How to Choose the Best Photography Backpack

If you are a photographer, there is nothing more important to you than your camera and the rest of your gear. This means that protecting and carrying around your equipment is your number one priority. So, how can you find a photography backpack that is worthy of this honor?

There may be a lot more to photography and camera bags than you may have initially have realized. Not only is there a huge selection of packs, they can be further categorized into types. To make the selection a little easier for you, we have asked the tough questions and answered them for you as well. You will find all that you need to know here.

Picture Brand Rating
Picture Brand Rating
Dakine - ( Mission 25 )

Dakine Mission

3-18 L / 183-1098 CI

4.7

24 reviews
GoPro - ( Seeker  )

GoPro Seeker

16 L / 976 CI

4.0

1 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Spectrum  )

Mountainsmith Spectrum

12 L / 732 CI
Thule - ( Legend  )

Thule Legend

4.5

5 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Tour  )

Mountainsmith Tour

9 L / 549 CI

4.8

87 reviews
Pacsafe - ( Camsafe Z14 )

Pacsafe Camsafe

4-16 L / 214-976 CI

4.1

36 reviews

Everything You Need to Know About Picking a Photography Backpack (Buyers Guide)

There are a lot of things to consider when trying to find a fitting photography backpack for yourself. It is important to keep in mind that your final decision will be largely influenced by your equipment, your photography style, and even where you shoot. So, without further ado, here is what you need to be aware of to make the right decision.

The Different Types of Photography Bags

There are actually a variety of photography bags to choose from. Here are the ones that you are most likely to come across on your search:

Waist Belts

Resembling fanny packs, these belts aren’t winning any points in terms of style. However, they can’t be beaten when it comes to function or accessibility. The belts are equipped with several medium and small sized pockets where you can stash your gear. These sections can usually be adjusted to suit your needs. While this does allow easy access to your camera and lenses, there are limitations to how much gear you can carry with you.

Camera Holsters and Pouches

Camera holsters and pouches are designed so that they only carry the camera and a few additional pieces such as lenses or memory cards. Pouches are usually best for smaller cameras while the holsters have greater space for devices like DSLR. These are compact and easy to carry but they don’t really make allowances for any additional gear that you may want to take with you.

Photography Backpacks

Camera backpacks are often favored by serious photographers as they have everything that a photographer on the move may need. There is usually a lot of space with room enough for a camera, the lenses, memory cards, and sometimes even a laptop. There are also separate compartments which help with organizing all of the elements. Of course, due to the suspension mechanism and straps, they are quite easy to tote around as well.

Photography Shoulder Bags

As the name implies, these are messenger-type bags that can be slung over your shoulder. The main draw with these bags is the space that they afford. You can take your camera and various other accessories with you as well. Of course, it can be a little tricky to handle too much of weight with these bags as they do rely on just one strap.

Photography Sling Bags

These bags are a somewhat of a hybrid between photography backpacks and shoulder bags. Although they can carry as much as a backpack, the strap design is more similar to shoulder bags. While there is only one strap, it can be slung diagonally across your torso. This allows you to pull your bag forward while wearing it, making your gear more accessible.

Photography Trolley Cases

These are essentially small suitcases with wheeled sections to make them easier to carry around. These type of photography bags often tend to have hard shells which help to protect all of the gear inside, even from the elements. Also, the interiors often have cutouts which make it easier to store the equipment.

Best Photography Backpack

Which Type Do You Need?

The benefit of waist belts, pouches, and holsters is that they are great if you want to travel as light as possible. If you are only planning on taking your camera and a few other essentials, these type of bags will be more than enough for you.

For more technical shots, however, you are going to need something more sizable and durable. If you want to carry more gear or will be away from your home base for a while, you will need to rely on the photography backpacks, shoulder bags, or sling bags. This is especially true for those who plan on relying on their own two feet to get them from one place to another.

If you want are constantly on the move and also travel across rough terrain, you will find that the camera trolley cases are of better use to you. Of course, you should bear in mind that these type of cases tend to be quite heavy and aren’t always suitable for people on foot.

What Size Backpack Do You Need?

