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Best Camera Backpacks for 2020

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Good landscape photography backpacks are hard to come by. Packs need to be small enough to fit as a carry-on in overhead bins, rugged enough to withstand harsh weather, and provide sufficient space for camera bodies, lenses, drones, filters, and accessories.

Here are some of the best photography backpacks of 2020 that check every box.

Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II 

The Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II is an all-around solid choice for landscape photography. It’s rugged, fully customizable, and has a non-collapsable frame (which keeps you from expanding your pack past the carry-on size limit). With the Lowepro 450 AW II, you have peace of mind knowing the pack will always fit overhead.

Inside the pack is a 15″ laptop sleeve and a couple of zippered pockets for memory cards, cleaning supplies, etc. Padded Velcro dividers can be customized to support 1-2 DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, a drone, plus a handful of lenses. Full-frame DSLRs with telephoto lenses (eg, 70-200mm) can be stored without first removing the lens.

On the outside, the top of the 450 AW II can be opened for quick retrieval of the camera. Zippered pockets for small items, an integrated hook to keep your keys secure, and a waterproof cover built into the bottom of the pack. Around the outside, loops to attach straps and accessories like a tripod, water bottle, etc.

Overall, the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II offers a lot of functionality and value for the money.

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

Like most products from Peak Design, the 45L Travel Backpack is beautifully designed, versatile, and built-to-last.

This pack functions like regular carry-on luggage by offering zippers and straps to expand and collapse the pack. The pack collapses to 30L for smaller loads, 35L for carry-on, then expands to 45L for extra space.

The 45L Travel Backpack has a weatherproof nylon shell, plus waterproof zippers on the outside to keep your gear dry. Camera gear may be accessed through the side, back, or front when the accessory divider is rolled-down. There’s also an expandable side pouch to hold a water bottle or travel-sized tripod.

The inside provides a large cavity designed to hold Peak Design’s Camera Cubes. These cubes are sold separately in three sizes. (Note this does increase the overall cost of the backpack if shopping on a budget).

For a more sleek, modern-looking pack you can wear in the city without looking like you just came down from a mountain, also check out Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack.

Lowepro Freeline Camera Backpack 350 AW

If the Lowepro 450 AW (see above) is too large or not sleek enough for your taste, Lowepro has you covered with the Freeline 350 AW.

This pack is visually similar to the Peak Design Everyday Backback with a slim frame and urban design aesthetic. The overall size is approximately 20L, making the pack plenty small for use as a carry-on. The pack has weather-resistant exterior shell, zippers, and straps for attaching a travel tripod to the front of the pack.

Gear is accessed through doors on either side. This allows you to swing the pack around your body and retrieve your camera when needed. Interior dividers function as “shelves” for sub-dividing space horizontally but not vertically (which gives you fewer customization options, comparatively). There’s also an interior sleeve for holding laptops up to 15″ in size.

If you’re looking for an all-around backpack for the wild and the city, the Freeline 350 AW is a great option for travelers with lighter gear storage needs.

PRVKE 31L Photography Backpack

Designed by two brothers who couldn’t find the exact pack they wanted, the PRVKE 31L is a modern take on bulky packs with hanging straps. The PRVKE is slim, stylish, and like the Peak Design Travel Backpack (see above), is just at home in the city as it is in the field.

The exterior shell of the PRVKE is constructed from weather-resistant, ballistic nylon. Zippers withstand the elements and keep moisture from reaching your gear. PRVKE’s four-point attachment system allows you to attach a travel tripod to either the front, side, or bottom. Gear can be quickly accessed through the side, or through the back when laid flat. The PRVKE also includes a removable, padded waist-strap.

Inside, the PRVKE “Photography Bundle” (the version this post links to) includes a removable camera cube with dividers. The cube is large enough to hold a single DSLR or mirrorless camera plus 2-4 lenses, depending on size. When you don’t need the cube, remove it, and the PRVKE then becomes a standard backpack.

