I was tired of trying to fit all of my camera gear into my backpacking bag and not being able to figure out an efficient system that was easy to organize and kept my kit protected.
I have been backpacking for years, and I began adventure photography as a way to enhance my outdoor experience through this art form. One of my biggest gripes throughout the years was not being able to fit all my necessary gear securely in my hiking backpacks—always risking damage or loss and never having easy access to all my camera gear.
The WANDRD FERNWEH Backpacking Bag aims to fill a different niche from most other camera backpacks. This is the type of backpack for the aspiring Nat Geo pro who needs to be able to tackle the elements and shoulder plenty of adventure and photography gear without sacrificing comfort, functionality, or gear access.
Robust, multifunctional, and full of unique features—like a hidden passport pocket, external sleeping bag holder, and velcro straps to secure all your kit—it’s become a mainstay in our shoot wardrobe. Plus, it comes in a classic sleek black color, with a tan option as well.
I hope this WANDRD FERNWEH review helps other photographers have a smoother backpacking experience when bringing along their cameras. In this review, I’ll guide you through each aspect of the bag—what I love and what I don’t—and how it performs in the outdoors.
WANDRD FERNWEH Backpack Review Summary
The 50L FERNWEH Backpacking Bag is a spacious, thoughtfully designed hiking backpack for photographers who need to bring their photography gear out in the wilderness with them.
It’s built for multi-day camping trips and features a large main compartment that can carry your camera equipment, clothing, and camping gear. It also has external space for a sleeping pad or bag, and extra storage in the waist belt and sternum straps.
WANDRD has long been an industry leader for the adventure photography niche, and it’s no surprise they’ve been able to perfect the FERNWEH Backpack. This camera backpack was Kickstarter-funded, and quickly gained the support and praise of the outdoor community.
Since its success on Kickstarter, this bag has managed to climb to the top of photographers’ lists of essential gear for their adventures.
This bag review will give you the complete breakdown of the WANDRD FERNWEH Backpacking Bag!
- Stores plenty of camera gear safely and securely
- Adjustable to fit any wearer
- Comfortable and breathable for those long, hot days on the trail
- All the straps and loops mean no kit needs to be left behind
- Plenty of pockets and smart storage solutions, such as an external hydration bladder pocket
- Additional loops for extra gear are handy—but if you’re not using them all you may find they get in your way
- It is not ultralight
- It is too large to use as a carry-on with most airlines
- Does tend to show scuffs and marks, which make it look a bit worn out quicker
|Materials||Waterproof Tarpaulin and Robic 1680D Ballistic Nylon. Weather Resistant Zippers.|
|Dimensions||S/M: 25” X 13.75” X 9.5” (63.5 X 34.9 X 24.1 CM)|
M/L: 26” X 13.75“ X 9.5” (66 X 34.9 X 24.1 CM)
The WANDRD FERNWEH Backpack: Who Is It Best For?
Before diving into the backpack review, let’s make sure the FERNWEH bag is fit for you and your needs.
For years, backpackers have had to make a choice: prioritize packing their camera kit and double up on backpacks to make it work, or leave things behind to fit it all in one bag.
The WANDRD FERNWEH aims to find a happy middle ground—offering the organization to securely pack and easily access photography gear while maintaining space for all necessary camping gear, clothing, and toiletries.
Unlike other backpacks on the market, the WANDRD FERNWEH prioritizes photographers’ needs. It has optimized available space to ensure you’ll be able to bring all the gear you need while summiting peaks and crossing desert landscapes.
The FERNWEH Backpack is for the avid adventure photographer who doesn’t want to compromise on space or organization of their kit, and wants a well-made, highly-reviewed bag that is as comfortable as it is functional.
Ergonomics & Interior Features: What’s Inside?
The feature that sets the WANDRD FERNWEH apart from other camera backpacks is its ability to accommodate all the gear you’ll need for a multi-day backpacking trip.
Let’s take a look at all you can comfortably carry in its various internal and external compartments.
