Recommended Camera Backpacks for City and Landscape Photographers


For we city and landscape photographers, carrying a lot of gear is par for the course. On an average day out it’s not unusual to carry a camera body, tripod, two or three lenses, filters, a filter holder, remote trigger, a laptop, and extra batteries, at a minimum. Now, that’s a lot of stuff, you’re going to be walking for a long time, and it’s going to be heavy—not to mention that what you’re carrying is worth a lot of your hard-earned money. However, the run-of-the mill backpack that you take to work or class is definitely not going to cut it. Proper support for your back, neck, and shoulders is essential. Weather sealing and a rugged design are essential, as are ample space and specialized compartments that are shaped to store your photo gear. We photographers love our gear, and shopping for a photo backpack is hard. Hopefully, this buying guide will help you along the way.

Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II Backpack

When I think “camera backpack,” Lowepro immediately comes to mind. That’s probably because the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II Camera and Laptop Backpack is so ubiquitous among New York cityscape photographers, that I see one almost every time I go out shooting. And, that’s for good reason. The ProTactic BP 450 AW II allows you to carry one or two Pro DSLR or mirrorless cameras, including one with an attached 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This bag will also house up to eight additional lenses or flash units, as well as a tripod, and a 15" laptop. Improved from the first generation, the ProTactic BP 450 AW II offers greater protection and versatility than its predecessor.

Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II Camera and Laptop Backpack
Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II Camera and Laptop Backpack

We all know then when the light is just right, and you see a shot that’s happening right before you, that shot could be gone in the blink of an eye. One of the coolest things about this bag is that it sports four entry points at the top, sides, and back for quick and easy access to your gear when you need to get the shot. Another great attribute of the ProTactic is the customizability factor. You can create custom tailored configurations specifically to accommodate your gear with the SlipLock-compatible strap system, which uses loops and tabs for attaching the five included modular accessories, including a water-bottle pouch, accessory case, tripod cup, and two cinch straps. The interior dividers are adjustable—a big help for getting your gear situated in the bag with optimal fit and weight distribution.

The ProTactic 450 AW II also provides comfort and support with its ActivZone System harness, which includes a chest strap and a removable waist belt, delivering targeted support at the shoulder blades, lumbar, and waist areas for comfort on the move. There’s also a structured back panel that allows for ventilation, and a built-in, all-weather cover to protect your gear from the elements.

Pros: Versatile, spacious, and very rugged, the ProTactic 450 AW II packs a ton of features and is very customizable.

Cons: Although it’s sleek and ergonomic, its utilitarian aesthetic may turn off some more style-conscious users. It’s also relatively expensive versus other camera backpacks.

National Geographic NG A5270 Rucksack

Next up is the National Geographic NG A5270 Africa Series Medium Rucksack, a stylish yet functional offering from the same folk who bring us National Geographic magazine, and the National Geographic Channel. With its surprisingly spacious design and Indiana-Jones looks, this backpack is meant for photographers who are serious about taking care of their gear but want to look good doing it.

National Geographic NG A5270 Africa Series Medium Rucksack
National Geographic NG A5270 Africa Series Medium Rucksack

The NG A5270 Africa Series Medium Rucksack holds a DSLR or mirrorless camera, along with a 15.4" laptop computer, plus extra lenses, filters, flashes, and accessories. A lower padded compartment that opens from the outward facing side holds a camera body, extra lenses, and flash. An upper storage compartment has room for extra batteries, remote triggers, filters, etc.

This backpack is made from water-repellent cotton and has a water-repellent polyester lining. There are two side pouches that can be used to hold a tripod or water bottle. The pack also has two easy-access pockets for accessories and personal items, and a chest strap for extra support.

Pros: With great looks, and a surprising amount of space inside, the NG A5270 offers a great deal of value for style-conscious photographers at a great price.

Cons: With no waist belt, this pack may not be the best choice for super-heavy loads, or people with back and shoulder problems.

Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II Backpack

The Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II is an affordable backpack with an easy side access camera compartment in the spirit of its big brother, the ProTactic. The bag has three padded, zippered compartments for storing and protecting your camera gear. The top compartment can be used for accessories such as ND and polarizer filters, extra batteries, and personal items. The rear compartment is for holding an up to 15" laptop and tablet. As touched upon above, the side compartment is designed for easy access like the ProTactic, but it only has room for storing one DSLR or mirrorless camera with a zoom lens attached, plus two or three extra lenses or flashes.

Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II
Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II

The Fastpack BP 250 AW II also has customizable dividers in the side compartment for your photo gear with the three included padded dividers. Small items such as flashlights, batteries, sunglasses, remotes, and mobile phones may be stored in the five slip-in pockets located inside the top compartment. Next to these pockets is a lanyard with a swiveling clip for keys.

A tall, stretch-mesh pocket and adjustable strap on the right side of the bag can hold a tripod, or a water bottle. Also, like the ProTactic, the Fastpack is equipped with a shoulder harness with a chest strap and a removable waist belt for greater comfort and stability with heavy loads, and long hikes. And when it starts pouring, you can deploy the built-in all-weather cover to ensure the safety of your gear.

Pros: Affordable, yet feature rich, this pack offers a great value for serious photographers on a budget.

Cons: While it does offer padded compartments, the Fastpack doesn’t sport the hard rugged outer shell, or the sheer spaciousness of the higher-end ProTactic

I hope this short list of bags has given you some direction on your quest to find the best camera backpack to fit your needs as an active city or landscape photographer. While there are many more options available on the market today, I think these three quality packs offer a great starting point for photographers trying to find the perfect balance of features, spaciousness, ruggedness, and affordability. I look forward to answering your questions in the Comments section, below.