As a travel journalist and photographer who has roamed corners of the globe, capturing moments that speak a thousand words, I understand the indispensable role of reliable gear. Among these, the most crucial is often the least talked about – the camera bag. Over the years, I’ve tried and tested numerous options in my quest to find the best camera bags for travel, learning that the right choice is not just about carrying your camera gear and lenses but about safeguarding your precious back and neck!
In this article, I aim to share the fruits of my experience and research, guiding you through a curated selection of the best camera bags for travel in 2024.
Whether you’re a fellow professional or a passionate enthusiast, this comprehensive guide is designed to help you find a camera bag that not only protects your equipment but also enhances your travel photography experience.
Why a Good Camera Bag is Essential for Travel Photography
Wandering around with travel photography gear is like taking a troop of divas on a world tour – they need space, pampering, and constant attention! Trust me, I’ve had my share of camera bag disasters. Too small, and it’s like squeezing an opera singer into a tiny closet. Too heavy? You’ll feel like you’re lugging a sumo wrestler on your back. And those zippers… let’s just say I’ve seen a few lens tragedies worthy of a soap opera.
The Challenge of Protection: Camera gear isn’t just delicate; it’s the lifeblood of our work. Without it, we’re just travelers with good stories and no proof. A good camera bag should be like a superhero’s shield, protecting against bumps, knocks, and those sneaky raindrops that seem to find their way into everything.
Need for Accessibility: Ever missed a shot because your camera was buried under a pile of snacks and souvenirs? Yeah, me too. A camera bag should be like a well-organized toolbox – everything in its place and a place for everything. Quick access? Non-negotiable. Because when that perfect moment strikes, we need to be ready faster than a cowboy in a duel.
Comfort is King: Remember lugging that heavy bag and feeling like one shoulder was doing all the hard work? Balance is key. A good camera bag should feel like a part of you, not like a clumsy sidekick trying to trip you up. It should distribute weight evenly, kiss your back gently, and not leave you feeling like you’ve just finished a marathon.
Types of Camera Bags for Travel
- Backpacks: The all-rounders. Great for balance, bad for quick access. Ideal for those scenic hikes or urban adventures.
- Shoulder Bags: Quick access, easy to swing around, but watch out for the one-shoulder shrug. Great for city slickers who hop in and out of cabs.
- Sling Bags: The middle ground. Swings around for access, sits on the back for comfort. Perfect for the indecisive photographer who wants a bit of everything.
- Roller Bags: For the heavy packers. Glide through airports, but forget about cobbled streets. Your gear will thank you, your arms might not.
- Holsters: For the minimalist. One camera, one lens. Quick on the draw, but don’t expect to pack a sandwich.
Key Features to Look for in a Travel Camera Bag
Finding the right camera bag is a bit like Goldilocks in the world of photography – not too big, not too small, just right. Here’s what to look for:
- Size Matters: As a female photographer, I lean towards medium to large bckpacks. Why? There is seemingly endless space for everything. But size isn’t just about capacity; it’s about not feeling like you’re moving house every time you go out to shoot.
- Material Wisdom: As a travel photographer, my office is everywhere – atop misty mountains, in bustling city streets, or knee-deep in a tranquil river. This means the material of my camera bag isn’t just about looks; it’s about survival. It needs to be tough enough to handle a bit of rough and tumble. Durable camera bags are key here!
- Weight – A Balancing Act: Ever felt like your camera bag was a one-shoulder torture device? That’s a no-go. Look for a bag that balances the weight evenly. Trust me, your neck and shoulders will thank you.
- Compartments – Organize or Agonize: A bag with adjustable/removable compartments is like having a personal assistant. Everything in its place, and a place for everything. No more playing Tetris with your gear!
- Weather Resistance – The Unsung Hero: This is non-negotiable. Whether it’s a sudden downpour or a rogue wave, a weather-resistant bag (or one with a rain cover) is like an umbrella for your equipment.
Top 10 Best Camera Bags for Travel
As a seasoned travel photographer, I’ve had the privilege of not only experimenting with a plethora of camera backpacks for travel myself but also gathering insights from my network of photography enthusiasts and professionals.
