Gadget Bag: Photo Backpacks

For trekking into the backcountry of a national park, a backpack is the best way to haul your photo gear
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Serious hikers depend on backpacks to carry their shelter, clothing and chow. This popularity has provided fuel for variety, innovation and attractive prices. But not all backpacks are suitable—or sensible—for carrying camera gear. Properly designed photo backpacks protect your equipment while making it easier for you to carry a heavy load. Those with neck or back problems appreciate the redistribution of weight afforded by backpacks. Most offer space to stow personal items, music players, raingear or a lightweight jacket, food and a bottle or two of water. Many photographers carry a notebook computer with their photo gear on a daily basis. Photo backpacks really shine because all of your equipment can be packed into one easy-to-carry bag.

Check these details when selecting a backpack. Starting with what you plan to carry, will it hold everything you need? How many cameras and how many lenses? What size computer? Then look for telltale signs of comfort (strap construction, padding), accessibility (how easy it is to reach your gear) and durability (weather-resistant with sturdy snaps and zippers).

Tamrac Adventure 10

The Tamrac Adventure 10 Model 5550 is designed for photographers who use a pro digital SLR. The pack will accommodate a large camera with grip and zoom lens attached, plus additional lenses, a flash, accessories and a laptop. The bottom portion provides protective padding while the top affords space for personal items like a jacket or snacks. The computer compartment is separated from the other storage areas and easily holds the largest MacBook Pro or similar 17-inch computer. Two mesh side pockets provide quick access to accessories and water bottles. The strap harness is secure and comfortable enough for a long haul with a heavy load. Smaller models are available in the Tamrac Adventure series.

Think Tank Photo Airport Addicted V2.0

The Airport Addicted V2.0 from Think Tank Photo is the frequent-flying photographer’s best friend. Designed specifically with airport travel in mind, it holds the maximum amount of gear you can take aboard a plane as legal carry-on. Features include a beefy security cable and combination locks that allow you to lash your bag to an immovable object, plus a fully removable computer case that allows easy access to a 15-inch laptop once you’ve boarded the plane. Inside the lid there are pockets for odds and ends, and you’ll find a zippered top pocket to stow your ticket, passport or reading material. The shoulder harness is nicely padded and provides two stretch pockets on the front, two D-rings to attach accessories and an adjustable sternum strap.

Mountainsmith Spectrum Daypack

The Mountainsmith Spectrum Daypack has been redesigned for 2010 and is now made with 100% recycled PET ReDura material. Sized for popular compact DSLRs in the Nikon D90 range, it offers a comfortable, molded back panel, rubber molded haul handle, contoured shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap and a load-stabilizing compression system for all-day carrying comfort. The top-access padded computer compartment will hold most 17-inch laptops, and the net side pockets fit oversized water bottles.

Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW

Lowepro offers gadget bags, backpacks, cases and shoulder bags to meet every need. One of their most imitated is the SlingShot series. The unique and highly practical design allows the bag to be quickly shifted from “carry mode” to “ready mode.” Simply swing the bag around from your back to your front and open the zippered flap. The SlingShot 200 AW model will hold a DSLR and up to six lenses, and features a pair of roomy pockets for smaller accessories like flash units or filters. There’s even a permanently sewn-in microfiber cloth that covers and protects the camera’s LCD, a memory card pouch and a place to stow your lens cap so it doesn’t get lost when you sling into action.

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Kata GDC R-104 Rucksack

The Kata GDC Rucksack series offer light weight, extra protection and easy portability. There are models available to accommodate up to two SLRs and five additional lenses. The GDC R-104 Rucksack holds a pro DSLR with battery grip and 300mm lens and can be conveniently customized by repositioning the padded dividers. The multipurpose compartment in the back will protect a 17-inch notebook computer or personal items. Two removable side pockets provide additional storage for accessories or a water bottle, and the included tripod holder attaches to either the back of the bag or one of the sides. The well-designed shoulder harness includes a unique cushioning and shock-absorbing system, and a removable waist belt provides weight distribution and ventilation. The R-104 is compatible with Kata’s EPH system that allows connection of additional pouches and storage bags.

National Geographic Walkabout Rucksack NG-W5070

The National Geographic Walkabout Rucksack series is available in small, medium and large sizes, and offers a unique and distinctive appearance. Made of green-gray cotton canvas with leather trim, with a water-resistant nylon interior and brushed aluminum rings and rivets, these bags are handsome and comfortable. The NG-W5070 (Medium) Walkabout will handle one DSLR, lenses, flash and most 15-inch laptops. The padded lower compartment provides excellent protection for camera gear while the upper personal storage compartment holds items like snacks and clothes. You can remove the divider between the top and bottom compartments to create one large storage space. Two side pockets provide a home for water bottles, or they can be used as
an anchored support for a tripod or monopod.