If you’re in the market to buy a single pack for use at-home and abroad, and you don’t need to bring as much photography gear, the PRVKE is a stylish, sensible choice.

f-stop Ajna

f-stop has been in the photography backpack game for longer than most, and their experience shows with the 40L Ajna backpack.

Large enough to fit all your camera gear, yet small enough to store in an overhead bin, the 40L Ajna is most at home in the field and is designed for flexibility, customization, and comfort.

On the outside, weather-resistant nylon and durable zippers for repelling moisture, padded shoulder straps designed for maximum comfort, and a thick padded hip belt to lighten the load.

The inside is where the Ajna truly shines. The base backpack comes with a medium storage cube (aka “ICU” or “Internal Camera Unit”) which for storing a DSLR or mirrorless camera plus a few lenses. If the medium ICU isn’t enough, f-stop offers smaller and larger ICUs. The advantage of f-stop’s ICU design is that their units can be removed when not in use; allowing the Ajna to also function as a regular backpack.

Overall, the f-stop Ajna 40L is a rugged, highly configurable pack designed for traveling landscape photographers and filmmakers who want to control how much or little gear they carry.

(The tangerine “Nasturtium” color is especially nice looking and easy to spot in the wild.)

Shimoda Explore 40

Offering similar ruggedness, comfort, and customization options to the f-stop Ajna, the Shimoda Explore 40 is another excellent pack for traveling landscape photographers and filmmakers.

Shimoda’s design is sleek, clean, and doesn’t announce itself to the world as a camera backpack. The exterior shell and zippers are durable and weatherproof, but a rain cover is recommended for more complete protection. There’s a pouch for strapping on a tripod, and like all other packs in this list, the Shimoda Explore 40 can be stored as a carry-on in an overhead bin.

On the inside, the Shimoda Explore uses small, medium, and large core units. Each unit has to be purchased separately. This increases the overall cost of the pack (doubles it, actually), but allows you to configure the pack to suit your needs. Pack the Shimoda full of gear, or leave room for clothing and other accessories. The choice is yours.

As a brand, Shimoda is known for their attention to comfort. Shoulder straps are wide and generously padded, and the harness is height-adjustable to fit small, medium, or tall torsos. If you’ve struggled with packs that never fit right, the Shimoda Explore 40 should be an excellent choice.

Tenba DNA 15 Backpack

For those seeking a backpack with a smaller profile, the Tenba DNA 15 Backpack is an excellent choice.

On the outside, a weather repellent shell with a hard bottom, collapsable top, comfortable shoulder straps, and a removable waist belt. A top handle and loop are provided for attaching the pack to luggage handles when rolling through an airport. The top of the pack can also be rolled-down, and travel tripods and water bottles can be secured on the side.

On the inside, the included storage cube can be inserted into either the top or bottom cavity. Gear may then be accessed from either location. The cube safely secures a single DSLR or mirrorless camera, plus 4-6 lenses depending on size. There’s also a padded sleeve designed for storing 15″ laptops or smaller.

When the weather gets rough and you need additional protection, the pack comes with a reversible black & white cover that wraps around the outside.

Though the Tenba DNA 15 Backpack may not have as much storage capacity or flexibility as other packs, it does provide many of the same features in a smaller form factor that’s perfect for carrying and protecting a single camera body, lenses, and accessories.

Summary

When considering your options, think about how you intend to use the pack, where you see yourself using it most often, and how much gear you typically bring when traveling.

You can save money by buying a pack primarily designed for gear like the Lowepro 450 AW II, hybrid packs offering style and function like the Tenba DNA 15, Lowepro 350 AW and PRVKE 31L, or field packs built for ultimate comfort and customization like the f-stop Ajna, Shimoda Explore 40, and Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L.

No matter which pack you choose, all will fit in a standard overhead bin when traveling so you can keep a watchful eye on your expensive camera gear.