Buying Guide

Gear Bag Buying Guide

 

Picking the right camera backpack can be almost as difficult as picking out your first camera. You will most likely spend hours upon hours of research on camera backpack reviews and information until you finally decide on the right one.

You need to consider several things:

  • how much gear you own
  • the different types of photography you will engage in
  • how much you need for each location
  • how much you reasonably should transport with you and do so comfortably

In other words, you need to examine your photography habits again and translate that to a camera backpack to suit your needs.  Most people end up purchasing at least a couple of camera backpacks/camera bags over time to cover all shooting needs.

The best place to start is to determine your priorities and then take the plunge and buy a packpack that seems to meet most of those situations. Then after you’ve had some experience with using your camera backpack, you’ll determine your other needs (if you have any) and find a second (and maybe even a third) backpack that will work perfectly with those additional situations.

After you determine your needs, you will find your research into camera backpack reviews and information to be a nice mental exercise. Most of your research will start online (like how you came to this site) and you will need to do your best to visualize how your camera and equipment will fit into the backpack you’re researching by just looking at pictures and descriptions.

Most camera backpacks look similar to standard backpacks but has specially designed interior pockets and compartments that securely hold all your photographic gear.

They have form dividers that can be reorganized to enclose extra cameras, film, memory cards, batteries and those super long lenses. The primary advantage of camera backpack over any other type of handheld camera bag is its sheer size. Large backpack camera bags can run from 2000 to over 3700 cubic inches and carry payloads of over 40 pounds.

With that in mind, here are some things to consider:

* Protection And Organization: Of course this is the reason to buy a camera backpack in the first place. Can you fit your camera (with lens no) easily into the backpack and do you trust that it will be well protected? How’s the padding?

* Ease of access to camera: Along with protection, you will want easy access for quick pointing and shooting. At the same time you want fast access to discriminate because you do not want thieves to be able to come up and just take your camera.

Camera Backpacks tend to have access available via the top compartment with secure zippers (not as safe) or the back compartment. For security reasons, the back compartment is much better. You need to take the camera backpack off for access to the camera, and at the same time while walking prevents your camera from being lifted out of your pack easily.

One really nice feature to point out is when camera backpacks are “flippable”. The Lowepro camera backpacks can easily “flip”: you can flip the bag around easily for fast access to the back panel to pull your camera out.

This was made popular by the Lowepro Slingshot series of backpacks such as two of the top 10 bestsellers: the Lowepro Slingshot 100 and the Lowepro Slingshot 202 camera backpacks.

 

* Capacity: How much are you packing? The larger camera backpacks can hold multiple SLR and digital cameras (3 or more) plus tons of lenses, filters and film canisters, etc.

* Accessory Pockets: Where are the accessory pockets? Are they easy to get to? This is for your small camera accessories as well as any other personal belongings. Imagine the pack full, will the pockets be easy to get to? Will things fall to the bottom and not be easily accessible on a full pack? (Would you even pack it full?)

 Laptop Compartment: Many photographs now bring their laptops to events our own expeditions so the photos can be downloaded from SD card to laptop. Or sometimes on trips they just want their laptops!  An example is shown left: Lowepro makes a bestselling laptop and camera backpack in the

* Load support: hipbelt or sternum strap, preferably both. These accessory straps help stabilize and distribute the weight of the pack, so you don’t have any oopsies while scrambling over rocks or rushing to catch a taxicab.

* Comfort: should have a nicely padded back, so all those lenses don’t poke through and rub against your back and sides.

* Durable materials: It should made out of a water resistant nylon or fabrics that lasts a long time and is resistant to scuffs, scrapes and tearing. Some camera backpacks will include a raincover

* Tripod Loops: Some camera backpacks have apparatus attached on the pack for you to latch a tripod onto.  An example is pictured right on our most popular and best selling camera backpack, the Lowepro Flipside 300 Camera Backpack.

* Markings/Aesthetics: While a shiny new camera backpack looks really nice, it will look really nice to thieves – considering you are carrying thousands of dollars of equipment with you. So generic looking bags with basic logos (or no logos!) is great for security. In fact there are many photographers who recommend scuffing up your bag and making it more “theft-proof” aesthetically

* Airplane Travel: While bigger is better, be wary of the size if you plan to travel on airlines. You definitely do not want to check your expensive camera equipment in. So you will want to make sure it will fit the criteria of carry on.

* Smaller better than Larger??: As we mentioned before, sometimes a single backpack may not fit all your needs. Layouts are very efficient in camera backpacks and you may want to get a smaller one and see if you can conform your photography needs to it. Remember all this added equipment means added weight as well that you will need to lug around.

And in the end, you may find, like many other photographers, you will end up wanting to buy two camera backpacks: a small one for your afternoon walkabouts and a larger one for your longer day hikes.  Multiple bags is not necessarily a bad thing. But if you are in the market for only one right now, I would say err on the size of smaller instead of bigger.

When you pack your bags, you may end up becoming more efficient: redundancy your lens collection, rethinking your photography arsenal and additional accessories. It may be easier to compromise than you think.

* And finally, if you are not in a hurry, take a test drive!

Besides just reading camera backpacks reviews and product info, go take one out for a test drive!

While online stores give you better pricing and a wider variety of bags to choose from, visualizing can be difficult. visiting local shops can help. Selection may be quite limited, and most likely will not include larger pack sizes, but this exercise will be helpful if you are a tactile learner and need to see in your hands the sizing and the layouts.

By examining these smaller packs, at the worst you can determine the dimensions of the camera backpack you will need to get for your needs and be able to narrow your search criteria. And the best you may find a backpack that suits your needs perfectly and at a good price right then and there.

This concludes our camera backpack buying guide

Hopefully this is helpful – all these things considered you should be able to read camera backpack reviews more discerningly and figure out the best camera bag for your situation.

We highly suggest you check out our bestselle We keep these up-to-date so you know what camera bags are currently the most popular and selling the most. Our logic is they must be selling well for a reason, so whether you buy the same, or buy a different bag from the same manufacturer, or buy something else entirely, it is at least a great starting point for your research and to compare and contrast camera backpacks.