Backpacks For Photographers
I’m looking for a backpack that not only can carry all the camera gear I want, but also let me take along extra clothing, food etc. for longer day trips or a night in a tent or hammock photographing wildlife.
The Original Problem
More than a decade ago as of this writing (back in 2009) I was starting to look for a better backpack for my photo gear on hikes that was more that just a short hike from the car. I need a backpack that not only can carry all the camera gear I want, but also let me take along extra clothing, food etc. for longer day trips or a night in a tent or hammock photographing landscape or wildlife.
This article is a summary of what I have found out, and what I have used the last decade, and what I’m using today.
It has taken me more that a decade to get this article to where it is today. It all started with me having a Lowpro Nature Trekker AW II that looked like a good solution in the camera store, but after using the Lowpro for a number of years I was unhappy with it for the following reasons:
- I don’t like the carry system, it’s in my opinion not nearly good enough for heavy loads.
- It’s too small. It almost holds the camera gear i usually need, but there is not enough room left for all the other stuff I want (clothes, food etc.).
- The backpack itself is to heavy for what it can carry at 3.8 kg compared to the competition.
So I was trying to look at options that fit my needs when I want to walk into the wilderness instead of photographing at the side of the road. Nothing wrong in photographing beside the road, I do that myself also, but I often want to get away from it all, and then I needed something better.
So read on below to see my journey. In the section The Candidates you will find an overview of the different solutions I have considered.
The 2009 interim solution
My first solution or improvement was to buy the Kinesis Photo Gear V090 and V092. I put these inside one of my regular technical backpack that I already have (and that have a good carry system). The V090 opens to the top and can be put inside on the top of the pack. And the camera can be accessed from the top without having the V090 to be taken out of the backpack.
The V090 had ample room for my Canon 5D MkII with a EF24-105L f/4.0, the battery grip and a RRS L-plate, and my EF70-200L f/2.8. In addition to memory cards and extra batteries. This gives me easy access to the camera and my most used lenses.
The V092 is used to hold more lenses and stuff I want when I need more my gear. But this solution will not hold all my gear. But that is OK, for that would be to heavy when carrying tent, sleeping bag, food and more.
The 2010 solution
In the end I bought the f-stop satori for day trips, and that is working really nice. I have 3 different sizes ICU so I can vary the ratio of photo gear to other stuff based on the need. This backpack is really good, but I still wish the carry system was even better when I really load it up for tougher hikes.
I used this solution for more than 10 years!
My Current 2021 Solution
As of 2020 the f-stop backpack was starting to show it’s wear after 10 years of use, so I started to look around again to see what was available.
f-stop have new bags that look really nice, but in the end I bought a Shimoda X70. The reason for that was that the ICU was a bit deeper that f-stop, and that made it possible for me to arrange my lenses better inside the ICU. This bag is really comfortable to carry, and have a better carry system than my old f-stop.
Below is a short summary of the different solutions I have considered through the years. Some of them is not available any more, but many are. This is not a comprehensive list of what is out there, as I have settled on backpacks with easy access and changeable ICU’s, and find them best suited to for my specific needs.
- Kinesis Photo Gear
- Technical Backpack
- Clik Elite
- Gura Gear
Shimoda is a new player in this field, but their backpack is really good and have a lot of well thought out solutions and details.
f-stop made a backpack called Satori that look very promising at 2.7 kg including a large ICU to hold the camera gear. Total volume of the backpack is 62L and the X-large ICU for the camera gear is 25L. The large ICU for the camera gear is 20L, and will leave more room for other stuff.
The separate ICU can be changed to fit your need, and also looks like a good option to put your camera gear inside an ordinary technical backpack.
Kinesis Photo Gear
Kinesis Photo Gear makes different modular carrying systems, but for my use the most interesting product is the V092 and V090 that can be used to put your camera gear into your ordinary backpack.
Another possibility is to use an ordinary technical backpack and put you camera gear inside another bag that go into the backpack. The downside of this is that it’s a bit more hassle to get to the camera gear, but you are guaranteed to get a god backpack that fits you.
There are several bags that are suitable to put inside another bag, and some of the options is the ICU’s from f-stop, the V092 and V090 from Kinesis Photo Gear, and bags like ThinkTank Urban Disguise 30 etc.
I currently use the either V092 and V090 from Kinesis Photo Gear, or a ICS from f-stop or Shimoda when I use a large technical backpack (Currently an Osprey) and hike in the wilderness with a tent, sleeping bag, food etc.
Photobackpacker is based on the Kelty Redwing backpack at about 2.5kg. It’s made for large format cameras, but I guess it’s possible to use it for my DSLR by adding internal dividers in the boxes.
After 10 years of business, Bruce (aka Photobackpacker) is retiring in 2014. So this solution is not available any more.
Click Pro Elite is camera backpack with a volume of 41L and weight 2.0kg and seems to have the best carry system of the camera bag only solutions.
Not available any more.
Lowpro Super Trekker AW II seems to be large enough for all the camera gear, but it’s a camera backpack only and to heavy at 5.9kg empty, and don’t seem to have a good enough carry system like the technical backpacks. Volume is 38L.
Lowpro Nature Trekker AW II is a bit to small for all the camera gear I have, and it’s a camera backpack only and to heavy at 2.9kg empty, and don’t have a good enough carry system like the technical backpacks. Volume is only 22L.
Gura Gear Kiboko is another camera backpack with a volume of 41L and weight 1.8kg. Looks like a good solution if you only need to carry your camera gear.
Naneu Alpha-L is another solution looking like some of the smaller f-stop stuff with separate compartments for the camera gear and the other stuff needed on a long day trip. But it looks a bit to small for my use.