There is no such thing as the perfect camera bag. That’s because every photographer’s needs are different, and there will always be something that doesn’t perfectly suit your workflow.
I’ve tested dozens upon dozens of backpacks and camera bags, and while I have my favorites, not a single one checks every single box. That holds true for the Peter McKinnon Camera Bag from NOMATIC, too. It’s an incredibly well-designed and versatile bag, but it still has its issues.
In this review, I’ll run you through the full gamut of features, as well as my one primary gripe about this bag. I truly love this bag, but there’s one particular issue that makes it a tough call for me.
What to Know About the Peter McKinnon Camera Bag
Designed in collaboration with travel gear company NOMATIC and YouTuber Peter McKinnon, this is a great pack for photographers looking to get a high level of functionality and storage space out of their camera bag.
Peter McKinnon is an internationally acclaimed photographer, filmmaker, and YouTuber who has traveled the world, camera in tow. He brought his experience to the NOMATIC team and helped design a practical, spacious pack for fellow travel photographers.
McKinnon saw a gap in the market when it came to camera backpacks that also offered enough space for one to three days of clothing and toiletries. He often found himself bringing multiple bags on his trips because he couldn’t find a camera bag that did it all.
That’s why he designed the McKinnon Camera Pack 35L. After many months and several rounds of design and review, he finally perfected the final version. And nothing beats a camera bag for adventurers like one created by a long-time travel adventurer himself.
- The Peter McKinnon Backpack holds 35L at base, and is expandable to a spacious 42L.
- The interior dimensions of the main compartment are 21″ x 12.5″ x 5.25.″ Externally, it is 22″ x 13.5″ x 9.″
- It fits in the overhead compartment of most airplanes. Some budget airlines have a smaller size limit, so be sure to double-check dimensions and weight for your airline before you get to the airport.
- The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L weighs 5.75 lbs when empty.
- It’s made from a water-resistant tramline material and the zippers are reinforced to keep the elements out and your camera safe. There is also a NOMATIC Rain Fly you can purchase separately for more peace of mind on those extra rainy days.
A Photographer’s Honest Review of the Peter McKinnon Camera Backpack
The Peter McKinnon camera backpack is the ultimate camera bag. This spacious and durable pack can carry multiple bodies and lenses, an accessory case, battery packs, and a water bottle with room left to spare for other essential gear, clothing, and more. It also features a large laptop sleeve to store all your editing equipment.
For traveling professional photographers who need to bring plenty of camera equipment on the road, it really is the perfect camera bag.
The Peter McKinnon camera backpack isn’t really built for hobby photographers. The size and customizability of this bag are designed to suit the needs of travel photographers with multiple lenses, bodies, and gadgets.
This camera bag offers the space and flexibility to stash multiple camera bodies, a selection of lenses, plenty of other accessories, and a laptop alongside your clothing and toiletries. For pro photographers, the NOMATIC Camera Pack is a serious game-changer.
Its padded shoulder straps and detachable hip belt make the Peter McKinnon Camera Pack more comfortable than many other basic camera bags, and its pockets and compartments have been thoughtfully designed to allow for easy access throughout.
Like all NOMATIC bags, it’s built to last, and I’ve been really impressed with how well it holds up to my sometimes rough handling—though I will note the black exterior will show marks and scuffs over time.
If you’re prone to indecision when it comes time to pack your bodies and lenses for a shoot or adventure and want to bring multiple along, the McKinnon camera backpack is perfect for you. This camera bag has the carrying capacity and modular storage system built to fit all your gear.
- The internal organization has been designed with photographers in mind, and it makes it easy to grab what you need quickly
- It's extremely spacious, so you can carry everything you need for a shoot or multi-day trip
- The sternum strap and hip belt are comfortable, even when the bag is fully loaded
- A larger laptop compartment means you can bring your proper editing equipment out and about with you
- It'll hold all the camera gear you could possibly need, and it does so in an efficient and safe way with a padded cube system
- At 5.75 lbs, it's extremely heavy for a backpack
- The tarp material of the bag does scuff easily
- Zippers can be stiff initially and need time to break-in
- It's not cheap—at just under $400, without any accessories, the Peter McKinnon camera backpack is an investment; however, you will definitely get your dollars worth!
Who is the Peter McKinnon Camera Backpack for?
If you’ve ever had to deal with lugging multiple bags to a shoot, you know what a hassle it can be.
The Peter McKinnon camera bag is designed to hold all the camera gear you could possibly need, with extra space for your laptop, additional accessories, and important items like a change of clothes, shoot snacks, water bottle, and more.
