Whether you’re getting up before dawn to hike up mountains for that one special sunrise shot, or commuting with your camera in tow, every photographer needs to keep their kit safe and protected, and from backpacks and daysacks to holsters and rollers, photographers can now carry their kit, accessories (and even some lunch) in all kinds of luggage.
Most of bags featured here are for DSLR or mirrorless cameras, whose interchangeable lenses, demand some thought when you’re mobile. Most also now find room for a laptop – as big as 17-inches in some cases – or at least a tablet; with post-processing so integral to digital photography, who wants to wait until they get home to see how a photoshoot turned out?
1. Peak Design The Everyday Messenger 13
Top quality and stylish shoulder bag
Capacity: DSLR or mirrorless camera with lens attached, 1-2 additional lenses, 13-inch laptop, tablet and accessories | Exterior dimensions: 38 x 27 x 12cm | Weight: 1.1kg
Wide and supple shoulder strap
Beautiful build quality
A little bulky
Though it might seem pretty pricey, the Everyday Messenger is bristling with clever touches and is well worth the outlay. A spring-loaded flap-catch with four fastening points is both secure yet easy to use, letting the bag expand or contract to suit varying loads. The flap also has a zippered top passthrough for even easier access. There are slots for a 13-inch laptop and tablet, plus you can attach a tripod on top. Rather than using typical foam partitions, the main section contains innovative dividers that snap around and over individual items. Everything’s supported by a wide and supple shoulder strap, and we also like the stabilizing waist strap that prevents the bag bouncing as you stride. Beautiful build quality and attention to detail seals the deal.
2. Vanguard Alta Sky 51D
Bursting with features, yet doesn’t break the bank
Capacity: 1-2 Pro DSLRs with 70-200mm lens attached, 3-4 additional lenses, mirrorless camera with 2-3 lenses, 15-inch laptop, tablet and accessories | Exterior dimensions: 56.5 x 37 x 26cm | Weight: 2.9kg
3-entry modular design
Possible to overload
It’s tough to create a truly special camera backpack, as competition in this area is particularly fierce, but Vanguard has come up with a real winner in the Alta Sky 51D. Versatility is the watchword here, as this is designed to carry camera gear, a drone, or a combination of both. The main compartment has room for a D850 with attached 70-200mm, and up to four lenses around it. Padding is good, and there’s a hatch on one side for on-the-go access. Another body and a trio of small lenses can be stowed in a separate compartment in the base, and up top is an area for personal effects. That’s a lot of carrying capacity, so thankfully there are good-sized hip pads, thick back-padding, and generously wide shoulder straps that really lighten the load.
3. Manfrotto Advanced Camera and Laptop Backpack
Versatile backpack that can be used three different ways
Capacity: DSLR or mirrorless camera, 2-3 additional lenses, 13-inch laptop, tablet and accessories | Exterior dimensions: 45 x 32 x 19cm | Weight: 1.4kg
Straps could be better
This backpack zips up a 13-inch laptop and a tablet in a front pocket, while the main compartment for camera gear is accessed under a padded, zipped lid on the back-facing side. It fits one DSLR body and three lenses, including a 70-200mm, and there are some useful design flourishes – as well as a roomy top section for accessories (and perhaps even a packed lunch), there’s a pull-out rain cover in the base, and an expandable tripod pocket. It’s also sized to house a DJI Mavic Pro drone.
4. LowePro Streetline SL 140
Perfect for round the city
Capacity: Small DSLR or mirrorless camera, 1-2 additional lenses, 11-inch laptop, tablet and accessories | Exterior dimensions: 36 x 25 x 10.5cm | Weight: 0.65kg
No rubber feet on base
This pocket-packed shoulder bag somehow manages to squeeze in both an 11-inch laptop and a tablet, as well as camera gear, while the padded kit compartment flat-packs when empty. Inside, three snap-shut pouches spring open to grip a compact mirrorless camera or DSLR (though it’s best for smaller entry-level models). It’s probably not rugged enough for landscape photographers, but it does well around the city – and it makes for a great carry-on bag for flights. It’s even got a pass-through for a telescopic handle, so it can piggy-back on rolling luggage at airports.
