Gadget Bag: Super Sized Backpacks

When you want to carry a lot of gear into the field, consider the three Cs: capacity, comfort and convenience
This Article Features Photo Zoom

We often tout the benefits of going light when you’re hiking into the field, but there are occasions when it really makes sense to bring a full complement of lenses and accessories. Venturing into the backcountry to capture a special, pristine landscape with a lot of photo equipment on your back is doable with the right photo backpack. All of the major bag makers offer at least one supersized backpack model. When making your selection, be sure to match the size and shape to your torso, and keep the “three Cs” in mind: capacity, comfort and convenience.

Capacity is easy to evaluate, but don’t overlook the details that determine how all of that space is subdivided. Make sure you’re getting padded interior dividers, externally accessible pockets and separate accommodations for water bottles, tripods, a notebook computer and other items. Comfort is largely determined by the harness, straps and carrying handle. That means the best way to make a judgment is to try it on for size. Convenience is often the differentiating factor, and means different things to different people. If you like to listen to your iPod while hiking, or attach small pouches to the straps, for example, confirm that the backpack you buy is well designed and supports the features that are important to you. Following is a selection of models.

Calumet BP1500

Calumet BP1500
The Calumet BP1500 features a fully adjustable suspension system, which includes padded shoulder straps, an adjustable waist belt and a comfortable chest cinch strap. This allows you to redistribute load weight to match your frame and comfortably carry scads of equipment. You can easily stow two DSLRs with lenses attached, another body, five or six lenses, flash and much more. The lower compartment is completely
customizable to safely stow your gear, and the bottom is rubberized, with anti-skid feet and straps to lash a tripod or jacket. The outer top pocket provides three levels of storage for personal items, while the waist belt features two compartments for a GPS and cell phone. 10-year limited warranty. Estimated Street Price: $210.

Clik Elite Pro Elite
The Clik Elite Pro Elite backpack has room for one or two DSLRs, four or five lenses and tons of accessories. It has a computer sleeve that keeps a notebook PC secure, plus an outer pouch for smaller items. The Pro Elite has a top pocket that stows a GPS, photo wallets and the like, and a larger pocket for cables and compact external drives. Under the side pocket you’ll find a hidden tripod attachment. Clik Elite’s unique LadderFit harness system adjusts to four different torso lengths, so you’re assured of a great fit. The shoulder straps are comfortably padded and are supported by load-lifter straps and an adjustable sternum strap that facilitate load transfer. Hideaway rain cover included. Estimated Street Price: $325.

Kata HB-207 Hiker

Kata HB-207 Hiker
Modern design plus an eminently comfortable harness system equals the Kata HB-207 Hiker backpack. The large main compartment has space for two or three DSLRs, up to eight lenses (including a 400mm ƒ/2.8) and accessories, all safely protected by cushioned modular dividers. A separate top compartment allows direct access to a DSLR for quick removal. The HB-207 features a harness system that allows individual adjustment of the shoulder straps, an adjustable waist belt and a lumbar pad, making it easy to create a good fit. Also included are a laptop compartment, weatherproof elements cover and tripod carrier. And if you need even more room, you can connect other backpacks, torso packs or waist packs, thanks to Kata’s EHP interconnection system. Estimated Street Price: $215.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW

Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW
Famous for fit and comfort, Lowepro offers the Pro Trekker 600 AW to haul everything but the kitchen sink. The main section holds two or three pro DSLRs with grips (one with a lens up to 600mm attached), plus five or six additional lenses, a 15-inch notebook and other accessories. Not one, but three, integrated tripod sleeves located at the front and sides provide space to secure tripods, monopods, and trekking or ski poles. Two spacious side pockets hold large accessories; one includes a seam-sealed pouch that can hold a bladder containing up to 70 ounces of liquid (doesn’t include a hydration reservoir). An ingenious removable waistpack can be used either as a backpack lid (providing extra security and weather protection) or as a traditional waistpack. The Pro Trekker 600 is durable and finely made, and comes with Lowepro’s patented AW (All Weather) Cover. Estimated Street Price: $399.

