Last updated on January 6th, 2022
Camera bags differ, even if they are from the same manufacturer. These bags, just like camera lenses, are different. There’s no one perfect camera backpack for all photographers out there. But in this article, we’ll focus on the best camera backpacks with side access.
It would be great if all camera backpacks fit well with the photographer’s shooting style. At times, a photographer may need more than one backpack type, depending on the event or shoot.
Having the right bag with you has several advantages and a positive impact on the photography experience. Backpacks whose design is to carry cameras, lenses, and accessories provide a bonus level of comfort and protection, something ordinary backpacks do not offer.
We think the most significant advantage of having a camera backpack is mobility and accessibility. With a camera backpack with side access, taking your camera and lenses with you will be convenient and easy. All you need is to pack the equipment in one bag, and off you go.
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What to Look For in Buying a Camera Backpack
There are several bags available in the market, and it’s challenging to narrow down choices, especially if you only need one backpack to do it all.
Admittedly, there are things you need to examine when looking to purchase a camera backpack. Below are a few things worth considering when purchasing a backpack for your photography gear.
Design and Durability
The most important feature of a camera backpack is to protect your equipment, which includes lenses, camera bodies, and accessories.
When shopping for a camera backpack, look for one whose materials can support the weight of your camera. It should also provide enough protection from external elements, such as water, dust, and dirt.
You should at least settle for a water-resistant backpack if you photograph outdoors. The zippers and points should be able to prevent water and dirt from passing through.
Check for durability by looking into the interior and exterior of the backpack. Consistent removal and insertion of the contents may lead to fast wearing. Also, pay close attention to the backpack’s bottom portion, padding, and straps, as these are areas where there is much weight.
Capacity and Size
Similar to regular backpacks, camera bags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, meaning there is always the right size for everyone. If you think you will need different sizes for every occasion, you can also purchase a few backpacks if the budget allows. But for most photographers, 1 or 2 camera backpack designs will suffice.
Always remember that more storage capacity means more weight that you will have to carry around with you. When deciding on the bag’s size, consider how much equipment you plan to carry with you. The size of your backpack should be just enough to fit everything you plan to bring.
The sizes of the individual compartments in the backpack should also be a consideration. When traveling or on the road, consider using a bag with several small, medium, and large compartments, so that you will have storage options for more than your equipment. Also, your camera bag should fit the carry-on storage bin on an airplane, so you won’t run into problems when carrying your camera gear onboard.
Protection and Features
Backpacks for photography come with special protection and a ton of features. Some of these features include a pocket or slot for trekking poles or tripods, a water bottle holder, and other miscellaneous items you may need.
Many photographers also prefer a camera backpack with side access features. This allows them to pull out their camera and starting shooting quickly.
Regarding protection, your camera backpack should be at least dustproof, rustproof, and waterproof. Having this layer of protection gives you the most basic defense against external elements that could cause damage to your equipment. A laptop compartment is beneficial too, since photographers who are traveling may most likely bring their laptop or tablet with them.
Best Camera Backpacks with Side Access
Below are our top 8 picks of the best camera backpacks with side access available in the market.
1. NOMATIC McKinnon Camera Pack
The NOMATIC McKinnon camera backpack is a great travel camera bag for male and female photographers. Its external dimensions are 9 x 22 x 13.5 inches, perfect for carrying several pieces of photography equipment.
For this backpack, NOMATIC collaborated with Peter McKinnon for the design. The attention put into detail has allowed it to protect the gear it’s housing. Aside from camera equipment, the NOMATIC McKinnon camera pack has enough room to hold clothes for up to five days trip.
The dividers inside the pack are customizable, providing you flexibility on how you would like to store your gear. Should you need to have additional space, the bag can expand from 35 liters to 42 liters.
To quickly access your gear, you can unzip the side access pocket. In case you need full access to your gear, you can also unzip the entire camera compartment. The laptop compartment in this backpack can carry a laptop with a screen size of up to 16 inches. Several pockets are available to store accessories, such as chargers, cords, and memory cards.