This unique opportunity to compare and contrast these backpacks firsthand has given me a well-rounded perspective, ensuring the reviews are grounded in real-world experience and usability.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
Description: The Peak Design Everyday Backpack, now in its 2nd generation, is an iconic and award-winning bag that caters to both daily needs and specialized photo carry. Designed with a focus on access, organization, expansion, and protection, this backpack has been revamped based on extensive customer feedback.
- Versatile Carrying Options: Ideal for a range of camera setups, from mirrorless bodies and lenses to DSLRs and drones.
- Daily Functionality: Perfect for everyday essentials like laptops, notebooks, and even a pack of cold snacks.
- Aesthetic and Functional: Stylish design with minimal dangling straps, suitable for professional and casual settings.
- Price Point: May be considered a premium investment for some users.
- Complexity for Casual Users: The backpack’s extensive features might be more than needed for casual photographers or everyday use.
- Size and Bulk: When fully packed, especially the 30L version, it can be quite bulky for those wanting a more compact bag.
Suitability for Travel: The Peak Design Everyday Backpack is a prime example of the best lightweight camera bags for travel.
Its adaptable nature makes it equally suited for daily commutes and adventurous travels, ensuring your gear is organized, accessible, and protected, no matter where your journey takes you.
Nomatic Peter McKinnon Camera Pack 35-42 L 5 (Gomatic in Europe)
Description: The Nomatic Peter McKinnon Camera Pack, priced at €499.00, is a high-end camera backpack co-designed with renowned photographer Peter McKinnon. This pack is tailored for photographers who seek a blend of style, functionality, and durability in their travel gear. With a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from 26 reviews, it’s clear this bag has been well-received.
- Spacious and Versatile: Perfect for professional photographers needing to carry a variety of gear.
- Travel-Friendly Design: Meets carry-on requirements and includes a TSA-ready laptop compartment.
- Enhanced Security: Features like the RFID safe bag add an extra layer of protection.
- High-Quality Materials: Ensures longevity and resilience in various travel conditions.
- Ergonomic Comfort: Designed for ease of carry, even when fully loaded.
- High Price Point: One of the more expensive options on the market.
- Size for Everyday Use: May be too large for casual photographers or day-to-day use.
- Weight: At 2.6 kg, it’s on the heavier side, which might be a consideration for those who prefer lightweight options.
Suitability for Travel: The Nomatic Peter McKinnon Camera Pack (Gomatic when in Europe) is a standout choice among the best camera bags for travel, particularly for professionals or serious enthusiasts.
It offers a comprehensive solution for organizing and protecting camera gear while maintaining a travel-friendly design.
The blend of innovative features and robust construction makes it a top-tier choice for photographers looking for a reliable, all-in-one travel photography bag.
ALL-NEW PRVKE by WANDRD
Brief Description: The ALL-NEW PRVKE by WANDRD, priced at 237 USD or €219.00, stands out as one of the best camera bags for travel. It’s a fusion of ergonomic design, durable materials, and thoughtful organization. This bag is tailored for travel photographers who need both functionality and comfort.
- Ergonomic Design: Redesigned back panel and shoulder straps for maximum comfort.
- Quick Access: Clamshell opening and side access for fast camera retrieval.
- Durable Material: Waterproof tarpaulin and Robic 1680D ballistic nylon.
- Advanced Organization: Enhanced internal layout with a larger passport pocket and laptop/tablet sleeve.
- Versatile Storage: Expandable rolltop, water bottle/tripod pocket, and removable straps.
- Lifetime Guarantee: Ensures longevity and reliability.
- Higher Price Point: May not suit all budgets.
- Weight Distribution: Can be heavy when fully packed.
- Size: Potentially too large for minimal gear.
- Specific Style: May not appeal to all tastes.
- Complex for Casual Use: Might be excessive for non-professional needs.
Suitability for Travel: The ALL-NEW PRVKE excels as a travel companion. Its robust build protects against various weather conditions, while the ergonomic design ensures comfort during long journeys.
