Whether traveling or hiking, you need to protect your photography gear with the best camera backpacks of 2021.
You can easily spend a small fortune on photography equipment, so it pays to protect your investment with the best camera backpack possible. 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, we’ve got you covered.
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Best Camera Backpack of 2021
Best Overall Camera Bag: Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II
The first thing you notice about Lowepro’s ProTactic 450 AW II ($169) is its understated design. A flat black exterior with webbing throughout perfectly blends style and utility. As great as the exterior looks, this bag really shines when you open it up.
With enough room to fit two DSLR or mirrorless cameras, additional lenses, and even a drone, you won’t need to decide which device to take on your trip. You’ll simply be able to bring the best gear for whatever situation arises. The padded, flexible dividers can be adjusted to multiple configurations. This allows you to arrange your camera gear however you want. And the tough EVA molded top padding all around the bag keeps it safe.
The pack also features smaller pockets in the back panel to keep your batteries and cords organized. Further, quick-lock straps and a tripod cup let you attach a tripod for traveling. Want to do your edits on the road? Lowepro has you covered with a protective laptop pocket that will hold up to a 15-inch laptop. And the integrated water-resistant rain cover keeps everything safe and dry if you get caught in a downpour.
No matter how protective a backpack is, it won’t matter if you hate carrying it around. But Lowepro thought of that as well. The brand added targeted support at the shoulder blades, lumber, and waist so you can haul your gear all day in comfort.
- Dimensions: 14.2″ x 8.6″ x 20.5″
- Weight: 5 lbs.
- Bonus: There are access points on four sides of this pack, so you can get your gear from almost any angle.
Best Budget: CADeN Camera Backpack
If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive pack that will keep your camera gear safe, you can’t do better than CADeN’s Camera Backpack ($30). The name says it all — this bag gets the job done. The Camera Backpack’s interior features the standard padded compartment walls. These can be configured to fit anything from two cameras with seven lenses, to a camera and a drone plus accessories, to just about anything else you can imagine.
As you’d expect in a no-frills pack, you’re not going to find a lot of organizational pockets. So you’re going to have to reserve some space in your main (only) compartment for your SD cards, batteries, and whatever other small items you want to bring. But it does sport a padded interior pocket that can fit a tablet or a 12-inch laptop.
On the pack’s exterior are two elastic pockets to hold bottles. One has a strap attachment above it so you can secure a tripod. The other is a flat external pocket to slide in a notebook or other smaller items.
Obviously, this pack doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other packs on this list. But it gets the job done, and you’d be hardpressed to be able to say that about any other pack this affordable.
- Dimensions: 11.5″ x 5″ x 14.2″
- Weight: 2 lbs.
You probably know Thule from those sleek rooftop cargo boxes you see on that Subaru flying by you on the freeway toward some exotic destination, but the brand also makes excellent packs. And the Covert SDLR Rolltop pack ($220) lives up to its reputation for quality and innovation.
The first thing we noticed was the SafeZone removable camera pod system with the dual-density bottom. This is a separate pocket that can fit up to a prosumer DSLR camera with an ultra-wide-angle lens and a DJIO Mavic Pro drone.
Cleverly, you can pull the pod out and just take your camera and drone with you without hauling all your gear. The camera pod sports a unique design quirk: The interior organizer takes inspiration from origami, folding in multiple configurations so you can store your cameras however you’d like.
We also love the roll-top compartment. It’s spacious enough to take along your personal items and adds a touch of flair to the pack. The customizable interior will hold two lenses, a flash, and all your drone accessories.
Additionally, the back-panel laptop pocket will fit both a 15-inch laptop and a tablet. Keeping everything organized is a zippered separator between the roll-top compartment and the bottom compartment. Plus, a wide range of stash pockets offers quick access to your accessories.
- Dimensions: 17.7″ x 7.9″ x 21.3″
- Weight: 5 lbs.
- Bonus: The camera pod is configured to be accessed out of a side panel in the backpack, so you can access your camera and your drone without taking the pack off.
Best for Snowsports: Burton F-Stop 28L Camera Backpack
Jake Burton is one of snowboarding’s original innovators. And his company continues the tradition with the F-Stop 28L Camera Backpack ($250). Designed in conjunction with professional snowboarding photographers like Dean Gray and Adam Moran, this pack’s features show the countless hours of field testing and refinement that went into its design.
A huge interior sports a padded customizable camera compartment. Easily organize your cameras, lenses, flashes, and drones while the top compartment and interior zip pockets hold your accessories, remotes, SD cards, and spare batteries. We love that the top compartment houses a removable case for your smaller accessories, so you can find the right cord or battery with ease.
