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One of the most comfortable and efficient ways to carry photographic equipment is in a photo backpack. Designed like backpacks used for hiking or carrying books to school, camera backpacks allow you to carry your most important gear hands-free while providing quick access to your photography tools. Artists looking for the right package may feel overwhelmed by all the options available. We narrowed it down for you, selecting our five favorite photo backpacks that meet 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 sturdy and accommodating camera backpack has plenty of room to carry all your gear without weighing you down. Plus, it’s now available at a great price. The ProTactic BP 450 AW II can accommodate two interchangeable lens cameras (digital sLR or mirrorless models) along with up to eight lenses, including longer zoom and telephoto lenses. 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 allow you to quickly get your gear out. There’s additional room for more photography accessories including flashes, a tripod, and a 15-inch laptop, and the adjustable dividers allow you to customize the interior to fit everything as you wish. The backpack’s modular strap system allows you to add even more, including a water bottle case, accessory case, and tripod cup. The backpack has a sturdy, contoured top shell and integrated all-weather cover. Despite all the space and features, the ProTactic BP 450 AW II is surprisingly uncluttered and its all-black contoured design looks sleek and professional.
Ideal for travel: Peak Design 45L travel backpack
For artists traveling for their photographic inspiration, we recommend the Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack. With a streamlined design that meets international carry-on requirements, this backpack is extremely versatile. Reduce it to a 35-liter day bag when you want to travel light, or expand it to a 45-liter beast when you need to carry all your best photographic gear. With top, front and rear access to grab your gear on the go, the 45L travel backpack is also protective and durable thanks to its weatherproof zippers and nylon canvas outer shell. There are quick access pockets for keys, glasses, passport and other small items and expandable side pockets for storing tripod, water bottles and more. The main compartment can be divided into two sections via a zippered mesh sleeve and there are also padded sleeves for laptops and tablets. Travelers will appreciate that the shoulder straps and hip belt can be concealed so they don’t get caught in transit. We also liked the retractable external carrying straps.
Best for Adventure: Shimoda Designs Explore v2 30
Outdoor photographers with a taste for adventure should pack their gear in the Shimoda Designs Explore v2 30 backpack and catch up. While it may look like a traditional hiking backpack, it’s designed to carry cameras, lenses, photographic accessories, and more. The Explore v2 30 backpack meets all international hand luggage regulations and even fits under some airplane seats, so you can keep your valuable photographic gear close at hand when flying. For those new to Shimoda bags, we recommend the Explore v2 30 Starter Kit, which includes the backpack; a padded, shockproof, media center unit that holds your photographic equipment; a rain cover; and accessory straps. The package has multiple access points including rear and side openings. The backpack can be adjusted to any of three height options that allow it to fit short or tall bust sizes, male or female. Other features we like are the quick release tripod and water bottle pockets; the dual-access document pocket that gives you internal or external access to passports, maps or notebooks; and the padded sleeve in the back pocket, which can hold up to a 16-inch laptop. And if you’re thirsty on one of your photography trips, the three-liter bladder will keep you hydrated.
Best Roller Wheels Package: Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Switch-55 Backpack / Roller Bag
If you sometimes want to remove your backpack and pull it behind you, we recommend this Manfrotto luggage rack with roller wheels. Designed for the road warrior artist, the Pro Light Reloader Switch-55 can hold a load of photographic gear providing two ways to carry it. Two padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap allow you to comfortably carry the bag on your back. For transport with rollers, store the straps, extend the telescopic top handle and rest it on its sturdy wheels. The bag complies with the international standard for hand luggage. For security, there is a TSA-approved integrated combination zip lock. To protect you from the elements, the bag has a moisture resistant lining and a foldable rain cover for heavier downpours. You won’t have to leave anything behind with this bag; fits two camera bodies (either mirrorless or DSLR) and up to five lenses including telephoto and professional-grade zoom. There are 14 removable protective dividers inside so you can configure the interior however you like. There’s also a large, easy-access front pocket for a 17-inch laptop and a second pocket for documents and personal items. Like all the best Manfrotto products, the Pro Light Reloader Switch-55 backpack / trainer is made in Italy and has a beautiful black design with red accents.
Best Affordable Option: Bagsmart Camera Backpack
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money but still want an attractive and durable backpack, the Bagsmart Camera Backpack is our choice. It looks and feels a lot more expensive than it actually is. Made from durable, waterproof canvas, this classic-looking bag also has a rain cover to prevent your gear from getting 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 like with the bag’s detachable padded dividers. The upper section is useful for storing clothes or other personal items. There is also a separate padded compartment with a cushioned cushioned bottom that fits a laptop up to 15 inches. The side access design of the Bagsmart camera backpack allows you to quickly grab your camera. The front and inside pockets can hold cables, memory cards and other large accessories. Two large side pockets can hold water bottles or even a tripod. Despite the affordable price, the designers haven’t skimped on comfort: the thick padding on the back, the wide shoulder straps and the adjustable straps on the chest and waist create a surprisingly comfortable fit. The Bagsmart camera backpack is available in five colors; we like the best look of classy persimmon.