The intelligent organization and quick access features mean your gear is always ready for that spontaneous shot.
Incorporating innovative design with practical functionality, the ALL-NEW PRVKE addresses almost every need a travel photographer could have, ensuring your camera gear remains secure and organized.
Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II 25L Green Line Camera and Laptop Backpack
Description: The Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II is a 25-liter camera and laptop backpack designed for professional photographers who require reliability and versatility. The pack is complemented with 2 Quick Straps and a SlipLock tripod cup, enabling convenient external mounting of tripods or monopods.
- Multiple Access Points: With top, back, and side access, photographers can quickly reach their gear from any angle, ensuring they never miss a shot.
- Removable Utility Belt: The waist belt provides added support and can be used separately as a professional utility belt for lenses and accessories.
- External Mounting Features: The inclusion of Quick Straps and a tripod cup allows for easy attachment of large accessories without compromising internal space.
- Interior Depth: The backpack is designed to accommodate full-frame portrait grip camera bodies, making it suitable for high-end DSLR users.
- Size: While spacious, the 25L capacity may be more than needed for casual photographers or those looking to travel extremely light.
- Complexity: With its professional-grade features, it might be over-engineered for beginners or those who prefer a simpler bag.
- Weight: The robust construction and additional features could add to the overall weight, potentially making it less ideal for longer treks.
Suitability for Travel: The Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II is highly suitable for travel, especially for photographers who need quick access to their equipment and a secure way to transport a variety of gear.
Its weatherproof construction makes it resilient against the elements, and the ergonomic design ensures comfort even when fully packed. However, its size and complexity may not be necessary for those on casual trips or photographers who have a minimal gear setup.
MOSISO Camera Backpack
The MOSISO Camera Backpack offers a secure and organized solution for carrying DSLR/SLR/Mirrorless cameras and their accessories. This black waterproof hardshell backpack features a spacious interior with two main compartments: one with padded removable modular inserts for camera gear, and another dedicated to storing a laptop up to 16 inches.
- Versatile Storage: Customizable dividers in the upper compartment allow for tailored organization of camera equipment.
- Laptop Compartment: Separate padded area for laptops ensures devices are secure and easily accessible.
- Comfort and Ergonomics: Adjustable shoulder straps and a high elastic back cushion provide comfort, reducing strain during transport.
- Convenient Design Features: Tripod/monopod holder, external pockets for accessories, and anti-theft pocket enhance the backpack’s functionality.
- Durability: The waterproof hardshell case and high-strength materials offer robust protection for delicate equipment.
- Size and Weight: While offering ample storage, the backpack’s substantial size may be cumbersome for some, especially when fully packed with gear.
- Complexity for Casual Use: The array of features and compartments might be more than necessary for hobbyists or casual photographers who travel with minimal equipment.
- Adjustment Period: With its many straps and compartments, new users may require time to adjust to the backpack’s functionality for optimal comfort and access.
Suitability for Travel: The MOSISO Camera Backpack is a highly travel-friendly option, catering well to photographers who require organized storage and quick access to a variety of equipment.
Its adjustable straps and cushioned back make it a comfortable choice for extended wear during travel.
The inclusion of a waterproof hardshell and protective padding ensures gear safety across diverse weather conditions and environments.
TARION Pro 2 Bags in 1 Camera Backpack
Description: The TARION Pro Camera Backpack is an expansive 2-in-1 DSLR camera bag designed for professional photographers and travelers. With its dual compartment feature, the top section easily houses one camera and five lenses, while the lower compartment accommodates either one camera with four lenses or six prime lenses.
- Dual Compartment Design: Offers ample space for camera equipment, allowing for organized and accessible storage.
- Comfortable Carrying System: Features ergonomically designed shoulder and waist straps with ventilated back padding to minimize strain during long hauls.
- Laptop Compartment: A dedicated side-access compartment fits up to a 15.6″ laptop, providing convenience for on-the-go editing.