Space To Store Laptops
The WANDRD FERNWEH backpack features space for a 15″ laptop. This is sufficient for many; however, I do wish this was updated to fit the many laptops that are now 16”+. Many travel photographers edit with larger laptops such as the MacBook Pro, which often exceeds the 15” pocket size.
But if your laptop will fit, the design and placement of the laptop sleeve are really handy. It’s located in the back of the backpack, and it’s equipped with a false bottom that allows for shock absorption if your backpack takes a hit or you drop it.
The idea of it being in the back panel worried me at first, as I thought it may make it uncomfortable or stiff, but it is located behind the cushions and support, so it really isn’t an issue!
The laptop sleeve itself is doubly secured with a velcro strap to stop your computer from sliding out if you open the zip with a little too much enthusiasm.
Once you’ve opened the back panel that contains the laptop sleeve, you’ll also be able to access all your photo gear inside. So, all the tech you’re likely to need at the same time is easily accessible without rummaging.
Space To Store Camera Gear
Let’s talk about arguably the most important part of the WANDRD FERNWEH camera bag: the space for your camera gear.
The FERNWEH Backpacking Bag is compatible with WANDRD camera cubes, which go in the main compartment of the backpack. The number of lenses and bodies you’ll be able to pack will depend on which of the cubes—available separately—you opt for.
If you access the camera compartment from the left-hand side entry point of the backpack, you’ll find that there’s a handy pocket in the flap that makes the perfect storage space for little accessories such as memory cards, lens wipes, and spare batteries (a feature I get really good use out of)! This side flap also has a velcro sleeve that’ll keep your cube secure inside, ensuring your precious gear doesn’t get moved around while you’re on the go.
You can also directly access your kit through the back of the bag.
If you’re using the WANDRD Essential Cube—our cube of choice to pair with this pack—you’ll be able to fit a mid-size DSLR with a 70-200mm lens attached, plus room to stow your nifty fifty and another compact lens.
Of course, the best thing about cubes is their adaptability. The velcro dividers mean that you can customize each of the sections to fit your specific needs.
The cube itself can be opened in two different ways: you can either unzip its top panel to get to all your kit, or you can unzip one end of it and slide your camera and its attached lens out without disturbing your other lenses.
This pocket feature is perfect if you need to grab your camera quickly and get the shot with minimal fuss!
The WANDRD FERNWEH is all about functionality and durability. Offered in black or tan, this backpack has a simple, minimalist look.
The exterior of the backpack has several storage options and other functionalities that make it perfect for backpacking.
One of the key external storage points of this backpack is the sleeping bag holder at the bottom of the pack. It’s hidden away in a stash pocket, and when unzipped, reveals a G-hooked carry system that can be used for a sleeping bag, tent, tripods, coats, and other items.
Within the stash pocket, you’ll also find another small compartment, perfect for keeping a rain cover.
All around the backpack, there are handy spots to secure extra bits of kit, from the two pockets on the removable hip belt to the two compression straps on either side of the bag, which I’ve found particularly helpful for securing a tripod or a monopod!
Other straps include stowable ones designed for ice picks and skis, which can also be used to carry other, similarly-sized tools. Plus, you’ll find countless webbed gear loops and carabiner attachment points, giving you the ability to carry just about everything you could possibly need.
There’s also a handy external zippered pouch that’s designed to hold a jacket and has a hydration bladder sleeve with a tube routing system, which is a handy way to avoid leakage into the main compartment of your bag.
A water bottle/tripod pocket hugs the side of the bag when not in use, and expands to fit the gear you need to carry. Having the pocket flush with the bag gives it a sleek, professional look.
Practicality: Straps & Zippers Galore
You’ll never run out of external straps and loops to help you attach extra gear, which is a great bonus but also one of the downsides of the FERNWEH for some. It tends to feel as though there’s quite a lot going on, and you’ll have to accept some amount of dangling and business as part of the deal.
I personally like being able to attach my sleeping pad, hydration bladder, rain jacket, and tent to save room inside the pack.
