Searching for the best camera backpacks for your hiking adventures? Read on!
Choosing a proper hiking camera backpack can be difficult. I mean you’re taking your beloved and expensive photography equipment out into nature to capture that perfect hiking moment – there’s a lot of pressure! What if it rains and all your gear gets wet? Or what if your bag gets dropped, bumped, or scrapped on rough terrain? Is there enough space in your pack for your camera and lenses along with all your other hiking gear?
Thankfully, there’s a solution to all these problems – a photography-focused backpack that’s designed specifically for hiking! These packs take most of the features that we know and love from camera bags and give them a rugged overhaul to take on the outdoor elements head-on. So, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the best camera backpacks for hiking, then move on to our list of the top options on the market today.
The Best Camera Backpacks for Hiking
Mountainsmith Tanuck 40L Hiking Camera Backpack
- Price: $220
- Volume: 38.5L Normal – 59.5L Expanded
- Dimensions: 23.5″ x 15″ x 13″
- Weight: 5 lbs. 5 oz.
- Expandable Storage Pocket
- Organizer Cube Compatible
- Chest-Mounted Camera Case
Rugged durability meets camera organization in the Mountainsmith Tanuck 40L. This beefy bag includes many ideal features for a successful hiking excursion but also features several handy additions that allow you to snap pictures of your adventure with ease.
Our favorite feature is the versatile top lid with an internal pocket. It securely caps the top of your pack, or you can remove it, snap it to the front shoulder strap, and voila – you have a secure chest-mounted camera carrying case!
For durability, Mountainsmith has opted for very tough and water-resistant 610D CORDURA. This material can hold up to even the most rugged hiking conditions and will keep your gear safe from the occasional drizzle. If the weather indeed turns sour, Mountainsmith has included a rain cover in a dedicated zippered pocket.
The bag’s interior is plenty spacious for your hiking gear – whether it’s a single day or backpacking trip. For even more specialized camera carrying capacity, you can purchase Mountainsmith’s Kit Cube organizers, which fit perfectly in the Tanuck 40L. These cubes can organize several lenses and cameras to keep everything secure and protected during your hike.
We’re a little saddened that the camera-specific cubes aren’t included with the bag – especially for the steep investment. However, the chest-mounted camera case plus this bag’s rugged design make the Tanuck 40L one of the best camera backpacks for hiking, which can be made even better with the kit cubes.
Atlas Athletic Hiking Camera Pack
- Price: $350
- Volume: 20L Normal – 40L Expanded
- Dimensions: 24″ x 11″ x 13″ (HxWxD)
- Weight: 4 lbs.
- Water Repellent Material Finish
- Adjustable Integrated Camera Equipment Storage
- Multiple Sizes Available
When a bag is crowned National Geographic’s top recommended camera backpack for travelers, you know it’s a serious adventure pack. The Atlas Athletic has just about everything a hiking photographer needs in a backpack – from organized storage to a comfortable fit.
Let’s start with camera storage. The Atlas Athletic features what’s dubbed as an ‘origami camera core.’ This padded integrated organization system includes both lens and camera storage that can be adjusted to accommodate more or less camera-specific equipment depending on your needs. When you adjust this system for less camera gear, that space is instantly usable for your non-camera hiking gear, such as clothing layers or snacks.
Speaking of space, the Atlas Athletic is incredibly versatile! The standard configuration can fit around 20L worth of gear plus a few extras in the top lid pockets. But in its full expanded glory, the pack can hold up to 40L of hiking gear and camera equipment – plenty of space for an epic hiking trip!
We’re also very fond of the 2L dedicated hydration bladder sleeve with tube routing. This feature is perfect for staying hydrated on the trail and segregating your water from your delicate camera equipment at the same time.
Lowepro Photo Sport BP 300 Hiking Camera Backpack
- Price: 200 $$
- Volume: Approximately 30L
- Dimensions: 22.05″ x 9.45″ x 10.63″
- Weight: 3 lbs. 5 oz.
- Side Access Zipper Pocket
- Dedicated Water Reservoir Sleeve
- Good Cinching Mechanism to Secure Gear
Heading out for a day of hiking? The Photo Sport BP 300 from Lowepro is designed just for you and is the perfect hiking backpack with a camera compartment! This smaller 30L pack can fit all the essentials for a day on the trail, plus a DSLR with an attached lens along with an extra lens.
The lower portion of this pack is a dedicated, padded, and secure camera gear storage area. We’re also very pleased with the handy side access zipper. This side access allows you to quickly shift the bag to one shoulder, pull the pack around so you can reach the zipper, and have immediate access to your camera to catch that impromptu shot. No more setting the bag down and wasting time as you dig through your gear to find your camera.
The upper portion of the pack, accessible via the drawcord cinch top, provides ample space for trail snacks, extra layers, and any additional hiking gear you need. However, the bag’s smaller size makes it most suitable for day excursions only, and likely won’t have enough space for overnight trips.
While the padded shoulder straps, back, and hip belt provide ample cushioning for a comfortable hiking experience, we’re a little disappointed that Lowepro didn’t include breathable mesh material. As a result, it’s very easy to develop a sweaty back on warmer days. However, the trim and well-thought-out organization, along with durable materials, help mitigate this drawback.
