Best Camera Backpack for Hiking
The combination of fresh air, exercise, and outdoor photography is enough to whet the appetite for a day of adventure.
However, while you might want to get out and snap photos more often, one thing that might be holding you back is a lack of a good storage system.
Hanging your DSLR around your neck gets old quickly, especially if you have to lug it around in testing weather conditions.
The solution is obvious: a decent camera backpack suitable for hiking and outdoor adventure. With one of these on your back, you’ll never have to let poor weather conditions stop you from taking your camera to the great outdoors.
Here’s what to expect in this article:
- Reviews of the best camera backpacks
- A brief buyer’s guide
- Your burning questions answered in a FAQ
Without further ado, here are our top picks…
👑 Our Pick for Best Overall
⭐ Our Other Top Picks for Camera Backpack
- Best of the Best: Lowepro ProTactic BP 450
- Best Storage: Lowepro Pro Trekker BP 550
- Best on a Budget: Evecase Extra Large Backpack
Best Camera Backpack for Hiking Reviews
Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 (⭐ Best of the Best)
Hands down the best camera backpack for hiking has to be the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450.
Before we jump into the solid construction and great features of this camera bag, we’d like to point out the overwhelming popularity of this bag amongst those who’ve purchased it on Amazon. Maintaining an impressive five-star rating from hundreds of reviews, this bag is adored by pretty much everyone who got their hands on it. The main reasons for this are the bag’s suitability for travel, its durability in all weather conditions, and its spacious interior.
The ProTactic BP 450 is one of those bags that looks robust upon first inspection. A single glance at the exterior should tell you all you need to know about the durability and longevity of this camera bag. This should be one of your top priorities since you want to know that your camera will be safe whatever happens. The exterior is made from tough Eva mould armour and protective padding, making it truly shock resistant and capable of withstanding a blow or two. Dropping this bag won’t signal the end of your expensive camera, nor the bag itself.
Inclement weather is no problem for the ProTactic BP 450 either, as it has covers which prevent it from taking damage from rain. Plus it keeps everything inside dry and warm, which is good to know, especially if you have your laptop and expensive camera with you.
As for how this bag is to carry, there’s the Activzone back panel which makes it incredibly easy to securely fasten the bag to your back. It also provides support for your shoulders and lumbar, so you shouldn’t find yourself in pain at the end of a challenging hike with your camera and accessories on your back.
The most impressive part of this bag though is undoubtedly its interior. There are many compartments inside this camera bag, and they are separated with flexible dividers so you can squeeze in everything you need for your photography adventures. This includes a large cradle fit pocket which can hold a laptop up to 15 inches, ideal for those times you need to take electronics with you. There’s even a slip lock tripod cup so you have a special slot for your tripod.
- Eva moulded armoured exterior
- Flexible dividers inside
- Slip lock tripod cup
- Activzone shoulder/back support strap
- Space for 15 inch laptop
- Rain protection cover
Lowepro Pro Trekker BP 550 (🧳 Best Storage)
Another great camera bag offering from Lowepro, the Pro Trekker BP 550 is our top pick for storage space.
If you have all of the camera equipment to warrant having extra storage space, then the Pro Trekker is a bag you should consider investing in. While it will set you back a lot more than many standard camera bags, this behemoth will be the only camera bag you ever need if you enjoy having plenty of accessories and technology for your photography missions.
Featuring a rugged exterior design, you might be fooled into thinking this bag is just a large backpack at first. That is until you open it up and see the vast compartmentalised storage space inside. This camera bag is suitable for holding multiple DSLR cameras, along with a handful of extra lenses and other accessories. One user managed to fit 2 cameras, 5 lenses, and other camera accessories in this bag and still had plenty of space for their laptop, some chargers, and a tripod. If that isn’t all the space you could ever need, then I’m afraid you might need to bring a suitcase with you for your outdoor photography adventures.
