The ubiquitous shoulder-mounted camera bag is a fantastic camera carrying solution for almost any type of photography—except when it comes to wildlife and nature photography. If you are hiking far from civilization and deep into nature—be it a forest, tundra, mountains, desert, or jungle—you’ll likely bring a dedicated hiking backpack. Luckily for nature photographers, camera bag manufacturers and manufacturers of traditional hiking packs have created hybrid camera/gear backpacks for adventurous excursions. Thinking further outside the pack, some harnesses and slings work to keep your camera gear at the ready while on these epic treks.
Let’s take a look at some camera backpacks that work well for long hikes, and then take a peek at different camera carrying options that work for nature and landscape photographers on the go.
Camera Hiking Backpacks
A hiking backpack that is friendly for camera gear should have the following characteristics:
There should be room for hiking/camping clothing and gear, as well as space for camera gear.
The camera gear must be protected from the rigors of traversing rough terrain.
The camera gear must be semi-accessible so that you can get to it when a photographic scene or moment emerges.
The pack must be comfortable to wear for long durations—customizable fit via adjustments and lightweight, since camera gear is heavy.
Also, the pack should look awesome!
Before we look at different brands and their bags, know that shopping for camera backpacks is a bit like shopping for shoes. Even if you know your size, the way they feel varies from pack to pack and back to back. B&H Photo has a generous return policy if you find a pack that doesn’t quite work for you, so hang on to your receipts. If you are in New York City, the B&H SuperStore has many of these packs on the store floor—ready to try on and size up!
With packs designed by mountaineers and photographers, AtlasPacks came onto the scene in 2018 and has received numerous “best of” awards from the likes of National Geographic, Ski Magazine, and Outside Magazine.
The AtlasPacks Athlete Camera Backpack is available in two sizes and can be purchased in black, gray, or yellow. The Athlete features a removable frame, internal padded dividers, a fully adjustable harness, and provisions for a 100-oz water bladder.
The AtlasPacks Adventure Camera Backpack, also available in medium or large and black or gray, sports a hydration compartment and offers 60L of capacity and a 17" laptop compartment. This bag also has a side-carry handle and is fully modular.
With an eye on innovation and sustainability, f-stop has been making camera backpacks since 2006 and its modular lineup of packs, internal camera units (ICU) camera inserts, and numerous accessories allow photographers to customize their kits to meet different demands and needs.
The f-stop TILOPA 50L Expedition Backpack has external straps to secure a snowboard (or tripod), customization-friendly MOLLE webbing, and numerous accessory loops, shock cords, and expandable side pockets. Its expandable design is available in black or orange and features a hydration port and other rugged features.
Slightly smaller, the f-stop Mountain Series Anja Backpack comes in black, drab green, and orange. It is also designed to transport a snowboard and features an aluminum frame, MOLLE webbing, and a host of other customizable features.
No stranger to mountainous expeditions and the urban jungle, Lowepro has been on the outdoor scene since 1967, and the company features an immense lineup of dedicated hiking packs, camera carrying equipment, drone carrying backpacks, and of course, hybrid camera/hiking packs.
The Lowepro Pro Trekker BP 550 AW II Backpack comes in three different sizes and is designed to swallow a ton of camera gear, a laptop, and a tablet. It features a removable gear box and can be separated into a personal bag and carry-on. The “AW” designation means it comes with an all-weather cover for additional protection for your gear in wet conditions.
Looking like a traditional hiking/camping backpack, the light gray Lowepro Photosport Pro II Backpack is available in two different capacities—each in two different frame/harness sizes. The large pack is designed for three- to four-day photo excursions and contains a camera insert, all-weather cover, and a multitude of exterior pockets for gear.
Known for its smartphone camera lenses and accessories, Moment was born in 2013 on a crowdfunding site and has recently made its way into the world of camera backpacks.
Designed in collaboration with Alex Strohl and featuring a removable steel frame, the super-lightweight Moment Strohl Mountain Light 45L Backpack comes in three sizes and is a waterproof pack that features modular elements, extra storage, and a removable camera cube.
Specializing in travel backpacks and luggage, Nomatic also caters to the photographic crowd with a selection of camera-friendly packs that are suitable for adventures on and off the grid.
The customizable and flexible Nomatic McKinnon 35L Ultimate Travel Camera Bundle Pack features a 35L pack (expandable to 42L), 21L camera cube, and other accessories. The bundle is designed for one- to three-day outings. Dividers protect your camera gear, laptop, tablets, accessories, and clothes. External MOLLE-like loops allow you to add external loads.
