If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, ARTNews may receive an affiliate commission.
One of the most comfortable and efficient ways to carry photo gear is in a camera backpack. Designed like the packs used for hiking or carrying books to school, camera backpacks let you haul your most important gear hands-free while providing quick access to your photographic tools. Artists searching for the right pack may feel overwhelmed by all the options out there. We’ve narrowed the field for you, picking our five favorite camera backpacks filling a variety of needs to make your next photo outing a success.
Best Overall: Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II
Its name might be a mouthful, but this tough and accommodating camera backpack has plenty of room to haul all your gear without weighing you down. Plus, it’s available now at great price. The ProTactic BP 450 AW II can fit two interchangeable-lens cameras (either digital SLRs or mirrorless models) along with up to eight lenses, including longer zooms and telephotos. The best part is that it’s tall enough to fit your camera with the zoom lens attached so you’re always ready to capture an artistic moment. There are four access points at the top, sides, and back of the bag to let you get to your gear out quickly. There’s additional room for multiple photo accessories including flashes, a tripod, and a 15-inch laptop, and adjustable dividers let you customize the interior to fit everything the way you want it. The pack’s modular strap system lets you add even more, including a water bottle pouch, accessory case, and a tripod cup. The pack has a rugged, molded top shell and a built-in all-weather cover. Despite all its space and features, the ProTactic BP 450 AW II is surprisingly trim, and its contoured all-black design looks sleek and professional.
Buy: Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II $195.01
Best for Travel: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
For artists who travel for their photographic inspiration, we recommend the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. With a streamlined design that meets international carry-on requirements, this pack is extremely versatile. Collapse it down to a 35-liter day bag when you want to travel light, or expand it into a 45-liter beast when you need to haul all your best photo gear. With top, front, and rear access for grabbing your equipment on the go, the Travel Backpack 45L is also protective and durable thanks to its weatherproof zippers and nylon canvas exterior shell. There are quick-access pockets for keys, glasses, passport, and other small items, and expandable side pockets let you stash your tripod, water bottles, and more. The main compartment can be divided into two sections via a zippered mesh sleeve, and there are padded laptop and tablet computer sleeves as well. Travelers will like that the shoulder straps and hip belt can be tucked away so they won’t get snagged during transport. We also appreciated the concealable external carry straps.
Peak Design Travel Backpack, 45L
Best for Adventure: Shimoda Designs Explore v2 30
Outdoor photographers who have a taste for adventure should stuff their gear into Shimoda Designs Explore v2 30 backpack and hit the trail. Though it might look like a traditional hiking pack, it’s designed to carry cameras, lenses, photo accessories, and more. The Explore v2 30 backpack meets all international carry-on regulations and even fits under some airplane seats, so you can keep your precious photo gear close at hand when you fly. For those new to Shimoda’s bags, we recommend the Explore v2 30 Starter Kit, which includes the backpack; a padded, shockproof, medium core unit that cradles your camera gear; a rain cover; and accessory straps. The pack has multiple access points including rear and side openings. The pack can be adjusted to any of three height options that allow it to fit short or tall, male or female torso sizes. Other features we like are the quick-deploying tripod and water bottle pockets; the dual-access document pocket that gives you interior or exterior access to passports, maps, or notebooks; and the padded sleeve in the rear pocket, which holds up to a 16-inch laptop. And if you get thirsty on one of your photo treks, the three-liter bladder will keep you hydrated.
Shimoda Designs Explore v2 30 Backpack
Best Pack With Roller Wheels: Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Switch-55 Backpack/Roller Bag
If you sometimes want to take your backpack off and pull it behind you, we recommend this Manfrotto carrier with roller wheels. Designed for the “road warrior” artist, the Pro Light Reloader Switch-55 can fit a load of photography gear while providing two ways to haul it. Two padded shoulders straps and a sternum strap let you comfortably carry the bag on your back. For roller transport, tuck the straps away, extend the telescoping top handle, and set it down on its sturdy wheels. The bag fits the international standard for carry-on luggage. For safety, there’s a TSA-approved, built-in combination zipper lock. To protect against the weather, the bag has a moisture-resistant coating and a fold-out rain protector for heavier downpours. You won’t need to leave anything behind with this bag; it fits two camera bodies (either mirrorless or DSLRs) and up to five lenses including pro-level telephotos and zooms. There are 14 removable protective dividers inside so you can configure the interior however you’d like. There’s also a big, easy-access front pocket for a 17-inch laptop and a second pocket for documents and personal items. Like all of Manfrotto’s best products, the Pro Light Reloader Switch-55 Backpack/Roller is made in Italy and has a handsome black design with red accents.
Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Switch 55 Backpack/Roller Bag
Best Affordable Option: Bagsmart Camera Backpack
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money but still want an attractive and durable pack, the Bagsmart Camera Backpack is our go-to pick. It looks and feels a lot more expensive than it really is. Made of durable, waterproof canvas, this classic-looking bag also has a rain cover so your gear won’t get soaked. It has a fairly large capacity, with room for a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a long zoom lens attached plus up to five standard lenses and other camera accessories. You can arrange the interior however you’d like with the bag’s removable padded dividers. The upper storage section is handy for stashing clothing or other personal items. There’s even a separate, padded compartment with a shock absorbing padded bottom that fits up to a 15-inch laptop. The Bagsmart Camera Backpack’s side access design let you grab your camera quickly. Front and inside pockets can hold cables, memory cards, and other large accessories. Two large side pockets fit water bottles or even a tripod. Despite the budget-friendly price, designers didn’t skimp on comfort: Thick back padding, ample shoulder straps, and adjustable chest and waist straps create a surprisingly comfortable fit. The Bagsmart Camera Backpack comes in five colors; we like the classy khaki look best.
Buy: Bagsmart Camera Backpack $429.88