What’s more, if you’re looking for a more compact setup once you arrive at your destination, this bag has you covered on that front too. The top compartment is a floating lid and can be detached from the bag, so that you have a lightweight shoulder strap bag for those expeditions that require a lighter carry. This is ideal for when you’re going away on holiday and you need a big bag to carry all of your gear, but might like to take a smaller one out on easier hikes when you’re out there. It also. Happens to be the perfect size for a carry-on bag at the airport, so travelling with it shouldn’t be an issue.
There’s also a removable Lowepro equipment pouch which gives you flexibility with how you store your chargers, adaptors, and other accessories. It provides a convenient storage space for them which will keep them organised and easy to get to when you need them. It also doubles up as a folding drone kit storage solution, just in case you fancy getting some aerial shots on your hike.
- Detachable floating lid provides extra small bag
- Carry-on size for airports
- Holds 15 inch laptop
- Removable equipment pouch
Evecase Extra Large Backpack (💰 Best on a Budget)
The Evecase extra large DSLR backpack is our top budget pick, available for under $100.
On first glance, this camera bag looks every bit as premium as the high-end options. It has a minimalist style, and looks sturdy enough to protect your camera gear on any hike. The exterior is made from high quality nylon, and it is designed to be shock proof due to extra padding and closed cell dense foam. This should put the mind at ease should the worst happen and you drop the bag while out on a photography mission.
The shoulder straps of this bag are sturdy too, and made to be comfortable. With plenty of padding and a wide design, you should in theory be able to lug around your gear all day in this backpack without too much shoulder discomfort. There are also adjustable waist and chest straps, so you can make sure you have an extra secure fit. This will allow you to make fast movements or climb without worrying about the bag slipping off your shoulders and into the deep crevasse below.
As far as storage goes, you have plenty of options. Starting from the outside, there’s a handy tripod strap on the side of the bag and a thermos holder on the other side. This makes it easy to set up for a time lapse while you’re on the move, and sip your hot coffee as you do so. As for the interior, you’ll have enough space to store a 15.6 inch laptop and a camera with accessories. The extra lenses you might need to switch between are made easily accessible as the front compartment of the bag flips out.
- Nylon exterior with closed cell dense foam
- Wide padded shoulder straps and adjustable waist/chest straps
- 15.6 inch laptop sleeve
- Interior and exterior storage
Vanguard Alta Sky 45D
The Alta Sky 45D camera bag from Vanguard is a versatile, reasonably-priced option with plenty of pockets and multiple access points.
While it might not look like too much from the outside, inside this camera bag has everything you could ever need for a successful photography hike session. The best part of the storage though is on the exterior, and this is due to the multi-access point system. You can get whatever you need from this back from the rear, the sides, and the top of the bag. Each part of the backpack has its own easy access entry point to all the goods you have stored inside.
There’s also a very hand drone pocket on the rear side of the backpack, which makes it ideal for taking your flying camera device for a spin. Whereas a lot of camera bags don’t cater for drones, or require you to fold it down before you can fit it in, this bag provides a snug pocket for it to slot down into without the need for any folding or disassembling. This makes it exceptionally easy to get the drone out without a moment’s hesitation, allowing for spontaneous aerial shots of the events unfolding around you.
Inside the bag there are many pockets, including a laptop sleeve and space for a DSLR camera and some lenses and accessories. There’s also a rain cover sitting in one of them, which can be placed over the backpack if you anticipate precipitation on your hike.
- Multiple access points
- Drone pouch
- Space for 13 inch laptop
- Rain cover included
A camera backpack that’s suitable for hiking has to fulfill certain criteria to be worth the fairly significant investment.
Buying the wrong one could be a very costly mistake, so it’s worth getting it right the first time.
As well as obviously holding your camera, what other factors should you be on the lookout for as you browse the various options?
The composition of the bag is one of the most important factors, since it will determine how durable, lightweight, and weather resistant it can be.
The most common materials used for camera bag exteriors are synthetic, since synthetic materials can provide a variety of traits which are necessary for any decent camera bag.
