Best Camera Backpacks For Hiking & Travel (Reviews & Tips)

As a travel photographer who works professionally, I am often asked what is the best camera bag to carry your gear. Here are my favorite camera backpacks and why.

Let’s not be shy. Today, most tourists take pictures with their smartphones or a compact camera. You don’t have to buy a camera bag.

What if, like me, you have a lot of photographic equipment and travel internationally? Or take your gear hiking?

Multiple cameras, lenses, a drone, etc. You may be passionate about photography, run a YouTube channel, or work as a photographer.

You will likely need a special photography backpack for your expensive equipment. I travel with a carry-on camera backpack and have tried out many different bags over the past few years.

What’s the best backpack to store and travel with your camera gear?

This question is not easy to answer. There are many different budgets and requirements for selecting a camera backpack.

This camera backpack buyer’s guide is designed to help you sort through the many options and choose the best camera bag for you so that you are prepared for your next adventure.

This is what we will cover. You can click on a section to jump to it.

Important Camera Backpack Features

WEIGHT- You want to find the lightest and most comfortable camera backpack possible, as this will prevent your body from becoming fatigued. Materials used to make a backpack can affect its weight. Super-lightweight fabrics will also increase the cost.

SIZE AND CAPACITY Backpacks are typically quoted in liters. Camera backpacks will typically range between 20-40 liters. Some adventure camera backpacks can carry camping and hiking gear, but they are usually 45-60 liters.

GEAR PROTECTION- A camera backpack is designed to protect expensive equipment while also making it easy to access. Some bags are overstuffed with padding, which increases the weight.

SIDE/REAR-LOADING- Most camera backpacks have a rear-loading system, which means you must unzip the panel at the back to get your photo equipment. Some bags have side access so that you can remove your camera without having to take off your backpack.

STRING TYPES A padded waist belt distributes weight on your hips and not just your shoulders. This prevents sore shoulders and lower back pain when worn for extended periods. This is especially useful for camera backpacks.

GEAR POUCHES — This is subjective, and everyone’s different, but I like a minimum amount of pockets in my camera bag. One of the most important is a quick-access pouch for items like sunglasses, keys, and passports. I love it when the bag has a laptop and filtered water bottle pocket.

ZIPPERS- I like large, easy-to-use zippers for a backpack. Bonus points if the zippers are lockable and designed to be locked with a luggage lock.

PROPER FITS- Even if you have the most expensive travel backpack, if it does not fit properly, you will be unhappy. It’s more important to consider your torso than height. This is a great backpack-fitting guide.

LOOKS Some camera backpacks look like regular backpacks while others shout, “There’s a camera inside!”. I like a minimalist & subtle look, but ultimately, it is up to you what looks matter.

WEATHER-RESISTANCE- The material of a backpack can determine its weather resistance. Some loads require a rain cover, while others are rain-resistant by default. You don’t want your gear getting wet!

CARRY ON FRIENDLY — Airlines are becoming stricter with the size and weight restrictions of carry-on bags. To be safe, I would not bring anything bigger than a 40L backpack as carry-on luggage.

What Type Of Photographer Are You?

It would be best if you had an idea of how you will use the camera backpack before making a purchase. I divide photographers into different categories.

A small camera backpack will be sufficient if you do not carry a lot of equipment. You can also use it to walk around the city. If you are a photographer who has a lot of camera equipment or you go on long-distance treks, you may want to consider a larger adventure-style camera backpack.

Travel Photographers

Travel photographers will want to bring their camera gear on the plane in a backpack that is not too large and looks good while walking through the streets of Paris, Rome, or other cities. Some may also go on a day hike, but they won’t have to pack camping gear.

Adventure Photographers

Adventure photographers often spend their time in mountains, deserts, and jungles. They may prefer to visit more remote locations and require space in their bag to fit a tent and sleeping bag. To survive in the backcountry, they pack their own backpacking equipment and camping gear.

What kind of photographer are you (or do you think you will be)? This will determine the camera backpack that you select from this guide.

Online Photography Courses

Do you want to improve your photography skills? It’s nice to have fancy gear, but it is better to learn from other photographers.

Matt’s top pick: Peak Travel Backpack

The Peak Design travel backpack is the best camera bag I have tested. It has a lot of space and makes it easy to get your gear. Also, the quality is excellent. The Peak Design Travel Backpack was originally designed to be a carry-on bag for travel. Still, it works great as a backpack when combined with the camera-specific packing cubicles (which are available in various sizes).

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