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Hybrid Hiking/Photography Backpacks

For summer hiking, try carrying your gear in a pack that’s part photo bag and part backpack
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This Article Features Photo Zoom

For comfort, convenience and sheer capacity, photo backpacks are hard to beat. Most can stow a ton of cameras and lenses, and many have special pockets for small personal items, music players and maybe a water bottle. But trouble often begins when you try to pack something larger—like food or a lightweight jacket. It can be easier to pound a square peg into a round hole than to pack your lunch—unless you opt for a hybrid backpack that features a large, open compartment that’s separated from the photo gear.

This time of year, the warm summer afternoons are often punctuated with big, booming thunderstorms that bloom around much of the country. Having rain gear, a hat and a collapsible umbrella can save the day. Hybrid backpacks let you match your cargo to the weather conditions. They keep your camera equipment sheltered and securely separated from the other items in the payload.

Well-made backpacks have high-quality zippers, straps that are strongly attached and adequate padding — particularly in the equipment compartment. If the bag that catches your eye is deficient in any of these three areas, pass it by.

Since you’ll be carrying the entire load behind you, make sure that the size of the pack and location of the harness match your torso. High-quality hybrid backpacks are affordable, so consider owning two—one that’s suitable for an all-day outing and a smaller, lighter pack that’s big enough for a camera, a couple of lenses and your foul-weather gear.

Tenba Mixx

The Tenba Mixx Photo Daypack has quick-access hatches and enough space in the camera section for your DSLR, two or three lenses and various shooting accessories. The top section has enough space for some light trail food and a packable jacket, sunscreen and other essentials for the trail. The camera compartment is fully customizable, and you can remove the Mixx pack’s dividers to create a completely open backpack if you wish. Contact:

Tamrac Adventure 7

The Tamrac Adventure 7 Model 5547 is compact and lightweight (less than 2.5 pounds empty), but still can accommodate professional-sized DSLR cameras and lenses. Hybrid in the truest sense, it’s like two bags in one. The lower section is a fully padded camera compartment; the upper part is a traditional backpack large enough to hold a light jacket, lunch or other personal items. It also features bidirectional zipper pulls, mesh-type side pockets for quick access to accessories, foam-padded internal dividers and a nicely padded harness. Side pockets hold a pair of water bottles, while the generously sized front pouch accommodates memory cards, GPS or the like. Contact:

National Geographic Earth Explorer

The National Geographic NG5159 Earth Explorer backpack has three compartments that separately store camera equipment, personal items and a laptop computer. Made of earth-friendly, blended cotton/hemp material, the NG5159 is water-repellent and comes with a protective rain cover. The lower padded photo compartment holds a camera, lenses and accessories, and features modular dividers to customize the storage space for maximum utility. The upper compartment stores personal items and is covered by a large pull-tight flap. The divider between the upper and lower compartments can be removed to create one large storage space. Contact:

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Kata Bumblebee UL-222

The Kata Bumblebee UL-222 double-compartment backpack holds a pro DSLR with a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lens attached, an extra camera body and up to four additional lenses. Up top, there’s plenty of room for food and personal items, and the padded laptop slot fits most 17-inch models. The external top organizer pocket is ideal for a cell phone, keys, etc., while the two side pockets hold smaller accessories like memory cards or batteries. The uniquely reversible Elements Cover protects against pop-up thunderstorms and, when positioned silver-side out, helps deflect the sun’s harmful rays. Contact:

Clik Elite Hiker

The Clik Elite Hiker is ruggedly handsome and constructed of tough ballistic nylon fabrics, durable hardware and beefy zippers. Camera gear fits in a padded 13x9x8-inch cradle in the bottom, while food, clothing and other personal items sit up top in a separate compartment. The Hiker features a hydration system that accommodates up to a 70-ounce reservoir. The useful combination of a lightweight internal aluminum frame, innovative padded shoulder straps and an adjustable sternum strap assures maximum comfort over the long haul. A padded waist belt with bidirectional buckle allows you to balance the load between shoulders and hips. On the outside, mesh side pockets keep water bottles and other items handy, while side compression straps secure a tripod. Contact:

Domke F-2

The Domke F-2 Backpack is a genuine Domke F-2X bag with a large, versatile compartment built on top. The bottom chamber has a four-section insert for lenses and a pair of SLR camera bodies. The zippered top compartment has loads of room for accessories, snacks or personal items. There also are plenty of pockets, including a front zippered pocket on the main flap, four additional exterior pockets and an interior mesh pocket. Made in the USA from durable cotton canvas and the finest heavy-duty hardware available, the F-2 Backpack upholds Domke’s legendary tradition of providing speedy access to your equipment. Contact:

Mountainsmith Spectrum

The Mountainsmith Spectrum Daypack, newly reconfigured for 2010, is made with 100% recycled PET ReDura material. Just right for popular compact DSLRs in the Canon EOS 7D range, it offers a comfortable, molded back panel, a rubber molded haul handle, contoured shoulder straps, an adjustable sternum strap and a load-stabilizing compression system for all-day carrying comfort. The top-access, padded computer compartment will hold a 17-inch MacBook Pro or similar laptop comfortably. Two net side pockets fit oversized water bottles or, when used in conjunction with the side strap, a small tripod or monopod. Contact:

Naneu Adventure K5

The Naneu Adventure K5 is uniquely designed as two completely separate bags that join to create a functional hybrid backpack. Made of 600 denier water-resistant double polyurethane and high-density N420 denier rip-stop nylon, the K5 features a front mesh pocket for storage of wet garments and side mesh pockets. The removable camera pod holds a large DSLR with up to a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lens attached, plus four additional lenses, and can be used separately as a backpack or a chest pod. The large opening main compartment is used to carry hiking and personal gear. A handy rain cover is included. Contact:

Lowepro DryZone Rover

Combining the best of all worlds, the Lowepro DryZone Rover is the world’s first backpack designed to carry both a hydration system and photo equipment inside the same bag. Constructed of Lowepro’s proprietary, waterproof, plastic-coated nylon, the DryZone accommodates a pro-sized DSLR and lenses in the bottom portion, and has roomy space for other necessities in the top. The padded camera insert can be removed to convert the DryZone into a fully waterproof, multipurpose pack. The removable hydration system features a polyurethane reservoir with a 50-ounce capacity and a drink tube that’s resistant to bacteria. Contact:

Adorama Joe Farace Reporter II

The Adorama Joe Farace Reporter II backpack holds a 16-inch laptop along with a pro DSLR with a 100-400mm lens attached. Nine flexible dividers allow you to customize how your equipment fits inside. There are plenty of pockets for memory cards, card readers, cleaning gear and more. Equipment is easily accessible, and the contoured handle makes the bag comfortable to carry. Contact: