Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Best camera bags 2021: The best backpacks, shoulder bags and messenger bags for photographers

Dave Stevenson
1 Dec 2021
Advertisement

Carry your photography kit in safety and style with our roundup of the best camera bags you can buy

Looking for a dependable, practical, adventure-ready camera bag? We’ve got you covered. While no two photographers’ needs are the same, the right camera bag should accommodate your photographic equipment safely, securely, comfortably – and it certainly doesn’t hurt if it looks good while doing it.

These days photographers can find themselves spoiled for choice when it comes to camera bag variety. Over the shoulder or backpack? Designer or functional? Showy or understated? And, of course, there’s the question of how much to spend. There’s no point in paying for expandability and features you don’t need, but in time your ambitions might outgrow a smaller bag.

Fortunately, the Expert Reviews office is packed with photographers of all experience levels, so we’ve managed to accumulate quite the wealth of camera bag experience. Here, we’ve broken down our top recommendations for you, detailing which bags are best for which kind of photographer, and what extra features they offer.


SKIP TO:


How to choose the best camera bag for you

Camera backpack vs shoulder bag

Whether you opt to carry your camera kit on your back or over your shoulder is a matter of both preference and practicality. Shoulder bags can offer easier access to your gear, allowing you to quickly grab your camera or change lenses while on the go. Shoulder bags do, however, tend to be a little more limiting when it comes to space and flexibility. And, you may find that a one-shoulder setup may not be the most comfortable choice for larger, heavier camera kits.

Backpacks on the other hand tend to be larger, allowing you to pack more gear, accessories and peripherals – and they spread the weight across two shoulders, making them more comfortable. They do, however, tend to be bulkier and often need to be taken off completely in order to get at your camera or lenses.

Ultimately each photographer needs to decide which style of bag will best suit their own personal requirements.

What size camera bag should I buy?

The size of your bag will depend on the type of equipment you use as well as your shooting style. If you’re a travel-light street photographer who carries a single camera and lens, then a compact option will suffice. If you’re a landscape photographer who needs space for several lenses, filters and a tripod then you’ll obviously need a larger bag.

We’d recommend being a little aspirational – try to think about what sort of bag you’d need to accommodate your ideal photography kit or the bag that would suit your dream trip. While this may be a little more bag than you need in the immediate, it’ll be a bag that you can grow into and keep by your side for many years to come.

Does my camera bag need space for non-photography equipment?

Even if you’re not an edit-on-the-go kind of photographer, separate space for a tablet or laptop can really come in handy while traveling. With a few ancillary pockets for hard disks, notebooks, pens and your passport, your camera bag can become the only thing you need to carry.

What additional features should I consider?

Depending on the type of photography you’re looking to undertake there are a number of extra features you may want to look out for. Plan on braving the elements? We’d recommend looking for a bag that comes with a rain cover. Shooting long exposures, time lapses or astrophotography? You’ll likely want a bag that can hold a tripod. Need a multifunctional bag that can double up as a daypack? Consider bags that feature removable camera inserts.

The best camera backpacks to buy in 2021

1. Lowepro Tahoe BP 150: Best affordable camera backpack

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

The Tahoe has been a budget-friendly favourite for a number of years, and it’s easy to see why.

It has a clean, modern design, comfortable shoulder straps, and space for a modest camera kit. Inside there’s a reassuringly padded main compartment with a layout that can be customised to suit your current camera setup. While it may not be the most spacious backpack on our list, it’ll comfortably accommodate a mid-sized mirrorless or DSLR camera body, a couple of lenses and any essential accessories.

On the front of the bag, you’ll find a couple of additional zip pockets with space for a tablet along with a pair of mesh pockets ideal for storing a water bottle or small tripod.

Key specs – Type: Backpack; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/No; Internal dimensions: 250 x 128 x 360mm (WDH); External dimensions: 275 x 217 x 403mm (WDH); Empty weight: 0.8kg; Rain cover: No; Tripod mounting: Small only



2. Manfrotto Chicago 30 Backpack: Best camera backpack for street photography

Price: £99 | Buy now from Wex

Combining form and function, Manfrotto’s Chicago backpack is your ideal companion for street and city photography. With space for three velcro-divided compartments, there’s room for a full-sized mirrorless camera body along with a couple of zoom lenses or a handful of primes.

