Searching for the Perfect Camera Backpack

I am determined to find the perfect backpack that can carry my camera equipment and my daily essentials. In the last year I’ve made a number of backpacking trips in which I lug 30-40lbs of camping gear over 20+ mile elevated hikes. As a 5’5” 124lb woman I pleasantly surprised with how easy and comfortable it was to carry everything I needed on my back. If it’s possible to haul that much weight up a mountain I should be able to find an equivalent backpack for my photography needs.

Here’s what I’m looking for the perfect camera travel backpack:

Durability

The pack should be constructed from durable materials and preferably would have some form of water resistance. As much as we like to take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you I’m foreshadowing that giving tender love and care to a camera backpack is the last thing that will cross my mind when there’s a shot I want and my camera bag is in the way. Nope! Tough love is what my camera backpack is going to get. Knowing my habits this backpack will get stuffed into overhead airplane compartments, stashed somewhere on public transportation, scurry around the city, and scamper around some outdoor environment. In other words this backpack will get abused and it’s a fair expectation for this bag to take a hit without damaging its contents.

 

Sizing

MellyLee-Airplane

There will be no compromising in this area. The pack must fit the overhead compartment of an airplane. I absolutely hate checking in camera equipment.

 

Support and Suspension

It’s imperative that the perfect backpack have proper support and suspension for my wee little shoulders and delicate back. After discovering the wizardry of load lifters, a hip belt, and proper weight distribution from my camping backpack I will never go back! Back in the day I competed in badminton for 6+ years. I loved the sport, but it left me with a strained shoulder that can flare up if I’m carrying heavy photo equipment for several hours. Padded shoulder straps also help with providing more comfort and support.

 

Ventilation

MellyLee-Ventilation

This is something I’ve only found on my backpacking backpacks. I haven’t found a camera backpack that has enough ventilation to keep my back and shoulders from getting hot and sweaty. We’ve all been there at some point. You’re walking to a meeting or office, exploring a city or outdoor environment, or just going about your daily routine then the weather picks up. Heat then gets trapped between your back and the backpack. With nowhere to escape it causes your body to self regulate its temperature and you sweat! This leaves you with the utterly uncomfortable feeling of your sweat-drenched shirt clinging to your back. Additionally a sweat-drenched back could also lead to publicly social embarrassment –depending on your comfort level of course.

This could be the most difficult feature to find.

 

Storage

This is the area where I start to expect a lot from a backpack. I’m really looking for flexibility to carry what I need for a small job where I’d need to travel for a day or so. If I needed to bring all my gear to accommodate for a bigger project I have my set of Pelican Cases for that. Ideally I would be able to carry the following:

  • 13in Macbook Pro + AC Adaptor
  • 1 external hard drive
  • 1 Camera Body
  • 2-3 Lens
  • Extra Camera Batteries
  • Camera Battery Charger
  • Extra Memory Cards
  • A Day’s Worth of Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Headphones
  • Small Wacom Intuos Tablet
  • Water Bottle
  • Car keys
  • Wallet
  • Tripod

 

Designed Access

Frankly any giant bag with straps could work as a photography backpack if space was the only factor that mattered in finding the perfect backpack. However, when it comes to packing efficiency is key. Everything I carry should have a dedicated home in the pack. Everything should have a sense of Type-A organization, so that future me can avoid rummaging and searching around for a memory card or car key.

 

Aesthetics

Since with a backpack I’m looking to carry around a variety of environments —I want a backpack that looks sleek and sexy. It also absolutely cannot scream “Hi, I’m a camera backpack! Come steal me!”

 

How Will I be Testing the Packs?

I will be field testing each pack through daily commutes, photo shoot applications, and active hobbies. I’m currently living in Los Angeles and make frequent trips in and out of the city. When I’m in town I seize every opportunity to escape the traffic and congestion by opting out of driving and instead biking or skateboarding to my destination. I’ve also been becoming an avid outdoor enthusiast via hiking and backpacking. As a photographer it only seems natural to want to photograph and experience beautiful places.

 

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