Carrying around thousands of dollars in glass and electronics is tough to do. Now take it up a mountain or to a foreign country — even harder. We’ve rounded up the best camera bag brands to keep you comfortable and your expensive gear safe in the city, the mountains, or anywhere in between.
Prima System Modular Backpack + MK-1 Camera Case
Boundary Supply grew out of the founder’s desires to make beautifully designed products that just work. Th company’s first attempt, the Prima System Modular Backpack ($220) knocked it out of the park, raising over $1 million on Kickstarter. Now, with the larger MK-1 Camera Case module, the Prima system has turned into an elegant technology transporter for all your camera gear.
The main compartment of the Prima backpack is protected by a fold-down top, latched with silky smooth magnetic buckles. I didn’t know I’d like magnetic buckles so much on a pack until now. Weatherproof zippers allow the main compartment to completely open, as well as the laptop pocket on top and camera pocket on the side.
Two slots in the laptop pocket hold a laptop and the Fieldspace organizer, which in turn holds tablets, notebooks, magazines, and all your pens, chargers, and cables. You can take the Fieldspace to other backpacks and bags to keep everything in one unit.
The Verge camera bag is the best part of the Prima system. It starts as a small camera bag big enough for one camera and two small lenses with an adjustable divider inside. For another 10 liters of space, unzip the bottom of the case and expand it. If you need a shoulder bag, take the hip belt off the backpack to use as a shoulder strap. The Verge also snaps into the side pocket of the Prima for sling-style quick access.
If the Verge case isn’t enough space, the MK-1 Camera Case ($120) will give you plenty. It’s big enough to hold a camera body, 3 small lenses a large lens, a small drone and all the attachments and cables. The huge lid on the MK-1 opens to see all your gear. Openings on the side and top, open to the backpacks side and top pockets. Just like the Verge case, the MK-1 snaps into the Prima to give you sling-style quick access to your camera on the go.
If the Prima’s style isn’t quite for you, Boundary is releasing another modular pack system called the Errant Everday Carry Backpack ($100), which hit its Kickstarter goal in 24 hours.
Athlete Pack or Adventure Pack
From the urban style of the Prima we go to the Atlas Athlete Pack ($385), which is fit for climbing a 14,000-foot mountain. Not happy with traditional camera bags that attempt to go outside, Atlas took the design of a proper hiking backpack and added the team’s favorite camera-carrying features.
A 30-liter, durable, ripstop nylon main body gives you tons of room. Flip the bag over and zip open the camera core to get at your lenses and drones. The top third folds out on the fly to store more camera gear or folds in to store more hiking gear. You don’t have to buy a different size camera case insert because tons of adjustable dividers let you configure whatever storage you need. Two pockets on the top lid hold quick-access items. Inside the main compartment, a wide pocket holds a 15-inch laptop. On the side a zippered pocket holds a 2 liter water reservoir.
The shoulder straps and hip belts are modeled after beefy multi-day packs and comfortably carry over 35 pounds. Quickdraw hip belt pockets fold out to hold big camera lenses or one-liter water bottles. For traveling or just bombing around town, take the hip belt off and leave it at home. The included rain fly comes hidden in a pocket on the bottom. Daisy chains and straps on the outside easily attach anything else you have to bring along.
Atlas also has the slightly larger and more camera-focused Adventure Pack ($385) with a similar configuration.
VentureSafe X40 Plus + Camsafe PCI-M Camera Insert
The last thing you want is all your camera gear to be stolen while traveling in a beautiful new city. Pacsafe bags are covered in features to keep your pack where you left it.
The main body of the VentureSafe X40 Plus 40L ($250) is made from eXomesh slashguard material laced with metal to prevent cutting through the fabric. The shoulder straps are made with super-strong Dyneema Carrysafe slashguard straps and unlock at the TurnNLocks attachments so you can attach them to poles or tables. All the zippers clip together to prevent pick-pockets and lock with TSA-approved combination lock.
Once you get through all the security on this pack, you get 40 liters inside to store gear. The whole back panel opens (with lockable zippers of course) to get to the CamSafe PCI-M Protective Camera Insert ($70), which comes in three different sizes.
Large comfortable shoulder straps and hip belt make it easy to carry over 30 pounds. Side pockets and compression straps can hold a tripod or lights on either side. The huge front pocket opens to a bunch of smaller mesh and zipper pockets include an RFID scan-proof pocket for your cards. Pull out the included rain cover if the adventure gets wet.
Tahquitz Pack + Cabrillo Dry Bag
For faster adventures with minimal camera gear, the Be Outfitters Tahquitz Pack ($139) holds a camera and lens in a very unique pocket in the bottom of the bag. The camera pocket opens sling-style for easy access. Inside, the 100-percent waterproof Cabrillo Dry Bag ($49) attaches to the pocket to protect your gear from the elements. A foam insert sits inside the dry bag, padding it from bumps and holding the bag open so it’s easy to throw the camera back in.
To access the rest of the Tahquitz, unroll the top for quick access or unzip the whole side to see all your gear. A 15-inch laptop pocket doubles as a hydration bladder pocket. A secondary pocket holds the lightweight frame, which you can remove to fold up the Tahquitz for travel. Roll the top back down and attach the magnetic clips to get going again.
Just underneath the front rain-flap is a small essentials pocket. Hidden daisy chains on the front slide out when you need to clip gear on. The comfortable hip belts tuck inside when you don’t need them and slide out when you have to carry a heavier load. An expandable pocket pops out when you need to carry a water bottle.
Last but not least, we have the most bombproof camera bag of the bunch. In collaboration with photographer Andy Mann, Mountainsmith put together an entire series of photographer’s bags that look like they will last forever.
The extremely thick material on the bottom and body of our favorite, the Mountainsmith Borealis ($250) protects your camera and holds the bag perfectly upright. Instead of a camera gear panel on the pack, it’s built right on the front and includes adjustable dividers to organize a camera and two or three lenses. Above the heavily-padded camera section is storage for other gear. Big enough to hold an entire Red camera, the top section is great for jackets and food and has a ton of smaller pockets for essentials.
Beefy shoulder straps and hip belts comfortably carry the pack, even if you’ve got it loaded down. Pockets in the hip belts carry quick-access items while the sides hold tripods or lights. Even more padding and ventilation on the back panel round out this pack
Article originally published by Clay Abney on May 2, 2017. Last updated by Ross Collicutt on June 28, 2018.