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What’s Your Best Camera Backpack Recommendation?

In: 
Published: 09/01/2020

Kevin, from Denver, CO writes:

"I’ve been using an old Tamrac backpack bag for my RE gear and it’s getting pretty shoddy and not attractive when meeting an agent or the homeowners at a shoot. Any recommendations?"

Hey Kevin, I’ve had a Tamrac bag for years and I love it, although I see that they seem to be moving away from making backpack camera bags (B&H only lists one from Tamrac). While I’ve moved on to a Pelican case for my main gear, I’m now using my old Tamrac backpack bag for my big 600W flash and related accessories.

In doing some research on your question (and not knowing if you needed a bag that has space for a drone), I found loads of articles out there on camera bag backpacks in the form of “Top-10-to-Top-25” lists. So, I would encourage you to keep doing this type of research until you find a bag with the specs you need. Anyway, these are the names that tended to keep showing up for me, in my research:

Smaller Backpack:

Medium Sized (Gear and Laptop):

For Lots of Gear:

For Cameras & Drones:

For those of you that use a backpack-type camera bag, please feel free to list your favorite camera bags in your comments. Thanks.

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

Tony Colangelo

13 comments on “What’s Your Best Camera Backpack Recommendation?”

  1. This is what I use and love it. I keep it with the main body (eos-r with L bracket) with 17mm TSE, backup body (6d) with nifty fifty, 16-35, 24-105, and 2 speedlights, and one divider holds extra batteries/charger. Then I can still fit my ipad, etc. I bought this also because I was having a hard time finding a backpack that didn't "swallow" me. I'm 5'7 and like the way it fits me. I would gladly buy another one.

    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1286720-REG/mindshift_gear_380_trailscape_18l_backpack_charcoal.html

  2. In my head, a roller/case looks more professional than a backpack... I use a ThinkTank roller for most of my jobs. It carries my camera, lenses and I also put my lights in it (a pair of Godox AD200's). If I took my 70-200 out, it could probably carry a mavic drone too. But if you're looking for a classier backpack, I replaced my Peak Design 20L with a ThinkTank Urban Access 13. It's much better suited to camera gear than the Peak Design IMHO. Doesn't hold a ton, but you could get a camera, a few lenses and a speed light in there if that's all you need.

  3. I suggest a $50 range backpack off of eBay. That's what I use. I have a Tamrac Expedition that I love for travel, but it was expensive and I don't want to wear it out for work. It's also much bigger than I need for most of my location photo work. It's great when I want to pack lunch, some extra clothes, first aid kit, etc.

    I have a backpack for my cameras, leneses, batteries, memory cards and things that go specifically with the cameras. I have a Pelican case with speedlights, spare AA's, brackets, Camranger, gels, etc, ad nausem. My third bag holds stands, umbrellas and I carry my tripod pinched between the handles. With the backpack on, I can carry everything I need for most jobs in one trip. If I were to use a roller case or another Peli, I'd have to make two trips. There is other gear such as reflectors, white and black cloth, C-stands, strobe(s) and the rest of the stuff that only gets used once in awhile that I'll leave in the car and return to get it if I need it. I might even leave some of that stuff at home if I know I won't be using it.

    You can go nuts on cases and spend a fortune. My Tamrac is built exceptionally well and worth every dime. I like the look of a lot of Think Tank's products. It really comes down to the functionality and most of the more expensive backpacks are rigged for more than I need for location work. It may be much more cost effective to get a no name pack that will hold your gear for day in and day out work needs. Spend the money on a more complex and higher quality pack if you are doing other things such as travel and landscape photography where you can really use all of a pack's features and need better build quality.

    I was looking at Think Tank's Director series of long rollers. In the end I figured that if I loaded all of my gear in one of those cases, as was my intention, it would be very heavy and not be very flexible for packing in the car. There are times when I'm doing an event and fill my Accord very full. With smaller cases, I can do a lot of shifting around to get everything to fit. With a big case, I could be hard pressed to find a way to make everything else fit in. I also don't have to repack the camera and lenses in another bag/case when I don't need speedlights and stands. If you have a good back and a bigger car, a Think Tank Director can get you in the door with everything in one case.

