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9 best camera bags for protecting your equipment

From backpacks to hard cases, these carriers will keep your kit is secure

Jacob Little
Wednesday 07 April 2021 15:32
<p>These bags were tested with two camera setups and a drone, as well as a 13in laptop</p>

These bags were tested with two camera setups and a drone, as well as a 13in laptop

A good camera bag is a must buy if you want to take looking after your kit seriously. Not only do they protect and shield your expensive equipment, they allow a greater flexibility, with increasingly ingenious systems making light work of multiple-device setups.

As you may imagine, camera bags come in all shapes and sizes, and there are some seriously impressive storage solutions out there to suit a wide range of budgets. Have a think about what you need a bag for, and the kind of equipment you’re going to store.

It’s easy to spend lots on a fancy bag on the basis it has the most space, but often items in the bag are less secure as they have too much space to roll around.

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Look for weather resistance, fabric and padding quality and comfort when you’re testing out bags. It’s also worth doing a “fully loaded” test before you commit to purchasing. For extra flexibility and versatility, many bags come with padded inserts that can be reconfigured to suit the type of equipment you own, and many also feature laptop sleeves, accessory pockets, tripod straps and gear hooks.

This selection of the best bags on the market were tested with two camera setups and a drone, as well as a 13in laptop.

We tested them in an urban environment and assessed their comfort levels and ease of packing/unpacking, but principally the amount of space on offer and the quality of build.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

LowePro ProTactic BP350 AWIII

Weight: 2.2kg

Bag type: Backpack

Protection: Waterproof cover, all-weather cover

Available colours: 1

This is an excellent backpack that uses LowePro’s modular design philosophy and setup to make it well-suited to more rugged adventures. If you’re in need of something a little more hardwearing, but with the flexibility of a backpack, this is well worth taking a closer look at.

We found there was loads of space inside, with additionally enough room for a 15in laptop (rather than the 13in found on slightly smaller bags) and a number of super-padded customisation options. We even managed to fit a drone in alongside a camera, which is testament to its size and flexibility.

Peli 1535 air case

Weight: 3.9kg

Bag type: Hard case

Protection: Waterproof, dustproof, crushproof

Available colours: 4

A good hard case is vital if you’re travelling on flights, checking in luggage to the hold or using your photography gear in environments where it is susceptible to getting knocked around. We really like Peli products, and its 1535 air case is a lightweight option with retractable handles and wheels. It also qualifies for most airlines’s carry-on luggage dimensions so can be fitted in overhead lockers. Its watertight seal works well, and it has easily gripped handles and an automatic pressure release valve for breaking the seal after pressure changes when flying. One of the best hard cases around, we think it’s well worth the investment.

LowePro fastpack BP250 AW III

Weight: 1.2kg

Bag type: Backpack

Protection: All-weather cover

Available colours: 1

This is a compact option from LowePro, which is still intended to fit full-size DSLR and mirrorless cameras. We liked the pocket, which is a snug sleeve intended to fit up to a 13in laptop or tablet, and its padded waist belt and quick store two-stage access, which allows you to access the top and bottom halves of the bag independently, making it it comfortable to use and wear when out on shoots. LowePro is a well-known name in the camera world, and this is a good price for a quality bag.

Manfrotto advanced hybrid backpack for DLSRs

Weight: 1.2kg

Bag type: Hybrid

Protection: Water repellent

Available colours: 1

One of the most versatile bags we tested, the advanced hybrid backpack can also act as a shoulder bag and a handle bag, meaning it’s suited to a wide range of use scenarios and situations. The included shoulder strap attaches and releases without any problems and the interior space of the bag is big enough for a DSLR or mirrorless camera and a couple of lenses. It has a smooth, smart appearance and is water repellent, and also ships with a waterproof cover if you’re caught out.

Vanguard veo select 55BT 4-wheel roller case

Weight: 4.3kg

Bag type: Roller bag

Protection: Padding and water-resistant material

Available colours: 2

Four-wheeled roller cases come into their own when carrying heavy items, and we liked this option as it can seamlessly transition into a backpack when rolling it along the ground is not possible. We’d definitely recommend this option for travellers and those photographers who usually spend a fair bit of time in the airports of the world. The dividers allow plenty of flexibility in the internal space, and the side tripod pocket means you can attach accessories to the bag, too. As with many Vanguard items, it feels well-built, is made out of quality material and adds a degree of flexibility to your luggage solution.

Chrome Industries niko hold camera bag

Weight: 539g

Bag type: Handle bag

Protection: N/A

Available colours: 1

We wanted to include a smaller option, and liked this flexible, customisable hold bag, which feels perfect for storing larger lenses that need their own protection, hard drives and other miscellaneous items. It would also be perfect for compact cameras and smaller setups. It has a detachable shoulder strap and feels weighty and nicely padded without being cumbersome or unwieldy when on the move.

Stubble & Co adventure bag

Weight: 1.8kg

Bag type: Backpack

Protection: Ripstop fabric, waterproof material, taped seams, water-resistant zips

Available colours: 1

Marketed as a “go anywhere” bag, we were impressed with this carrier due to its adjustability, practicality and flexibility. As with most Stubble & Co bags, it feels like it’s made of tough stuff, with a durable and hard-wearing outer material complemented by sturdy straps, laptop pockets, well-thought-out card pockets and a clam-shell interior design for segmenting out your packing. We’d recommend this bag for packing a mix of camera equipment, spare clothes and travel items, and for that reason it may well be one of the most adaptable bags on the list.

Peak Design everyday messenger

Weight: 539g

Bag type: Handle bag

Protection: Waterproof fabric and liner

Available colours: 2

This is a classic style, and a workhouse of many on-the-go photographers who need a simple, easily accessible option for travel. These bags are well-respected in the industry, and are small, compact and lightweight while being able to house a deceptively large number of items. The organisation options are impressive and the interior space feels surprisingly effective, with dividers to separate out your gear. One word of warning, it’s best to pack items up as closely as possible, as with smaller setups things can rattle around a bit.

Billingham hadley pro

Weight: 1.1kg

Bag type: Shoulder bag

Protection: Waterproof fabric

Available colours: 9

We’ve had our Billingham for years, and that’s half the point. It may not be the most versatile, or largest, bag on this list, but it’s hard-wearing and offers up a timeless, classic style that’ll never go out of fashion. It looks flimsy but the fabric is actually entirely waterproof and the leather is real – it’s all handmade and it feels like it is, too. It’ll fit most decent camera setups at a push but space can sometimes feel a little limited and the front pockets are a bit too small to fit anything other than bits and bobs. If you want a bag that will last forever and stand the test of time, however, this is a great option.

The verdict: Camera bags

For the best balance of price, accessibility, storage options, ease of use and adventure-ready potential, we’d choose the LowePro protactic BP350 AWIII as our best buy here. That being said, we’ve always had a soft spot for well-made hard cases and the Peli 1535 air case is a strong contender. It’s pricey, but comes with a lot of protection for the money, so it would be the storage solution we’d choose if we needed to be sure of the extra safety. The Stubble & Co adventure bag is a strong recommendation for those who need an everyday backpack with enough flexibility to suit camera equipment, too.

We’ve also reviewed the best mirrorless cameras that are compact and user-friendly

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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