor shooting.
Organizational Features: Consider how well the bag can organize your equipment. Pockets, dividers, and compartments should suit your specific needs. Some bags have dedicated laptop sleeves, memory card slots, and more.
Durability: Look for high-quality materials and construction. YKK zippers, reinforced stitching, and robust fabrics can enhance the bag’s lifespan.
Weight: Keep in mind the backpack’s empty weight. If you’re traveling or hiking long distances, a lightweight bag can be a significant advantage.
Style & Discretion: Depending on your preferences, you may want a bag that doesn’t scream “camera equipment.” Some models are designed to blend into urban environments, while others are more rugged and outdoorsy.
Price: Set a budget, but be willing to invest in a quality bag that meets your needs. A well-designed, durable backpack can protect your valuable gear and last for years.
Warranty: Check if the manufacturer offers a warranty, as it can provide peace of mind in case of defects or issues.
Remember that the “best” camera backpack is subjective and depends on your individual needs and shooting style. Consider these factors carefully, and you’ll be better equipped to find the perfect camera backpack for you.
Assessing the durability of a camera backpack is essential to ensure your gear stays protected. Below is a detailed guide on how to determine if a camera backpack is built to last:
Fabrics: Check the materials used for the exterior. High-denier nylon or Cordura fabrics are known for their durability and resistance to abrasion. Ripstop materials feature reinforced threads to prevent tears from spreading.
Reinforced Areas: Look for reinforced sections in high-stress areas, such as the bottom, corners, and where the shoulder straps attach to the bag.
Stitching: Inspect the stitching quality. Double-stitched seams and bar-tack reinforcements at stress points improve overall durability.
Zippers: Quality zippers are crucial. YKK zippers are renowned for their reliability and smooth operation. They should also have large, easy-to-grip pulls.
Buckles & Clips: Ensure that buckles and clips are made from strong, impact-resistant materials. Duraflex and Woojin are reputable brands for hardware.
Weather-Sealing: Look for weather-resistant features such as sealed seams, waterproof zippers, and water-resistant coatings like DWR (Durable Water Repellent).
Rain Cover: Some camera backpacks include a detachable rain cover to provide an extra layer of protection during heavy rain.
Interior Padding: Well-padded dividers and camera compartments safeguard your gear from shocks and impacts. Additionally, the ability to rearrange or remove dividers is a plus, as it allows you to tailor the interior for different gear configurations.
Padded Straps and Back Panel: Quality backpacks feature padded shoulder straps and a comfortable back panel to ensure even weight distribution.
Chest and Hip Straps: These help stabilize the load and reduce strain on your shoulders during long hikes or travel.
Load Capacity: Avoid overloading your backpack. Operating within the bag’s specified weight limits will extend its longevity.
Brand Reputation: Research the manufacturer’s reputation. Brands with a history of producing reliable camera bags are more likely to offer durable options.
Warranty: Investigate the warranty policy. A manufacturer’s warranty can provide peace of mind if the backpack experiences defects or issues. Also, verify if they offer warranties and customer support, which can be indicative of their confidence in the bag’s durability.
Maintenance: Proper care and maintenance are essential. Regularly clean your bag, and keep it away from extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, and direct sunlight.
By thoroughly examining these factors, you can confidently determine the durability of a camera backpack. A well-constructed, weather-resistant, and thoughtfully designed backpack will protect your gear through countless adventures.
The size of the camera backpack you can take on a plane depends on the airline’s specific carry-on policies and regulations. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you choose an appropriate size:
Underseat Bags (10-20 liters): Many airlines permit a small personal item that fits under the seat. Camera backpacks in the 10-20 liter range are typically suitable for this purpose.
Standard Carry-On (20-35 liters): For travelers who intend to use their camera backpack as the main carry-on item, bags in the 20-35 liter range are a good choice. These typically meet standard carry-on size requirements and provide ample space for camera gear and other essentials.
Convertible and Expandable (35-45 liters): Some camera backpacks can expand or contract to meet varying needs. They might have an initial capacity of 35-45 liters but can be adjusted to fit carry-on requirements by compressing them.