And, for quick access, the bag uses handy side-pockets. This means there’s no need to take the backpack off. Instead, you can simply swivel it over one shoulder to access your camera and swap lenses. When you need to pack ultra-light, the camera compartment can also be removed and functions as a standalone shoulder bag.

Inside the backpack, you’ll also find dedicated pockets and pouches for batteries and memory cards, and the top compartment provides additional space for things like hats, gloves or headphones. There’s also a dedicated 14in laptop pocket. If you’ve got a larger DSLR setup, or need space for a 15in laptop, a larger Chicago 50 backpack is also available.

Key specs – Type: Backpack; Tablet/laptop compartment: No/Yes; Internal dimensions: 260 x 130 x 290mm (WDH); External dimensions: 330 x 190 x 440mm (WDH); Empty weight: 1.6kg; Rain cover: Yes; Tripod mounting: Yes

Buy now from Wex


3. Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II: Best rugged camera backpack

Price: £186 | Buy now from Amazon

Lowepro’s ProTactic line of bags are an excellent choice for those in need of a super solid, rugged camera bag.

The exterior of the bag is made from tough fabric and covered with LowePro’s SlipLock system, allowing you to add accessories like water bottles, tripod mounts and extra pouches as needed. Meanwhile, thick, padded shoulder straps and optional hip straps help distribute the weight of heavy gear and LowePro's ActivZone tech helps to improve airflow across your back.

Internally the bag is fully customisable, with ample space for pro DSLRs, chunky zoom lenses and, with the right layout, even a drone. You’ll also find pockets for batteries, SD cards and filters along with a 15in laptop sleeve. The rear panel can be opened to easily access everything at once, or for quick access, there are top and side entry points.

Although chunky, the ProTactic 450 remains within the carry-on dimensions for most airlines, making it ideal for travellers. For those looking for something a little more compact, a smaller BP 350 AW II is available.

Key specs – Type: Backpack; Tablet/laptop compartment: No/Yes; Internal dimensions: 300 x 160 x 440mm (WDH); External dimensions: 360 x 220 x 520mm (WDH); Empty weight: 1.6kg; Rain cover: Yes; Tripod mounting: Yes


4. WANDRD PRVKE 21 Photography Bundle V3: Best camera bag for travel

Price: £259 | Buy now from Wex

WANDRD’s PRVKE (pronounced 'provoke') backpack is a smart, stylish, camera bag that’s perfect for your next photographic adventure.

The PRVKE is rugged and weather-resistant with a tarpaulin exterior, sealed zips and an additional rain cover for when things get really rough. Wide shoulder straps and a padded back panel ensure a comfortable carry, and a side-opening allows quick access to your kit.

Inside there’s a removable padded camera cube to keep your gear safe and organised, while a roll-top design allows you easily up the capacity for travel essentials or a weekend’s worth of clothes.

The interior padding does cut down on the overall capacity somewhat compared to other bags of a similar size but the Essential Camera Cube can still comfortably accommodate a mirrorless camera body with two or three lenses. For more storage, a larger Pro Camera Cube is also available which doubles the padded storage space.

There are plenty of auxiliary pockets to keep your accessories organised, with dedicated laptop and tablet sleeves, memory card slots and zipped pockets for your keys, passport and smartphone.

For larger loadouts or full frame DSLRs, a WANDRD PRVKE 31 is also available.

Key specs – Type: Backpack; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/Yes; Internal dimensions: 21 litres; External dimensions: 280 x 170 x 430mm (WDH); Empty weight: 1.3kg; Rain cover: Yes; Tripod mounting: Yes

Buy now from Wex


5. Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L V2: Best everyday camera bag

Price: £249 | Buy now from Wex

It’s pricey, but true to its name, Peak Design’s flagship backpack is an ideal all-round everyday camera bag. It has a modern, minimalist design that wouldn’t look out of place on the streets, on the trails or on your daily commute. And, despite its slimline silhouette, the Everyday Backpack manages to accommodate an impressive assortment of camera kit.

