I’ve been traveling with a camera for a long time now (I started my travels in 2006), my cameras have changed, my camera bags have changed, and my needs have changed. However, after a decade of doing travel photography, I have found a few camera bags for travel that I love and use over and over again.
History of Camera Bags I used for Travel
First, can I just say that camera bags have come a long, long way in 17 years. I look back to my old set up of a camera holster bag with my different lens pouches hanging off the sides and it feels like I’m looking at an old Ford Pinto. And as a side note, I used to take a Ford Pinto to school everyday in 1988….those were the days…
I’ve used every kind of camera bag for travel – a holster, a camera pouch, shoulder/sling bags, and backpacks. I also have just used regular bags and have gently placed my gear in them to tour around a city.
However, when you spend thousands of dollars on a camera system, then you probably want to protect that precious gear better than simply throwing it in the bottom of your purse next to the gum wrappers and chapstick.
Looking for a Camera Bag That Can Handle Adventure Travel
I’m a travel blogger who does a lot of coverage of adventure travel (mainly hiking) who is also always looking for a camera solution for hiking (Don’t worry – I’ll cover that below!). At one point before there were harness solutions like Cotton Carrier for hiking I sort of made my own system by carrying my holster style bag over the top of my backpack straps which would allow it to make more of the weight rest on my shoulders and hips instead of my neck. Oh…if I only would’ve taken that ingenious idea and run with it…I could’ve been the next Cotton Carrier!
Spoiler Alert – I still haven’t found the perfect bag for adventure travel that also protects your gear, but I’m always still looking! I continue to try out different bags, backpacks, sling packs, and harness systems. Many are close to being perfect for my mode of travel – but not quite perfection. So much like my dating life, I keep trying and hoping! And in the meantime, I’ve found some pretty great camera travel bags that get me 85% there!
Please note, I take travel gear really seriously. I believe that reviewing a piece of gear implies actually using that piece of gear for an extended amount of time. I use the gear I’m writing about, not just once, but many times. In some cases, I’ve been using these bags for over 4 years, but they are still on the market because they are just that good! Yes – there are plenty of other camera bags out there, and I didn’t test everything – I find something I like that works for me and I use it. I am not a review site, I am a real person who does travel photography and travel blogging…so please realize that this list consists of the best camera bags for travel I have used and settled on.
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Best Camera Bags for Travel
There are a number of great solutions for camera bags for people who do all types of travel. They have travel safety in mind, as well as back pain which is a must for me. And of course there are always new styles coming out.
I have found that each of the bags on my list are great for certain styles of travel, but not ALL travel. So instead of just listing out the best camera bags for travel in general, I’ve tried to break this into exactly what type of travel I use each of my favorite bags for. I start out each section with what features I look for in a camera bag for the specific type of travel, and then go through and give you my best camera bags for that category. Make sense? Great…let’s go!
Best Camera Bag for City Travel
One of the keys to carrying your expensive camera around a big foreign city is that you don’t look like you are carrying around thousands of dollars worth of equipment that say – “Hey…come rob me!”
Granted – once you take your camera out of your bag to take a photo, you can’t really hide it – however I do suggest you don’t walk around urban areas with it around your neck flaunting it. Take a picture and put it back in the bag without having to take a backpack off and make a spectacle of yourself Look at me – I’m a foreigner carrying expensive camera equipment!
That’s why it’s important that your camera bag specifically for city travel.
What Makes a great Camera Bag for City Travel
- Doesn’t look like or ‘scream’ camera bag – expensive equipment inside!
- It’s easy to get your camera in and out of the bag quickly and effortlessly without calling a lot of attention to yourself.
- Be comfortable to walk around with all day…and I mean all day.
- Has good padding with a special section to keep your camera away from your gum and keys that can do damage to your equipment.
Lowpro Passport Sling
I love this bag…love, love, love it for city travel. It looks like a women’s purse (sorry guys), it has a separate compartment that you can configure for a camera body and lens…and even fits a second lens. It has a zipper that you can unzip and increase the volume of the bag, and it has a separate place for a water bottle away from your camera gear. It doesn’t have a lot of little pockets or compartments…but that’s ok for me.