5. ONA The Camps Bay
A luxury choice with a retro design
Capacity: DSLR or mirrorless camera and up to 7 lenses, 17-inch laptop, tablet and accessories | Exterior dimensions: 43 x 33 x 16.5cm | Weight: 2kg
Can be slow to use
It’s luxury choice for sure, but this retro-styled waxed canvas-and-buckles backpack is both outdoorsy tough, and has an incredible capacity for holding – and disguising – a lot of camera gear. The main compartment can store a DSLR with a 70-200mm lens attached, itself a rarity, but has room for six or seven additional lenses if the moveable dividers are carefully placed. There’s even space for a 17-inch laptop, it has a leather undercarriage for setting it down outside. However, with all that kit plus 2kg of canvas, The Camps Bay could get pretty heavy.
6. Thule Perspektiv M Toploader
Durable toploader that’s great for the action photographer
Capacity: DSLR or mirrorless camera with large lens attached | Exterior dimensions: 25 x 22 x 19cm | Weight: 0.6kg
Rigid and completely waterproof
Holds Pro DSLR and 70-200mm
Wearing a DSLR on your back has distinct disadvantages when it comes to extracting a camera quickly, so Thule has come up with this top-loading protective tube that’s worn almost like a harness. Rigid and completely waterproof, including the zips (but also with an additional raincoat in a pouch on the undercarriage), it can hold a high-end DSLR camera with a 70-200mm lens, but no other accessories. However, there is also a waterproof pouch for a phone, and a couple of handy stash pockets on the outside that could be used to attach a reasonably small tripod. Great for an outdoors expedition in dodgy weather.
7. LowePro Pro Roller X200 AW
Perfect for those travelling regularly with a lot of kit
Capacity: 1-2 Pro DSLRs with up to 8 lenses, 17-inch laptop, tablet and accessories | Exterior dimensions: 56 x 35.5 x 23cm | Weight: 6kg
TSA lock could be better
Ideal for professional photographers or anyone flying off on a landscape photography expedition, a safari or an eclipse-chase, this TSA-approved roller can take two DSLRs and up to eight lenses sized up to 600mm. Its MaxFit padded dividers are adjustable, and there are plenty of pouches for accessories, including a 17-inch laptop. It’s got a tripod clasp on one side, and a couple of wheels so to roll through airports on, but this one is nevertheless best used for when you have a vehicle to take you to your next shoot.
8. Case Logic Kontrast KDH101 DSLR Zoom Holster
Holster that’s perfect for hiking
Capacity: DSLR or mirrorless camera with lens attached | Exterior dimensions: 18 x 15 x 12cm | Weight: 0.4kg
Removable shoulder strap
Despite there being some great backpack out there, no-one has yet produced a decent curved-back backpack for high-grade hiking that also stores a DSLR. The Kontrast doesn’t quite fill that niche, but it does act as a stop-gap – large enough to take a reasonably big lens (a 105mm fits fine), it can be stuffed into a backpack or slung over a shoulder while out on the trail. Inside there’s a ‘hammock system’ halfway down for cradling and securing the lens, while the sides also have pockets for accessories and memory cards. Solid and good value, the Kontrast impresses.
9. Manfrotto Holster XS Plus
Compact, everyday holster bag
Capacity: Mirrorless camera with lens attached, 1 additional lens | Exterior dimensions: 21.5 x 17 x 9.5cm | Weight: 0.2kg
Tight squeeze for kit
Limited space for accessories
Designed for compact mirrorless APS-C cameras like the Sony A6500 and Panasonic’s Lumix G85/G80, this holster-style case makes good use of space. A camera fitted with an 18-50mm lens can fit inside the main compartment, while there’s a zip-around section attached to the bottom for another lens. It’s compact, sturdy and offers a lot of protection, but it’s worth trying it out with your specific camera and lens to make sure it all fits neatly. As well as a shoulder strap and belt loops, the Holster XS Plus includes a few zipped pockets for SD cards and accessories.
10. LowePro Tahoe BP 150
Bug-shaped backpack that’s easy to use
Capacity: DSLR or mirrorless camera with lens attached, 1-2 additional lenses, tablet and accessories | Exterior dimensions: 40 x 27.5 x 22cm | Weight: 0.8kg
No space for a laptop
Looking more like traditional urban luggage than a camera bag, this bug-shaped backpack has a hard yet padded front lid that zips all around, and drops down for easy access. The dividers inside are easy to move and secure, and make it simple to configure for a DSLR and two to three lenses. If used in that configuration there’s just a small zipped area for other items, but an UltraFlex divider can be used to make the bag half for camera gear and half for other stuff, making the Tahoe BP 150 handy for anything from street photography to a serious hike. There’s also an organizer area in the lid with a tablet pouch, and a couple of mesh side pockets.