There are two which are more popular than the rest though, and they are polyester and nylon.
One of the main traits of polyester is durability. With a polyester exterior, you can expect a long lifespan and minimal wear and tear.
It’s a quick-drying material too, and very lightweight. This makes it a great choice for hikes when you don’t want to feel like you’re lugging around a bag full of weights.
Nylon is arguably even more durable than polyester, and is also abrasion-resistant.
It’s the kind of material that shakes off mould and damage from extreme temperatures.
In part determined by the material, the protection afforded by a camera bag should be a crucial factor in the decision-making process.
Bags get dropped all the time, and it’s especially easy to do so when you’re focussed on taking the perfect shot or navigating challenging terrain on a hike.
They can also take damage from wayward branches and sharp rocks depending on where you are, so it’s worth making sure the one you choose is capable of standing up to wear and tear.
The last thing you want while out enjoying yourself outdoors is for your camera or gear inside the bag to get damaged, so finding a bag with sufficient protection is crucial.
Padding is like the buzzword of hiking camera bags.
You simply can’t afford to invest in a camera bag that doesn’t have it, and you need to make sure the padding is dense enough for shock resistance.
This is one of the biggest issues while out hiking, since you can smash your bag into rocks without meaning to, or drop it from a ledge you’re perched on for the perfect photograph.
You will see the type of padding on the camera bag as you do your research, and it’s a good idea to browse the reviews and see what others have said about how well it protects your camera equipment.
If the camera bag you’re looking at doesn’t have padding, then make sure it has a hard exterior, like a suitcase.
This can be effective in preventing harm from coming to the contents of your camera bag too, although padding is the preferred option for most.
It isn’t only shock resistance you need to keep your eye out for though, as you also want your camera bag to be sufficiently weather resistant.
Few bags are fully waterproof, but many of them will include a rain cover which you can place around the bag for protection against water.
As for the material of the bag, your best is something non-porous and ideally water resistant. The water-resistant exteriors are best, since a rain cover will struggle with heavy rainfall or sudden submersion in water.
Ballistic nylon is a good choice of material for this purpose, and you also want to check for protection or sealing surrounding the zippers.
However long or short your hikes tend to be, it’s best to ensure your camera bag is comfortable to carry.
If it isn’t, you could end up with lower back issues, shoulder pain, and general discomfort.
Of course, it isn’t easy to know how comfortable a bag will be just by looking at pictures of it on the internet.
So, how do you know whether a bag has the level of comfort you’re looking for?
There are several key areas of the backpack that should be padded to some extent.
While we’ve already established that exterior padding helps protect the contents of the bag, we also need to ensure that the straps that wrap around your body have some too.
- Shoulder Straps
Your shoulders are what will tend to bear the brunt of the backpack weight, so the shoulder straps have to be comfortable.
The last thing you want is shoulder straps that are so thin and wiry they dig into your shoulders and make walking around with any kind of weight on them unbearable.
The more padding the better, and the more dense it is the more protection the straps will provide for your shoulders.
It might also be wise to invest in a camera bag with wide straps so the weight can be more evenly distributed across your shoulders.
- Waist Strap
Not all camera backpacks will have a waist belt or strap, but those that do will be a lot more comfortable to wear for long and strenuous hikes.
If you do plan on doing a lot of intense hiking up steep or over rough terrain, then a waist strap should be essential.
When you’re climbing or navigating rocks, the waist strap will ensure the backpack is secured to your body and doesn’t slip off your shoulders and fall.
Again, padded is the way to go with the waist strap, since you don’t want more pressure than necessary around your waistline.
- Back Support Frame
A back support frame can be an incredibly useful addition to a camera backpack, as it can alleviate any discomfort you might feel in the lumbar.
The support frame will ensure even weight distribution, so you don’t place unnecessary stress on one part of your body.
It’s only really necessary in larger backpacks, but it can be key in keeping you feeling comfortable while hiking.
Extra padding is great as this frame will be in direct contact with your back.
Last but certainly not least is the storage space of the backpack.
