- Buyer's Guide
Best Camera Backpacks for Hiking Adventures
Heading on a hiking adventure with your camera gear? A camera backpack needs to find that thoughtful balance between catering to camera equipment and personal and outdoor gear. So we’ve focused in on some key things to consider when choosing your bag, as well as our top picks of the best camera backpacks for hiking adventures.
Whether you’re striding along smooth and easy trails or scrambling over rocky wilderness, having to stop and rummage for camera gear is frustrating. You’ll probably find yourself taking fewer photos if your gear is hard to reach, in which case what’s the point of hauling it all in the first place? When you’re eating up the miles you want to ensure that expended energy hauling gear is worth it. Having gear readily accessible makes it far more likely you’ll use it, and helps you get the shots you really want by having the right equipment close at hand. Different camera packs offer different kinds of access to suit different needs and environments. Front, back, side and top access are all options, so think about which ones are best for you. Additionally, a good mix of quick-access pockets are great for storing smaller, frequently used items such as camera accessories, snacks or a water bottle.
Camera equipment is often expensive and delicate – not a good combination when you’re entering demanding outdoor environments. Scrapes, bumps, accidental drops and the elements can all wreak havoc on your gear, so you want to ensure it’s adequately protected. Suitably padded storage spaces and dividers help provide shock absorption, while weatherproof construction helps keep the elements at bay.
As mentioned above, if you want suitable protection for your gear then you need to factor in weatherproof construction. Look for water-resistant materials and zippers, as well as raincovers for an additional barrier against rain and snow. Having different compartments for storing gear will allow you to access just what you need, which is handy when you want to shield the rest of your gear from inclement weather, grit, dirt and mud.
Photography can involve a lot of accessories, from additional lenses to memory cards and tech devices. Small items are easy to lose in the recesses of a pack, so having readily accessible pockets is important. Exterior attachment points for larger items such as tripods, skis, gear pouches and other items will also help you tailor your carry setup to different photography missions.
Additionally, if you’re hiking you’re going to need space for personal and outdoor items such as snacks, water, maps, an extra outer layer, a first aid kit and more. Make sure the packs you are considering offer sufficient extra storage space for this gear.
Camera gear is heavy. Add on top of that your personal gear and you could find yourself hauling a significant amount of weight. Combine that with a full day of hiking (or even a few hours) and things can get pretty uncomfortable, pretty fast. A camera backpack that distributes the weight across both shoulders and your waist is a must. Wider shoulder straps offer better weight distribution, and you’re going to want sufficient padding in the straps and waist belt for maximized user comfort, especially on longer hikes and for larger loads. Additionally, good ventilation is an important consideration too, as carrying all that gear over extended distances can be tiring, sweaty work.
Material & Construction
As touched on previously, look for water-resistant materials that offer protection against the elements. However, they should also be durable and abrasion resistant, with a tough pack construction that will hold up to the strain of hauling heavy gear for long periods of time in demanding environments. You may have to lay your pack on rocky ground, you might accidentally scrape against branches and rock faces, or potentially have to sling your bag in and out of cars and overhead luggage compartments in the quest to get to your destination. A tough build and durable materials will ensure your pack can handle the journey.
Lowepro DSLR Video Fastpack 350 AW (US$ 89.99)
Lowepro’s DSLR Video Fastpack 350 AW is a versatile pack that can handle a variety of equipment, including a DSLR with an attached lens (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), a 17″ laptop, a tripod and audio equipment. The pack also includes a removable audio pouch, a raincover for protection against the elements, and side access to quickly reach your camera.
Ruggard Alpine 600 Lens Backpack for DSLR and 600/800mm Lens (US$ 118.96)
The Ruggard Alpine 600 Lens Backpack is a handy option if you need to carry an 800mm lens with hood or a DSLR with a 600mm lens attached. The pack includes a range of useful interior and exterior pockets for storing accessories and EDC items, along with a raincover and tripod attachment points. There’s also a whistle integrated into the sternum strap and a comfortable padded harness and waist belt.
Manfrotto Off road Hiker Backpack (US$ 119.88)
The adaptable Manfrotto Off road Hiker Backpack features a removable photo insert and modular dividers to suit changing loads, with quick side access keeping your camera at the ready. The bag fits a DSLR with a 70-200mm/2.8 lens, with additional space for extra lenses and accessories, personal items and snacks. Tripod attachment points and a raincover are included too. And with its flexible design, this 30L pack also doubles as a regular hiking pack by removing the padded insert and dividers.
MindShift Gear rotation180° Trail 16L (US$ 119.99)
Ever missed a great photo opportunity because you couldn’t access your gear fast enough? This pack takes care of that problem with its innovative rotating beltpack which provides ready access to items without having to take the backpack off. The beltpack can also be worn separately for more minimalist carry setups. This pack is a good option for a compact DSLR or mirrorless camera, with additional space for a hydration bladder, personal items, snacks, small accessories and an 8″ tablet.
Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 350 AW Backpack (US$ 169.95)
The Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 350 AW finds a good balance between camera and outdoor gear carry, with dedicated storage space for photography equipment and personal items. Camera gear can be accessed through the back panel without having to put the pack on the ground, with sufficient space for a DSLR with attached lens and 1-2 extra lenses. In addition, multiple exterior attachment points let you tailor carry setups to changing needs.
