With a hefty amount of gear on your back, trekking up mountains and down valleys is challenging — especially if the elements are against you.
Even as a seasoned hiker, you’ll want the best camera backpack for hiking to protect your photography equipment. And you’ll want the most accessible backpack so you don’t have to fiddle for your camera when you spot rare wildlife or the pink sun is just. about. to. set.
If you're looking for the best all-rounder camera backpack for hiking, the Mountainsmith Tanuck is it! It's both rugged and stylish, has 40L of space, fully waterproof pockets, side and back mounts for your tripod and a hard floor for protection.
But choosing the right hiking camera backpack isn’t necessarily an easy feat. As cameras continue to advance, so does their affordability. But the camera backpack market has struggled to keep up. Instead, it’s largely saturated with poor-quality bags that are, frankly, putting your equipment at risk.
Fortunately, for you, we’ve done the legwork in scoping out the best hiking camera backpacks that are out there. So you can expend your energy elsewhere — like summiting your next peak before sunset.
The Mountainsmith Tanuck 40 Camera Pack is one of the best camera backpacks for hiking on the market. Designed by photographer Chris Burkard, it’s the perfect mix of all the features to look out for in a photography bag. In terms of price versus quality, it’s a leader in the market.
This 40L water-resistant pack is built for the outdoors. It has all the specs of a great hiking backpack mixed with the awesome capability to carry camera equipment.
It has both side and back mounts for your tripod, a hard floor for protection and to help the bag stand up and compression straps to make sure your gear sits in nice and tight.
The bag has fully waterproof pockets for more delicate electrics and comes with a rain cover for extra protection.
It also has one of the largest laptop compartments on the market and can hold laptops with up to a 17-inch screen.
The Mountainsmith Tanuck 40 is a great backpack that will not only protect your equipment, but also get you to where you want to go with comfort and style.
The LowePro Pro Trekker 450 is the perfect mix of the two LowePro bags above. It has the capability to carry multiple cameras and lenses but also carries hiking essentials.
It features LowePro’s new ActiveLift System that is designed to distribute more weight from the shoulders to the hips. The ActiveLift System is easily adjustable and includes airflow channels that improve air circulation.
The backpack has been built to carry heavy loads over rough terrain for long periods of time. It features more straps and pockets for other equipment and supplies.
The LowePro Pro Trekker 450 is a professional hiking camera backpack that is both built around functionality and style.
This bag is built tough and was tested by Burton’s team of professional photographers to handle backcountry environments. Burton is so confident in this pack that it comes with a lifetime warranty!
The F-Stop comes with 500d Nylon with a PU coated backing, meaning it’s not only strong but it’s also waterproof. This feature means that there’s no need for a removable rain cover, and you are ready for all environments all the time.
The bag also has a front strap to carry your tripod, side pockets that can carry a water bottle, and a large easy access top pocket for other gear.
In other words, this bag is a beast that won’t disappoint!
If you’re after a really tough camera bag for hiking then the Pelican U160 Urban Elite is one of the best options on the market. This small backpack has been made to survive even the toughest adventures.
Its main feature is its large waterproof and crushproof hard shell case that’s perfect for protecting camera equipment. Aside from the hard case, it also features an upper soft compartment for other camera or hiking essentials.
For support, the backpack has an aluminum frame. There is also a waist strap for additional comfort.
The U160 has side straps for your tripod and two side pockets for other personal items such as your wallet and keys.
This is the type of bag you can be completely confident in getting your gear from point A to B safely. The only downside is that the hard shell case does make this bag quite bulky and on the heavier side.
Pelican U160 Urban Elite Half Case Camera Pack Specs:
This is likely the most unique camera backpack on this list. Why? Because it simply doesn’t look like a camera backpack. Atlas has kept the same style as your everyday hiking backpack but made it camera friendly.
Its design isn’t hard or box like when compared with other hiking camera backpacks. The Atlas Athlete also holds weight close to the body which makes this pack better for carrying heavy loads.