Joining the relative newcomers to the camera/hiking backpack scene, NYA-EVO was created in 2017 and tests its gear extensively in the Nordics before bringing the packs to market. NYA-EVO has partnered with Phase One to customize some of its bags for the medium format system, and a portion of sales from the company goes to help rural communities in Gorkha, Nepal.
Available in red, black, blue, and green, as well as in two different sizes, the NYA-EVO FJORD ECONYL Adventure Backpack is made from sustainable fabrics, has a 15" laptop sleeve, features an aluminum frame, accepts modular camera inserts, has rear panel access, and sports a rain cover plus other high water-resistant features.
With its popular lineup of all kinds of bags for cameras, camcorders, lenses, and more, Ruggard has storage and carry options for just about every piece of gear you can imagine, as well as a full line of gear protection for cameras, tripods, lenses, and more.
Available in blue with two different capacities, the Ruggard FotoTrek PKR Hiking Backpack is designed for hiking in challenging terrain and conditions. The pack is modular with a removable camera case and is designed for comfort with moisture-wicking back pads and harness padding. Compression straps help you balance the load and a padded compartment can be used for a 17" laptop or hydration bladder.
Arriving on the scene in 2017, Shimoda Designs is another newcomer to the world of adventure hiking and camera backpacks, but that hasn’t stopped this brand from getting a healthy number of accolades for its gear. Shimoda Designs donates a percentage of its sales to Give Back to Nature—a community of photographers committed to helping regenerate natural landscapes affected by deforestation.
The Shimoda Designs Action X Backpack is available in two sizes and two colors (black and green). Designed for hiking and overnight camping, the bag is partitioned to keep your camera gear and hiking kit separate through the use of its X-Large DV Core Unit—a modular camera gear case. Other features include weather-resistant provisions, a hydration bladder compartment, laptop sleeve, and more.
Founded in Sweden in 1942, Thule has been a fixture in the outdoor and transportation markets with a diverse product line that spans everything from automobile roof racks to bicycle panniers to camera bags and cases. Those familiar with the brand will immediately recognize its sleek style and quality.
Designed for camera gear and drone transport, plus clothing and supplies, the Thule Covert 32L DSLR Camera Backpack is available in gray or black. Designed as a 3-in-1 backpack, it is at home with or without camera gear that can be placed in a removable pod. Its rugged nylon exterior provides protection from the elements and it is designed to hold laptops and tablets, a tripod or water bottle in a side pouch, and offers other customizable features.
In a 2015 crowd funding campaign, WANDRD was born in a mission to make durable and functional camera packs. Designed to last, its products come with limited lifetime warranties and combine their ruggedness with sleek designs and good looks.
With a modern styling, six pack adjustments, and four entry points into the main compartment, the WANDRD Fernweh 50L Backpack comes in two sizes and is available in black or tan. The pack is loaded with features like a laptop sleeve, hydration bladder sleeve, breathable foam air mesh back panel, roller bag passthrough, and hidden compartments.
Harnesses & Clips
As great as those camera/hiking packs are, the near-universal downside to them is easy access for your camera gear when you’re on the go. Even with multiple entry points, you still need to strip the bag off your back to grab your camera and lenses. Often in nature, by the time you get your gear, the moment has passed, since wildlife is notoriously bad at holding poses, and lighting conditions can often change in a New York minute.
To help mitigate this, and provide a quick-draw for your camera, manufacturers have come up with several ingenious solutions to the problem.
An innovation and design leader in the photography gear world, Peak Design began as a crowd funding venture in 2010 and prides itself on making high-quality products for life while being entirely carbon neutral.
The Peak Design Capture Camera Clip v3 is designed to mount on any backpack strap or belt and serve as a camera-mounting system. The clip allows you to hang your camera (or an extra lens or binoculars) securely from your shoulder strap or belt so that it is at the ready while you’re wearing your pack.
Another brand with an eye on innovation and sustainability, Cotton Carrier was created in 2019 by a veteran special-effects supervisor in the film industry who decided to create solutions for gear-carrying challenges he faced in his photography pursuits. The company prides itself on donating a portion of profits to environmental causes and maximizing the use of sustainable materials and packaging.
Depending on how and if you are wearing a backpack, a harness system might be great for heading off on side hikes without the pack, or can be worn comfortably under the pack. The Cotton Carrier CCS G3 Harness-1, available in black or camouflage, allows you to mount your camera securely on your chest so it will be ready to capture transient moments.
Get Out There
We hope you enjoyed this introduction to different innovative and environmentally conscious brands and their products made especially for photographers who are heading out into the world to capture the beauty of nature.
Please let us know, in the Comments section below, if you have questions about the gear we have discussed, or if you have your own favorite bags, packs, or carrying solutions.