Mountainsmith Parallax Pro
The Mountainsmith Parallax Pro daypack is constructed from 100% recycled 450d ReDura PET for the body fabric, YKK zippers and other high-quality components. The main compartment is fleece-lined, featuring padded adjustable dividers and an organization panel. Refinements include a laminated mesh interior zippered pocket, a pair of mesh side pockets that hold the larger 22-ounce water bottles and a front accessory pocket with key clip. To make the load feel lighter, Mountainsmith has included comfortable contoured shoulder straps, an adjustable sternum strap, a molded back panel and a molded rubber haul handle. The Parallax Pro accommodates up to a 17-inch laptop and comes with a padded, tuck-away waistbelt, tripod strap and removable storm cover. Estimated Street Price: $189.

Tamrac Adventure 10 Model 5550

Tamrac Adventure 10 Model 5550
Tamrac’s Adventure 10 Model 5550 easily stows a professional-sized DSLR (like a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV or Nikon D3X) with a 70-200mm zoom attached, plus at least four more lenses, a flash, a meter, filters and more in the nicely padded lower compartment. In the upper part, there’s room for foul weather gear, food or other items. A separate, completely foam-padded compartment provides safe storage for a 17-inch MacBook Pro or smaller notebook. Water bottles, loose lens caps or trail snacks can be slipped into large mesh pockets located on either side. The storage space is well organized and supported by a padded backpack harness with a sternum strap that’s contoured for even weight distribution. Estimated Street Price: $179.

Tenba Shootout

Tenba Shootout
The Tenba Shootout Backpack (Large) can be loaded with two DSLRs, seven lenses and a 17-inch notebook. It has a padded main section that’s nicely divided for photo equipment and a removable padded, reinforced laptop compartment. Additional items can be stowed in the padded side pockets and plasticized mesh pockets. It also features web loops to hold accessories, plus a removable media wallet and pouch for a phone or MP3 player. The fully adjustable harness features a waist belt and is studded with multiple clip-on points for pouches and accessories. Handles on the top and on both sides allow you to take hold from any direction. Tenba’s exclusive MSTC (Multi-Stage Tripod Carrying) system is provided for easy tripod access, and the WeatherWrap rain hood will keep out the elements. Estimated Street Price: $249.

Calumet Photo
(800) 225-8638
Clik Elite
(888) 532-2545
(201) 818-9500
(800) 800-LOWE
(800) 551-5889
(800) 662-0717
(914) 347-3300


    Am I the only hiker that does photography. Every backpack and real day packs that I have ever seen state a cubic inch capacity for hiking gear.

    When I day hike I usually do a full day and usually out in the woods. So I really like to have rain gear, food, water first aid supplies, bug repellant and a few emergency items.

    I don’t think I have seen a camera “backpack” that has any real roon for anything other than a bunch of cameras and a power bar.

    Great that you can bring 3 cameras with you but after 4 hours of hiking in the sun, lunch and a drink of water would be kind of nice.

    It may sound like I am ragging on the article but I really mean to point it toward the product companies.

    Maybe I am the only person that hikes in the woods with his camera. Maybe everyone else hikes thorugh the city where they can stop at a McDonalds when they are hungry or when it is raining.

    Am I the only hiker that does photography. Every backpack and real day packs that I have ever seen state a cubic inch capacity for hiking gear.

    When I day hike I usually do a full day and usually out in the woods. So I really like to have rain gear, food, water first aid supplies, bug repellant and a few emergency items.

    I don’t think I have seen a camera “backpack” that has any real roon for anything other than a bunch of cameras and a power bar.

    Great that you can bring 3 cameras with you but after 4 hours of hiking in the sun, lunch and a drink of water would be kind of nice.

    It may sound like I am ragging on the article but I really mean to point it toward the product companies.

    Maybe I am the only person that hikes in the woods with his camera. Maybe everyone else hikes thorugh the city where they can stop at a McDonalds when they are hungry or when it is raining.