- Safety Features: The shock-proof EPE dividers and a PVA shell front panel offer enhanced protection for delicate gear against impacts and environmental factors.
- Weather Resistant: Constructed with water-repellent, tear-resistant nylon for durability in changing conditions, complete with a rain cover for additional protection.
- Size: The backpack’s considerable size may be more than necessary for casual photographers or those who prefer to travel light.
- Weight Distribution: When fully packed, the backpack could be heavy, potentially causing discomfort during extended wear without proper adjustment.
- Complexity: The many compartments and protective features might be excessive for photographers who have a simple gear setup or prefer a minimalist approach.
Suitability for Travel: The TARION Pro Camera Backpack is well-suited for travel, especially for those who require a large carrying capacity for various photography equipment.
The robust construction makes it reliable for outdoor excursions and hiking.
However, its size might be cumbersome for casual outings or photographers who wish to maintain a low profile.
The Vanguard VEO Select 58T Trolley Bag
Description: The Vanguard VEO Select 58T Trolley Bag is a versatile, heavy-duty camera bag designed for the traveling photographer who carries a substantial gear load. It features a dual carrying option, easily transforming from a rolling trolley to a backpack with its discreet shoulder straps. The VEO Select 58T combines practicality with stealth, resembling a regular suitcase rather than a camera bag, enhancing security while on the move.
- Versatile Carrying Options: Quickly switches from a spinner trolley to a backpack for flexibility in transit.
- Customizable Compartments: Allows for tailored arrangements to protect and organize gear.
- High Load Capacity: Can carry up to 33 lbs., suitable for professional equipment.
- Durable Construction: Made with water and scratch-resistant materials, including a total-coverage rain cover for harsh weather conditions.
- Discreet Design: Offers a low-profile appearance, minimizing attention while traveling with expensive gear.
- Weight: At 11.24 lbs., it is relatively heavy even before packing gear, which could be challenging for long-distance travel.
- Size: May be too bulky for carry-on luggage requirements on some airlines.
- Complexity: The array of features and carrying modes might be more than necessary for casual or hobbyist photographers.
Suitability for Travel: The Vanguard VEO Select 58T Trolley Bag is highly suitable for photographers who travel with a lot of equipment and need reliable protection and versatility.
The four-wheel spinner system is ideal for navigating through airports and urban areas, while the backpack option provides an alternative for less accessible terrain. This trolley bag is an excellent investment for photographers who value security, space, and the ability to adapt to various travel conditions.
Think Tank FirstLight 35L+ Camera Backpack for Adventure Travel
Description: The Think Tank FirstLight 35L+ Camera Backpack is an adventurer’s essential, expertly designed for the traveling outdoor photographer. This rugged backpack is not just spacious, but also meticulously organized to accommodate large telephoto lenses, traditional photo gear, or personal items, with high-density closed-cell foam dividers that are fully adjustable.
- Adjustable Harness System: An 11-point contoured harness ensures a comfortable fit for most body types.
- Carry-On Compatible: Designed to meet most airline carry-on requirements, facilitating ease of travel.
- Versatile Storage Options: Includes a front stuff pocket, floating top pocket, and numerous organizational pockets for diverse storage needs.
- Durable Construction: Ballistic nylon and an aluminum stay provide durability and structure.
- Accessibility: Top and side pockets offer easy access to small items, and multiple grab handles ensure quick maneuverability.
- Weight: At 5.4 lbs., the backpack may add significant weight before any gear is packed.
- Size: May be too large for some users’ preferences, especially when fully expanded.
- Complexity: The many features and compartments could be overwhelming for casual users who need simple storage solutions.
Suitability for Travel: The Think Tank FirstLight 35L+ Camera Backpack excels in travel scenarios, especially for photographers who are on the move and require quick access to their equipment. Its carry-on compatibility is a major plus for air travelers.
The durability factors, such as the ballistic nylon bottom and aluminum stay, add to its suitability for rugged environments.
