Camera Bags, Backpacks & Carry Gear for Active Lifestyle Shooters

Camera Bags, Backpacks & Carry Gear for Active Lifestyle Shooters

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Camera bags, backpacks and other carry gear are essential accessories for photographers from pros on assignment to casual shooters on vacation. Bag manufacturers offer literally hundreds of precision-engineered camera-toting products. What’s more, today’s camera bags are often designed with hands-on input from end users and precisely targeted at specific consumer niches.

A good example is that the increasing popularity of outdoor, adventure and wildlife photography has resulted in a proliferation of brilliantly designed, high-tech photo backpacks. Moreover, with the profusion of new pro, enthusiast and compact DSLRs as well as mirrorless cameras, the need to accommodate a wider variety of outfits and accessories has led to ingenious new systems. These latest carry devices vastly enhance the convenience and flexibility of configuring their compartments.

Domke-F-5XB-RuggedWear-green
Domke F-5XB RuggedWear

Another significant trend is the inclusion of laptop/tablet compartments; this reflects the increasingly interconnective ways today’s digital photographers operate in the field. In addition, many of the latest camera bags incorporate impact-absorbing layers or inserts to protect delicate equipment and computer screens. They also offer various access points to enable photographers to remove the equipment they need without disturbing the rest.

Today’s camera bags also boast ruggedized and water-repellent materials plus more effective closures and sealing to better protect equipment in inclement weather. In fact, the overall quality of construction, finish and materials has come up several notches in recent years. A sure sign that the camera bag market is not only becoming more sophisticated but also more varied and competitive.

Here’s our selection of 10 cool camera bags in four categories. Please note every manufacturer on our short list also offers excellent camera bags of other types and similar models to those covered here. What’s more, comparable high-quality carry gear is available from other reputable companies not included in this space.

A Quick Guide to Popular Carry Gear by Bag Type

Sling bags. Also known as holster bags, their chief virtues are compactness and convenience. Fitting across the shoulders and chest, most provide quick access to equipment from the right or left. Most also work best with a small basic outfit—a camera body with one or two lenses and small accessories. While some models offer a larger capacity, your customer is probably better off choosing a larger shoulder bag if toting multiple DSLRs and large lenses.

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Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L

Shoulder bags. They’re the most popular class of camera bags because they provide an optimal combination of convenience, carrying capacity and “configurability.” In addition, they come in the widest variety of attractive styles. These bags range from spartan minimalist and rugged “military look” models to those resembling high fashion handbags in a choice of cool colors for women shooters.

Photo backpacks. In a wide assortment of sizes from compact to full size, photo backpacks are the hot ticket among pros and serious enthusiasts. That’s because they let users transport a full complement of gear, including a large laptop, in comfort, whether on a nature trail, traveling or just out for a walk. Due to their increasing popularity among active lifestyle shooters, the number of backpacks on the market has expanded exponentially in recent years.

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Vanguard Alta Fly 49T Roller Bag

Roller bags. They often have protective hard-sided exteriors, and their smooth-rolling wheels make them a great choice for gliding through the airport. What’s more, many of these models fit in overhead luggage bins. Very popular among pros, they’re a great choice for any serious shooter who needs to take everything along to a travel destination. Furthermore, they’re a great way to organize and store equipment at home.

                         10 Cool Camera Bags

Lowepro ProTactic TLZ 70 AW II

This attractive, water-resistant, nylon holster bag holds a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an attached lens in its protective 8.1×6.1×6.3-inch main compartment. In addition, its bottom expands to accommodate a long 24–70mm f/2.8 lens and hood with a portrait grip. The top-loading Lowepro bag also provides a separate top pocket for small accessories. Furthermore, it features a soft tricot interior lining; a zipper that wraps around on three sides for easy access; and loops for ProTactic accessories.

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Lowepro ProTactic TLZ 70 AW II

With both a shoulder and waist strap, the convertible camera bag can be worn cross-shoulder; cross-shoulder belt-holster-style; on the chest using the straps as a harness system; or on a compatible belt. Moreover, an all-weather AW cover protects gear. Exterior dimensions, 10.2×7.9×7.7 inches; weight, 1.5 pounds. $84.99.

Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L

Good-looking, well-constructed and versatile, this commodious Peak Design nylon sling bag has a dual-adjustment shoulder strap; the strap allows right- or left-shoulder carrying. It also offers easy front access plus a briefcase style handle. The sling accommodates a DSLR or mirrorless body with two to three lenses; a 13-inch laptop or tablet; and a tripod or monopod attached to the exterior via compression straps.

camera bags Peak-Design-Everyday-Sling-10L-front
Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L

Two touch-fastened, foldable FlexFold dividers permit a wide range of custom configurations. It also features an expandable outside pocket for frequently used items, as well as slip pockets for storing batteries, pens, etc. Kodra material with a DWR weatherproof coating and weatherproof zippers keep gear safe and dry in inclement weather. Bonus: it consists of 100% recycled post-consumer material. Exterior dimensions, 16x9x5.5 inches; weight, 2.2 pounds. $149.95.

MindShift Gear PhotoCross 13
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MindShift Gear PhotoCross 13

This robust, large capacity photo backpack holds an ungripped DSLR or mirrorless body; three to five lenses, including a 70–200mm f/2.8 detached; and a 13-inch laptop. The MindShift Gear bag also  provides easy front access to the camera compartment via a top-facing zippered panel. Along the inside are two zippered, mesh pockets for storing and organizing small items; there’s also a slip side pocket that holds the laptop.

Adjustable, removable dividers allow users to configure the main compartment for a wide range of outfits. And there’s another zippered pocket for books, notepads, etc. Other features include a top handle and side handle; wide, padded shoulder straps with 3D mesh padding; a stretchable side pocket for a 32-ounce water bottle; durable, weather-resistant nylon and polyester construction; and a seam-sealed cover for use in heavy rain.

What’s more, six exterior gear loops and dual compression straps enable users to attach a tripod, monopod or trekking pole. Exterior dimensions, 11.4×18.1×6.3 inches; weight, 2.6 pounds. $129.99.

Domke F-5XB RuggedWear

This timeless Domke shoulder and belt bag comes in waxed, weather-resistant RuggedWear canvas. The classic photo bag can hold a DSLR or mirrorless camera body plus one or two lenses. It also provides five separate compartments and pockets to accommodate essential accessories. What’s more, when users remove the gripper shoulder strap and use the belt loop, presto, it’s a handy waist/hip bag.

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Domke F-5XB RuggedWear

In addition, the padded main compartment has both zipper and touch-fastening closures for extra security and easy access. Furthermore, the RuggedWear imparts an attractive distressed patina that users can restore by using the included environmentally friendly refinishing wax. Exterior dimensions, 10×7.2×4.5 inches; weight, 1 pound. In brown or military green, $134.99.

Gitzo Century Compact Messenger

Constructed of genuine Italian leather and treated, water- and wear-resistant nylon, this is a high-style, high-quality Gitzo shoulder bag. The messenger-style bag accommodates a mirrorless camera, up to three lenses, as well as related accessories. It also provides padded interior dividers for organizing gear; a padded sleeve for an iPad; and a large flap with Gitzo’s secure G-lock Fidlock-smart magnetic closure system.

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Gitzo Century Compact Messenger

In addition, it includes a front zip pocket with organizer, dual side zip pockets and a rear zip pocket. Users can fold the inner security flap for the main compartment inside the inner sleeve when it’s not needed. Moreover, SecureLock zippers on the side pockets provide added security. The bag also comes with a rain cover with its own storage pouch. Exterior dimensions, 8.3×12.9×4.7 inches; weight, 1.7 pounds. $189.88.

Jo Totes Gracie

This striking fashion-forward Jo Totes shoulder bag in colorful, water-resistant faux leather is aimed at women shooters. They can use it as a high-capacity handbag or to hold a DSLR or mirrorless system, including lenses, an iPad and essential accessories in its seven storage pockets. Four removable touch-fastened dividers configure the interior; the two front accessory pockets have stylish buckle accents. The bag also has front and rear zippered pockets, as well as an easy access open rear pocket.

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Jo Totes Gracie

In addition, a full-length zipper provides access to the main compartment; there is also a zippered iPad/tablet pocket on one side and a smaller zippered pocket on the other for personal items. Furthermore, the interior is sewn with foam on all sides and the bottom.

