Best Camera Bag of 2021
Simply put, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L V2 is a sleekly designed bag. Its great options include dual side access for your camera and top access for additional storage needs and additional ways to pack your gear. The attention to detail in this bag is one of the reasons we liked it so much. Magnets hold the pockets closed and attach the shoulder straps to the back of the bag when they're not in use. Speaking of pockets, we counted 18 total, including water bottle pockets. A lot of those pockets are of the stretchy, internal variety with magnetic closures. We appreciate the multiple travel-friendly attributes, like a luggage pass-through on the back panel for easy integration with a rolling bag, as well as zipper pulls that can be latched together to deter pickpockets. The addition of the pivoting shoulder straps ensures comfort on long days. With its durable and weather-resistant textiles, the Everyday Backpack holds off the elements well when fully closed. An adjustable laptop sleeve keeps your computer positioned towards the top of the compartment, which is great for two reasons. First, it's simply easier to access. Second, since it doesn't fully rest at the bottom of the bag, the laptop is protected if you drop your bag a little too hard.
Although we think the laptop sleeve design is clever, it's a little tight when loaded with a 16-inch MacBook Pro and a tablet, making them both harder to take out of the bag. In addition to that small downside, when all the pockets in the bag are loaded up, the overall fit was pretty cramped. And as you fill this bag and open its lid to accommodate larger loads, it becomes less and less weather-resistant in the top closure.
If you are just starting out in photography or need a bag that won't be carried for long distances, the straightforward AmazonBasics Large Camera Bag is our recommendation. Accessing your gear is simple with the easy top-loading design. If you're looking to keep things more secure for crowded travels or more adventurous outings, there are buckles and a zipper to keep things in place. The bag's weather resistance proved to be better than we expected. After going through a short but heavy downpour, we couldn't detect any signs of moisture in the camera compartment. Like all the other bags we tested, the AmazonBasics uses a velcro divider system, and this bag comes with four dividers. It has an additional spot that could be used for a small tablet. This system makes it easy to configure for most simple camera setups. Although it can hold a 70-200mm lens with a mirrorless body attached, that setup leaves no additional room in the bag for other lenses.
The biggest drawback to this bag is its comfort (or lack thereof). After loading up this bag with gear and a tripod and wearing it for about a mile, our shoulders were not happy with us. We're also unsure of how well it will hold up over time because of the plastic buckles and single stitching in its manufacturing. Another issue is that this bag doesn't offer much room for accessories or non-photographic equipment outside the main compartment. For some, that won't be a big deal, but for others, it could be a deal-breaker. We appreciated the included straps that can hold a tripod; however, adding even a small travel tripod makes this bag hard to manage for longer distances.
Our favorite traveling pack by far is the WANDRD PRVKE 21L Backpack for multiple features it contains. The removable camera cube is awesome. You can use the whole bag as a checked bag, carry the camera cube as your personal item, and once you get to your destination, pop the camera cube back in and use this as your day bag as well. Another feature we love is the easy access to your camera through the side pocket or the additional access through the back of the bag if you need to get to your entire kit. That back access keeps dirt, moisture, and grime on the durable Tarpaulin material and off the back of the bag, and by extension, off your back. Another thoughtful feature is the passport pocket on the back panel, which keeps your passport safely resting against the small of your back. When it comes to pockets, this bag does provide some organization opportunities, but if you tend to be hyper-organized, its accouterments may not be enough for you. This pack carried easily carried a camera body and three pro-sized lenses. Along with that camera kit, it held a 16-inch Macbook Pro, tablet, and plenty of accessories. We think this bag is worth the price and will stand up to the job for multiple years to come.
Do we have complaints about this bag? Well, sure, but beyond the price, it's all nitpicking. We think the magnets that keep the top handles together are nifty, but we found they are not strong enough to keep the handles together in real-world testing. While we love roll-top designs, we found the oversized buckle used to close it a bit flashy. Like almost every bag we tested, we did find some moisture in the bag after the rain stress test. The final complaint is the weight of this bag; at 4.3 lbs, it is nearly a pound heavier than the next heaviest bag we tested. Okay, nitpicking over — Wait, one more thing; would it be so hard to give us a pen slot?
