Cool Backpacks For Photographers

Cool Backpacks For Photographers

We bring our camera with us almost everywhere when we travel. So, almost everywhere we travel, we need a backpack that is protective to our camera and comfortable to us. And our backpack must to be built to endure the rigors of road. And we’d like it to look cool. And, oh yeah, maybe our backpack should have a paddled sleeve for our laptop?

After testing out most of the leading camera backpacks here are the four we’ve found to be the best:

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Best Basic Camera Daypack

It’s tough wearing a backpack full of photographic equipment while walking in a crowd. You feel a little like an elephant, like if you turned your back too quickly you’d knock into the people around you (and possibly break your camera).

Not so with the sturdy, secure, sleek-looking Lowepro Flipside 300. This backpack’s thin form factor makes you feel agile when wearing it. That, along with the comfortable padded shoulder straps, and you can almost forget it is on your back at all.

We also love the 300’s handy side pockets and large top handle. To attach a tripod the 300 has an exterior strap and base pocket that prevents the tripod from sliding downwards. Inside the bag the padded compartments keep your camera and lens protected.

The Fipside 300 keeps your camera gear protected from thieves too—the opening to the bag is in back, not in front where some unscrupulous person can open your bag without you knowing. Of course, this also means that you have to take the backpack off every time you want to take your camera out. For bag with quicker camera access we suggest the Slingshot.

The Flipside 300 is also available in artic blue and bright red. There’s enough room in this daypack for a full-sized SLR camera, three or four lenses, a flash system, filters and some personal effects, but not much else. If you are looking for a bit more space try the Flipside 400. Or, read on for our suggested camera backpacks that can also accommodate a laptop . . . .


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Best daypack for a laptop and lots of photography gear

For carrying around a full compliment of photography and electronics gear there’s no better line of backpacks than the Tamrac Expeditions. Their 7x bag has a built-in laptop sleeve (15 inches wide) and enough pockets and padded compartments to transport a miniature camera store. In the bag’s main compartment you can create up to 14 separate sections with the adjustable dividers. There are also seven other zipped areas, including three easily accessible from the front of the pack.

Of the four bags reviewed in the this post the Tamrac Expedition is the one you’d want to go on a long hike with. The 7x has a built in frame and a hip strap of the sort that big trekking backpacks do. For everyday use, though, those hip straps can be more of a hindrance than a comfort. If you looking for an around-the-town bag for a laptop, a camera and a lens or two you’ll be happier with the Crumpler Customary Barge (below).


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Best Camera + Laptop + Other Stuff Backpack

Spot Cool Stuff owns all four bags included in this review (and many others that aren’t) and the distinctively designed and named Crumpler Customary Barge is easily the one we use the most.

The Customary Barge is perfect if you are carrying lots of gear besides a laptop and photo equipment. After sliding your laptop into the bag’s 17-inch wide sleeve and putting your SLR camera and two lenses into the padded front compartment you’ll still have lots of extra room for a jacket, books and whatever else. Not bringing your photo gear today? The interior camera compartment velcros out.

What’s more, the Customary Barge (like all its Crumpler brethren) is exceptionally well made. Unbelievably well made. We’ve put ours through years of abuse including three safaris, one camel trek, a motorcycle trip to Tibet and subway-ride-gone-bad through the Bronx and still our Customary Barge has no frayed threads or worn joints; the zipper still works like the day we bought it.

Buy it individually or with the photo accessory bundle Cool Backpacks For Photographers, the Customary Barge is a bag you’ll be using for many years.

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Best Waterproof Camera Daypack

So you’ve taken your camera along with you on a canoe trip. The camera is safely zipped up in your backpack when your entire canoe tips over. Is your camera ruined?

Not if your backpack is a Lowepro DryZone.

Remarkably, the DryZone camera backpack is not merely waterproof in a if-you-get-caught-in-some-rain-showers-your-camera-should-be-okay sort of way. The entire pack is so airtight that it will float! Even when fully loaded.

