If you buy the right camera bag, it could last you a lifetime. Finding the best camera backpack is really a personal decision for every photographer. Don’t buy the most popular or most expensive brand you see on social media. Instead, look for a bag with adequate storage and padding, enough compartments and pockets to fit all your gear, and a comfortable design to carry with you.
Our best overall bag, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack, is both practical and functional. It lets you pull gear out in a flash, thanks to the MagLatch closures and side access points. We also love the sleek design and ergonomic fit that keep you comfortable as you carry your equipment. Keep reading to find the best camera backpack to take along on your next shoot.
What is a Camera Bag?
Camera bags keep your camera and equipment protected from the elements and abrasive falls and accidents. Since camera lenses scratch easily, and camera bodies can be fragile, a camera bag is a must-have accessory to store your gear. Inside the typical camera bag, you’ll find simple padding or foam on the interior, compartments and pockets to hold accessories, and loads of other features.
Aside from finding the right sized bag to fit all your equipment, you also need the bag to be comfortable. Many camera bags have padded shoulder straps and back panels to comfortably distribute the weight of your gear. So whether you use mirrorless cameras, DSLR cameras, or carry around extra lenses and tripods, you’ll be able to find the right bag for you.
Best Camera Backpacks and Bags Reviewed
Equipped with plenty of compartments to hold all your gear, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 20L is our best overall camera backpack. This sleek bag has side access pockets and MagLatch closures for capturing photos in the perfect moment. In addition, there are three configurable flex fold dividers to keep gear organized without adding weight. It’s travel-friendly, weather-resistant, and has plenty of room for expansion to fit all your supplies. If the 20L isn’t quite big enough, there’s also a 30L version of the Everyday Backpack.
- Sleek design
- Side access
- Magnetic closures
- A bit heavy
Specially designed for DSLR cameras, the Thule Aspect DSLR Backpack is not one to miss. Its padded back compartment can fit your iPad or tablet, and there are padded sections for your equipment and camera. In addition, the lightweight design and air mesh back panel make this bag perfect for photographers who frequently travel for assignments.
- DSLR specific
- Ergonomic design
- Not for mirrorless cameras
Best Budget Option
If you’re looking for lots of organization at a great price, the Thule Enroute Camera Backpack should be on your radar. The origami-inspired dividers help photographers pack DSLR or mirrorless cameras safely. In addition, the camera pod can be removed from the bag and taken on the go, which is perfect for shorter shoots.
- Minimalist design
- Different sizes
- Padded straps
- Very small
Best Messenger Style
Made to last a lifetime, the Filson Sportsman Utility Bag is one of the most durable messenger bags on the market. The rugged twill fabric is attractive and water-resistant, and there’s plenty of room on the inside for gear and equipment. There are also two options for carrying, with a removable leather shoulder strap and leather hand straps. This bag was made for outdoor adventures.
If you’re used to capturing images in the great outdoors, you’ll appreciate the Burton Zoom Pack. Made for snowboarders, it has all kinds of features like a padded waist strap, ergonomic back panel, and cushioned shoulder harness. It’s comfortable to carry and the generously padded compartments protect your gear inside.
Best For Travel
Made with travellers in mind, the Peak Design Travel Backpack (45L; 65L) is an exceptional camera bag. What makes it stand out is the optional expansion feature, which means you can keep it as a day bag or expand it to a gear hauler. The rigid sidewalls and back panel help optimize packing space, and the foam padding keeps your gear protected. Customers love the many handy features that allow you to travel stress-free.
If you have a lot of gear, the Mystery Ranch Coulee Daypack will make accessing everything a breeze. The classic 3-Zip design makes the pack open fully to find things on the fly. There’s also a reliable suspension system that adjusts to your torso and lightens the load.
Camera inserts are small, padded and compartmentalized bags that can fit inside a variety of packs. They come in different sizes to accommodate various setups and are best if you want to protect your gear in your favourite non-camera bag.