Tenba Shootout Daypack

The popular Tenba Shootout Daypack holds two DSLRs, five to seven lenses (up to a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8), plus accessories, clothing, food and other items you need for an extended excursion. The Daypack is similar in size to the Small Backpack, but instead of including a removable interior, tripod carrier and computer sleeve, Tenba provides their exclusive PackOUT pocket, which uniquely expands to provide about 240 cubic inches of additional storage space.

Petrol PMCK-1N

The PMCK-1N Shell Camera Backpack from Petrol weighs just 5.7 pounds, but is large enough to carry a camcorder such as a Canon XH A1, Sony PMW-EX1 or Panasonic DVX-100B, plus accessories. Made from blue and black Cordura and ballistic nylon, the PMCK-1N provides full protection and features removable, padded dividers inside and double-sided pockets on the exterior. The backpack system is constructed of breathable 3D mesh and provides adjustable sternum and waist straps.

Adorama Slinger

The Adorama Slinger Single Strap Backpack is a combination shoulder bag plus backpack plus sling-type pack, all in one. The exterior of the Slinger is water-resistant and durable. The main compartment measures 10x10x4 inches. Main features include a quick-release snap closure, padded wide shoulder strap, comfortable two-inch waist strap, D-rings for clip-on accessories and molded carrying handle. Three outer pockets offer extra storage space for small items, and a zippered security pocket protects tickets, maps or other valuables.

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Naneu Echo-X

The Naneu Echo-X is a messenger-style sling pack with a single over-the-shoulder strap that allows full rotation from back to front for convenient accessibility to the camera compartment via the water-repellent zippered side opening. The Echo-X is made of water-resistant ballistic nylon and incorporates military-inspired features for added equipment security. The padded strap features an adjustable Velcro® closure for easy dismount and provides a quick disconnect buckle for complete security. The sternum strap stows away in its own compartment. Despite its compact configuration, the Echo-X fits a pro DSLR in the Nikon D3 or Canon EOS-1D Mark III class with a lens up to nine inches long attached, plus three additional lenses, flash
and accessories.

Domke F-3

The Domke F-3 Backpack is configured exactly like the popular Domke F-3X Super Compact shoulder bag, but with extra room at the top for accessories. Like most Domke bags, the F-3 is made of long-lasting, flexible cotton canvas with special foam padding in the bottom to protect equipment from impact. The inside is divided into two sections for lenses (or accessories) and two sections for pro camera bodies. There’s a zippered mesh pocket for filters or caps, and a zippered front pocket. Plus, three additional exterior pockets hold accessories of various sizes. The backpack harness has thick foam padding and a sternum strap.

Clik Elite JetPack

The rugged Clik Elite JetPack is constructed of 1680D ballistic and 420D high-tenacity nylon fabrics, and is built to withstand extreme use. It will protect a 17-inch notebook computer, compact DSLR, extra lens, flash and accessories. Your camera nestles into the Camera Capsule, a cleverly designed padded cradle that can be removed from the JetPack, zipped closed and used separately to shelter the camera gear. With the Capsule removed, the JetPack becomes a roomy overnight pack. It features internal mesh pockets to organize small items, an expanding internal zipper pouch and a large front pocket that holds items like a phone or GPS. Mesh side pockets provide a home for water bottles or MREs, and a small tripod or monopod can be lashed to the JetPack’s side using the hide-away tripod strap.

Calumet BP-1500
Gura Gear Kiboko

The Calumet BP1500 Large Backpack will stow two DSLRs with lenses attached, another body, five or six lenses, flash and much more. And you can carry it easily, thanks to the BP1500’s fully adjustable suspension system, which includes padded shoulder straps, an adjustable waist belt, and a comfortable chest cinch strap. The outer top pocket provides three levels of storage for personal items, and the waist belt features two compartments for GPS and cell phone.

The Kiboko Bag from Gura Gear is only four pounds, but is large enough to pack pro DSLRs (or larger) and lenses up to 600mm. Thanks to a high-tech Dimension Polyant VX-21 fiber, the Kiboko is tough and resists abrasion, and it looks good, too. Inside you’ll find enough room for most anything you’d need and extra dividers to keep everything organized and secure. There’s also a weather cover for extra protection from rain and snow.

(800) 223-2500

(800) 453-2550

Clik Elite
(888) 532-2545

Domke (Tiffen)
(800) 645-2522

Gura Gear
(832) 295-0709

(201) 818-9500

(800) 800-LOWE

(800) 551-5889

(866) 258-6469

National Geographic
(201) 818-9500

Petrol Bags (Camera Dynamics Inc.)
(845) 268-0100

(800) 662-0717

(914) 347-3300

Think Tank Photo
(866) 558-4465