Sling camera bags are comfortable, over-the-shoulder models made for small camera kits and daily use. The LowePro Slingshot SL 250 AW III is the best compact sling bag we tested, with its padded shoulder sling and back, waist strap for better weight distribution of the bag, and separate compartments for camera gear and personal items or accessories. Its camera gear compartment is accessed by a side zipper and can fit a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an attached lens plus 2-3 more small lenses. The upper compartment can fit more camera gear or is a great place to stuff a light jacket, snacks, a memory card wallet, and some batteries to last the day. We loved this bag for day hikes or for biking around the city as it is compact and comfortable.
Though made with high-quality, water-resistant fabric, this bag does not entirely pass our drench test. The zippers are exposed, leaving these areas vulnerable to seepage. The bag does, however, come with a waterproof cover, when deployed, makes us feel more confident walking around in a rainstorm. All in all, this is a fantastic compact sling camera bag designed with a photographer's everyday needs in mind.
Domke has been a workhorse brand for photojournalists for years. The F-5XB is no exception. With simple and durable waxed canvas construction and double stitching everywhere you'd want it, this bag seems like it could withstand years of hard use if cared for correctly. And luckily, Domke sends you a container of wax to begin that care process. It features a simple, over-the-shoulder carry system as well as a pass-through belt option for those that prefer it. This is a very simple and small bag, and we liked carrying a mirrorless camera with a lens attached and one additional lens in it. Another great configuration is carrying your camera on a strap with a few extra lenses tucked away in the bag. If you like the style of this bag, but it isn't the right size, Domke makes many sizes to choose from. This is the bag our lead tester regularly carries when exploring the city with a camera.
This bag is small and lacks any sort of accessory organization — just two drop-in pockets that run the full length of the bag. One is under the outside Velcro flap, and the other is in the main camera compartment between the padding and the waxed canvas. We found that you could fit an iPad Mini in the internal drop-in pocket, but without any padding on the outside, we don't recommend it. Instead, we would opt for storing a notebook or spare batteries in that pocket. This isn't a bag we would keep our cameras in the long term; there's simply not enough room for us.
F-Stop Gear has earned a following in the world of outdoor and adventure sports photographers for making comfortable and rugged backpacks for long, hard days in the mountains. With the Dalston, they tried to bring that comfort and durability to photographers who find themself in the city, and we think they did that well. This simple model offers dual-side access zippers that run the length of the bag, as well as a roll-top closure for the top compartment. The camera cube is a simple but versatile pass-through design with four dividers, including a center divider. We loved the simplicity and placement of the laptop pocket. That pocket sits against your back, making the bag feel lighter as well as keeping it more secure from those who might want to steal your device. The laptop pocket easily fits a 16-inch Macbook Pro with plenty of room to spare. The camera compartment carries a DSLR with two medium lenses and a full-sized 70-200mm f2.8 comfortably. The top compartment has the most room of any bag we tested for accessories. The front document pocket also supplies enough room for a magazine or thin accessories. We were much impressed with the build quality of the Dalston.
The biggest downside to this camera bag is the lack of organization. There are only two internal pockets, both of which are in the front document pocket. One of these has elastic to keep the pocket shut, but we found the elastic to be more frustrating than useful. Our second gripe with this bag is the full-sized side access zippers. We found that the bottom corners of the camera compartment are hard to access due to the center zipper design, instead of a door like many other packs employ. The other issue with the full-length zippers is that we noticed smaller items could fall out of the top accessory compartment when trying to access our camera. While it was a rare occurrence, it did make us nervous.
The Altura Thick Neoprene Pouches are perfect when you just want to put a lens in a normal bag but want to keep it protected. Using a neoprene shell and a soft liner, the Altura provides about 5mm of cushion and comes with four different sized pouches from small to big enough to fit a 70-200mm f2.8. We liked the simple nature and smooth, soft interior liner of these pouches. We found ourselves reaching for them more than expected to both protect lenses and to organize smaller accessories into the same place. On long shoots, we found the smallest pouch very helpful as somewhere to drop our dead batteries to keep us organized.
