I have a closet filled with camera bags but I think I might have found the best camera bag for adventure and travel photographers. There are countless bags on the market but every adventure requires a slightly different bag. The goal is with the right features, versatility, and customization, one bag can do everything!In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through my hunt for the best camera bag. I’ll share my discovery of the Shimoda Action backpacks that my wife and I use for our photography business. And then I’ll highlight some additional scenarios to consider beyond the bag and into the overall bag system.
Regardless of if you agree with my camera bag choice, I lay out a replicable process for finding your best camera bag for traveling. I expect a lot from my gear as it has to be rugged enough to handle adventure, convenient enough to enhance my photography, and versatile enough to handle a variety of conditions. Let’s explore.
The Hunt for the Best Camera Bag for Adventure and Traveling
To me, the key to finding the perfect camera bag is a combination of trial and error as well as some practical planning. If you think through the different scenarios in which you shoot, you can come up with a vision for what type of bag you’re looking for. However, the best way to know what works is through first-hand experience.
First, you have to try out some bags. Before I bought an expensive camera bag I tried a handful of different options ranging from compact cases to dedicated backpacks (albeit cheap ones). This helps you to imagine the different ways you use or carry your bag which leads into the next step, planning.
Doing some planning to think through the different scenarios can really help you hone in on what features are most important. Visualize yourself adventuring, traveling, exploring, and trying to photography your experience. What are your needs?
Will you be flying with your bag, carrying it on a multi-day trek, skiing, biking, or climbing? When it comes to features, you should think about what would make it most useful for the majority of your scenarios: i.e carry-on compatibility, laptop carry, hydration compatible, waterproof, back panel access, etc. The goal is to find something that works for most cases because there is not a one size fits all perfect bag.
The Top Qualities To Look for in a Travel Camera Bag
Below is my list of what I want in an adventure travel camera bag:
- Rugged and durable
- Adaptable and scalable
- Ability to carry and access camera gear
- Ability to carry additional adventure gear: water, skis, helmet, rope, snacks, etc
- Airplane compatible
- Comfortable especially when heavy
As a little background, I love to travel via car, plane, or any other method of transportation that takes me somewhere promising beauty and adventure. Sometimes this means I have to be able to hike with my camera gear on my back. I shoot adventure photography, everything from rock-climbing to backcountry skiing, so my gear has to be able to handle heat or snow and I have to be able to handle my gear even at 14,000 feet.
I love gear and I know how easy it is to accumulate more and more. However, I also believe that our camera gear should make our photography easier and more streamlined. It should make us better, not weigh us down. Therefore, as you can imagine, finding the perfect camera bag was a big priority for me.
Below is a video where I go through a variety of bags that I’ve experimented with over the years in my pursuit to find the best camera bag.
Enter Shimoda Camera Backpacks for Adventure Photographers
In 2017, my current favorite backup company, Shimoda, launched. I was looking to upgrade my camera bag and their backpack fit everything I was looking for. They now offer a variety of bags in various sizes to fit many different scenarios.
I think the Shimoda Action X30 is as close as a backpack has come to being my perfect bag. The Shimoda Action X30 with a medium core unit has served me quite well. Below are some of the reasons I think it is one of the best bags on the market:
- Well built rugged design
- Comfortable suspension system
- Highly weather-resistant
- Rear, Side, Top Access
- Core unit can be swapped for larger smaller camera carry
- Shoulder strap stash pockets
- Expandable roll top design
- Water bottle/hydration carry
- Ability to strap on skis, helmet, etc
With all these features and the ability to adapt to different types of trips, the Shimoda Action X30 has become my go-to camera backpack. In addition, I also use the Shimoda Explore 40 when I need to take slightly more gear. It’s great because I can easily swap the camera core unit between the two bags and keep my same camera organization style.
The Importance of a Good Camera Bag System
In addition to having a quality camera bag, I think it’s important to think of camera carry as a whole system. Start with the core unit that fits your cameras, lenses, and accessories, then expand to the bag that will accommodate the core unit plus other items you’ll be carrying (outdoor gear, clothes, water, food, etc). I often store my camera gear in core units and accessory pouches at home then grab the bag that fits the type of trip and quickly load it with the appropriate gear.
In addition, it can be helpful to think about how you will adapt the system for flying on a plane or incorporate it into a roller bag. These are two scenarios when the core units become essential. A good camera bag system can easily be sized up or sized down depending on the type of shoot or adventure you’re heading out on.
I often work alongside my wife. A good core system allows us to scale up or down our system if we’re shooting alone or separately, a big job or a small one. On some trips, our priority is to be able to go light and fast while other times we need a large amount of gear for higher production. Versatility is key.
Camera Bags and Traveling on Airplanes
If you’ve ever boarded a smaller than expected plane and had the flight attendant offer to “check your bag for you,” with all your cameras inside, you know the feeling of dread associated with being separated from your equipment. This is when the core unit can quickly be removed and stowed as a personal item.
Additionally, camera gear is heavy and you may want to put it in a roller bag instead of carrying it on your back while traveling. Sometimes I swap out my cameras for my clothes in the roller bag so that I can wheel the heavy cameras and lenses, and fill my backpack with lightweight items. Again, the core unit allows me to transition the camera gear from the roller bag to the backpack upon arrival at my destination.
Find Your Best Camera Bag and Get Traveling
In review, here is my easy four-step process to find the best adventure camera bag for traveling. I can’t wait to see if you come to the same conclusion as I do.
- Make your priority/needs list.
- Find your bag.
- Build out your camera system.
These are just some of the scenarios and features I’ve thought through in my quest for finding the perfect camera bag. Hopefully, you’ve found my assessment useful in your journey to find your best camera bag or check out Shimoda. If you have any questions leave a comment below.