Peak Design Sling Bag
For years and years I used and loved the Lowepro Passport Sling because it serves many purposes for traveling. It’s a purse/sling bag, and it’s a camera bag. It doesn’t really look like a camera bag and often just looks like a normal sling bag, yet you can fit a camera body with lens in it AND another lens if you want. However Lowepro no longer makes this awesome bag! However you can sometimes find one still on Amazon or used.
But I have found a great alternative – the Peak Design Sling Bag! This sleek bag can be a sling bag or a fanny pack making it perfect for travel. The material is really durable and there are a number of little pockets where you can also carry money/id and extra batteries and SD cards. The Everyday Sling comes in 3L, 6L, and 10L sizes – I use the 6L because it’s small enough to still be used as a fanny pack. I personally think the 10L size is too big to be used as a fanny pack.
Inside my 6L sling you can easily fit a DSLR or mirrorless camera with lens and you likely have room for a small second lens too if you pack it in carefully. This sling is great for walking around cities and having your camera hidden away (but still easy to get to) in a bag that doesn’t scream ‘CAMERA INSIDE!’ You can rearrange the cool flexfold dividers to work a number of different ways too. The dividers are not super padded, but they are definitely enough to protect your gear.
The cross body strap is padded lightly, and slides easily without catching on your clothes. And it’s really easy to adjust the strap length and you can tuck the excess strap away so it doesn’t dangle around.
Overall – the Peak Design Everyday Sling is perfect for travel and taking one camera along while touring around.
The perfect companion for minimalist, on-the-go carry of everyday or photo gear. The Sling’s padded cross-body strap features a quick-adjuster that you can loosen when accessing gear and tighten when actively hiking, biking, or walking.
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Best Camera Backpack for Hiking Trips
If you are an adventure traveler that likes to take pictures – it’s very hard to find a camera bag that works well for both types of hobbies – adventure/hiking AND photography. This is something I struggled with for years.
I hike a lot and I need a backpack that is not just for carrying photo gear. I need it to also carry clothing layers, rain gear, ample water, snacks, first aid kit, and all of my other hiking gear in addition to photo gear. I need these things with me because they are important for my hiking safety.
I also need the backpack to have a great waist belt and fit because I often do longer thru-hikes for multiple days and comfort is key. I’ve can find great hiking backpacks that do this (link to hiking gear) but they aren’t meant for camera gear. And you can find great photography backpacks (see below), but they have no room for other essential gear and certain no good way to carry water.
Basically – hiking photography trips call for a hybrid bag solution.
I took my Lowepro Photo Sport backpack on a 14-day, 100-mile hiking trip on the Costa Brava Coastal Paths to test it out and see if it would work as a hybrid pack. I’ve been using it ever since for my hiking – I love it!
Lowepro Photo Sport Backpack
It holds a camera body and lens plus one additional lens in the dedicated camera compartment. It will hold a 70-300mm zoom lens – but it probably can’t go much larger than that. If you want to take more lenses, there is room in other parts of the backpack where you can store lenses – it’s just not as protected. The camera compartment also has a separate cinch strap that locks your camera into place even further.
You can access the camera compartment on the go without putting your bag down by take the backpack off one of your shoulders, swinging it around and then you can easily reach the camera compartment.
This is a hybrid pack that allows you to go fast and light with your gear!
- Comes with rain cover
- Material is water resistant
- Active zone system provides structure to the pack and allows you to adjust the fit in all areas so it hits you just right in all of the places and fits snug to your body.
- Has a separate space/pocket to hold a water bladder. When you are traveling (not hiking) I also use this space to transport my 13 inch laptop since I don’t have to a water bladder with me normally.
- Also has a space to carry a water bottle
- Trekking pole attachments
Two passions. One pack. This next-generation design is built to help you go fast and light.