There are also several padded grab handles around the bag, so you can pick it up in any situation. For example, when you have the back open, it’s great to be able to move it quickly without having to close everything back up first!
Internal Access and Storage: What Can You Fit Inside the WANDRD FERNWEH?
The WANDRD FERNWEH is extremely functional, and there are a number of useful accessories and specific items of kit that can be stowed inside, not just in the main compartment.
Here, I’ll dive into the main access points of the backpack and the items you can store inside this camera backpack.
Top Access Point
The top access point of the FERNWEH takes you straight into the main compartment of the bag. You can use the removable bucket, which is roughly half the size of the main internal compartment, or you can go without it if you have larger items or prefer one large compartment.
I typically keep the bucket in place to organize and pack clothing. It’s really easy to remove and reinstall, for those nights where I maybe lost my pair of socks at the bottom of the compartment (we’ve all been there—shoutout to the infinite black holes in backpacking backpacks) and just want to sift through that section in my tent instead of tossing and turning the whole pack!
There’s also a small mesh pocket inside the top flap. This pocket is a great spot for small items like a toothbrush, book or notebook, or your AirPods.
Front Access Point
Another way to get to the main compartment of the WANDRD FERNWEH quickly is by opening up the front clamshell opening. This will give you zippered access to the removable bucket and camera cube.
If you want access to most everything in the bag at once, this is the way to do it!
Side Camera Access
The side panel opening provides access to the bottom of your bag. This handy mode of entry is particularly excellent if you’re using a camera cube.
The side flap is accessible while you’re wearing the bag, giving you an easy-access option to grab your camera on the go. It also offers some additional handy storage options in the form of a zippered pocket with three small compartments for memory cards, battery packs, and other small items.
Back Panel Access
No one wants their expensive tech and irreplaceable hard drives and documents at the front of their camera bag, where someone could easily access and steal them. This is where the WANDRD FERNWEH’s back panel access comes in handy.
You’ll need to de-bag to get into it, of course, but once you open up the back, you’ll find a laptop sleeve, full access to your camera cube, and several extra storage options. There is even a hidden passport pocket that’s perfect for stashing those important documents and some emergency cash.
Storing Your Camera Gear
The accommodation for camera gear is where the WANDRD FERNWEH really shines for adventure photographers, whether you use a WANDRD cube or a third-party camera bag.
There’s a dedicated space within the WANDRD bag that’s designed for camera bags to slot into securely, giving you quick access at the side of the bag and the back, too.
There’s plenty of space for a few lenses as well as your primary lens attached to your camera body, which is ideal if you want to flit between landscape photography and wildlife or documentary photography and need the appropriate variety in your kit to be able to do so.
Even better? You’ll absolutely be able to use some of those external attachment points to bring your tripod or monopod on the go with you.
There’s also room for customization here—you can use a smaller camera cube if you just have one body and a couple of compact lenses, or you can opt for a larger cube that fits hefty telephotos if you need less overnight gear but want to have as many glass options as possible.
Comfort: How Comfortable is the WANDRD FERNWEH Backpack?
One of the major drawbacks of many backpacking bags is that they’re designed to fit a specific body type and height. Usually, anyone outside of those narrow parameters has a less comfortable experience.
The WANDRD FERNWEH, though, works as well on short folks as tall ones, and that’s partly due to its smart, ergonomic design features. This type of adjustable backpack is especially great for those who don’t fit within standard measurements, and may need more or less wiggle room than the average user.
There’s an internal frame that does some pretty heavy lifting: it provides structure to the backpack and protection for your gear, whether the bag is full or not.
When fully loaded, the internal frame stabilizes the load against your back, with the help of its shoulder straps, easing the load on your spine.
Like much of the backpack, you’re able to customize this frame by choosing one of two frame sizes to best suit your body type.
The shoulder straps and the back of the WANDRD FERNWEH are generously padded with EVA foam, which further helps absorb shock, spread the pressure of a heavy load, and minimize sweat.
