5 Camera Backpacks That’ll Make Carrying Your Gear Almost Effortless – Forbes

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For a long time, camera backpacks were awful industrial monstrosities—bulky, heavy and uncomfortable, often designed with the singular focus of carrying a lot of camera gear to the exclusion of all other considerations. Well, there’s been a bit of a renaissance in recent years, and today the best camera backpacks are the opposite of all that—convenient, configurable and often comfy. And in many cases, you can use the same backpack for all sorts of things, from dedicated photo hikes to family vacations.
Equipped with the right camera backpack, you can carry all your gear and still have space for a … [+] change of clothes.
Whether you have a mirrorless camera with one spare lens and want a bag that does double duty as an overnight case, or you have two bodies, four lenses and a slew of accessories, there’s a bag out there for you. We’ve rounded up a half-dozen bags that represent the state of the art in backpack design (and trust us—you’ll be amazed at some of the innovations you can get in a backpack today) from brands like Peak Design, Wandrd, Nomatic, Tenba and more.
Best Camera Backpack Overall: Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2
Best Camera Backpack For Lots Of Gear: ProTactic 450 AW II Pro
Best Travel Camera Backpack: Wandrd Prvke
Best Camera Backpack That’s Also a Suitcase: Nomatic McKinnon 35L
Best Camera Backpack That Doubles As A Day Bag: Tenba DNA 15
Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack is the most versatile and well-designed bag you’re likely to see, and it looks sleek and stylish, to boot. It’s a top-and-side access design, so if you’re used to unzipping the front and exposing the bag’s innards, that won’t work here. Instead, you can reach in from the top or sling the bag around, unzip the side and pull out what you need.
The bag’s most notable feature is its heavy use of magnets to help keep things closed and streamlined. The top flap, for example, has a set of four ladder-like clasps; you can clip it closed on whichever rung works best for how much stuff is packed inside. But a strong magnet helps you close it with almost no effort.
Likewise, side pockets (great for tripods, water bottles or your phone) magnetically snap closed. When you’re not wearing it, even the shoulder straps automatically lie flush thanks to a set of magnets. In addition to entry from the top, both sides completely unzip to give you access to anything stored inside. The entire interior is one big volume, but Peak includes a few Velcro “shelves” that let you organize the bag any way you like. Each shelf has origami-like pop-up dividers, so you can elegantly arrange bodies, lenses and other accessories and still have a lot of space left over to store clothing and other travel essentials.
The bag has a truly impressive array of pockets and storage nooks, including deep laptop and tablet pockets. Peak also took care in the small touches that show the brand really understands what makes a bag a joy in day-to-day use—the bag has a slew of loops and straps for securing accessories, and you can use some of the loops to “lock” the side access doors in place—handy if you only want to open the bag on one side and keep the other side secure from accidental openings or theft.
But by far the bag’s best feature is an accessory called the Peak Design Capture Clip—it’s an optional gadget that screws on securely to the front of the shoulder strap and lets you hang your camera within easy reach, detachable at a moment’s notice via a quick-release button. It is truly a game changer for photo hikes and other situations where you want your hands to be free but your camera instantly accessible, and still easily mountable on tripods that use the Arca-style quick release plate. Don’t get the backpack without the capture clip.
Lowepro has been making camera bags for a very long time, and its expertise shows in this modular, highly customizable bag that is designed to accommodate substantial loads. You enter from the back, which unzips to give you access to the entire interior in one fell swoop. It includes the typical array of Velcro dividers, so you can arrange your gear however you like.
Lowepro also gives you three other entryways–from the top and both sides, though the side doors only let you reach the items on the bottom half of the bag. Even better, the overall ballistic nylon design is augmented by an armored hard shell in front, rendering it especially rugged for camera gear and even a fragile drone (it’s designed to ferry a model like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro or DJI Osmo+). You can slide in a laptop up to about 15 inches, and the outside adds a few extra quick access pockets including a tripod receiver.
Headed out into the rain? There’s an integrated waterproof cover that lives in a zipped compartment under the bottom of the bag, but unfurls in moments to give you thorough protection from the elements. Lowepro really wants you to buy into the ProTactic’s family of accessories, though; you can add a bag designed for a water bottle or small accessories, as well as a utility belt quick-attach straps that mount to attachment points all over the bag.