Tamrac Anvil 17 Pro Camera Backpack (US$ 189.95)
Like lots of organization options? The Tamrac Anvil 17 delivers, with multiple compartments for camera gear and a 15″ laptop, along with plenty of pockets and attachment points for accessories, a tripod and EDC items. The clamshell main compartment provides ready access to camera gear throughout, with customizable dividers to protect different setups.
Pelican U160 Urban Elite Half Case Camera Pack (US$ 199.95)
Going into demanding environments with your camera gear in tow? If you need rugged and crushproof carry protection, look to the Pelican U160 Urban Elite Half Case Camera Pack. The pack offers separate storage for camera and personal gear, with a bright interior camera case for added visibility of the contents. The waterproof and crushproof case fits a DSLR with attached lens, an additional lens, and a flash. A mix of interior and exterior pockets come in handy for storing small accessories and EDC or outdoor essentials, and concealable tripod straps let you secure a tripod externally.
Mountainsmith x Chris Burkard Tanuck 40L (US$ 229.95)
Mountainsmith and Chris Burkard teamed up to create a versatile, durable and functional pack that could adapt to diverse environments and needs. The result is the Tanuck 40L, a rugged and weather-resistant pack that offers front-access storage for your camera gear, a dedicated 17″ laptop compartment and top-loading storage for personal items. The pack is compatible with Kit Cubes (sold separately) and is self-standing for easier packing and access. A host of pockets and attachment points let you keep items tidy and within easy reach, and the removable top lid can convert into a chest mount for fast access to a camera on the go.
Clik Elite Stratus (US$ 230)
Want a camera pack that doesn’t look like a camera pack? The Clik Elite Stratus is designed to look like a traditional hiking pack in order to avoid unwanted attention and help protect your expensive equipment from prying eyes. The back panel provides access to camera gear, while the top-loading compartment is handy for storing outdoor essentials and personal items. A ClikDraw™ camera gear loop and anchor points keep your camera securely attached to the pack and within easy reach when needed, while quick-access pockets keep frequently needed items at the ready.
f-stop Lotus (US$ 239)
Highly weather-resistant and durable enough to embrace a range of outdoor environments, the 32L Lotus is well suited to day-long shoots and accommodates a range of f-stop ICUs (sold separately) to organize your camera gear. The back panel provides access to camera equipment, with further storage and a host of pockets for personal gear and accessories. The pack is hydration bladder compatible and also allows additional bulky items to be secured externally.
MindShift Gear BackLight 26L (US$ 249.99)
Worried about mud, dirt, snow or puddles getting on your bag and gear? The Mindshift Gear BackLight 26L offers a nifty solution. The pack features back panel access and can be spun round while the waist strap is attached in order to get to gear without having to lay the bag on the ground. The back panel access also helps thwart opportunistic thieves while traveling. The pack fits a DSLR, along with 4-6 lenses and a flash. There’s also dedicated space for a 15″ laptop and a tablet, along with a range of pockets for organizing accessories and EDC.
f-stop Ajna (US$ 259)
The durable and weatherproof Ajna moves easily from snow to sun, with a 40L volume that accommodates a variety of gear setups. The pack offers back panel access to your camera gear, while a mix of pockets and attachment points keep accessories and personal items tidy and easily accessible. The Ajna is compatible with a range of f-stop ICU units (sold separately) to protect your camera equipment, and can secure a tripod, snowboard or other bulky items externally.
Clik Elite Escape 2.0 (US$ 279)
The Clik Elite Escape 2.0 packs plenty of useful features into its versatile design. Dual full-length zippers can be opened partially for access to specific gear while protecting the rest of the contents in poor weather. Alternatively open them fully for easy access to all your gear. Your camera can be kept at the ready through Clik Elite’s ClikDraw™ system featuring a camera tether and padded loop hip holster. Rounding things off are a tripod holder, multiple pockets, a hydration sleeve and a raincover.
Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW (US$ 299.95)
Comfortable, weather-resistant and tough, the Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW adapts easily to a range of environments and includes storage for camera equipment and outdoor essentials. Back panel access keeps camera gear secure on the move and away from rain, sand, snow and dirt. The pack is designed to fit a pro DSLR, 3 lenses, a flash and a GoPro or similar, and includes a removable insert. A choice of pockets and attachment points provide organization for smaller items and secure the likes of a tripod, snowboard or ice tools.
Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack (US$ 379)
The Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW is a durable and comfortable pack featuring Lowepro’s ActivLift System™ harness. Ideal for large loads and long days of shooting, the pack fits 1-2 pro DSLRs (with a 400mm f/2.8 lens attached to one), as well as 4-6 extra lenses, two flashes, a 15″ laptop, a 2L hydration bladder and personal items. And if you just need a minimalist load, the backpack lid can be detached to form a waist pack for carrying the essentials.
MindShift Gear rotation180° Professional (US$ 389.99)
If you’re keen on MindShift Gear’s rotating beltpack but need more space than the 16L rotation180° Trail offers, this pack is a great larger alternative. With a volume of 37.5L you have plenty of space for camera equipment, personal items and a hydration bladder, with a removable tripod sling and a raincover for added functionality.