Essentially, it’s a must-have for professional photographers who tend to carry a lot of gear, or need space for extra items. It is also great for those looking for a multi-day pack for their trips, since it can easily fit your gear, clothing, and accessories.
It also fits in the overhead bin on most planes for those of us who fly frequently!
Size & General Practicality
The Peter McKinnon camera bag has a ton of space inside—and while that’s a massive perk, it also means it’s probably a bit too much kit for the average hobbyist, who’ll probably be better suited buying a camera cube to go in their usual overnight bag.
If you’ve got a laundry list of camera gear to take on your shoots or trips, and you need to make sure you’ve got all the benefits of an overnight bag too, this is the perfect camera bag for you. It is way more practical than trying to carry two or more bags when traveling!
There is seriously nothing worse than showing up to a shoot with two camera bags and having to lug both around, or worse, leave one of them laying around and risking it getting lost or stolen.
My main issue with this bag, however, is the weight. It is simply way too heavy to use as an everyday camera bag. Sure, it carries a lot and is filled with features, but this might be the heaviest pack I’ve ever encountered.
Is this going to be your casual everyday kind of backpack? Probably not. But if you’re, say, heading to Coachella to photograph bands for a long weekend, or packing up to go do a few days of destination engagement shoots, you’ll find the Peter McKinnon camera bag will make your life so much easier.
The Peter McKinnon camera backpack is also offered in a 25L size. It has many of the same features as the 35L bag, but with a smaller packing capacity.
The 25L bag features a clamshell opening and actually has an accessory option that the 35L doesn’t have—a ladder system. The included adjustable ladder system allows you to expand the top area of the bag and separate gear intuitively.
There are several kit options for the 25L Peter McKinnon camera backpack, customizable with a ladder system, divider kit, and cubes.
Does the McKinnon Backpack Fit Under an Airplane Seat?
At 35L, you’re not going to fit the McKinnon camera bag under an airplane seat, which is a space reserved for small handbags or laptop cases.
This bag fits in most overhead compartments, but you will need to double-check with your airline before you try to bring it on board, as some budget airlines have smaller compartment dimensions.
Is the Bag Waterproof?
It’s really important that any bag holding your precious (and expensive) camera gear offers protection from the elements. Fortunately, the coated tarp exterior and robust zippers do offer a pretty significant amount of water resistance for every square inch of the pack.
But a water-resistant exterior isn’t always enough. If you’re concerned about more extreme moisture levels, it’s well worth adding on a rain fly, which you can buy through NOMATIC and its stockists to ensure it fits your Peter McKinnon camera backpack perfectly.
What Camera Does Peter McKinnon Use and Carry In His NOMATIC Pack?
Toronto-based photographer and YouTuber Peter McKinnon lives the kind of life most of us dream of.
It’s no surprise that he’s collaborating with NOMATIC on the McKinnon camera bag—after all, he knows exactly what a pro on the road needs to be able to fit in their pack.
He travels around the world taking eye-catching photos of landscapes, cities, people, and products, and he’s always keen to share what he’s learned with his millions of followers, too.
And as for his camera of choice? He’s made the switch to mirrorless and shoots with a Canon EOS R5 as his primary body. You’ll also find a serious selection of lenses in his bag: a 15-35mm f2.8, which is a brilliant low-light performer and allows for some seriously good wide-angle shots (and actually makes a decent vlogging lens, too!); a nifty fifty at f1.8, which he uses for portraiture; every photographer’s favorite workhorse, the 70-200 f2.8; and a DJI Mini 2 drone and GoPro Hero, too.
Alongside all of those? Plenty of filters, lots of accessories, and gimbals and tripods to help him ensure he always gets the shot.
Inside the Peter McKinnon Camera Backpack
This 35L backpack expands to 42L when you unzip a special zipper around the front compartment. You can utilize these different crying capacities depending on your specific shoot or trip, which is nice for those who don’t always want the bulk of a 42L bag, but sometimes need the extra space.
The backpack has a classic clamshell opening that allows you to fully open it up for easy packing and access.
The NOMATIC McKinnon offers way more space than many of the alternative camera backpacks on the market, but what does that volume of internal space actually get you? Let’s take a closer look at the internal compartments of the NOMATIC Camera Pack.
The pack has a laptop compartment for devices up to 16″—much more generous than the standard 14″ sleeve available in most camera backpacks. This is really handy for a large portion of professional photographers who have a serious editing machine to carry with them.
