The Best Camera Bags And Straps

The Best Camera Bags and Straps

After doing more than 24 hours of new research and testing -- including interviews with several professional photographers -- on top of 60 hours previously spent reviewing camera carrying gear, we've found the best bags (both backpack and messenger style) and straps to keep your equipment organised and protected in the field.

AU Editor's Note: We've checked and only a few of these bags and straps are available within Australia, but being a photographer myself I know that we usually want the best, and sometimes that means buying online from an overseas store and shipping your gear to Australia. -- Cam

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, a buyer's guide to the best technology. This is a condensed version of The Best Camera Bags, Straps, and Accessories to Carry With You; read the full review here.

If you need to carry multiple camera bodies, lenses, accessories, and a tripod, you should look for a backpack. (If you need a great tripod, we have a recommendation, and a travel-sized pick as well.) A good camera backpack will distribute the load evenly so that you can carry large amounts of equipment for long periods but still keep everything protected. The ideal bag will offer multiple ways for you to access your gear -- you might not even have to take the bag off your back to do so. On the other hand, if you're not carrying a ton of gear, a messenger bag gives you easier and quicker access to your kit. It's perfect for one DSLR or two mirrorless cameras (depending on size), as well as a few lenses and accessories. And messenger bags usually also have room for a laptop and tablet. But keep in mind you'll be putting all that weight on one shoulder, so messenger bags aren't as suitable for extended use as backpacks are.

Regardless of which bag style you prefer, we recommend getting a nice strap for the camera itself. The strap that came with your camera is a lot like the lens that came with it: It's good enough, but not really anything special or particularly useful. An upgraded camera strap will be more comfortable for lugging your gear long distances, can support more weight safely, is more stable (to prevent the camera from banging around as you move), and will allow you to get a camera to your eye faster.

The Best Camera Bags and Straps
The Best Camera Bags and Straps

Our picks from left to right: Lowepro ProTactic 350AW, Think Tank Urban Approach 15, MindShift Backlight 26L, Tamrac Anvil 23

Camera Backpacks

Great support: Best overall backpack MindShift Backlight 26L

The consensus among our photography pros was that Think Tank and MindShift (sibling companies) bags are comfortable, organised, reliable, and capacious. According to professional photographer Mason Marsh, the MindShift Backlight 26L "is a wonderful compromise between bring-it-all capacity and comfortable compactness. I carry a Sony A7R Mark II, two Zeiss Batis lenses, a Canon 70-200 F/2.8L or 100-400 L, Canon 50 F/1.2L, Canon 11-24 F/4L, and a mess of accessories." If you want something smaller, consider the Think Tank Urban Approach 15, the bag that PCMag's Jim Fisher relies on when he's out shooting and walking nature trails or for weekend trips.

More protection and external storage: A tactical pick Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW

Derrick Story, aka The Nimble Photographer, opts for the diminutive Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW because "it's durable, comfortable, and provides access from three sides. It's also easy to secure from intruders." He also said, "I like its rugged tactical appearance." And it's more than just looks: That external webbing matrix is perfect for strapping on accessories and pouches, if you need additional storage.

Heavy hauler: A high-capacity pick Tamrac Anvil 23

Shutterbug's John Sienkiewicz favours the Tamrac Anvil 23 for hauling a lot of gear: "It's roomy enough to stow a 38cm laptop computer, a DSLR with 70-200mm f2.8 zoom, and plenty of other gear. It's built without PVC, so it's kind to the environment, and made with the highest quality construction standards, including double stitching, sealed seams, and YKK zippers."

We have much more information about camera backpacks in our full guide.

The Best Camera Bags and Straps
The Best Camera Bags and Straps

The Peak (left) is a universally loved bag designed by and for photographers. The Tenba Cooper (right) has a more refined look for a bit extra.

Camera Messenger Bags

Easy access: Best messenger Peak Everyday Messenger

Pros and other reviewers universally recommended the Peak Everyday Messenger as the best messenger bag. Mason Marsh thought it offered "the very best combination of materials, construction, utility, and style." Wirecutter writer and professional photographer Jeff Carlson explained: "I can tote my Fuji X-T1 around in it without feeling like I'm carrying a camera bag." Also, Popular Photography named the bag one of the best pieces of gear of 2015.

Sleek style: A business-casual pick Tenba Cooper

If you want something a little more business-casual friendly, our interviewees recommend Tenba's Cooper line of bags. "I think this messenger is just crazy handsome," said Derrick Story. "So many nice touches, such as the rear trolley strap. Great placement of pockets. And made from material that should wear beautifully." Chris Gampat of The Phoblographer is also a fan: "This … accommodates my mirrorless cameras, laptop, and even flashes and lenses very well." The Tenba Cooper and Peak Everyday Messenger will each set you back more than $US200 ($256). If you want to spend less than that, Tenba's other messenger bags are as reliable as the Cooper bags -- and often much more affordable -- but not as stylish. The Tenba Messenger can be had for as low as $US60 ($77) at times, while the Tenba DNA line runs between $US100 ($128) and $US200 ($256).

We have much more information about camera messenger bags in our full guide.

The Best Camera Bags and Straps
The Best Camera Bags and Straps

Camera Straps

Comfortable and supportive: The best camera strap BlackRapid Sport

After scouring the Internet for the camera straps most highly recommended by reviewers and photographers alike and spending hours testing 11 of them, we can confidently recommend the BlackRapid Sport as the best functional camera strap for people of average height or taller that costs less than $US75 ($96). Smaller people might prefer the Sport Slim and its narrower shoulder strap. (The two Sport models are otherwise similar in design and features.)

