6 of the Best Camera Backpacks: Which One Is Right for You?

If there’s one piece of gear that the camera industry is not short of, it’s backpacks. There’s a bewildering array on offer so here’s an in-depth comparison of six of the best.

Chris Nichols of DPReview takes you through six backpacks that are ideal for short trips, all designed to go with you into an aircraft cabin rather than being stowed in the hold. As Nichols notes, when you decide to invest in a quality bag, it’s more a case of choosing which bag is right for your needs rather than deciding which bag is better than another.

My bag of choice for short trips where I’m carrying a combination of camera gear and clothing is the WANDRD HEXAD Access 45L Duffel as its compartments make organizing and separating gear (critical if you’re carrying food!) nicely straight forward. However, there is no external pocket for carrying additional, quick-access items such as water bottles or, in Nichols' case, machetes. Its design means that while it maximizes space, it’s not going to be as comfortable as something like the Atlas Athlete which is clearly geared more towards days in the mountains.

Which is the right bag for you? Let us know your preference in the comments below.

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9 Comments

barry cash's picture

Can U do a review on shoulder bags and include Barbershop bags?

Rick Rizza's picture

I have the Manfrotto Hybrid-55 cabin size suitcase to fit all my gear including the Befree tripod. The cheap Neewer sling bag to travel light.

John Planck's picture

Love that there is a Think Tank bag/organizer in the Peak Design backpack. I understand this is about carrying backpacking gear and camera gear. Why no Think Tank backpack included?

Jerome Brill's picture

I think it's as simple as them not having one on hand. I personally looked into Think Tank for a dual purpose camera bag but it was still too small. I use a Gregory Baltoro 65L Hiking Pack and a Lowepro ProTactic 350AW right now. I want to combine these.

Think Tanks largest 45L bag leaves little room for anything other than camera gear. There is a top compartment but it's pretty small. Their 38L Rotation180 series are better but smaller in general. I also thought they were a bit pricey for what you got. I'm sure the quality is good though.

The Atlas Athlete on the other hand starts at 40L. The top internal compartment can be folded in to give you less space on the camera side but more for other things. That's actually pretty cool. Their Adventure size was even better but was the same price as Think Tanks 45L. And still $100 cheaper than the smaller Think Tank 38L Rotation.

I didn't even know about Atlas until this review. It might serve my purpose so I'm going to look into it more. I think if you're just doing camera gear and it's mostly a day trip, Think Tank would be good. If you want to carry more camp gear also, the Atlas may be a better choice. For reference this is what I carry now for my BWCA trips. Everything with the exception of my boots will fit into both bags, Including the tripod, Clothes and my rain gear not pictured will fit also.

John Planck's picture

Wow! thank you for the thoughtful and detailed reply. I like your setup. I am just testing the waters with backcountry hiking and camping. Another expensive hobby! To your point, there is not enough room in any all-in-one camera backpack option that I have seen. And yes Think Tank is pricey. I have their Airport Takeoff V2.0 for travel/flying and Streetwalker V2.0 for walking local about town and on photo shoots. They have been good to me. I think your combo hiking pack and lowepro is the realistic option/setup. Thanks for sharing. If you have a photo of you with both packs loaded and on your back I would love to see that!

Jerome Brill's picture

You're welcome and thanks. I don't have a photo loaded up but I put my camera backpack on backwards first. Easiest is to clip the chest strap then slide the bag over your head. Then I put on the bigger 65L. I'll clip the waist belt and the chest strap will go over the camera bag shoulder straps in front of me. It's very stable. It's a beefy setup but my front bag ends up balancing out my bigger pack in the back. This is nice when I'm portaging.

The other good thing with this setup is the Lowepro ProTactic has a top cover I can grab my camera without uploading anything. I can even rest the camera on the top of the bag on my chest to keep it stable. The downside is I can only have it setup for one lens since you can't access anything else from the top. Although I just keep the 24-70 on it.

John Planck's picture

thanks for that visual, I had to read it a few times and put my camera backpack on backwards to truly envision it. Makes sense, brilliant!

Daniel J. Cox's picture

The ThinkTank 45L was part of the group I tested https://youtu.be/qry9OcgH0F4

Jonathan Verman's picture

This doesnt make any sense? If a roller bag doesnt work in the field then just carry a backpack. Thats so much extra to bring two bags just so you can roll it through an airport. Also maybe cut down to two camera bodies to save weight, space ext. you can streamline your kit and gear so much more than you have shown. Most of the time less is more!