We’ve all hastily thrown our camera gear into a weekend bag not designed to carry it, and dealt with the dings, scratches, and other damage as a result. It’s not our fault — most backpacks aren’t much more than open rucksacks, and most camera bags aren’t made to hold clothes. It’s hard to find a backpack that adequately serves as a camera bag, and vice versa.
Sometimes it seems like the intersection of function, comfort, and camera bag doesn’t exist, but after putting most of the camera-specific backpacks out there through the Men’s Journal ringer, we know that it does. Here are three of our favorite camera backpacks — for everyday life and the musings in the middle.
Best for Weekend Getaways
Whether you’re escaping the city for the Catskills or the Columbia River Gorge, the Alpha Pro Camera Bag by Langly (buy it here, $199) is the ultimate sidekick. Made of leather, rustproof brass hardware, and military-grade twill to seal out the elements, the bag is slick enough to wear in the city and durable enough to explore the forest. The bag’s bottom compartment is padded and stiff and functions as the camera hull, big enough to hold one or two camera bodies and up to four lenses. The top compartment is big enough for your extra T-shirt and socks or a jacket, and also contains a padded internal sleeve big enough for a 15-inch laptop. If you shoot with a tripod, the bag’s bottom straps will hold it steady, and the remaining side compartments can hold anything you need on the go: cellphone, water bottle, or car keys. The bag is available in olive, black, coyote, and black and brown.
Best for Extreme Adventures
When the trail gets rough and you need a bag to match your pace, the Photo Sport BP 300 AW II by LowePro (get it for $159 at Amazon) delivers. Light enough for a trail run and large enough to serve as a daypack on a multiday overland trek, this bag will last as long as you do. Complete with both a chest and waist strap, this bag is sturdy and waterproof and comes with a built-in rain guard. Believe us, there’s no water getting in this pack — even in consistent, relentless downpours (don’t ask how we know). The top-loading upper compartment can fit several items like a jacket and a dopp kit; the slide-through bottom compartment has zip access from either side and can fit a DSLR with an attached lens and still have room for extra gear. (It’s even roomy enough to hold a DJI Mavic Pro drone.) UltraCinch technology allows you to tighten your gear in place. Attachment points let you strap on a tripod or trekking pole, and the front pocket is for easy-access items like gloves and hats. As if that weren’t enough, the back pouch holds an optional two-liter Camelbak reservoir.
Best for Everyday Commutes
For those brave enough to bike, train, or otherwise ride the mean city streets, or those who need to lug their gear with a modicum of style, the leather Clifton by ONA Bags ($499 at Amazon) is for you. This isn’t your average camera pack; full-grain leather brings the class, so you could easily walk into a bar or shoot a red-carpet premiere with the Clifton strapped to your back. A dual, removable organizational system can hold a DSLR body and up to six lenses. Pack the main compartment with more camera gear and necessities, and secure small items like a cellphone or notebook and pen in the convenient front zip pocket. No matter how you pack this bag, the back-mesh panel will make it feel light as you weave through the city. It comes in antique cognac or black.