There’s a padded buffer around the laptop compartment, which is accessed on the right-hand side of the bag. I travel with both my 16” MacBook Pro and iPad Pro because it gives me more options when it comes to editing, filing, and posting my shots. I am able to fit both of these devices into the laptop sleeve, making it super convenient for me to keep them both in one secure place.
I love that the laptop compartment is closest to my body and accessible via a side zip, because I’m not stressed about someone quietly unzipping a front pocket and making off with my devices on a crowded street, airport, or train station.
The Front Pocket
Another great theft-deterrent is the secret magnetic RFID safe pocket that is designed to hold your passport, cash, and any other essentials in the front pocket. Simply grab your documents and watch the bag quickly snap shut on its own!
There’s also plenty of space for smaller items you may need to grab easily while you’re on the go. The Peter McKinnon camera backpack also features a key clip to keep your house keys secure, space for a wallet, some sunblock, a book, and whatever else you need to easily access.
The Front Compartment
With the main compartment of the Peter McKinnon camera backpack dedicated to camera gear, the front compartment is designed to accommodate your clothing. It was cleverly and intentionally designed to ensure you can fit as much as possible and stay organized, too.
The front compartment has a clamshell opening that gives you full access to the packing compartments and different areas of the backpack.
You’ll find two zippered mesh pockets perfect for holding underwear and socks, and a handy clothing compartment with more space to fit some rolled-up shirts, a pair of trousers, or even a raincoat.
You’ll also be able to fit plenty of clothes under the harness straps, which cover four mesh pockets. These are designed for toiletries, but they’re not sealable pockets, so be careful not to put anything in them that could leak! You don’t want your clothes, or worse, your camera gear, getting wet. Pro tip: I always recommend backing liquids in dry bags when packing them near my technology!
The front compartment of the NOMATIC bag is surprisingly roomy, and if you prefer to keep your clothing organized in packing cubes, there’s more than enough room for a couple to do so. I have found packing cubes to be a huge help on longer trips when you’d like to stay organized and also keep your dirty laundry separate from the fresh stuff!
The Main Compartment
This is where the magic happens! The main compartment of the NOMATIC Camera Pack can be customized to suit your needs, whatever the nature of your trip.
Both the long and short removable folding dividers can be moved around to accommodate a variety of lenses and accessories. There are zippered mesh pockets on the inside flap to store extra memory cards, batteries, cables, and power banks. Behind them, you’ll find a sleeve that easily fits an iPad or even a slim, compact laptop, such as a smaller MacBook.
I can’t overstate how much space there is in the main compartment—even if you’re shooting with multiple cameras and multiple lenses, you’ll be able to make your kit fit, and you can use any extra space for more clothing, too. You can get up to five days’ worth of clothing in this backpack!
And my favorite part? There’s a zippered hatch on the bottom right-hand side of the backpack, which allows quick access to one of the dividers in the main compartment.
You can configure your bag so you have quick access to what’s most important to you. I’m a huge fan of being able to grab my primary body and attached lens without having to open the whole backpack up.
If you’re worried about security, you can easily reconfigure one of those small dividers to cover the access pocket and block off your camera body.
The Peter McKinnon camera backpack’s impressive build quality extends to the shoulder straps, which are well padded and feature an optional sternum strap to help spread the load if your pack is quite heavy. There’s also a removable waist strap, which is handy if you like the extra security of a hip belt.
A nifty feature of this backpack is the side pockets. You’ll find a magnetic water bottle pocket on the left side of the NOMATIC bag, which can be used to easily carry a tripod or monopod.
Magnetic water bottle pockets are really cool because when you don’t have a water bottle in there, they secure to the body of the bag and don’t flap around or cause extra bulk. It looks super sleek on the Peter McKinnon camera bag!
A similar magnetic pocket on the other side of the camera bag is designed to hold a tripod. An adjustable strap keeps the tripod in place.
On the backside of this camera backpack you’ll find a pass-through pocket for hooking your bag onto a luggage handle (I use this a ton during plane travel)!
Materials & Aesthetic
Made from water-resistant materials and sleekly designed, my first impression of the McKinnon was that it’s tough, robust, and professional. The clamshell interior design and fleecy, removable folding dividers are a contrasting tan, which looks slick against the black exterior.
It’s got useful additional features such as external carry straps and an expansion option that adds 7L of usable space to your bag.
It is a big backpack, so it’s not going to look as sleek and streamlined as a smaller, more compact camera bag might. However, considering you can effectively take your studio on the road with you, it’s definitely the most attractive large pack you’ll find on the market!