Most camera bags look more or less alike—thick cases with rigid structure and padding—but the Prvke (pronounced like “provoke”) is different. It’s more like a bag designed to hold other bags, and as weird as that sounds, it totally works. Here’s the deal: The rear-opening Prvke opens like a clamshell to reveal two main compartments, top and bottom. The bottom half of the bag is designed to accommodate Wandrd’s Camera Cube, which is a compact padded case (with its own shoulder strap) embedded with Velcro dividers that house your camera and lenses. You can easily pull it out and carry it around on its own, like the luggage version of a Star Trek shuttlecraft, or you can leave it docked in Prvke’s hanger bay. Not only can you open the Camera Cube and get to the insides after opening the Prvke’s back, but a side door lets you get into the Camera Cube as well, so there’s no downside to the bag-within-a-bag design. It’s a gloriously handy solution, and makes the Prvke almost worth its weight in gold for that one feature alone.
But there’s so much more. The Prvke is one of the more comfortable bags you’ll be lucky enough to encounter thanks to generous padding in the back—something that most bag makers seem to neglect—along with comfy and smartly designed shoulder straps. You can also carry it luggage-style via a pair of straps at the top that stick together via a magnet. And there are a wealth of pockets and compartments inside, along with a generous laptop sleeve.
And then there’s the roll top; unclasp the Velcro and unroll it to get access to the interior through the top or stuff extra stuff inside; completely unfurled, the roll-top adds an few liters of extra storage, effectively hiding a much bigger bag inside a smaller bag.
If the Prvke has one Achille’s Heel, it’s the modular nature of the system. Photographers will absolutely want to get the Photography Bundle (or add the Camera Cube separately) because on its own, the Prvke can’t really accommodate cameras and other fragile gear.
Nomatic famously made this bag in partnership with photographer Peter McKinnon, and it’s thoroughly infused with the sensibilities of someone who actually uses a camera travel backpack on a day-to-day basis. Unlike most bags, which single-mindedly house your camera gear and other electronics, this bag can do it all, serving as a camera bag, carry-on bag and overnight bag for clothes and toiletries. As long as your travel needs are modest–it won’t carry a week’s worth of stuff–this might be the one and only bag you ever need to travel with again.
The bag does so much. It’s a double clamshell, opening in both front and back. In back, you get access to a spacious interior volume with a slew of Velcro dividers, along with mesh pockets and a laptop sleeve. This compartment can fit a staggering amount of gear, or you can store gear in part of the bag and use a divider to hold clothing in the rest. Flip it over, and the front reveals a second storage space with mesh pockets and a compression strap to tamp down your clothes. Need a little more space? You can unzip the front to substantially expand the interior volume, much like a carry-on suitcase.
For easy access to your camera, there’s a side access door on one side; the other side has a pocket that expands into a tripod anchor, and it snaps closed with the help of a magnet–very cool. Every part of this bag feels premium, rugged and made with love. It’s truly a joy to use. All that said, the case itself feels a little weighty before you put even the first piece of kit inside; it’s made of a rugged but heavy tarpline material, but that’s mitigated by the fact that for short trips, it’s the only bag you need.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Tenba’s DNA 15 backpack. This snazzy-looking bag is a backpack version of the brand’s popular messenger bags, and it brings some real innovation to the camera backpack space. It offers two main entryways: a front-access door at the bottom of the bag and a roll-top opening atop the backpack. The roll top is easy to manage; it’s secured with a magnetic clasp that opens and closes with a flick of your hand. Roll it down when you’re not carrying a lot, or unfurl it to add several liters of extra internal volume.
But here’s where it gets interesting; the bag comes with a customizable padded insert that holds your camera and lenses (with adjustable Velcro dividers, of course). It fits both in the bottom compartment and in the top, so you can place your camera gear in whichever part of the bag you like, and use the other half of the storage for clothing or other accessories. Traveling without your camera? Remove the insert entirely and use the bag as a day bag or overnight case. The design is reminiscent of Wandrd’s Camera Cube, but it isn’t designed to be used outside the bag on its own the way you can with the Wandrd bag.
Tenba also includes a sleeve for laptops up to about 15 inches along with a few other handy conveniences, like a suitcase passthrough, tripod anchor and water bottle pocket. It also comes with a reversible rain cover, silver on one side to reflect away sunlight, and black on the other.