At this point, it may have crossed your mind that this backpack can carry a lot of equipment. So what about comfort? The internal support design helps to distribute weight. Outside the backpack, you can find adjustable support straps and a removable waist strap for support. This camera pack features water resistance, RFID-safe pockets, and lockable zippers for an additional layer of protection.
2. Think Tank Rotation 22L Backpack
The Think Tank Rotation 22L backpack features the Rotation 180 technology, enabling photographers easy access to their gear without completely removing the backpack. All you have to do is to rotate the belt pack towards the front of your body.
Capturing a photo can be challenging, especially if your equipment is in the backpack. Having immediate access to your camera is essential. The Think Tank Rotation backpack lets you access your camera in only three seconds, helping you maintain your creative momentum. The backpack has exterior measurements of 12.6 x 20.5 x 8.7 inches and weighs about 3.9lbs (1.8 kgs). The pack’s exterior uses different materials, such as 1680D nylon ballistic, 100D ace twill, and 100D ripstop.
3. PGYTECH OneMo Camera Backpack
The PGYTECH OneMo Camera Backpack is a two-in-one with dedicated compartments for drones, lenses, cameras, laptops, stabilizers, and other accessories. The quick access slot lets you easily remove the built-in pouch and camera from the backpack.
This camera backpack allows for flexible customization through the multi-fold dividers. You can arrange these dividers in almost any way you like, depending on your needs. Aside from being a great camera bag, the PGYTECH OneMo backpack has security features to offer too. It has a side pocket that is RFID-secure, which can house some valuable items, such as credit cards and passports. There is a separate pocket that can hold small accessories, such as camera batteries and cables.
By default, this backpack has a capacity of 25 liters. Should you need more storage, you can expand it to its maximum capacity of 35 liters.
In front of the PGYTECH OneMo is a compressible storage space, which can carry some photography equipment and your personal needs, such as toiletries, clothes, and the like. For comfortable wear, this backpack comes with soft cushioning around the shoulders, waist, and chest. Air tunnels in the backside of the camera bag let cool air pass through it while you’re carrying it. The external fabric material is water-resistant and waterproof, protecting your equipment from water and dust.
4. USA GEAR DSLR Camera Backpack
The USA Gear DSLR Camera backpack is one of the best in terms of value because most of its features are similar to more expensive bags. There is a lot of storage space available. It also has a top compartment that can hold your accessories, chargers, and phone.
Looking into the interior of the USA GEAR backpack, there is plenty of customizable space and padded dividers. You can easily arrange these dividers according to your needs. The backpack has side access, which you can use to grab your camera without fully removing the bag.
Most photographers carry a laptop with them wherever they are traveling. Some photographers prefer a small screen, while others prefer a large screen. The laptop compartment in the USA GEAR backpack can hold a laptop with a screen size of up to 15.6 inches. It is compatible with almost any laptop in the market to date.
This backpack has metal zippers, making it durable in almost any condition. Even if you are in a hurry to access your gear, you will not have to worry about the zipper breaking.
Moving on to the straps, some photographers prefer wearing a backpack with one shoulder strap, while others prefer wearing it with both shoulder straps. If you are the former, you can easily tuck one of the shoulder straps away. In addition, waist straps are available to manage the equal distribution of weight and comfort. If you carry a tripod with you often, the USA GEAR backpack has a dedicated tripod compartment.
5. Vanguard Alta Sky 45D Camera Backpack
The Vanguard Alta Sky 45D camera backpack comes with multiple access points. It has side access, top access, and full rear opening access. The lower compartments have individual openings, so you won’t have to worry about accessing those.
Thanks to its versatility, the Vanguard Alta Sky 45D can accommodate your needs, whether for personal or gear. It lets you securely and safely store your camera, lenses, gimbals, drones, tripod, laptop, and other personal equipment.