While user-customisable camera compartments are nothing new, Peak Design’s unique folding dividers allow you to quickly rearrange the space on the fly. You can even create pass-through sections to fit longer zoom lenses. There’s space for up to a full-frame DSLR with two or three zoom lenses or a handful of primes.

Access is via large, quick-access side openings, and the insides of these openings also pack a range of additional pockets for smaller accessories. Up top you’ll find a spacious, expandable top compartment ideal for storing chargers, headphones or an external hard drive, and padded pockets for both a tablet and 15in laptop.

Key specs – Type: Backpack; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/Yes; Internal dimensions: 300 x 160 x 440mm (WDH); External dimensions: 360 x 220 x 520mm (WDH); Empty weight: 1.6kg; Rain cover: No; Tripod mounting: Yes

Buy now from Wex


6. Gitzo Adventury 45L Backpack: Best for landscape and wildlife photographers

Price: £279 | Buy now from Wex

Gitzo’s Adventury 45L backpack is perfectly suited to all forms of outdoor photography. With a rugged, weather-resistant build along with an additional rain cover, it’ll happily brave the elements. Meanwhile, thick straps and a vented back panel will keep you comfortable while out on the trail.

The Adventury is an extra-large pack, and so Inside you’ll find a vast amount of space, ideal for professional camera bodies, long zoom lenses and, with the right organisation, even a drone. The camera compartment can also be removed entirely should you need it to pull double duty as a hiking daypack. A roll-top design gives plenty of additional space at the top of the bag for personal items like hats and gloves or a rain jacket, while two ample side pockets are available for water bottles and accessories.

On the outside, you’ll find straps for mounting a full-sized tripod either across the back or on the side, as well as additional mounting points for accessories.

Key specs – Type: Backpack; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/Yes; Internal dimensions: 320 x 190 x 540mm (WDH); External dimensions: 350 x 220 x 550mm (WDH); Empty weight: 3.1kg; Rain cover: Yes; Tripod mounting: Yes

Buy now from Wex


The best camera shoulder and messenger bags to buy in 2021

7. AmazonBasics DSLR Gadget Messenger Bag: Best budget camera bag

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

Cool brand? No. Snappy name? No. Top-notch design credentials? Not especially. However, while Amazon’s own-brand camera carrier may lack the cachet of some of our other entries, there’s plenty to be said for a well-made shoulder bag that barely scrapes the twenty quid mark.

It’s not the roomiest camera bag on offer – a mid-sized DSLR with a couple of lenses is likely your lot – but, if you’re a mirrorless camera shooter then this may be all the bag you ever need. The Gadget Messenger Bag also manages to provide plenty of storage for accessories thanks to its front and side pockets and there’s even a pouch at the back for a tablet.

Key specs – Type: Shoulder bag; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/No; Internal dimensions: 254 x 127 x 178mm (WDH); External dimensions: 380 x 200 x 300mm (WDH); Empty weight: 0.73kg; Rain cover: No; Tripod mounting: Small only


8. Peak Design Every Day Sling 6L: Best camera sling for street photography

Price: £99 | Buy now from Amazon

Sleek and attractive without being flashy, Peak Design's Every Day Sling is the perfect partner for street photography. It conforms nicely to the body so you never feel unnecessarily burdened, and a generous full-width opening allows quick, uninhibited access to your gear.

Inside you'll find a large main compartment with a pair of Peak Design's flexifold dividers that allow you to create compartments and shelved pockets to suit your specific camera setup. There's also an internal zipped pocket with sections to fit batteries and SD cards along with an 11in tablet sleeve. Round the front there's an additional zipper pocket perfect for holding your phone or keys.

The 6L Sling is ideal for mirrorless shooters, offering up enough space for a full-sized camera body along with a couple of lenses. It'll also comfortably suit smaller DSLRs, although for full frame you'll likely want to look at the larger 10L Sling.