While we like the usefulness of these pouches, it's important to know that we do not recommend them as standalone bags but rather as extra protection for your lens. We would also like to see Altura pay more attention to the finishing details. Unfinished edges look a little sloppy and give us some pause about how these bags will hold up over time.
In terms of high capacity, it's hard to beat the CADeN Camera Backpack, especially for the price. As far as camera dedicated space, this bag wins among the bags we tested, holding all the photographic equipment our testers needed for a normal day of shooting with some room to spare. It can easily accommodate a 13-inch laptop, two water bottles, and a tripod as well. All this makes it the highest capacity for the price that we tested.
We did find that this bag's comfort and construction aren't quite on par with its high capacity. When fully packed with a travel tripod, this bag bulges and feels awkward on your back immediately. That awkward fades to simple discomfort soon enough, so we don't recommend this to anyone planning prolonged carries. Another con of this bag is its weakness for inclement weather. In our rain stress testing, this bag completely soaked through. This bag also had no organization pockets for your smaller items. If you're looking for a bag that carries a lot and will protect your camera on your drive or in storage, look no further. If you are looking for a bag that will live on your back, this isn't the bag for you.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our testing team is comprised of our in-house photography crew, who have spent over 25 years abusing camera bags while traveling all over the world on all forms of transportation. Our lead tester, Jason, has worked as a camera technician and estimates that he's packed a camera bag over 4000 times for himself and other photographers. Also, he has trekked over 100 miles across Scotland with a camera pack weighing in at over 60lbs. It was, of course, packed with his cameras, as well as everything else he needed for the trip. We've taken those years of experience and brought them to this rigorous real-world use of each model over days of testing. We walked over 15 miles while shooting out of these bags.
To set each camera bag apart and find the best one for you, we pitted them against each other in head-to-head testing. In doing so, we scored and ranked each bag individually in each of our testing metrics. Those categories were comfort, access to the camera, how much they held, and how well they kept the elements out, among many other factors. Each metric was repeated in the same conditions for each bag to keep our testing consistent. While not every bag is designed for the same use, we've tested metrics applicable to every model.
Analysis and Test Results
Each bag was put through the same test in the same conditions to evaluate them on our metrics. Below are the standouts in each metric.
There's an old saying that goes something like, "You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes." Well, in our testing, we took that saying literally. We walked and hiked miles with each bag to see which were the most comfortable for us. We found that how comfortable a bag was depended on many factors, such as padding, hip belts, and sternum straps. All those factors are balanced with the capacity of the bag — heavier loads need more comfort features.
In our testing, we found the WANDRD PRVKE to be the most comfortable bag. With wide, well-padded shoulder straps and optional sternum strap, and hip belt, this is the bag we wanted to carry the longest. The next most comfortable backpacks in our testing were very close.
The F-Stop Gear Dalston edged out the Peak Design Everyday 20L. They both simplify the carry by eliminating the waist strap, giving the bag cleaner lines. We preferred the F-Stop Gear's more traditional sternum strap for quickness of clasping and unclasping the buckle.
Moving away from backpacks, but just as comfortable for their capacities, was a three-way tie in two different carrying options. First, we had the LowePro Slingshot SL 250 AW III We found this sling bag to be the perfect size for us. Its classic sling styling is small enough that it forces you to pare down and keep the load light while still letting us carry everything we need to get the job done. It carries close to your body, allows easy on-the-fly adjustment, and easy access to the camera. The padding on the sling and on the back of the bag also makes carrying this small bag all day a comfortable affair.
Finally, the Domke uses the simple one strap over the shoulder carry style, and with its small size, we almost forgot we were wearing it. Taking the "pare it down" mantra to a new level, this bag forces you to consider what you will carry with it. But that paring down keeps things light, and we tended to forget we were wearing a bag at all until we needed what it was holding.
We invest in and carry camera bags for one reason — to take photographs! How quickly and easily a bag allows you to access your camera can affect how spontaneous you can be with your shooting. We wanted to see how quick and easy it is to access your camera from each bag while keeping all the other contents of the bag secure. In our testing, we tried top access, side access, front access, and back access designs. We timed how long it took for us to go from carrying the bag normally to having the camera out and to our eye while still having the bag's other contents secure. But remember, every photographer has a preference for how they like to access their camera; what's your style?
On average, in our testing, sling bags and over-the-shoulder bags had the fastest access times. The top spot went to the Domke F-5XB at just under 5 seconds. What we loved about the Domke is it can be worn in multiple stages of readiness, from fully buttoned down for security to open and ready for quick access. We tested it with the zipper undone, but the top flap velcroed closed.
The second fastest shoulder bag was the LowePro Slingshot SL 250 AW III. We credit its fast time to its quick-adjust strap. Instead of having to wrestle a tight sling around and leave it sitting really high, you can just adjust the sling out to its widest setting, swing it around, and it's ready for you in a matter of seconds. Its camera gear compartment is accessible by a U-shaped compartment which, when the bag is swung around to your front, is easy to open and grab your camera without having to make any further adjustments.
The quickest backpack to access was a close call! The PRVKE edged out the Peak Design Everyday 20L Backpack by a fraction of a second. Both these bags feature side door access, and we believe the PRVKE was faster due to its smaller window that just needs less time to open.
Capacity is a simple metric — how much stuff can you put in the bag. With camera bags, it's largely the same with just a few extra considerations. How much dedicated gear storage does it have compared to accessory space? What ratio is up to your shooting style. We like having at least a little bit of space dedicated to accessories.
The backpack that came out on top of our capacity testing was the Peak Design Everyday 20L This bag has a great balance between having plenty of dedicated camera storage with enough accessories storage to be useful in day-to-day life. It carried a 16-inch Macbook Pro with all the accessories we needed to be productive and comfortable in the office and all the camera gear we needed.
The PRVKE 20L carried the ever-important one camera and three lenses perfectly, with one of the medium-sized lenses attached to the camera and ready to shoot. This bag also has plenty of room for accessories but employs a roll-top, which we prefer for its versatility.
Our testers were impressed by the capacity of the compact LowePro Slingshot SL 250 AW III. Although only its bottom compartment is dedicated to a camera and 2-3 lenses, you can still fit plenty of gear in its top compartment, whether it be more lenses, a small drone, or maybe you opt for a jacket and a sandwich for your day hike instead. You can also attach a tripod to the side or bottom of the sling bag, slip an 11-inch tablet into a dedicated compartment, and fit a water bottle in its side mesh pocket, all without making the bag too heavy to carry over the shoulder.
For those who only want your camera bag to hold cameras, the CADeN has the most dedicated space to that. Offering nearly no additional space outside of the main camera compartment, instead opting to use all its size for cameras and lenses.
In our durability testing, we wanted to discover a few things. Firstly, we were looking for indications of how long the bag will be with you on your photographic journey. This means looking for signs of premature wear, what materials were used, and how well the bag was constructed. Secondly, how well will this bag protect your gear from the brutality that is everyday life? How's the padding? Can it handle some rain? For this, we put it through an artificial rain for 5 minutes that mimicked the most intense downfall we had been caught in with a camera bag.
With hydrophobic zippers, 420D ripstop nylon with a weather-resistant coating, the F-Stop Gear Dalston is ready to deal with a hard day at the office. F-Stop gear has gained a reputation for making some of the most rugged camera bags in the world for a good reason. They don't skimp on materials or construction techniques. In our rain test, it shed water with the best of them.
Domke has kept it simple with this bag. Taking bombproof waxed canvas and adding extra stitching where it's needed. We met a photographer who had taken his Domke to multiple war zones as a photojournalist, and the bag was chomping at the bit for more. Need we say more about this bag? Okay, we will — with the zipper done up and the velcro flap shut, the F-5XB kept the cheap paper towels in its camera compartment completely dry.
You never want to be caught out in the rain with your gear, but things happen. For that reason, we value durability and water resistance.
We think camera bags should be looked at as an investment; you have worked really hard to acquire the gear you have, make sure you put it in a safe and comfortable bag that makes sense for how you shoot. We hope our review has successfully helped you determine which bag matches your needs the best.
— Jason Peters
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