Carry your complete camera kit in style and comfort. Matthew Richards rounds up some of the most desirable, manageable and sensibly priced backpacks
Keep cameras and carry on with one of these eight capacious photo backpacks
Camera equipment has a habit of accumulating.
Once you own more than, say, a D-SLR with a kit lens, an additional telephoto zoom and a flashgun, regular shoulder bags often don’t have enough space for all your kit. You can find yourself leaving some of your gear at home, with the inevitable frustration that you don’t have the thing you need when a great photo opportunity presents itself. One solution is to buy a bigger shoulder bag, but that’s less than ideal. Carrying the weight of the bag on one shoulder can soon become uncomfortable, and the strap can have a nasty habit of sliding down your arm.
Photo backpacks have much more room for equipment, while helping to spread the load. In most cases both shoulders share the load, but weight is also distributed to your upper and lower back. It provides a more comfortable and secure carrying experience. Many backpacks include pockets for personal items, a compartment for a laptop or tablet, and even straps for attaching a tripod. Some manufacturers go further, splitting the main compartment into two. You’ve then got space for travel essentials, albeit with less room dedicated to your camera kit.
Better by design
Like regular backpacks, photo backpacks generally feature two shoulder straps and a padded rear surface for comfort. Traditional designs dedicate the whole of the main compartment to carrying photo gear. To accommodate different sizes of cameras, lenses and accessories, internal dividers are adjustable, often with Velcro to enable you to tailor the bag’s interior to give a snug fit to all your individual items. Standard and wide-angle lenses can usually be fitted upright in the compartment, whereas longer lenses typically need to be laid lengthways.
Using shoulder straps alone is fine for ambling around, but if you’re feeling more adventurous you can run into problems. When covering tricky terrain and climbing over obstacles the straps can slip off your shoulders, or the bag can sway sideways and catch you off-balance. To prevent this, most photo backpacks include additional chest straps which can lock the main shoulder straps in place, as well as a strap that you can fasten around your waist for extra security and support.
One frustrating thing about traditional designs is that you have to take the backpack off and lay it down to access your camera and other gear. It’s not a big deal most of the time but, if you’re in the middle of a muddy field, you can pretty much guarantee that the surface that rests against your back will be filthy by the time you need to put the backpack on again. New designs increasingly use a sling arrangement with a side-opening flap. This enables you to swivel the bag around on one shoulder strap without taking it off completely, then grab your camera with fitted lens through the side of the bag.