Although no rain cover is included, the 400D nylon should provide ample everyday protection and all the zips are weatherproof.

Key specs – Type: Shoulder bag; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/No; Internal dimensions: 340 x 80 x 230mm (WDH); External dimensions: 280 x 210 x 230mm (WDH); Empty weight: 0.8kg; Rain cover: No; Tripod mounting: Small only


9. Billingham Hadley Pro Canvas Camera Bag: Best camera bag for classic style

Price: £228 | Buy now from Wex

Coming in a shade under £200, this English-made canvas and leather khaki number from Billingham is a bona fide classic. With stitched leather straps and brass fittings, its classic look is underpinned by modern camera-bag trappings.

Indeed, its leather straps have quick-releases, so you don’t need to fiddle with them to get your gear out, and there’s room enough for a large DSLR and a few lenses. Velcro dividers inside let you customise the size and layout of the bag’s compartment and you can pop the padded lining out entirely when you need a practical weekend bag. Meanwhile, a pair of decent-sized front pockets give you options for carrying hard disks, filters or memory cards.

It’s not huge: only the very smallest laptops will fit, and photographers with more than one camera should probably look elsewhere. But, when it comes to combining practicality and style the Hadley Pro is a winner.

Key specs – Type: Shoulder bag; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/Yes (small only); Internal dimensions: 340 x 80 x 230mm (WDH); External dimensions: 350 x 120 x 280mm (WDH); Empty weight: 1kg; Rain cover: No; Tripod mounting: No

Buy now from Wex


10. Lowepro ProTactic MG 160 AW II: Best rugged shoulder bag

Price: £119 | Buy now from Amazon

LowePro’s MG 160 takes the classic camera shoulder bag and beefs it up in every respect. Like all bags in the ProTactic line, the MG 160 features a super rugged exterior, reinforced straps and a wealth of SlipLock points for mounting additional accessories.

It's got some bulk to it and so may not be your first choice for minimalist carries but there's plenty of space inside for a professional-sized camera body and lenses. Customisable internal dividers allow you to arrange the space to best accommodate your gear and you can even take the entire padded divider section out if needed.

Even with heavy kit the bag stays comfortable thanks to its thick padded shoulder strap. There's even some additional padding on the back to cushion the bag against your hip and an optional underarm strap to keep the bag secure against your body while on the move.

The weather-resistant exterior and padded interior should do a pretty good job at keeping your kit safe from the elements but, should the weather turn there’s an additional rain cover hidden within the base.

Key specs – Type: Shoulder bag; Tablet/laptop compartment: No/Yes; Internal dimensions: 370 x 140 x 255mm (WDH); External dimensions: 400 x 170 x 280mm (WDH); Empty weight: 1.4kg; Rain cover: Yes; Tripod mounting: Yes (small only)


11. Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag: Best messenger camera bag

Price: £209 | Buy now from Wex

Now in its second generation, Peak Design’s Everyday Messenger bag is ideal for those who need a do-it-all shoulder bag. Like the rest of Peak Design’s lineup, the Everyday Messenger has a modern, minimalist design that’ll fit in perfectly, whether you’re on your way to the office, school or out on a shoot.

Adjustable, folding dividers allow you to set the bag up how you want, with enough room for a full-sized DSLR or mirrorless camera with lens attached, and two or three additional lenses. Need more room for books, papers or personal effects? Remove one of the dividers to instantly reorganise the space.

Multiple latch clipping locations allow the bag to expand considerably when needed and additional pockets provide secure storage for smaller items like your phone, wallet and earbuds. There are also dedicated sleeves for a tablet and 13in laptop.

Key specs – Type: Shoulder bag; Tablet/laptop compartment: Yes/Yes; Internal dimensions: 350 x 130 x 320mm (WDH); External dimensions: 410 x 170 x 300mm (WDH); Empty weight: 1.2kg; Rain cover: No; Tripod mounting: Yes (small only)

Buy now from Wex


Read more

Best Buys