The pockets in this backpack serve as organizers. You can use them to sort your equipment, so you will not have trouble accessing them. There is a side pocket outside the camera pack that can hold a water bottle.
Unlike other backpacks within a similar price range, the Vanguard Alta Sky 45D can only hold a laptop with a screen size of up to 13 inches. So if your laptop’s screen size is greater than 13 inches or you are planning to upgrade to a bigger laptop soon, this backpack may not be the best option for you.
The bright interior helps you in locating things inside the backpack. Most competitor brands have a dark-colored interior, making it hard to find small items, such as memory cards. The Vanguard Alta Sky 45D comes with a rain cover to protect your bag from the rain. Stowable straps and multi-connection straps are also available for ergonomic comfort.
6. Thule Covert DSLR Rolltop Daypack
If you are searching for a camera backpack from a reputable brand, the Thule Covert DSLR Rolltop Daypack is an excellent choice. It is manufactured with 100% nylon, making it lightweight yet durable.
This backpack is large enough to fit a professional consumer DSLR body with an ultra-wide-angle lens attached to it. On top of that, you can also carry a drone with a size up to 200 x 260 x 100mm. The laptop compartment can fit a laptop with a screen size of up to 15 inches. You can also add in an iPad.
To gain quick access to your camera gear, the side access in the backpack lets you effortlessly reach your drone or camera.
Photographers have different equipment, so there is no one-size-fits-all for the camera bag. But the origami-inspired divider system in the Thule Covert DSLR daypack lets you fold the dividers, giving you flexible customization on how you would like to configure them.
7. Manfrotto Pro Light RedBee
The Manfrotto Pro Light RedBee backpack is a flexible, versatile camera bag that can securely carry lenses and cameras while you’re exploring the world. To access what is inside the backpack, you can use the rear access or the easy side access.
When choosing a camera backpack, it’s essential to consider its resistance to water. The Manfrotto Pro Light RedBee comes with a rain cover, which you can use to protect your backpack from water, dust, and other external elements.
It can carry up to two professional consumer-level DSLR bodies with up to a 400mm lens attached to the body. Otherwise, you can throw in other gear, such as smaller lenses and accessories. A mesh system separates your camera from the other items in your backpack.
The Manfrotto Pro Light RedBee backpack has a laptop compartment that can fit a 15.6-inch laptop and a tablet compartment that fits a 9.7-inch tablet. It weighs about 4.08 lbs and has external dimensions of 20.47 x 12.99 x 10.63 inches.
8. Lowepro Photo Sport 300 AW II
The Lowepro Photo Sport 300 AW II Camera Backpack can fit a full-frame DSLR camera with its lens attached, such as a Canon 5D with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens. Aside from the camera with lens, it can fit other gear such as snacks, a bike helmet, a jacket, a tripod, and other accessories, making it a perfect backpack to secure your hiking camera. And of course, you can easily access your camera with its side access pocket while on treks.
To keep your gear in place while on the go, the UltraCinch design features a quick pull-tab, which tightens the space inside the bag to keep it in place. The bag’s exterior has multiple attachment points, which you can use to secure your trekking poles or tripod.
Do take note that this camera backpack will not accommodate the following camera models: Canon EOS 1D/1Ds/1Dx Mark II, Nikon D4/D4s/D5, and Sony Alpha A850/A900.
The backpack has an internal dimension of 6.29 x 3.54 x 8.15 inches and an external dimension of 9.65 x 7.68 x 20.47 inches, which provides a lot of space for all your gear. Despite its large size, it only weighs 2.65 lbs, making it relatively lightweight.
There are several backpacks with side access available in the market. It gets tricky choosing which one to purchase, especially two or more backpacks that are very close in terms of features and price. A few things you may have to consider when choosing a brand is warranty coverage. How many years is the warranty coverage for the backpack? Consider that you will be pushing these camera bags to their limits, so warranty coverage is imperative to consider.
Before deciding, pay close attention to the features of each backpack. At the very least, find a backpack with some level of water resistance and paddings all over the interior.