Top Camera Insert (Large)
The solid and sturdy Peak Design Camera Cube is a must-have for professional photographers. There are plenty of FlexFold panels that fold into any size you need to compartmentalize your gear. When you’re not on a shoot, you can also use this large cube for safe storage.
Best Camera Insert (Small)
Made with top-quality materials and with impeccable design creds, the Fjallraven Kanken Photo Insert is a beautiful camera bag. You can easily fit a mirrorless camera and one or two lenses inside, which the thick padding and foam dividers will protect.
What to Look for in Camera Bags
Types of bags
Camera backpacks are trendy among professionals as they’re comfortable and practical. They’re spacious enough to hold extra lenses, laptops, and other equipment. Packs are great for travelling between assignments, especially if they’re lightweight and have padded shoulder straps.
Slings feature a bag with a single strap that goes across the body. The side access points make it easy to pull out gear on the go. You’ll also have your camera close to your body, which can help prevent theft.
Messenger bags are a popular and sophisticated way to carry your equipment. A high-quality messenger bag can last through years of wear and tear. Look for one with side pockets, zipper pockets, and a laptop sleeve for maximum storage.
Inserts are camera bags that have different foldable padded compartments to store gear safely. Though they usually come with a handle for carrying, they’re most often placed inside other larger bags that aren’t specifically designed for cameras.
A professional who carries a lot of gear, a travelling photographer, and a casual city-based hobbyist have different needs. The size of the bag comes down to one question: What will you carry? Think about all the gear you need for a shoot, like an SD card, filters, an iPad, or additional lenses. If you have a DSLR camera, how many lenses will you take on a regular or non-regular shoot? Different types of photographers will have different storage needs.
Your perfect bag will also depend on the type of camera you use. A big chunky DLSR camera needs a larger bag. On the other hand, you may prefer a minimalist, lightweight bag if you have a small mirrorless camera.
If you have a lot of gear, keeping everything organized is a huge priority. Many bags have extra pockets on the exterior for holding different equipment. You’ll also find padded camera compartments, some with separate folding dividers to keep everything in place. If you plan on carrying a 13 or 15-inch laptop, look for a bag with a laptop sleeve. Pick a bag that has enough compartments for your unique creative setup.
Padding is the most important part of a camera bag since it keeps gear safe in case of an accident. If you travel a lot for photography assignments, you want to minimize the risk of damage to your equipment. Therefore, look for lightweight foam padding inside the internal compartments.
The best camera bags have flaps that wrap around the corner of the bag for protection from the elements. Materials like canvas are lightweight but not very waterproof. Nylon or Cordura are light, durable materials – but might not be water-resistant. Carefully consider the weather you’ll be dealing with and get a camera bag cover if necessary.
To check a bag’s durability, look at the materials it’s made out of and the zippers. Bags with reinforced stitching and sturdy YKK zippers will last longer than cheaper bags. Know the materials you can rely on, such as leather, Cordura, or nylon.
Travel Friendliness, Safety & Theft
Many people might choose not to get a camera bag that looks too obviously like a camera bag to prevent theft. However, thanks to the many different options on this list, you can find a more discrete bag. Internal pockets and secure closures can also help prevent theft.
Do I really need a camera bag?
Since camera gear is so expensive, having a sturdy and solid bag helps protect your gear. Though you can throw your camera and equipment in any old bag, you want one with padding specially designed for cameras.
Are expensive camera bags worth it?
Since camera bags can be a lifelong investment, buying one that’s high-quality makes sense. Depending on your photography proficiency, you may want to spend more - or less - on a bag that fits your needs.
Why are camera bags popular?
Camera bags are popular for the same reason that laptop bags are popular - people care about their expensive technology and want to make sure it’s secure and protected.
After reading this article, you should have a good idea of how to pick out the perfect camera bag. Whether you’re a casual hobbyist or professional photographer, a camera backpack is essential for keeping your gear organized and protected. If you’re still a little camera-shy about choosing, you can’t go wrong with our best overall bag for the job, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack. With convenient side access, plenty of padded compartments, and an ergonomic design, it’s everything a camera bag should be.