Lowepro LP37015-PWW, Flipside Trek BP 350 AW Backpack
Description: The Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 350 AW Backpack is a dual-purpose pack designed to serve both your photographic and outdoor adventure needs. With its unique flipside access, you can reach your equipment without needing to set the pack down, ensuring quick and uninterrupted access. This backpack combines a camera compartment with ample open space for personal items, featuring internal dimensions that comfortably house a standard DSLR with an attached lens, extra lenses, a compact tripod, and a 10-inch tablet in a dedicated CradleFit pocket.
- Versatile Compartments: The split between the camera and open space compartments allows for customized gear organization.
- Body-Side Access: Unique flipside design provides secure access to gear while still wearing the backpack.
- Comfortable to Wear: The ActiveZone suspension system and straps are designed for day-long comfort, reducing strain on the back and shoulders.
- All-Weather Protection: Comes with an all-weather cover to protect gear from the elements.
- Extra Carrying Options: Multiple attachment points on the outside of the backpack allow you to carry additional items or expand storage.
- Limited Space for Personal Items: While it does offer space for personal gear, those requiring more room for non-photographic equipment may find it lacking.
- Tablet Size Limitation: Only accommodates a 10-inch tablet, which may not be sufficient for those needing to carry larger devices.
- Bulkiness: Some users might find the pack too bulky for crowded spaces or for use as a daypack.
Suitability for Travel: The Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 350 AW Backpack is highly suited for adventure travel. The comfort-focused design makes it a solid choice for long hikes or city explorations. Its all-weather cover and robust build provide peace of mind in various outdoor conditions.
This backpack is ideal for travel photographers who value security, comfort, and quick access to their photography essentials.
Manfrotto PRO Light Backloader
Description: The Manfrotto PRO Light Backloader S is a sleek and professional camera backpack designed for photographers who need quick, ergonomic access and reliable protection for their gear. It accommodates a full-frame mirrorless camera with a vertical grip and attached 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, along with 2-3 additional camera bodies, lenses, and accessories. The backpack’s standout feature is its M-Guard protection system, offering customisable padded dividers for superior fit and shock absorption. The design is both stylish and functional, with a reinforced base made from SAS-TEC viscoelastic memory foam for multi-impact resistance, and dual side tripod attachments enhance its carrying capacity.
- Advanced Equipment Protection: M-Guard dividers provide high levels of protection and shock absorption.
- Ergonomic Design: Offers both top and rear access for easy equipment retrieval.
- Slim and Robust Build: Features a reinforced base for added impact protection, contributing to the bag’s durability.
- Dual Tripod Attachment: Increases carrying efficiency, allowing for additional gear without compromising internal space.
- Limited Size: While it fits several camera bodies and lenses, its carrying capacity might be restrictive for photographers with larger setups.
- Accessibility: Rear access might require removing the backpack completely to reach equipment, which could be a hassle in fast-paced environments.
- Price Point: As a professional-grade backpack, it might come at a higher cost compared to other options.
Suitability for Travel: The Manfrotto PRO Light Backloader S is particularly suitable for photographers who travel and require quick access to their camera equipment.
Its compact and slim profile makes it ideal for moving through crowds and tight spaces, such as on public transport or in busy streets. This backpack is a solid choice for day trips, urban photography, and anyone who prioritizes a blend of protection and ease of access in a camera bag.
Buyer’s Guide to the Best Camera Bags for Travel
When it comes to selecting the right camera bag, sometimes learning what not to choose is as important as knowing what to choose. I’ve had my share of “oops” moments and let me tell you, they were quite the learning experiences!
Aesthetically Pleasing Camera Bags I would skip for Travel Photography
- The Aesthetically Pleasing but Impractical: Take, for instance, the time I bought a stunning vintage-style camera bag from National Geographic. It was a beauty, turning heads wherever I went. However, beauty didn’t translate into functionality. One day, as I was about to capture a perfect shot, the zipper gave way. My camera, along with two lenses, cascaded onto the floor, shattering into a photographer’s worst nightmare. It was heartbreaking, to say the least. I got rid of the bag the very next day. Lesson learned: always prioritize durability and secure closures over looks.