When it comes to the weather, this pack is two times coated with water repellent to keep your camera equipment dry in all weather conditions.
Aside from being able to carry one pro DSLR and up to five lenses, it also has 30L of extra storage for all of your hiking essentials (along with plenty of side pockets).
You can order this backpack in two frame sizes so it fits nice and snug – this is a feature you almost never see in hiking camera backpacks. What’s even better is that the frame is removable, perfect if you are planning a shorter day hike or need a backpack for city living.
The Atlas Athlete camera pack is easily the best camera backpack for the serious hiker.
The Shimoda Explore 40 was a serious contender for my top pick. This bag is very well tailored and has every feature you could ask for. But, these features do come with a much higher price tag.
However, there are some features that make the price more reasonable such as the fully water-resistant outer shell and waterproof zippers.
At 40L, this pack has plenty of room for both camera equipment and hiking essentials while still being carry-on ready (perfect for those taking travel photos too!) The bag itself only weighs in at 1.3kg which is ridiculously light for its size!
The Shimoda Explore 40 has been designed to have pockets everywhere. This is to ensure all your belongings are easily accessible even on the move.
The design of this backpack makes it stylish and user-friendly. Personally, I love this bag and highly recommend it to those with a higher budget.
The Tamrac Anvil 23 is a well-made camera backpack designed to get large amounts of gear to amazing locations. It features one super large compartment that’s really handy if you shoot with big lenses. There is also one smaller front compartment.
The pack has a well-supported harness and a waist strap that’s fully adjustable. It also features compersion straps to help keep the weight close to the body and off of the shoulders.
The Tamrac Anvil has a PU coated nylon and polyester shell which means its always ready for the rain. This backpack also comes with a removable cover for extra protection.
It’s not all good news though, and in fact, the Anvil 23 doesn’t actually have much space for other hiking gear. This means that some or most of your hiking equipment would need to be stored with your camera gear.
In light of that, this pack is still awesome for shorter hikes or for those who have lots of larger lenses and camera bodies. If the Anvil 23 isn’t the right size for you, try the Anvil 27 for more storage or the Anvil 17 for a more compact bag.
The Alta Sky 45D was built with the serious hiker in mind. This pack features two separate main compartments that allows you to both carry your camera gear and hiking essentials safely.
Both compartments are sized to one-third and two-thirds respectively. This means that you can decide how much camera equipment versus hiking equipment you need.
The Sky 45D doesn’t stop there either. Its well-padded shoulder harness and waist belt are built with long term comfort in mind and made to carry heavy loads.
The backpack also features lots of other small pockets that can easily separate your smaller equipment. This improves organization and all-around usability. It also has a dedicated laptop compartment that can fit up to a 13.3″ laptop.
I love this backpack’s rugged and sturdy design too. Its large zippers and multiple access points mean you never far from your gear.
There is one problem with this bag tho, it only comes with a 1-year warranty. With that said you can extend the warranty to a limited lifetime so, in that case, its a great pack for those longer and tougher hikes.
Like the Atlas Athlete camera backpack, the 40L F-Stop Anja is another backpack that looks and feels like a hiking backpack. It has an internal aluminum frame for support, waist strap, and comfortable shoulder straps that are fully adjustable.
Its outer shell is fully water resistant, features plenty of small pockets for extra storage and is even hydration system compatible. Other important storage components include the 13′ laptop pocket, easily accessible top pocket, and shoulder strap clips for important tools.
At first glance, the F-Stop Anja is the cheaper rival to the Atlas Athlete camera backpack. However, the most basic version of the bag comes without any inserts, and all camera storage components are sold separately or in packages.
I love the hiking features of this backpack, but don’t like that it doesn’t include camera insoles or a rain cover. That said, you can always buy a rain cover separately.
If you’re the photographer that likes to travel light with a small and versatile backpack then the MindShift Gear Backlight 26L might just be the perfect bag for you. It’s small enough that it’s easy to move in but large enough to carry a small arsenal of camera gear.