In addition to the camera storage, the F-Stop also features the requisite snowboard-specific details, starting with the vertical snowboard carry straps (which doubles as a tripod-holder) and an ice axe loop for hiking into the backcountry. Beyond that, the heavily cushioned shoulder harness, load-balancing waist straps, and adjustable sternum strap keep your pack secure and your shoulders comfortable while you carve to your next shooting spot.
- Dimensions: 12″ x 7.5″ x 25.5″
- Weight: 5 lbs.
- Bonus: The F-Stop includes a cooler side pocket to stash a sandwich or two. And the other side has an oversized beverage-holder so you can bring along a beverage of choice to celebrate wrapping your shoot.
Best for Organization: USA Gear DSLR Camera Backpack Case
If your biggest pet peeve is having to dig around in your pack to find a specific accessory, this pack from USA Gear ($60) is the pick for you. We’re astonished at the amount of storage and organization crammed into a pack of this size.
There are dedicated pockets all over this pack. the lower back panel lid has two rectangular Velcro pockets that can store charging cords. The top lid has a smaller mesh pocket for batteries and smaller charging cords. And a smaller zipper pocket on the very back has webbed elastic pockets to keep your SD cards organized.
The main compartment splits into two sections. The padded bottom compartment sports customizable walls that you can reconfigure to your liking, with room for your DSLR, lenses, flash, and other accessories. And it offers side access to your camera, so you can whip it out when an opportunity for a great shot comes up unexpectedly.
The spacious top compartment has space for any other gear you want to bring. The padded laptop case will fit anything up to a 15-inch laptop. And the drawcord side pocket can house a water bottle or your tripod thanks to the securing strap above it.
- Dimensions: 12″ x 8″ x 18″
- Weight: 2.5 lbs.
- Bonus: The tuck-away shoulder straps can be configured for use as either a backpack or a sling, and they tuck away into the roller strap so you can slide it onto a roller bag’s handle for easy transport through the airport.
Best Camera Backpack for Travel: Hex Back Loader DSLR Backpack
California-based brand Hex’s motto “Equip the Creators” is exemplified in the brand’s Back Loader pack ($190). First, it just plain looks cool. We particularly like the glacier camo colorway, which manages to be both understated and attention-grabbing. The clean lines and thin profile are not only pleasing to the eye, but they also make it the best travel camera backpack on our list. It’s the perfect size for sliding under airplane seats when you travel.
This is not a case of form over function. The high-quality fleece-lined and padded main pocket can fit cameras, lenses, drones, and anything else you need to craft your story. And the removable partitions can be arranged to fit whatever gear you want to bring. It’s got a zippered top pocket so you can grab your camera without having to open the main compartment, quick-access tripod straps, and EVA foam protection throughout.
The padded faux-fur-lined laptop pocket will hold up to a 15-inch laptop. The adjustable side pocket can hold a water bottle — or a tallboy if you prefer. A quick-access front pocket keeps your tablet or phone readily available, and a hidden pocket in the front strap for SD cards shows that this was made by people who understand photographers and what they want.
- Dimensions: 12″ x 5.5″ x 18.5″
- Weight: 3.25 lbs.
- Bonus: The heavily padded straps and back panel make sure the pack will fit comfortably no matter how much gear you’re hauling.
Best Sling Pack: Altura Sling Backpack
If two-strapping isn’t quite your style, Altura’s sling bag ($30) is perfect for you. This lightweight bag sports a side-accessible interior pocket with padded, adjustable dividers and enough room for a DSR and extra lenses or accessories. The top storage compartment will fit extra lenses or a flash unit. And mesh interior pockets and a small exterior zip pocket keep your cables, batteries, and SD cards secure and organized.
The padded sling design allows for rotation from the back to the front for quick access to your pack. And the exterior side pocket, strap, and buckle hold a tripod securely to your pack.
- Dimensions: 8.1″ x 6.4″ x 17″
- Weight: 1 lb.
- Bonus: An additional tuck-away strap in the front holds the bag more securely to your chest if you need to run to make your flight or climb to find a better shooting angle.
Best for Daily Use: Peak Design Everyday 20L Camera Backpack
Gear from San Francisco-based company Peak Design is well-known for its minimalist look combined with an ingenious design. And the Everyday camera pack ($260) is no exception. The exterior’s clean lines and absence of excessive straps give it the impression of a dearth of features. But once you open the pack, you’ll find that plenty of thought and innovation went into its design.
You can configure this pack for photography. It holds enough room in the main compartment to fit DSLR cameras, lenses, drones, and any other accessories. It stores them in the form of three slide-out divider shelves that are accessible via the zippered side pockets.