Other features include extra protective padding within the main two-thirds of the bag and metal feet. Carrying options include a removable, adjustable shoulder strap; cross-body straps; and a removable shoulder pad. In butterscotch, $89; mint, $99; black, $119.

Tamrac Anvil 17

This commodious, thoughtfully designed, Tamrac pro-series backpack will hold at least two professional-sized DSLRs with attached lenses plus extra lenses, as well as accessories. The main compartment has two short and nine long touch-fastened dividers for organizing and protecting gear. Moreover, the zippered outside front compartment is padded; its inner sleeve accommodates a 15-inch laptop and has exterior pockets that accept small items like a smartphone or wallet.

Tamrac-Anvil-17 camera bags
Tamrac Anvil 17

What’s more, the Anvil 17 has side compression straps to prevent equipment from bouncing around in transit. Two removable, adjustable quick-release straps also work with the lower accessory pocket to secure a pro-sized tripod.

Other features are an adjustable sternum strap; an airflow harness system with padded, adjustable shoulder straps and D-rings; side-mounted M.O.L.L.E. attachment points; padded mesh back panels to cushion impact and wick away moisture; and YKK zippers. It comes with a weather-resistant, seam-sealed rain cover. $199.99.

Manfrotto Advanced Befree III

This backpack is large enough to transport a full-size DSLR or mirrorless camera with an attached 70–200mm f/2.8 zoom lens. The lower compartment with a rear opening also fits six additional lenses. The padded camera compartment features the new Manfrotto M-Guard protection system. Made of high-density EVA foam, it provides a shock-absorbing response with a slim profile. Moreover, the customizable folding patterns protect gear while maximizing space.

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Manfrotto Advanced Befree III

While the upper compartment houses accessories and personal belongings, a dedicated compartment holds a 15-inch laptop and 9.7-inch tablet. The pack also enables users to carry a tripod in two ways: either secure it with the durable side strap or inside the expandable tripod side pocket for increased protection. A rain cover is also included. In addition, the bag is configurable as a daypack or drone pack. External dimensions, 12.9×8.3×19.3; weight, 2.7 pounds. $139.99.

Think Tank Photo Airport Security V3.0

This sturdy Think Tank pro-caliber rolling case meets most airline carry-on requirements. It’s constructed of high-quality materials, including water-repellent 1680D ballistic nylon, closed-cell foam padding and reinforced PE board dividers for maximum strength and durability. Its spacious interior holds two large gripped DSLRs with lenses attached and six additional lenses (up to a 600mm f/4 detached or an attached 500mm f/4 with hood reversed). It also fits a 17-inch laptop, a 10-inch tablet, as well as a passel of accessories, all in lockable compartments.

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Think Tank Photo Airport Security V3.0

The bag rolls on 80mm ABEC grade 5 ball-bearing wheels and has a retractable tubular aluminum trolley handle as well as grab handles on three sides for easy lifting. In addition, it comes with a seam-sealed rain cover with a storage pouch.

Other features are a tripod mount; a side water bottle pocket; additional straps for larger tripods; zippered interior compartments for memory cards, batteries, etc.; and reinforced dividers and corners. What’s more, it has TSA-approved zipper locks for the main compartment and a unique serial number for lost-and-found registration. Exterior dimensions, 14x22x9 inches; weight, 12.9 pounds. $419.75.

Vanguard Alta Fly 49T Roller Bag

Well padded, this Vanguard high-value compact carry-on roller accommodates two pro-size DSLRs or mirrorless cameras; seven lenses (up to 300mm f/4); two flash units; as well as accessories. A full front flap opening grants quick access to gear. Moreover, it has a padded interior sleeve that holds a 14-inch laptop plus a tablet. There is also a padded insert with removable, configurable touch-fastened dividers.

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Vanguard Alta Fly 49T Roller Bag

In addition, two pouches that fit neatly into both side panels are ideal for securing travel documents, a wallet and other valuables; they are easily removed for separate use.

Other features include double security buckles; a zippered front iPad compartment with an organizer panel; a retractable top handle, left side handle and telescoping bottom handle; rubber feet opposite the wheels for upright balance; adjustable straps for holding a tripod or other large accessories; and a clear exterior business card/ID pocket.

It also comes with a total coverage rain cover. Exterior dimensions, 14.7x9x21.3 inches; weight, 7.6 pounds. $259.99.

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