One of my favorite things about the McKinnon is that it isn’t totally obvious that it’s a camera bag.
To the outside eye, it could just be a stylish travel backpack—and from a security point of view, that’s a great thing. We don’t particularly want the whole world to know we’ve got thousands of dollars of gear strapped to our backs, and the McKinnon affords that little bit of subtlety so you can fly under the radar.
Outfitting your Peter McKinnon camera bag with accessories will arguably make it the most useful travel bag in your wardrobe. NOMATIC has a ton of accessory options that are built to last—and they look damn good with the McKinnon!
Though the McKinnon comes with a waist strap, you can also buy them separately in case you damage yours or want different sizes for different users.
A camera cube pack comes in handy for keeping your belongings separate and organized, especially if you don’t need all that space in the main compartment. You can downsize the camera space and open up more room for clothes or an overnight bag of toiletries, which can also go in their own dedicated cube.
If you want to keep your shooting accessories a bit more organized, too, consider opting for a sleek memory card case, which you can then slip into one of the handy zippered pockets in the camera compartment. You can even purchase a case to store all your back-up battery packs.
I use the filter case to keep my polarized filters safe and scratch-free, and it’s particularly handy if you’re shooting primarily landscapes.
A rain cover is always a good idea, too, even though the McKinnon is fairly water-resistant. This will offer you some peace of mind on those days when it’s really coming down.
Other Bags and Alternatives
If you want to browse some market competitors before you commit to purchasing a bag, here are some of the front runners for the perfect pack.
The ProTactic BP 450 AW II Backpack is a really good alternative if you have slightly less camera kit and want a useful camera bag that you can lug around every day and definitely fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane.
This backpack holds enough clothing for a couple of days away, plus a laptop and your camera gear. The bag features an exterior SlipLock system that allows you to easily add pouches and cases so you can carry more accessories.
This 25L pack has 4 access points, making your gear extremely accessible.
It carries less than the NOMATIC McKinnon camera pack, but if you want a robust, smaller alternative, it’s a really handy bag to have. For pro photographers, I’d consider this more of a day pack or short weekend bag rather than a true travel bag.
At 41L, the Prvke bag is a brilliant camera bag option for pros on the move. It uses a camera cube system to store your camera equipment and keep it separate from your clothes, so it can be used as a travel backpack as well.
This pack has a really intuitive layout and provides easy access to all your gear. It is also available in 21L and 31L if you’re looking to size down.
Like the NOMATIC McKinnon Camera Pack, it has plenty of support straps, thick shoulder pads, side pockets, and a hip belt to help spread the load. It even has external carry straps to easily shift it around the studio or your working space.
You can even add on a pack-specific photography accessory bundle!
If you’re looking for a mid-size bag that easily transitions between a camera bag and everyday backpack, Peak Design’s 30L Everyday Backpack is a great option!
Inside the camera bag, there are three small dividers. This camera cube system helps keep gear organized and secure. It features a 15” laptop sleeve and a variety of internal slip pockets for smaller items and documents.
It is made of a 100% recycled 400D weatherproof shell to keep your gear safe from the elements.
This camera backpack has accessory straps, external side storage for water bottles or tripods, and a luggage carry strap for easily hooking onto your suitcase handle.
Although not as suitable as the Peter McKinnon camera bag for weekend trips, this camera backpack is great as a day pack or one-nighter!
Final Thoughts: The McKinnon Camera Backpack Review
Wherever your photography journey takes you, you want to make sure you can bring all the tools you need for the job along for the ride—and in that regard, the Peter McKinnon camera bag is a serious game-changer.
I’ve filled it with a wide selection of bodies, lenses, and accessories and still haven’t come close to running out of space, which is a testament to how cleverly designed the interior is.
In addition to providing plenty of space, this camera backpack is fully customizable and doesn’t even require the purchase of a separate cube pack, like another travel backpack might.
I recommend giving Peter McKinnon’s video walkthrough of the bag a watch on YouTube, as it gives a really thorough breakdown of every part of the bag, and why it was designed as such. He goes over every detail of this camera backpack, from the magnetic water bottle holder to the roomy tablet sleeve, supportive sternum strap, accessory straps, and more.
Overall, the Peter McKinnon camera bag is an admittedly niche purchase, but if you are a serious adventure photographer, you’ll find it an invaluable buy and truly the crown jewel of the camera bags out there.
Peter McKinnon x NOMATIC is an iconic collaboration you don’t want to miss out on!