Airline Regulations: Always verify the specific carry-on size restrictions of your chosen airline. While the above size guidelines are generally applicable, each airline may have slightly different rules, so it’s crucial to check their official website for the most accurate information.
When choosing a camera backpack for air travel, ensure that it falls within the size limits defined by your airline. The capacity in liters is an excellent indicator of how much gear and personal items you can fit, but the physical dimensions (length, width, depth) are equally important to meet airline requirements.
Quick access in a camera backpack is crucial for travel photographers. Each type has its pros and cons, and the best choice depends on individual preferences and shooting style. Here’s an overview of different quick access options:
Pros: Highly secure as the access point is against your back. Great for urban environments and crowded areas. Protects gear from theft and the elements.
Cons: Slower to access gear, especially if you have to set the bag down. You need to take the backpack off to reach your camera.
Pros: Quick and convenient for grabbing gear without removing the bag. Good for street and event photography.
Cons: Gear may be less secure, as the zippers are more exposed. Limited access if you’re wearing the backpack.
Pros: Fast access without taking off the bag. Easy to change lenses on the go.
Cons: Security may be a concern in crowded places. Gear can be exposed to rain if the weather turns.
Pros: Simple and intuitive. Offers full access to the main compartment for arranging gear. Better for storing non-camera items.
Cons: Not as quick for grabbing specific gear. It may be less secure in busy areas.
Pros: Versatility to choose the best access point depending on the situation. You can adapt to various shooting scenarios.
Cons: The bag might become bulkier and more complex. A bit heavier due to added zippers and compartments.
For travel, a camera backpack with multiple access points is often the most versatile option because it provides the flexibility to choose the access that suits your surroundings and needs. However, if you know you’ll be in busy and potentially crowded areas, a rear-access bag offers better security. Side access is excellent for quick street photography, while front access is convenient when you need to change lenses frequently.
Ultimately, the choice depends on your travel style and the balance between quick access and security.
Choosing between a dedicated camera backpack and a regular backpack with a padded camera insert depends on your specific needs and priorities. Below are some reasons why a camera backpack may be worth the premium over using a regular backpack with an insert:
When to Choose a Dedicated Camera Backpack:
Photography is a Priority: If photography is a central focus of your trip and you’re carrying multiple camera bodies, lenses, and accessories, a dedicated camera backpack is the superior choice. It provides specialized protection and organization, ensuring that your gear remains secure and easily accessible.
Versatility in Photography: For photographers who engage in different types of photography, such as wildlife, landscape, and street photography, a camera backpack’s customizable compartments offer flexibility to accommodate various equipment setups.
Extended Hiking or Adventure Photography: In scenarios where you’ll be hiking or engaging in adventure photography, a dedicated camera backpack with comfortable carrying features and weather resistance is essential for both protection and mobility.
Security and Anti-Theft: If you’re concerned about the safety of your camera gear, especially in crowded or less secure areas, some camera backpacks offer anti-theft features, such as lockable zippers and concealed pockets, providing added security.
When to Use a Camera Insert in a Regular Backpack:
Minimalist Photography: When you’re traveling light and intend to do minimal photography, such as using only one camera and lens, a camera insert can be a practical choice. It adds minimal weight and bulk to your regular backpack, making it an unobtrusive option for casual shots.
Multi-Purpose Travel: For trips where photography isn’t the primary focus and you require your backpack for various purposes, such as carrying clothes, snacks, and essentials, a regular backpack with a camera insert ensures versatility and convenience.
Inconspicuous Appearance: If you prefer not to draw attention to your expensive camera gear while exploring urban areas or want a non-obvious, everyday appearance, a regular backpack with a camera insert can help you maintain a low profile.
Easy Access to Other Items: A regular backpack allows for straightforward access to non-photographic items. This can be advantageous for travelers who frequently switch between photography and other activities.
In summary, the choice between a dedicated camera backpack and a regular backpack with a camera insert depends on your travel style, photography priorities, and the nature of your trip. Dedicated camera backpacks excel when photography is central, and you require the highest level of protection, organization, and comfort.
On the other hand, camera inserts in regular backpacks are suitable for travelers who need a versatile, low-profile solution, particularly when photography is a secondary or occasional pursuit during their journeys.