- The Stylish Neck Strainer – The Ona Messenger Bags: Then, there are those bags that look like they belong on the pages of a high-fashion magazine. I fell for an Ona Messenger Bag, enamored by its chic design. However, it didn’t take long to realize that style came at a price. During long walks or hikes, the bag strained my neck and shoulders, turning every photo venture into a battle against discomfort. Plus, in situations where I needed both hands free to navigate or adjust settings, the saddle bag style of the Ona just didn’t cut it. I absolutely adore that camera bag for smaller projects.
Care and Maintenance of Camera Bags
Maintaining your camera bag during travel is crucial to ensure the longevity of both the bag and the expensive gear it carries. Here are some tips on how to keep your camera bag in top condition:
Cleaning your Travel Camera Bag:
- Regular Checks: Periodically empty your camera bag to remove dust and debris.
- Spot Cleaning: For minor spills or stains, use a damp cloth with mild soap to spot clean affected areas.
- Deep Cleaning: Use a soft brush attachment on a vacuum to clean the interior without damaging the fabric or dividers.
- Air Dry: After cleaning, always air dry your bag away from direct sunlight to prevent warping or color fading.
Travel Camera Bag Storage:
- Avoid Compression: When not in use, store your bag in a cool, dry place and avoid placing heavy items on top that might deform the shape.
- Silica Gel Packs: Keep silica gel packs inside to absorb any excess moisture and protect against mold and mildew.
- Gear Removal: Remove all gear if the bag won’t be used for an extended period to prevent unnecessary strain on the bag’s compartments and zippers.
Handling Wear and Tear:
- Regular Inspection: Check for any loose threads or tears and repair them promptly to prevent further damage.
- Zipper Care: Use a silicone lubricant on zippers to keep them sliding smoothly and to prevent them from sticking or breaking.
- Handle With Care: When traveling, handle the bag gently to prevent rough contact with abrasive surfaces which can cause premature wear.
Snap, Pack, and Roll: Signing Off with a Shutter Click
And there you have it, fellow shutterbugs and wanderers! We’ve zipped through the maze of camera bags, peeked into their pockets, tugged at their zippers, and even tested their dance in the rain.
Choosing the best camera bag for travel isn’t just about picking a home for your gear; it’s about finding that loyal road buddy who’s got your back (literally!).
Remember, a great camera bag is like a best friend – reliable, organized, and always ready for an adventure (and won’t complain when you stuff it with one too many lenses).
It’s the unsung hero that quietly shoulders your precious cargo while you chase those picture-perfect moments.
So, whether you’re scaling mountains, navigating city chaos, or just stepping out to your local park, your trusty camera bag will be right there with you, every click of the shutter.
Choose wisely, pack smartly, and the world is your oyster – ready to be captured, one snapshot at a time!
What’s inside my Travel Bag
In my blog post Camera Bag Essentials: Gear + lenses I use I show you all the gear I have collected over the years. And if you want some advise on Choosing the Best Lens for Travel Photography, go ahead and dig in.
FAQs: Your Travel Camera Bag Questions Answered
Most airlines consider a camera bag as a standard carry-on, especially if it adheres to the size restrictions for overhead bins or under-seat storage. When choosing the best camera bags for travel, always check the dimensions to ensure they meet airline regulations. This way, you can keep your valuable travel photography gear close during flights.
A camera bag is specifically designed to carry and protect photography equipment. Unlike regular bags, camera bags often come with padded compartments and are crafted from durable materials to safeguard delicate gear. When looking for durable camera bags, consider ones with specialized compartments that offer both protection and easy access to your gear.
Traveling without a traditional camera bag requires creativity. You can use a regular backpack with added padding, or wrap your camera in protective material. However, for optimal protection and convenience, lightweight camera bags are recommended as they’re specifically designed to safeguard your camera and lenses while being easy to carry.
Many camera bags, especially those made from synthetic materials, can be gently cleaned. However, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions. For those who frequently travel, choosing camera backpacks for travel that are easy to clean and maintain can be a wise decision, ensuring your bag stays in good condition throughout your journeys.