    Agreed with Neil Makes ……. take a look at F-stop’s “Loca” , “Tilopa” and “Satori” …. they might just be the right answer …. I wish i could have a look at them …

    I’ll be in the market for a new backpack soon, and I would like to look at some options that will pack my gear as well as some things I’ll need for a whole day. I just moved up to a Manfrotto ballhead and tripod, so it would be nice to have something that will attach that as well.

    I cannot believe that F-Stop isn’t included in this article (unless there’s some money involved somewhere…). I have the Satori and Loka with small, medium and large ICU and they are without a doubt the best camera backpack I have owned. If you shoot lightly you can carry sufficient gear for an extended (multi-day) trek in the Satori and the Loka can be used for overnight walks.

    If you want the best photog backpack for outdoor use, have a look at F-Stop.

    Yes! The F-Stop packs look EXACTLY like what I need to hike (really hike) with camera gear. Hey, thanks for the tip!

    Maybe a follow-up article on the F-stop line will occur.

    Every time I read one of these gear articles that cover bags I’m always left wanting. The F-Stop bags are exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thanks for the information Neil.

    If you do not want to carry water bottles inside your backpack, obviously a good solution is to use a camelback. I have one with removable water tank reservoir. I just pick this under my photo backpack and I drip from it when I feel so in the mountains. This way, you do not have to stop and take off your backpack when you are thirsty.

    I have been a subscriber for several years and it seems that OP regularly reaches into the archived and reruns the same article. I bet I have read no less than a dozen articles on this topic and they are always the same and always feature the same packs. None of which are useful for anything other than carrying camera gear. That’s great if that’s all you need, but I bet there are several like me that actually like to “get into the outdoors” for my outdoor photography which means I need to carry more than just an extra two camera bodies. If you are like me, check out the packs from f- stop and the ask OP why they have never featured packs from this outdoor photography backpack company. Oh and while you are at it, ask when we can expect some original content.

    As many have stated in their posts…I can not believe this article did not include F-Stop line of backpacks.
    I have struggled for years adapting non-photo backpacks to reach the back country. Now I use F-Stop bags.

    Nathan’s comment regarding the absence of F-Stop camera bags and his assertion that money is somehow involved presents an interesting question. Outdoor Photographer Magazine seems to have a policy of only reviewing companies and workshops that advertise in their magazine. And when doing so, one is left to wonder how accurate the reviews truly are when the company seems to be concerned with their bottom line vs. what is best for its readers. Things that make you go mmmmmm . . .

    Scot is so correct. I have been looking for years for a great hiking/photo gear back pack. Never heard of F-Stop before. Checked their web site and the only problem I have with the F-Stop back packs is that they do not allow to attach a tri-pod.

    F-Stop bags are awesome. I’ve owned the Tamrac Expedition Series….what a joke for real outdoor photography while hiking. They hold a lot of gear and keep it from damage, but these bags are not comfortable to hike with. No real suspension system. F-Stop bags feel like real backpacks for hiking. I would like to see OP do a comparison on the bags listed and the F-Stop bags.

    Only one of these packs has provision for a hydration bladder. Hiking in Australia this is most important. Provision for bottles is not good enough, you don’t want to take your pack off every time you want a drink. Why would you want to take three tripods with you?

    Those who are trying to get really a big backpack which will fit camera gear, few personal items, also a place to put two tripods, hiking poles, and/or may be tent/sleeping bag to attach…look for the Lowpro Pro Trekker 600. It has got so many pockets, and also a pocket to keep 2 liter hydration pack also.

    I’ve Pro Trekker 400, and that is still huge for me.

    It also has small pack attached with it, which can be used as a waist bag or can be attached with the bag itself.

    I think the Clik Elite bags offer a huge pack compartment and a place for photo equipment. They are the best I have seen for a balance of photo and camping equipment. Plus they are really designed as a back pack, not a photo bag with straps which I have found to make a big differnce in how they carry.
    Good luck.

    I hope OP is reading these posts and figures it out. We want to read about packs designed to take gear and actual back packing!