Speaking of materials, the Photo Sport 300 utilizes weather-resistant fabrics to withstand drizzles and mist, and includes a built-in rain cover for serious precipitation.
Vanguard Alta SKY 51D Hiking Camera Backpack
- Price: 270 $$
- Volume: Not Available
- Dimensions: 22.25″ x 14.62″ x 10.25″
- Weight: 6 lbs. 7 oz.
- Side, Front, and Top Access
- Tripod Compatible
For serious travelers who are equally serious photographers, the Vanguard Alta SKY can be your best camera backpack for hiking. We have meticulous internal storage paired with multiple access points and an incredibly comfortable harness system to make this bag an excellent option for all the adventurers out there.
First off, this bag is designed to carry a lot of gear – a lot. If you focus solely on your camera equipment, you can fit two pro DSLR cameras with lenses mounted, plus three to four extra lenses – along with a flash. That’s not to mention the extra space and pockets for even more camera accessories!
Alternatively, you can use this bag’s dividers to separate your hiking gear from the camera supplies and carry plenty of supplies for a full day on the trail. Speaking of hiking, the shoulder straps and torso support are specially designed to carry plenty of weight, meaning this pack is comfortable all day long.
However, the slightly boxy shape – while great at protecting your gear – is a little cumbersome during hiking and other adventures. But don’t get us wrong! This is still a phenomenal backpack that’s designed to bridge the gap between the airport and the outdoors, and it does so very well.
Thule Aspect Hiking Camera Backpack
- Price: 120 $
- Volume: Approximately 25L
- Dimensions: 20.5″ x 11.8″ x 8.7″
- Weight: 3 lbs. 3 oz.
- Removable Hip Belt
- Tripod Side Storage
- Dedicated Laptop Sleeve
Don’t let the Aspect’s small size fool you. This is a tough little hiking pack with great looks, easy handling, and excellent camera storage. For those of you looking for a compact pack for an adventurous day hike with your favorite camera, this pack’s for you.
For the hiking side, we have an open compartment flanked by internal mesh pockets. Although not cavernous, this space is adequate for your day-hiking essentials, from a coat to snacks. The padded back also features an airflow mesh to facilitate cooler hiking. We also have a removable hip belt allowing for a little customization depending on your adventure.
Now, onto the camera storage. The side-access zipper reveals a well-organized area that has dedicated cubicles for one or two lenses, a flash, a DSLR camera plus lens, and a few other accessories. So, while this bag doesn’t hold quite as much as some of the larger options, it offers an array of storage space so you can snap that perfect hiking shot.
We’re also very impressed with a relatively accessible price. Granted, the tradeoff is a smaller pack overall. But for light packers or frequent day hikers, the Thule Aspect is all you need for an awesome experience!
For such a phenomenally designed outdoor bag, we’re surprised and saddened that Thule doesn’t include a rain cover. This oversight leaves the bag vulnerable to rain intrusion, which is a definite threat to our camera gear. Therefore, we highly recommend that you invest in your own rain cover just to be on the safe side.
Mindshift Rotation180° 22L Panorama Hiking Camera Backpack
- Price: $160
- Volume: Approximately 22L
- Dimensions: 9.8 x 19.7 x 8.3″
- Weight: 2 lbs.
- Can Hold iPad or Similar-Size Tablet
- Rotating Beltpack for Camera Gear
- Two optional seam-sealed rain covers
The wait is over, the famous rotating backpack is here. The Mindshift has put an end to the constant taking on and off of the backpack with its rotating belt. This function allows the wearer to easily access his bag without ever having to take it off. It’s one of the best camera backpacks for hiking. Other than this ingenious invention, the bag can accommodate a camera with a lens attached as well as an extra lens in the neighboring compartment.
Just when you thought this hiking camera backpack couldn’t get any better, the Panorama also includes a 2-liter hydration reservoir. It does come with some negatives such as not including a rain cover like the Lowepro BP 450 AW.
The sheer amount of points of access to the bag, as well as comfort, make the Panorama worth its price. However, it does remain a quirky bag that might not be for everyone.
Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II
- Price: $170
- Volume: 25L
- Dimensions: 14.17 x 8.66 x 20.47″
- Weight: 6 lbs.
- Holds 2 Pro DSLRs
- Can hold 8 Extra Lenses or Flash Units
- Laptop sleeve
The first thing you may notice about the ProTactic 450 is the ease of access to your equipment inside of the bag. The compartments are all completely customizable, allowing you to determine which equipment will be needed to be carried on your shoot.
Also, the number of zippers allow your camera and lenses to be available at any time when needed. The ProTactic 450 can also hold a 15-inch laptop in a dedicated pocket guaranteeing its protection. Comfort is also a big part of the ProTactic 450. This bag includes lumbar support as well as a hip strap. Although priced a bit high, this is one of the best camera bags one can buy on the market today.
Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW
- Price: $200
- Dimensions: 12.2 x 11.9 x 22.5″
- Weight: 7.3 lb
- Padded Touch-Fastened Interior Dividers
- Front, Rear & Top Access to Gear
This is the latest addition to our collection of hiking camera backpacks and I couldn’t be more stoked on the bag. This hiking camera bag is purpose-built for those who shoot photos and videos in the harsh elements, specifically winter conditions such as climb or ski. It’s definitely one of the best backpacks for photographers, but it does come with a high price tag and it is heavy. Since it is designed for tough winter elements the build quality and design are truly impressive.
I love that the bag opens from the backside that allows you to comfortably throw the bag on the ground and reach for gear without fear of the bag tipping of getting gear wet. It also has side and front straps designed to carry a snowboard, skis, ice axes, or hiking/ski poles (massive win for our snowboard season).
I like the pullout rain cover for heavy weather. The suspension system is also the most robust I’ve found in a camera bag so far, which is great when carrying 40lbs of gear up a hill. My only complaints would be the size of the top compartment which is too small for storing things like phone charging cables, or whatever accessories I may need on the mountain.
There is a front compartment on the bag, but it’s one large section directly next to the camera gear so it needs to be able to bear weight. I’d also love a water bottle holder on the sides. For carrying such a large bag designed to be outdoors I need some form of hydration.
Despite my complaints, this bag is the perfect kit addition for any outdoor enthusiast looking to carry some gear high into rough conditions.
What to Look for in a Hiking Camera Backpack?
When hiking, you’ll need to bring a significant amount of non-camera gear – such as food, water, layers, and potentially a tent and sleeping bag. Keep an eye on how much free space the backpack has available for this additional gear after loading it up with your camera equipment. As a side note, a dedicated sleeve or compartment for a water bladder is a phenomenal feature to include in your bag as it will separate your water supply from your sensitive camera gear.
Pay attention to adjustability. Being able to customize the camera storage area for more or less equipment is incredibly useful for hiking. This adjustability means you can open up more space for your hiking equipment if you’re taking less camera gear. Conversely, you can add additional slots for extra lenses or cameras if you’re just heading out for the day and don’t need a significant amount of extra hiking gear.
As a photographer, the first thing you want to consider when looking at backpacks is, of course, how you can protect your slew of expensive equipment. It doesn’t matter if you are going out deep into the wilderness or simply exploring your city, the amount of a beating electronics can take is severely limited.
What you need is a hiking camera backpack that will be able to repel water just as well as it can absorb a fall to the ground. When spending so much money investing in your camera, an amount should also be used to buy a durable backpack to protect your priceless equipment.
Rugged and weather-resistant materials such as ripstop nylon with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) are much better suited to the great outdoors than their weaker counterparts.
Hiking camera backpacks are far from cheap. For the best shock absorption, waterproofing, comfort, lightweight, and numerous compartments you must be prepared to pay top dollar. Even though you may just be getting started as a photographer or be on a tight budget, that does not mean that you can’t keep your equipment safe. Our very first backpack for photographers was a Lowepro.
Most importantly, photographers need to decide what are their exact needs for their camera backpack. While on a budget, it may be necessary to sacrifice durability for comfort. There are other options, however, where you can still get the most out of your equipment and still have enough money to spare.
Cameras, lenses, drones, tripods; all the equipment the average photographer carries around nowadays slowly adds up to the point where they will be buckling under the sheer weight of their backpack. Ours weighs just under 50 lbs – no joke! The goal of many of these bags is to take the pressure off of the wearer’s back to allow the freedom of movement.
Nothing is worse than going on a hike or exploring rooftops and being hindered by the very equipment necessary to get your perfect shot. Taking the strain off of your back and to properly distribute the weight in a camera backpack is the gamechanger between a miserable trip and an excellent photo shoot.
Many photographers and travelers have painful memories of their backpack’s straps digging into their shoulders and ribs. The constant adjusting and readjusting of the harnesses quickly becomes a nuisance. Itching as well as twitching under the poorly made material and lack of padding is sure to ruin any trip.
It goes without saying that in order to truly focus and be immersed in your surroundings, your attention should not be on the pain pressing down on your back. With cushions, a well-built frame, as well as weight distribution, your camera backpack will be sure to keep your equipment safe without the painful reminder that you are carrying several pounds of equipment on your back.
Ease of Access
A factor many photographers may overlook when choosing their hiking camera backpack is how easy they will be able to access their equipment when suddenly running across the perfect shot. Many people may find themselves stumbling with taking off their bag and then fumbling with the zippers until finally, the opportunity has slipped through their fingers, especially out in nature.
Modern camera bags not only have your cameras and lenses organized in such a way that they are ready to be pulled out on a moment’s notice, but today’s bags even have the ability to swing around on a belt, allowing access without even having to set down your luggage. Some of the best pictures are those that are not planned, therefore it is critical to always have your tools ready at hand.
There you have it, adventurers! We’ve covered the best camera backpacks for hiking, so no landscape or sunrise is out of your camera’s reach. From day hikes to serious multi-day excursions, you’re sure to find the best hiking camera backpack to suit your needs. We also discussed the prime characteristics of the ideal camera backpack for hiking. So, go forth and start adventuring!
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Last Updated on April 29, 2020