These are fully adjustable shoulder straps, too. There are gatekeeper buckles at the top with three attachment points, plus load lifters that you can employ as needed.
There is nothing worse than an ill-fitting shoulder strap that is uncomfortable on a long trip! Luckily, WANDRD provides a type of shoulder strap that has tons of padding and is adjustable.
And, once again, you’re given initial size options when you purchase the bag, which will help you finetune your investment!
Padding and Harness
This is where the FERNWEH really stands out as a camera backpack specifically suited for photo gear rather than just a typical camera bag. The WANDRD FERNWEH boasts a high level of adjustability, which means the bag is suited to any user size or shape.
This camera backpack features breathable mesh and lots of padding, so it remains comfortable without getting sweaty and sticky on those hot hikes.
You’ll find plenty of extra load lifters and super secure straps in the harness system, which will help redistribute the weight of heavy loads. These load lifters include a surprisingly robust chest strap and waist strap and the removable hip belt.
The hip belt comes in two different sizes and includes two external pockets (and a side pocket)—perfect for your phone, water bottle, keys, or a small snack. There are also several additional loops from which to hang more kit.
You can even use some of the external attachment points on the harness, much like a camera harness. This gives you the option to have a second camera on hand for when you need to snag that perfect wildlife or action shot!
Materials: What Is The WANDRD FERNWEH Backpack Made From?
With its 630D (denier) nylon and 5PM coating, The WANDRD FERNWEH is both robust and weatherproof. Having a backpack made of durable and waterproof materials is definitely a deal breaker for me as a photographer.
It feels almost rubbery in texture and helps give the exterior of this backpack some weather resistance, although it is not immune to scuffs and blemishes!
Build Quality & Appearance
All in all, the WANDRD FERNWEH is a high-quality bag—and certainly more durable and tough than many other backpacks by competing camera bag manufacturers that tend to create photography backpacks geared more toward urban use.
Its internal frame makes the build extremely robust and ensures you’re not straining your back even when the backpack is full of all your camera and camping gear.
The frame is balanced and ergonomic, and with the addition of comfortable shoulder straps, waist straps, and a chest strap that allow for distribution of weight, you’ll be comfortable on any adventure.
The pack is the perfect size for multi-day adventures and provides comfort even for those with the heaviest gear. Most bags don’t feature such a supportive harness system, making this bag among the top in comfort.
The Best WANDRD Accessories to Store in the Backpack
There are several accessories that you can store in this bag, from camera cubes and accessory straps to shoe pouches and additional photography gear. WANDRD sells a ton of great accessories that fit perfectly within the backpack, but if you have accessories of your own already, those can often work great too!
You’ll almost certainly want to invest in a WANDRD camera cube, which will organize and safely store your gear in the camera compartment and allow for quick and easy access when you find a shooting opportunity.
There are several options available, but we like the Essential Deep Camera Cube for ensuring we get our favorite bodies and lenses on board.
If you need more camera kit and less of all the other stuff, the Pro and Pro+ cubes are approximately 20L and 30L and will give you more space for a serious zoom lens in your pack.
Most of us won’t typically utilize the numerous straps and loops available on the backpack; however, if you’re into experimenting with, for example, studio lighting out in the wilderness, you could find you fill them up pretty quickly with kit.
If you do find yourself bringing along a lot of gear and need that extra storage on your pack, you can purchase more accessory straps for your WANDRD FERNWEH!
The side camera access on the WANDRD FERNWEH bag makes it easy to grab your camera when you encounter a good photo opportunity. But sometimes you need access even faster than that.
That’s where the nifty route pack comes into play. The route pack seamlessly integrates into the harness of your bag, providing a front-body pack that easily holds a camera body with a telephoto lens attached.
It’s as effective as hiking with a camera harness on, but the route pack provides considerably more protection for your bags’ precious kit.
As much as we’d all like constant good weather on the trails, sometimes we’ve just got to accept the elements. And, when you’re carrying photography gear, you want to ensure that none of the water is seeping into your pack.