Its separate 9L storage is big enough to carry all your day hiking essentials and its side pockets and extra clips perfect for securely carrying your tripod, hiking poles, and water bottle. You may also be surprised to hear it can carry up to a 15″ laptop!
The backpack’s outer and inner shell has water-resistant coatings to ensure it keeps your gear dry all day. For more extreme weather, you also have the protection of a removable rain cover that is fully waterproof!
MindShift also backs the original owner with a lifetime warranty which makes this pack a great investment.
The bag is a little small, but when it comes to a small, light pack that’s perfect for the shorter day hikes, the Backlight 26L is my top choice.
What to Consider When Choosing a Hiking Camera Backpack
As you already know, not all backpacks are created equal. And some excel in certain areas but lack in others.
Choosing the best hiking camera backpack is about understanding the most important features and knowing exactly what you need. If you don’t know what you need, we’re here to tell you…
You Need Shock-Resistant Protection
First and foremost is protection. If a camera bag doesn’t do this simple task, your camera gear is at risk of getting damaged.
The most standard type of protection you will find in all camera bags is padding. The padding in camera bags is designed to reduce the force of impact through compression.
The big difference in the padding needed between a standard camera bag versus a hiking camera bag is its shock resistance, however. When you go hiking, you and your bag need to be prepared for the unexpected. As you climb over rocks, through bushes or up mountains, your bag will get knocked around.
That knocking, as you can guess, is really bad for cameras and especially lenses, which rely on absolute precision to produce sharp, clear images. So finding a bag with adequate padding that can be organized to tightly fit your gear is crucial.
The best way to find this is to buy a pack specifically for the outdoors. The padding in these bags is firmer than cheap alternatives. All the backpacks we suggest below follow this simple but important rule.
Another common type of protection is a hard case. Pelican is the leader in hard-case camera protection. Along with adequate padding, having a hard case is arguably the best way to protect your camera gear.
You Need Weatherproof Material
If your an experienced hiker, you probably already know how important it is to have weatherproof gear. Your camera bag is no exception.
For that reason, finding a camera backpack that can withstand the elements will keep your gear safe and sound in all weather conditions.
The most important element you need to be prepared for is water. It may rain. You might have to cross some river rapids. You could slip in a mud puddle. Who knows.
There are two main types of waterproof styles:
Water-resistant shell: These bags have a water-resistant outer shell. This means you aren’t required to cover the bag with a waterproof cover in order to have a relatively high level of protection. These bags can also come with an extra rain cover for more extreme weather.
Built-in rain cover: Camera bags that don’t have a water-resistant shell will almost always come with a built-in rain cover. These can be attached in case it rains but offers little protection if your backpack gets submerged in water or you get unexpectedly wet.
Both styles of weatherproofing are effective in their own way. If you often hike in wet areas where rain can be unpredictable or you could fall into water, then having a pack that is water-resistant will be your bag of choice.
However, if this doesn’t sound like you, then spend your money on other features that are more important to you.
Comfort Is Key
When out hiking, you never want to find yourself wishing you bought a comfier backpack or leaving equipment at home because it’s too annoying to carry.
The support in camera backpacks for hiking varies massively, and it should be a driving factor when picking the right backpack. Some comfort features to consider include:
Padded shoulder straps are a game changer when it comes to a heavy pack. They stop your shoulder straps from feeling like they’re cutting into your shoulders and provide long term comfort.
A padded hip strap or belt system is one of the best ways to relieve stress on your shoulders on longer hikes or when you are carrying heavier camera equipment. It’s best to find one with padding too. For me, buying a backpack with a hip strap is a must.
Frame systems or back stiffeners help keep your pack straight and help with weight distribution on the shoulders and hips. These systems are only generally required for heavy pack weights. If you shoot with only one camera and lens, then don’t stress if your bag doesn’t have this feature.