The dividers can fold into different shapes to allow you to customize the configurations to fit different styles of gear. A protective laptop compartment will accommodate up to 15-inch laptops (it can be adjusted to fit smaller laptops). It has additional pockets for tablets and documents, and the side access panels have smaller zippered pockets to store memory cards, batteries, and smaller items.
Designed to be used every day, the pack works well even if you’re not taking your camera gear with you. Sliding out the dividers provides plenty of room for your laptop, along with anything else you need for your day — lunch, a jacket, and a 12-pack of adult beverages — with some extra room for anything you pick up during the day.
- Dimensions: 13″ x 11.8″ x 18″
- Weight: 4.5 lbs.
- Bonus: A magnetic buckle clip gives you one-handed secure access to the top compartment.
Best Camera Backpack for Hiking: WANDRD PRVKE 21 Photo Bundle
If you need a bag that can go anywhere regardless of the weather, the WANDRD PRVKE 21 photo bundle ($274) is the way to go. Consisting of the PRVKE 21 pack, accessory straps, a waist pack, and a rainfly, this rugged pack is the best camera backpack for hiking on this list.
This 21L pack’s main body can fit your camera body, extra lenses, a drone, and a flash unit in the main compartment with its removable padded separators. If you need to bring more along, the expandable rolltop unfurls to add an extra 5 L of space to the pack. Smaller internal pockets keep your accessories organized.
We especially like the elastic mesh internal pockets that allow you to store your SD cards individually for easy access. No more digging around in the bottom of your pack looking for that SD needle in the haystack.
The felt-lined tech pocket will keep your phone, sunglasses, or other scratch-prone items safe. And the laptop sleeve will store up to 16-inch laptops.
True to the bag’s “go anywhere” design, the removable waist belt allows you to customize your harness system to wherever you go. You can take off the straps for taking pictures around town, then add them again for photo shoots out in the backcountry.
- Dimensions: 11″ x 6.5″ x 17″
- Weight: 3.4 lbs.
- Bonus: A hidden pocket in the lumbar section of the back panel keeps your passport, money, and other valuables safe in high-traffic areas.
Best Mobile Office: Amazon Basics DSLR Camera and Laptop Bag
One of the only bags we’ve found that will hold a 17-inch laptop, Amazon’s Basics bag ($53) is a solid pack with the features you need and none you don’t. The main compartment sports padded separators that you can rearrange to fit whatever gear you need. And there’s enough room for two SLR camera bodies, three to four lenses, and other accessories, including the aforementioned 17-inch laptop in its own padded sleeve.
The external side straps secure a tripod to the pack. And a thinner, full-length back compartment will hold everything from notebooks and the in-flight magazine that you stole to your smaller items like batteries, SD cards, and charging cables.
A big perk of this pack is the harness system. In addition to heavily padded shoulder straps, the chest strap, and the wide, padded waist strap distributes weight and keeps you comfortable on long walks with a full pack.
- Dimensions: 13.4″ x 8.8″ x 17.7″
- Weight: 3 lbs.
- Bonus: A hidden pocket in the lumbar section of the back panel keeps your passport, money, and other valuables safe in high-traffic areas.
Best Camera Backpack of 2021: Buyer’s Guide
The first thing to consider when looking for the right camera backpack is how you plan to use it. Where and what do you most often shoot?
If you’re an outdoor photographer, you’ll want to consider a more rugged backpack that offers a rainfly in case you’re caught outside in a rainstorm. Also, look for one with more volume,= so you can stash any hiking or safety essentials that you’ll need.
For short use, you’ll probably only need to carry the basics. A lighter-weight pack like a sling bag will allow you to bring your camera and some additional lenses without weighing you down.
Some packs work well as everyday bags. So if you’re looking for one bag to rule them all, look for a bag with removable separators to make room for non-camera gear on days when you aren’t shooting.
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; 50-60 L might be a good size. And find a padded camera cube so you can pack your camera and lenses safely in the pack.
Storage & Organization
Organization is key when looking for a good camera bag. Most camera bags have internal dividers to keep your larger equipment safe and separated. But the best ones come with a myriad of internal and external pockets so you can make a smaller item like an SD card easy to find.
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.
If you tend to shoot in rainy weather, look for a pack that comes with a rainfly. 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, there’s a chance that it can seep in through the zippers and get your camera wet.
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.
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.
What Makes a Good Camera Bag?
Protection, organization, and comfort are 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.
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.
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 You 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, 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 so you can access everything you need when you need it.
Have a favorite camera backpack we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.