The next thing that you will need to be concerned with is the size of the backpack. Now, this does depend largely on what you plan on taking with you on your next photography expedition. Here are the various sizes you can rely on, contingent upon your gear:

  • 10 – 20 liters: these are usually the most compact photography backpacks that you can find. There is usually enough room for your camera (a point and shoot or DSLR), lenses, memory cards, and a small tablet. Bags that are smaller than 20 liters may be described using internal and external dimensions instead of liters and capacity.
  • 20 – 30 liters: if you are looking to carry just a little more than with a compact case, you should look for backpacks in this range. In addition to your camera and gear, you may be able to fit in a larger tablet or small laptop.
  • 30 – 40 liters: this is a great option if you want to take as much camera gear with you as possible. You should be able to carry an average sized laptop. There may also be loops and lashes on the outside for larger equipment.

Internal Compartments

The last thing that you want is for your very expensive equipment to be falling around, bashing into one another. This is why internal compartments are quite so vital to any photography backpack. Just because a backpack is meant for photography, doesn’t mean that it has those pockets or compartments that you need. This is why you should always check whether there are partitions and slots for your gear.

If it is just a wide internal space, you will need to buy an additional liner which or bag which contains these sections. Depending on the backpack manufacturer, these may be available for purchase separately.

It is always important to first look at the type of camera that you own, the size, and the number and size of accessories that you want to pack. Some of these compartments are tailored for specific camera brands or models. So, you should see if yours is compatible with the internal storage.

Then there are backpacks that have adjustable internal compartments. This will allow you to customize the various sections so that they can suit the equipment that you have. Of course, you will still need to check that the internal capacity can accommodate all of your gear.
You may also discover that your tablets or laptops have a separate sleeve or pouch. This is useful so that all of your equipment is not placed in one area. Also, it helps to ensure that each piece is protected properly.

Which Material Should You Choose?

The material of the photography backpack is essential for a variety of reasons. First, it will decide just how durable your bag is going to be. Now, if you are the type to travel across rough terrain to photograph remote areas or wildlife, then you are going to need something sturdy. Here, it is best to rely on synthetic materials such as ballistic nylon. This material is more resistant to wear and tear and is lighter to boot.

In most cases, it is best to stick with synthetic materials for your camera backpack. While some photographers like to opt for ones made from natural fibers, these have their own disadvantages. For example, they aren’t as tough and can be quite a bit heavier as well.

Let’s say that your gear is going to have to withstand a considerable amount of abuse. Here, you will better off with a hard case made of a tough material such as resin. This should be able to protect your camera and gear even if it is knocked around.

There are some backpacks that are a combination of nylon and resin. Most of the bag is made from nylon to keep the weight down but the compartments containing the equipment are constructed from resin. This lets you have the best of both worlds.

The Straps

As mentioned in an above section, photography backpacks can come with either one strap or two. Among the one strap version, there is the regular shoulder bag and the sling bag. These type of backpacks are best suited to smaller weights as they are not equipped well enough to deal with too much load. If you are planning on carrying something heavier, the sling bag should offer better weight distribution.

In terms of support and comfort, however, you can’t beat the two strap photography backpack. This is because it helps to balance the weight out between your shoulders so that the straps don’t cut into your skin. If you want to take the maximum amount of gear possible, it is best to look for backpacks that have waist straps at least. This is because these will make sure that your hips will carry most of the weight and prevent back pain. Although not always necessary, sternum straps can also provide added comfort and support.

Additional Features

There are certain other features that you should look out for when shopping for a photography backpack. These are:

Tripod and Gear Slots

If you want to carry tripods or larger pieces of equipment, you will need to do so on the exterior of the bag. This is why you should look for cinch straps and other fixed points on the front of the backpack where you can put these pieces.

D-rings, loops, and other types of hooks will let you add other pieces of gear. Of course, since these will move around as you walk, they are not meant for delicate gear.

Water Resistant and Waterproof Features

The last thing that you can afford is to let any of your equipment get wet. If you only want it to be able to keep the water out during a mild shower of rain, look for water resistant materials or compartments. However, if you want your backpack to withstand a heavy downpour or to even be submerged in water, look for rubber materials or those that are completely waterproof.

Always make certain that the seams and the zippers have been treated so that they, too, will keep the water out.

Hydration Features

If you are planning on going on long excursions with only your photography backpack, you should look for those with hydration features. At the very least, look for backpacks with water bottle holders. If you want to drink water more easily, though, look for pockets for hydration bladders that can be connected to drink tubes and sip features.

In this article, you will be able to find everything that you need to know in helping you find the perfect photography backpack.


Last updated on November 14, 2017

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