Padded backs are another great feature that not only stop hard objects from pressing against your back, but they also stiffen up the backpack. This is a really handy alternative if you don’t have the frame system.
Construction Is Critical
The best camera backpack for hiking is one that lasts. When it comes to making backpacks the two most popular materials are polyester and nylon. Both are great for making backpacks.
Nylon is a very durable material. Not only is it strong, but it deals well with different temperatures and can resist abrasions. Nylon is also naturally resistant to mold and most insects. Its downfalls, however, are UV light, which slowly degrades the material and color dyes (which polyester is much better at holding).
Polyester is also a very durable material. It drys fast because it doesn’t absorb water, is wear resistant, lightweight and strong. That being said, polyester is generally not as durable as nylon and has a lower strength to weight ratio.
When it comes to picking a material, either will do the job fine. You could suggest leaning towards Polyester if you often hike in the rain, although these days almost all nylon hiking backpacks have a water-resistant coating. So its really going to come down to personal preference.
So what’s the answer? Well, when looking for either a nylon or polyester backpack, look for a high denier rating if you’re after strength. Most high-quality backpacks are made with a 500+ denier rating.
One other important construction detail is the zippers. You want to look for good quality ones that will last. YKK zippers account for half the zippers used on earth. They are regarded as really good quality zippers and a great choice on hiking backpacks.
You’ll Want Extra Storage
As you already know, cameras and lenses aren’t the only equipment you use when hiking. So picking a backpack that can hold everything you use on your hiking trips will make life much easier.
Laptop storage, for example, is important for any photographer who prefers to upload their work right away. However, keep in mind that most backpacks have limits on the size of the laptop they can carry.
You’ll also want to check if your backpack can hold a tripod. Most packs these days have clips on one side or on the front that can easily transport your tripod.
Extra storage doesn’t stop at camera gear, though. You’re going hiking, so you’re going to need supplies. Food, first aid, clothing and more all need to fit in your pack, too. Looking at your hiking style will give you a good indication of how much extra room you need. If you only do short hikes, for example, consider a bag under 30L. Or if you usually hike all day, consider choosing a bag around 40L.
Organizational Elements and Easy Access Are Necessities
No backpack design is perfect for everyone, and brands know that. For that reason, there are actually countless designs on the market.
Depending on your style of photography, look for a pack that speaks to you. Things like having multiple access points to your camera gear are great features because they let you find your own style and what works best for you.
One feature I can’t pass on is having an easy to access top pocket to store your prime camera and lens.
I don’t like to hike with my camera in my hand or clipped to the outside of my bag. I find it far too risky on harder hikes. Having a padded pocket that’s easy to get to so I don’t miss a shot is a great feature.
Make Sure it’s a Carry-On Backpack
I’m sure we have all looked out the window of a plane before we disembark and seen our luggage being tossed from the plane. Now imagine that it’s your camera bag…
If you plan to travel lots with your bag then finding a bag that meets carry-on size requirements is a good idea. Remember, the bag doesn’t have to be exactly this size; it just needs to compress down to this size. So you can push the envelope a little.
Standard carry-on sizes for airplanes are 9″ x 14″ x 22″/ 22cm x 35cm x 56cm.
Look for an Affordable Price
The cost of a product is a factor when deciding what to buy. However, it shouldn’t limit you from getting the bag you want or need.
Take my example: I once bought a cheap tripod so I could spend more money on my lenses. The idea behind it was that it’s just a stand. Well, fast forward a few months later and that flimsy tripod fell over. This not only destroyed my lens but, to this day, the autofocus on my camera still plays up.
I now own a very good tripod.
What I’m trying to say is that spending the money now could save you so much more in the future. Your camera backpack is an investment to care for your gear. Get the one you need.
Can you picture yourself hiking The Zion Narrows or the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or across Patagonia? Perhaps you need to see your own photos of it to believe it.
And, thanks to your trusted camera backpack for hiking, you’ll be able to do just that.