    My next pack will be a sling bag so I don't have to take a pack off every time I want a different lens or need to fish out a filter, fresh battery or memory card. My current camera backpack is an Apollo PX (if that really means anything) purchased off of eBay. I've had it for several years.

  4. I find the best one just depends on the assignment or travel needs... the smaller the better. Day-to-day though, I'm with Colin... I love my rolling Think Tank bag. It works in 99% of my situations.

  5. LowePro Pro-Runner 300 AW has been my best investment in the last 5 years.

    And I've tried to supplement it with others (non Lowe-Pros) and they have lasted about a year.
    I think one of the design hacks that these guys have got 110% right is the strength or amount of stitching/bracing that their main backpack straps have (the ones you put over yr shoulders).

    Yes I know - the photos show it being used with the nominated human having both straps over both their shoulders.

    However in real life when you are running from home to home and often carrying other things too, like another bag and a heavy Benbo tripod then...YES ... I fall into the trap of just throwing the whole thing over one shoulder.
    And when you are talking modern DSLR, backup lens, two AD200 flashes, and literally whatever else I can cram in the one bag......shes amazing that the webbing/stitching has held.

    My guess is their QC dept knew this was gonna happen in the field - heck even when you catch a glance at a Professional Sports photog field side - they do it too....and so decided to built that part of the item "tank-like." No complaints at all here.

  6. All pelican cases here. I agree with one of the above posters that rollers, and especially hard cases, make you look more professional. However, my main reason for going to all hard cases is so I wouldn’t ever again have a zipper fail. That drives me crazy. Pelicans you can take to the grave.

  7. I prefer my two old, boxy LowePro bags in traditional 18% grey nylon. Top-loading design makes easier loading, and it's more spill-proof than a backpack. I have other photo backpacks for hiking and travel, but my RE work isn't so mobile that I need shoulder straps.

  8. I never used a back pack for work, I always large Domke bag for my cameras and a Low Pro with wheels for my flash equipment.
    But last year I had to fly to Seattle and Oregon for our anniversary and wanted to bring a lot of photo equipment and tripod. Because our friends were taking us hiking up into the mountains, I decided to look into a back pack. I ended up with the large Tenba Solstice 24L which is extremely light and holds a lot of equipment. it was a bit strange wearing a backpack but after a while it was truly less cumbersome than my normal shoulder bag and much more comfortable and balanced. just wished it also had wheels for use on normal ground .

  9. I never used a back pack for work, I always large Domke bag for my cameras and a Low Pro with wheels for my flash equipment.
    But last year, I had to fly to Seattle and Oregon for our anniversary and wanted to bring a lot of photo equipment and tripod. Because our friends were taking us hiking up into the mountains, and down into some gorges, I decided to look into a back pack. I ended up with the large Tenba Solstice 24L which is extremely light and holds a lot of equipment. it was a bit strange wearing a backpack but after a while it was truly less cumbersome than my normal shoulder bag and much more comfortable and balanced. I just wished it also had wheels for use on normal ground.
    the backpack truly turned out to be a great way to carry equipment

  10. I am shocked no one has mentioned https://www.wandrd.com/. I bought a bag 18 months ago and had a zipper break - they sent a replacement the next day... for a bag I bought 18 months ago. Insane customer service and one of the best bags I've ever owned.

  11. I have been using an Apecase for about 5 years. I love it. The entire inside can be removed so it can be used as a backpack. It also has plenty of internal pockets for SD/CF cards, cables, etc. and for a laptop. I carry a 5DM IV, three Speedlites, spare batteries, remote trigger, and everything I need in it. After constant use, the zipper is starting to get a little funky, and when I inquired about the (expired) warranty, they sold me a new one for about a 60% discount, which I have yet to use so far - the old one is still working fine. Lately I started using an HPRC case so I can also carry my new Interfit Honey Badger for use in larger rooms.

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