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Camera Bag For Photography-Focused Travel
When you go on a more photo focused journey – like a safari – you need more room than a camera bag like the Photo Sport above. On a safari, an expedition cruise, or other type of wildlife or landscape photography journey then you’ll probably want access to bigger lenses, a tripod or monopod, and possibly multiple camera bodies.
Lowepro Whistler for Photo Trips
When I went on safari in South Africa, I put this bag through the paces. Then I also took it with me bear watching in The Great Bear Rainforest as well as an Arctic expedition cruise and it was perfect for these trips.
Its customizable interior organization means it can hold various configurations of equipment. I have filled it with a 150-600mm zoom, plus 3 other lenses and 2 camera bodies without a problem. In addition, this backpack has the ability to carry a tripod in multiple places.
- Customizable interior organization for various camera gear
- Laptop compartment
- A waterproof barrier with drain hole separates wet gear from main camera/laptop compartment.
- Very durable fabric plus an attached rain cover for ultimate protection against the elements.
- It does have extra space to stash some extra gear too.
A true, all-season and versatile pack, the Whistler BP 450 AW delivers amazing performance for wilderness photographers and adventurers.
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Turn Any Bag into a Travel Camera Bag
If none of these solutions work for what your type of travel is then you can use this camera case partition insert to have camera protection in any bag! I stumbled across this product on Amazon last year and decided to give it a try.
I fill it with camera body and lenses and them put it in my Osprey hiking daypack, or my weekend duffle bag, or even a big purse. The insert makes you look much less like you are carrying a camera bag with expensive equipment in it which is a good thing for safe travel.
However, I have used this most when I have been doing backpacking trips where I needed to carry a proper backpack, but also take some photo gear with me. I can turn my normal big backpack but also protect my camera gear.
The insert is a versatile solution that can hold a camera body with lens and one more small lens if necessary.
- Customizable padded compartments with Velcro
- Synch string to close the bag tight
- Soft and cushioned but can be ‘moldable’ into many different types of bags.
DSLR Camera Case Partition Insert, Make Your Own Camera Bag with this padded insert.
Not a Camera Bag, But a Lifesaver: The Camera Harness
This isn’t a camera bag, but it is a great way to carry your camera equipment.
The Cotton Carrier harness has changed my life…and saved my neck and back. Since I do a lot of adventure travel and hiking, I carry a backpack like the Lowepro Sport and with extra lenses and wear my camera on my harness so it’s easy to reach.
Granted – I don’t think I’d use this solution for walking around a city as it’s not very inconspicuous, but it’s great for less urban settings.
I don't go on a trip without this harness! It allows me to be hands free when hiking and snowshoeing. I've also used it while horseback riding. It has saved my neck and back and it a secure, healthy way to carry my camera!
10% off coupon code for readers - OTTSWORLD
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Lens and Camera Protection for Travel
In addition to choosing a good camera bag for travel, you’ll also want to go a step further and likely add another level of protection on your lenses and body for being jostled around inside the bag.
LensCoat is a company that provides neoprene cases and pouches for camera gear in fun designs. They are known for their camouflage designs for wildlife photographers, however they also make plain black and some other colors too. I use their Lens Pouches to put my lenses in first and then put those lenses in my camera bag.
The LensCoat® LensPouch® are soft neoprene bags to store, carry, and protect your smaller lenses, ballheads, and other incidental camera equipment during travel and transport in the field. Available in seven different sizes for the perfect fit, the LensPouch includes a removable reinforced front element protection disc for your lenses. An easy pull cord closure allows fast and easy access.
See all of their lens and camera protection for travel here.
I hope you give some of these products a try – I’ve been using many of them for years now and continue to get the newer versions as they come out. It’s taken a long time, but I feel like I’ve finally got great solutions now for traveling with my camera for any kind of trip!
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By Mark October 15, 2020 - 4:19 pm
Thanks for the recommendations. I am planning to buy a backpack since I find the messenger bag that comes free with the camera very inconvenient, they slip and bump on my waist. This will definitely help me in choosing one.
Stay safe and healthy!