    I was disappointed in the article too, the packs were medium not extra large as implied and not a single one of them was intended for a real hike or overnight camping which I love to do.

    I have modified my own pack and taken up about 1/3 of it to carry my photo gear and the rest of the pack for typical hiking/camping gear I require. But I’d like to find a better way… Come on OP and do it right next time.

    As a manufacturer I used to deal with magazines but in a different market. When they would do an article such as this one they would let us know an issue was coming up and ask us to submit press releases (these aren’t product reviews) and it didn’t matter if we were advertising with them or not. Sometimes were able to get something to them in time and sometimes we were just too busy. I’ve never dealt with these folks but don’t rag on them about this. Magazines are ALWAYS looking for fresh content for their readers. They can only deal with the material they are sent.

    I found Clik Elite bags great for day hikes. The medium isn’t big enough for an overnighter but it is wonderful for one day or even mountain biking. You can buy the large which may work for overnighters. The medium is a bit heavy but it is very, very durable. It also has a hydration system.

    If the link does not work, just look up Clik Elite on Amazon. As I said I bought the medium bag and I also bought the Clik Elite chest pack. They work great together.

    I found the overnight Clik Elite. You can find it on Amazon also. If this doesn’t do it for you on an overnighter, you may want to give up either photography or hiking.

    Clik Elite CE402GR Large Hicker Pack (I think it’s supposed to say Hiker Pack not Hicker Pack lol)

    I photograph with large format 4×5 and DSLR. I go solo backpacking. I looked long and hard for a good carrying system. My entire family has had great experience with Gregory packs. Check them out:

    The convertible sleeping bag has a removable top cover. LF lenses are in wraps and folded body wrapped in focusing cloth. Accessories, Arctic Zone lunch bag with film and backs go above this, then the DSLR and lenses go on top of them.

    Carbon fiber tripod strapped to the backpack face. Easy reach items in the lid. All the camp gear can go around this equipment. It is important for leverage and balance to have the heaviest equipment closest to your mid-back. And yes, there’s the bear can too with food.

    Yes, it is very heavy, but the Gregory packs can haul more weight than this. Do your back a favor.

    More on F-Stop: I already own some nice backpacks so I bought the medium ICU from F-Stop and it fits nicely inside my day pack with room for extra clothing, water and food.

    I hunted for a camera bag that similar to my hiking/climbing backpack. F-stop is the only one suitable for real outdoors. It has an internal frame like proper packs and this makes it suitable for carrying good sized loads.

    A little late for this comment, but I’ve been out of the loop.

    Franz Zihlmann, you most definitely can carry a tripod with an F-Stop bag – in fact you can carry a tripod in three different places.

    For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to a really good review on their Loka bag, and links from there to their other bags.

    I took an all day, 13.5 mile hike using the Clik Elite Pro Pack with Clik Stand Telephoto SLR Chest Pack.

    We started at 4850 feet and hiked down into between two ridges, then back up to ~4300 feet along the ridge. rained for the first two hours.

    The pack held lenses (TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, and EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, Super-Multi-Coated Fish-Eye Takumar 1:4/17mm), extra batteries, memory, raingear, ND and Polarizing filters, ballhead (mounted on pack), GPS.

    The chest pack held the 5DMkII with battery grip, L-bracket, and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, car keys, maps, rain cover for chest pack.

    Room left in the pack for lunch (sandwiches, fruit, trail mix, beef jerky), 2 quarts of water, first aid kit, glasses, storage for monopod or tripod.

    The pack was comfortable, though heavy and left me with my hands free.

    There are limits to how much one can carry…

    I just bought the Clik Elite 2200ci pack and it is totally awesome. Has Plenty of room for camera equipment as well as upper compartment for food, additional gear, clothes etc. It has a hydration pocket and tripod carry system. It comes with a rain fly as well. I hiked around with it last Saturday full of photography gear, water bottles, jackets and more and had plenty of room and was in total comfort the whole time. Best designed and best made pack I have ever encountered. I would highly recommend!

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