The WANDRD FERNWEH is actually pretty reliable as-is against rainfall, but for extra peace of mind during those heavier downpours, I like to add the rain fly covering to protect any zipper openings.
Accessorizing your bags with a shoe pouch is genuinely a game-changer. Have you ever unpacked your clothes and discovered that they’re covered in half the trail you’ve been traipsing along?
Especially in wet environments where you may be tracking mud, having a shoe pouch is a sure-fire way to keep your clothing and gear clean.
The shoe pouch is designed to slip easily into the main compartment of the WANDRD FERNWEH, keeping dirt, moisture, and dodgy odors contained and totally separate from your stuff.
I’d say this is quite an upgrade from wrapping your shoes in a plastic shopping bag and hoping for the best! Plus, a shoe pouch is a staple item for any trip and can be used in any of your travel bags.
Alternatives to the WANDRD FERNWEH
If you want to explore your options before making the investment, here are some of the most popular bags similar to the WANDRD FERNWEH on the market.
The Action X50 isn’t a wholly dissimilar bag to the WANDRD FERNWEH: it, too, features a bucket system for internal storage and it has a side access panel that lets you into the internal camera compartment.
One major difference? It has a roll-top design which means its internal capacity is expandable beyond 50L.
The backpack features what they call a core unit modular camera insert system. Much like camera cubes, these padded, shockproof units provide protection for your gear and help keep the pack organized. You can increase your layout options by purchasing more Core Units and stacking them to best suit your needs.
Furthermore, its back panel is molded, which means it’s better suited for winter climates than the breathable mesh of the FERNWEH, and still provides maximum comfort. You’ll also find awesome features like easy ski attachments and a removable helmet holder on the Action X50, which is great for alpine explorers!
As the predecessor to the FERNWEH, the PRVKE has natural comparisons, but is a smaller bag—its capacity is 41L to the FERNWEH’s 51L.
The bag features plenty of similar options, including the camera cube system, but we’d consider this the urban alternative to the FERNWEH, as it’s neither as big nor as comfortable as its outdoorsy cousin.
Still, if you’re more likely to spend your time on street photography rather than chasing down sprawling vistas, this more compact option could be a better match!
As one of the OG on-the-road camera backpacks, the Tilopa-50L Travel and Adventure Camera Backpack has plenty of the same features as the WANDRD FERNWEH. It utilizes camera cubes to maximize internal space, side compression straps, and carries 50L.
Unlike the FERNWEH, it skips the excess padding, which makes it a more lightweight option—though whis does make it slightly less comfortable and offers less shock protection for your gear on those long hikes.
Like the Action X50, it’s also been designed with snow sports in mind, and it’s equipped to carry skis. It also has external straps and loops to store extra gear!
WANDRD FERNWEH Review: Final Thoughts
Just shy of $385, the FERNWEH is a niche bag for a specialized user—but when it’s paired up with its perfect person, it’s more than worth it to invest in one.
I’ve fallen in love with my WANDRD FERNWEH (which, incidentally, is the German word for ‘farsickness’—a sort of deep ache for travel, which I love) for its functionality and innovative design.
It holds a lot of stuff, and it does it sensibly, compartmentalizing cameras and kit so everything is easily accessible while also staying clean, tidy, and safe.
There’s very little you can’t attach to the outside of the bag either, because its surplus of straps and loops are designed to secure just about any extra accessories you might want to bring on tour with you, with quick access always at the forefront of the design.
And this bag really is all about comfort. With ample padding—as well as breathable materials I’m—through the shoulder straps, hip belt, waist belt, and back panel, it’s not going to rub or pinch while you’re on the move.
Its ergonomic design, which includes a robust internal frame, offers significant weight-bearing support, spreading the load of your fully laden bag so you don’t end up feeling like a pack mule (even though we photographers usually end up looking like one)!
Basically, the FERNWEH takes your mind off your bag, giving you peace of mind and the extra brain space to think about what you’re actually out and about for—taking great photos.