10 camera backpacks and bags to protect your DSLR and lenses

Whether you're getting up before dawn to hike up mountains for that one special sunrise shot, or commuting with your camera in tow, every photographer needs to keep their kit safe and protected, and from backpacks and day-sacks to holsters and rollers, photographers can now carry their kit, accessories (and even some lunch) in all kinds of luggage.

Most of bags featured here are for DSLR cameras, whose interchangeable lenses, some of them mighty in size, demand some thought when you're mobile. Most also now find room for a laptop – as big as 17 inches in some cases – or at least a tablet; with post-processing so integral to digital photography, who wants to wait until they get home to see how a photoshoot turned out? 

1. Thule Aspect DSLR Backpack

As well as a DSLR, various lenses and flashes, the long, slim Aspect can house a giant 15.6-inch laptop in a side-opening sleeve, as well as an iPad. It has the premium look and feel of a hiking backpack, and while it’s not a top hiking pack per se, it’s hard-wearing enough for all kinds of photography expeditions.

Sensibly, the camera can be accessed from a side pocket, there are lots of dividers that move easily and fit securely, and zips feature large plastic tags that can be easily tugged open with cold hands – handy for sunrise sessions or a northern lights hunt. 

2. Manfrotto Advanced Camera and Laptop Backpack

This backpack zips up a 13-inch laptop and a tablet in a front pocket, while the main compartment for camera gear is accessed under a padded, zipped lid on the back-facing side. It fits one DSLR body and three lenses, including a 70-200mm, and there are some useful design flourishes – as well as a roomy top section for accessories (and perhaps even a packed lunch), there’s a pull-out rain cover in the base, and an expandable tripod pocket. It's also sized to house a DJI Mavic Pro drone.

3. Case Logic Kontrast KDH101 DSLR Zoom Holster

Despite there being some great backpack out there, no-one has yet produced a decent curved-back backpack for high-grade hiking that also stores a DSLR. The Kontrast doesn’t quite fill that niche, but it does act as a stop-gap – large enough to take a reasonably big lens (a 105mm fits fine), it can be stuffed into a backpack or slung over a shoulder while out on the trail.

Inside there’s a ‘hammock system’ halfway down for cradling and securing the lens, while the sides also have pockets for accessories and memory cards. Solid and good value, the Kontrast impresses. 

4. LowePro Streetline 140

This pocket-packed shoulder bag somehow manages to squeeze in both an 11-inch laptop and a tablet, as well as camera gear, while the padded kit compartment flat-packs when empty. Inside, three snap-shut pouches spring open to grip a compact mirrorless camera or DSLR (though it's best for smaller entry-level models).

It’s probably not rugged enough for landscape photographers, but it does well around the city – and it makes for a great carry-on bag for flights. It's even got a pass-through for a telescopic handle, so it can piggy-back on rolling luggage at airports. 

5. Moshi Arcus multi-function backpack

There’s something exceptionally streamlined about the Moshi Arcus. It's Japanese-inspired to the core in its neat, compact and modular design, with some discreet zippered body-facing pockets that are ideal for travel documents. However, you need to add the optional camera insert to allow it to store and protect DSLR camera gear – it can then take three lenses and one DSLR body (with handy side access), while without the insert the Moshi Arcus can store a 15-inch laptop. With additional padded pockets sized to take a smartphone and tablet, and with microfibre used throughout, this is a compelling proposition.  

6. ONA The Camps Bay

It's luxury choice for sure, but this retro-styled waxed canvas-and-buckles backpack is both outdoorsy tough, and has an incredible capacity for holding – and disguising – a lot of camera gear. The main compartment can store a DSLR with a 70-200mm lens attached, itself a rarity, but has room for six or seven additional lenses if the moveable dividers are carefully placed. There’s even space for a 17-inch laptop, it has a leather undercarriage for setting it down outside. However, with all that kit plus 2kg of canvas, The Camps Bay could get pretty heavy.

7. LowePro Pro Roller X200 AW

Ideal for professional photographers or anyone flying off on a landscape photography expedition, a safari or an eclipse-chase, this TSA-approved roller can take two DSLRs and up to eight lenses sized up to 600mm. Its MaxFit padded dividers are adjustable, and there are plenty of pouches for accessories, including a 17-inch laptop. It’s got a tripod clasp on one side, and a couple of wheels so to roll through airports on, but this one is nevertheless best used for when you have a vehicle to take you to your next shoot.

8. Thule Perspektiv M Toploader

Wearing a DSLR on your back has distinct disadvantages when it comes to extracting a camera quickly, so Thule has come up with this top-loading protective tube that's worn almost like a harness. Rigid and completely waterproof, including the zips (but also with an additional raincoat in a pouch on the undercarriage), it can hold a high-end DSLR camera with a 70-200mm lens, but no other accessories. However, there is also a waterproof pouch for a phone, and a couple of handy stash pockets on the outside that could be used to attach a reasonably small tripod. Great for an outdoors expedition in dodgy weather.

9. Manfrotto Holster XS Plus

Designed for compact mirrorless APS-C cameras like the Sony A6500, Fujifilm X-T2 and Panasonic's Lumix G85/G80, this holster-style case makes good use of space. A camera fitted with an 18-50mm lens can easily fit inside the main compartment, while there’s a zip-around section attached to the bottom for another lens. It’s compact, sturdy and offers a lot of protection, but it's worth trying it out with your specific camera and lens to make sure it all fits neatly. As well as a shoulder strap and belt loops, the Holster XS Plus includes a few zipped pockets for SD cards and accessories. 

10. LowePro Taho BP 150

Looking more like traditional urban luggage than a camera bag, this bug-shaped backpack has a hard yet padded front lid that zips all around, and drops down for easy access. The dividers inside are easy to move and secure, and make it simple to configure for a DSLR and four or five lenses.

If used in that configuration there's just a small zipped area for other items, but an UltraFlex divider can be used to make the bag half for camera gear and half for other stuff, making the Tahoe BP 150 handy for anything from street photography to a serious hike. There's also an organizer area in the lid with a tablet pouch, and a couple of mesh side pockets.