Our first priority for testing straps was to examine the best reviewed ones that have been on the market the longest and to recommend a functional product that outperforms the strap that comes with your camera. We also sought out a strap that contours well to your body and can stand up to a DSLR with a heavy lens (a Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 telephoto lens, in our testing).

We found that the BlackRapid Sport strap met all our criteria for less than $US100 ($128). You can attach it to the camera via the tripod mount, using a stainless steel thumbscrew and metal carabiner. That carabiner connection has been a point of failure on the strap for some users, newer Sports have a locking mechanism on the carabiner as well as an additional plastic piece called a LockStar (developed in partnership with Nikon) that prevents the carabiner from unlocking and keeps the metal hardware from scratching the camera body.

The Best Camera Bags and Straps

Sleekness at a price: A stylish alternative Luma Labs Loop 3

Though more expensive and marginally less stable compared with the BlackRapid, the Luma Labs Loop 3 offers a sleeker and more refined look while still being comfortable for you to use for long periods of time. But it also costs about $US25 ($32) more than the BlackRapid and lacks the locking mechanism to keep the camera from sliding around the strap when you don't want it to.

The Best Camera Bags and Straps

Stability on the cheap: A budget pick Op/Tech Utility Strap Sling

If you want to spend substantially less, OP/TECH's Utility Strap -- Sling stands out for its thick neoprene padding and alternative camera strap connection loop attachment method that doesn't interfere with the camera's tripod socket. The strap's Uni-Loop Connectors feel very secure and require a squeeze on both sides to release. You can use more than one strap for more carrying options, if your battery grip or quick-release plate also include a loop. That said, paying more for a BlackRapid will get you a more contoured and comfortable strap that looks better.

We have much more information about camera straps in our full guide.

These picks may have been updated. To see the current recommendations, please read Wirecutter's guides.

WATCH MORE: Tech News


Comments

    A stylish alternative? Still looks like something someones sandal and socks wearing dad would consider "stylish". Check out some Holdfast Gear for some stylish alternatives. Not cheap though, but with materials like ducks leather and canvas, what do you expect?

      Yeah this is my problem with camera bags and as I travel a lot for doco work, I cant stand 2 things,
      1. camera bags that scream "i have expensive gear with me"
      2. Covert Ops uglyness or a Grandads bum bag nightmare

      Langly Bags are pretty good for style/less obviously a camera bag, but yes expensive.

      Still to this day I cannot find a bag that will fit all my gear perfectly while not looking like a target for theft, I opted for aging my camera bag and covering it in obnoxious tourist patches so it looks like a something a backpackers would drag around.

        crumplers camera backpacks are good. they just look like normal bags, the camera access is through the back panel so the camera cant be seen/accessed from the front or top. http://www.crumpler.com/au/dslr/karachi-outpost-l

          Perfect find looks like travelers/camper gear and fits all the equipment id need, as well as not looking ugly to boot, cheers!

          Last edited 02/05/16 2:12 pm

            no worries! i used it getting around japan for 4 weeks this year and was pretty much perfect. and very weatherproof.

    Never found anything better than the f.stop Ajna. Big enough to carry most of my gear. And it looks like a "normal" backpack !!!

      Yeah, another good bag, My colleague uses one you need to buy a few extra attachments but a solid bag for trecking and shooting

    I prefer the Lowepro Fastpack 350 AW...
    http://store.lowepro.com/media/catalog/product/cache/4/image/1160x1160/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/D/S/DSLRVideoFastpack_350_bottom-stuffed_tripod_laptop.jpg
    ... if I plan on carrying the kitchen sink.

    I use and recommend the BlackRapid Sport. I can carry a heavy body and lens all day without feeling sore or tired.

      This is what I went with like 5 years ago and still use it :)
      I've taken my Fuji X100 the last 2 times I went to the states but am taking my 7D the next time around. I'm going to empty all the bits and piece of out the bag and just take my 24-70mm, body and batteries.... leave all the extra room for ipad and normal day to day things uptop, I think it'll be a good compromise of backpack/camera holder.

        The 24-70 FX is a good all-rounder. :)
        For day trips I like to use DX 18-200 3.5-5.6G ED VR or AF 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED VR depending on where I'm going / what I'm shooting.

          *double*

          Last edited 02/05/16 3:44 pm

          Yeah I mean I was locked into 35 with the X100. I love it to bits but it's not a very fast camera at all (focus is especially bad). Even though the 7D is bulky I think I'd be more inclined to take it out of the bag, sling it over my shoulder for a quick shot or 10 min sprint.

          Quality will be better and if I need to capture something at a reasonable speed it'll be no problem. I can't wait to hit Nevada and Texas's 38-42 degree celsius heat and sun. I'm prepared for f/4.0, 100 ISO at 1/1000 speeds haha. Definitely need to pack a polarizing filter or something to curb dat harsh sun.

    man, finding the perfect camera bag is a real chore. i finally settled (after about 4 bags) on a Crumpler backpack, dont remember the model name but its comfy and looks fantastic and holds my gear so well.

    Guess he wouldn't bite the hand that feeds him.

    Derrick Story is a professional photographer, writer, teacher and photography evangelist for Lowepro. He has authored several digital media books, including his latest, The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers and The Digital Photography Companion (O'Reilly Media, publisher). Derrick is a Senior Contributor for Macworld magazine where he writes a digital photography column, and he's a regular presenter on the popular training site, Lynda.com. Online, Derrick has formed a virtual camera club called The Digital Story (www.thedigitalstory.com) that's open to all photography enthusiasts. The site features weekly podcasts, daily posts, training videos, and reader-submitted photos. You can reach Derrick at [email protected]

    How can you not include FStop in the best bags category? Also you included Peak Design in the bags but not in the straps? The PD straps are better than anything you've got listed there

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