Needless to say, this should form a crucial part of the decision-making process, since you need to know that you can bring all of your equipment with you.
It’s worth bearing in mind how much weight you think you can carry over a long distance, as well as how much equipment you realistically see yourself wanting to bring along.
Once you have these answers, you will be in a better position to determine which size backpack, or which storage solution suits you best.
If you’re someone who enjoys having everything you could possibly need at all times, then you’re going to have to consider investing in a large backpack.
If not, you should be able to get away with a more compact backpack, provided it has enough compartments and pockets for your equipment and accessories.
The equipment you take for a photography hike will depend on your preferences, but here are some of the more common pieces that a camera bag can cater for.
A lot of camera bags will have a pocket or sleeve designed to hold a laptop.
If you think this is a feature you’ll need, then you should first figure out your laptop’s size, and then choose accordingly.
A 15.6 inch laptop is generally the largest you can expect to fit in a camera bag.
If you have a drone and enjoy flying it around and capturing cool aerial footage and photos, then you’ll want to find a camera bag with a specially designed pocket or pouch.
The Vanguard Alta Sky 45D is a great example of a backpack suitable for carrying a drone as it has a rear pouch for quick retrieval.
Figure out the maximum number of lenses you would want to take on a hike is, and then find the bag with enough compartments to fit them.
With regards to chargers and fiddly accessories, it’s good to find a backpack with an organisation system that allows you to keep them all separately.
Another good storage solution is something like the removable equipment pouch as seen in Lowepro’s Pro Trekker backpack. This allows you to easily access whatever you’re looking for and store them away conveniently.
Perhaps something you hadn’t considered before now, having multiple easy access points is a very convenient feature when considering storage.
When you’re out in nature trying to do your thing and take great photos, you want your equipment to support that goal.
Just as you might want your tripod to be easy to assemble for a spontaneous time lapse, you could probably stand to benefit from quick access to the contents of your backpack.
That way, you don’t have to worry about stopping and rummaging through your bag every time you need something.
Some camera bags do this better than others. An example of a bag with multiple access points is the Vanguard Alta Sky 45D. This backpack has access points from the rear, top, and side, so you can reach in and grab a lens, a charger, or a camera in time to capture the action unfold in front of you.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Camera Backpacks
What is the best camera backpack?
The best camera backpack as far as we’re concerned is the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450.
This camera backpack has lumbar and shoulder support for comfortable carrying, and an extremely durable exterior shell to protect the contents well.
It’s loved almost universally by previous customers, and this is partially due to the incredible storage space inside which is made up of compartments separated by flexible dividers.
Do you really need a camera bag?
Simply put, yes, you do need a camera bag.
If you have any kind of aspirations of going outdoors and snapping shots of wildlife or nature with your DSLR, then a camera bag should be one of the first things you invest in.
There’s no substitute for carrying your camera in a dedicated bag, especially not slinging it around your neck. While the latter approach may seem practical, you risk damaging your camera, exposing it to the elements, and it really isn’t worth it.
What makes a camera bag better than a backpack is it has pockets designed for every piece of shooting gear you could ever need for an outdoor expedition.
There will be slots for the camera, its lenses, a tripod, and maybe even hiking gear or a laptop.
The extra protection it affords is invaluable too, and you won’t need to worry so much about being caught out in bad weather on your next outdoor photography mission.
How do you carry a camera in a backpack?
If you have a backpack, then your camera will likely sit loose in the main pocket.
This certainly isn’t ideal, as the device will move and slide around, especially if you’re doing a challenging hike.
This puts the camera at risk of being scratched, or worse.
To prevent this from happening, it’s best that you seek out a dedicated camera bag.
The camera bag is designed to shelter a camera not only from moving around, but also from the elements.
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A Final Word From Run Gun Shoot
A camera bag is essential for any hike which you want to bring your camera along for.
Made to protect your camera gear and other gadgets, a good camera bag can make your life easier and allow you to focus on taking photos.