The pack is available in yellow or gray and has two main compartments: one with size-adjustable padded sections for your photography equipment, the other for the rest of your gear. We are big fans of this arrangement; it means you can get to items in the “rest of your gear” compartment without exposing your camera to the elements. And that makes this waterproof—and thus also sandproof—pack a must for beach trips. (Spot Cool Stuff has lost considerably more electronics equipment to sand than we have to water).

There are some downsides to travel with a DryZone. The backpack has no interior laptop sleeve and no straps to attach a tripod. Although the DryZone could be accurately described as comfortable, we prefer the feel of all three of the above packs. Also, because the DryZone is airtight the zippers can take some work to open.

Then again, if your camera and backpack were to fall into the water there is only one quality of the DryZone that will matter to you: It floats!


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Related posts:
Spot Cool Stuff’s Favorite Cameras For Travel
Why The Olympus Evolt E420 Should Be Your First Digital SLR
Nikon Camera Comparison: D80, D90 and D300
Canon EOS Digital SLR Showdown: 40D vs 50D
5 Cool Photoblogs
Priority Pass: Access Airport Lounges

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  1. Lady Gaga Games says:

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    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Michael says:

    To answer the question about the inconspicuous camera bag from holly and jessiev, check out the ThinkTank Urban Disguise or Retrospective series shoulder bags:

    They are designed to be unobtrusive but functional. They are pricey, but they are definitely worth it. The build quality is incredible and the features and functionality are top notch. I use a Speed Freak beltpack and have used it in the jungles of Borneo and up volcanoes in Indonesia.

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. jessiev says:

    i echo holly’s question, and thank nina for the crumpler suggestion. it is too hard to carry a purse AND a photo bag when we’re out traveling for the day. i’ll look into the crumplers! any other suggestions? thanks!

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Chuck says:

    I backpack with a llama. The llama holds my backpackings stuff. I carry a day pack with emergency stuff (jacket, first aid kit, mt water bottle, water purification pills, and emergency food for a day. All this is in case something happens to my llama and I only have what I have on my back………… I also want to carry my Canon Rebel an extra lense, and a couple of batteries. Is there a backpack out there for me to look at?

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. nina beheim says:

    You will probably enjoy one of the crumpler messenger style bags. I bought the 8 million dollar bag – held a 5d MK II with a 70-200 f/2.8, also held a lightmeter, 580exII flash, 24-70 2.8L, and a 16-35 2.8L, 2 pocket wizards, and a remote shutter release – oh, and my checkbook/wallet. The crumpler bag is VEry well padded. This gear made for a very heavy load in a shoulder bag, but it was fine.

    with your camera (the canon w/an 18-55), you might prefer the smaller bags, i.e. the 5 or 7 million dollar bag. I like crumplers because of the padding and they don’t say “LOOKIE AT MY EXPENSIVE GEAR TO STEAL!”. :O)

    They are supposedly water resistant (haven’t tested this). I drug it through lots of dirt in a vineyard, all around a wet beach and through rocks and fields and rodeos. it’s holding up very well!

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. David says:

    Great roundup guys, I have a Crumpler Pretty boy backpack which is ideal for day trips with my camera and I also use it as carry on.
    The best thing I like about it is that it doesn’t look like a camera bag and is waterproof, it’s had a few seriously wet outings in NZ and the Amazon, keeping my gear totally dry!
    Great site.

    [Reply to this comment]

  7. Holly says:

    Anyone know of any good messenger/purse style camera bags? I have a cannon rebel xs and an EFS 18-55mm lens (about 6 inches long). Looking for something that doesn’t scream ‘I HAVE A NICE(ish) CAMERA RIGHT HERE!’ and protects the camera, but also that I could keep a wallet and other small purse-type items in. A backpack will be my next option, but I don’t like having something on my back that someone could open and me not notice.


    [Reply to this comment]

  8. Cate says:

    Very nice packs. It’s difficult to decide which one to buy.
    Every time I buy a new lens it extends beyond the size of my bag and never fits in well. So I need an extendable pack. And one that doesn’t mind getting wet or having coffee slopped on it. Yes I do spill my coffee on my camera bag (only a little).
    Nice post.

    Cate’s last blog post..The pressure has been building all week…..

    [Reply to this comment]

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