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BEST photo bags for summer exploring

Posted on May 17, 2022

No matter what the camera, you need a bag to keep it safe. We take a look at some of PN’s recommended backpacks, shoulder bags and cases…

If it’s a summer of adventure you’re looking for, you will need a robust and dependable camera-carrying kit to protect your gear. Whether you’re hiking through the Himalayas, sailing down the Amazon, or off out on day trips through the city, you will need a decent bag. Most photographers have a camera bag, but when they have seen better days a new up-to-date design might be just what you need to get you out snapping again! If you’re looking to upgrade or to bag your first carrying kit, these options from Manfrotto, Vanguard, Peak Design and others will be great options for you. Let’s check them out…

Manfrotto Pro Light Flexloader L
Designed for unparalleled protection and portability, the Flexloader is part of Manfrotto’s new Pro Light collection. Its all-new M-Guard protection system gives greater shock resistance. The 26x15x47cm front-accessed interior is deep enough for gripped bodies and multiple lenses, and has a wealth of easy-to-fit dividers. There’s also an expandable rear pocket and sleeve for a 15in laptop. See-through pockets are on hand for small accessories and there are multiple attachment points for tripods or other gear. The outer is water-repellent and it comes with a sun/rain cover.

RRP: £299

Vanguard VEO Active 49
Vanguard’s Active range is intended for comfort when hiking or travelling, while keeping gear safe and accessible. All the bags have a USB port interface, hydration pouch and lots of organisation pockets. The Active 49 isn’t the largest in the range, but still takes a pro-sized DSLR or mirrorless body with a grip and mounted telephoto lenses, plus room for some big glass like a 300mm f/2.8 or 150-600mm zoom. There’s also enough space for a 15in laptop. Rear access means muck-free, safe loading, while there’s a smaller daypack section for other essentials. The bag has a water-resistant outer, storm-sealed zips and a seam-sealed rain cover. It measures 33x25x51cm, with a camera compartment that is 28x16x35cm. 

RRP: £299.99

Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L
Famed for its backpacks, Peak Design’s Everyday range also includes a handy sling bag that’s perfect for smaller gear. This 10L version is the largest – there are 3L and 6L models, too – and comes in either black, grey or blue. The Sling features a padded 86-172cm cross-body strap. The 10L has a dedicated sleeve for a 13in laptop and will take a full-frame DSLR body with a 70-200mm attached, plus another lens or accessories. There’s a weatherproof outer and storm-sealed zips.

RRP: £121.50

ThinkTank Photo Freeway Longhaul 50
ThinkTank is well-known for its superb photo backpacks and shoulder bags, but the company also makes great products as part of its Travel Collection. The Freeway Longhaul carryall duffel is a rugged organiser that can be used to safely move all sorts of gear. This 50-litre version comes in grey or green and measures 43.5×32.5x35cm externally. Internally, there’s a padded divider and Velcro strips to fit a camera compartment, as well as four outside pockets. There are duffel-style handles on top, as well as three other handles fixed to the sides, while a padded shoulder strap may be fitted between six different D-rings. A zippered top cover and extra-durable base protect from weather, too. 

RRP: £125

MindShift Gear FirstLight 20L
Built for travel, the FirstLight series combines all-day comfort with carry-on compatibility. This 20-litre model is the smallest in the range, but roomy enough for a detached 200-400mm f/4. Its comfort comes from several adjustable features, including a contoured harness with 11 adjustment points – letting the fit be modified for men or women, tall or short. The bag measures 29×47.5×17.8cm externally, 27.5×44.5×13.5cm internally, and will comfortably fit a DSLR and three or more lenses, plus 15in laptop. It has grab handles, a rain cover and mounting points for a tripod. 

RRP: £247

Peli 1560LOC
When you need the ultimate in protection, a hard case is the way to go, and the biggest name in this sector has long been Peli. The Peli 1560LOC combines great capacity and portability on top of its formidable build – and it’s a great storage option, too. Its retractable handle and smooth-rolling, abrasion-resistant polyurethane wheels make it easy to manoeuvre. With internal dimensions of 517x392x228mm, its customisable foam block inner can be honed to grip a tremendous amount of gear. Externally, it measures 560x455x265mm and weighs 9kg with foam. It’s shockproof and has an O-ring and pressure equalisation valve. Plus, it’s weather-resistant with an IP rating of 67.

RRP: £381.60

Shimoda Explore V2 30 starter kit
Designed by landscape and travel photographers for exactly those purposes, the Shimoda Explore range combines innovations, superb protection and stellar build. The Explore V2 30 is the mid-size model, and at 29.5×51.5x17cm it meets EU and Asian carry-on regulations for air travel. Like all Shimoda bags, you buy the outer and spec other components to suit your needs; for instance, adding the core camera unit and straps. The ‘starter kit’ comes with a Medium Mirrorless Core taking a smaller DSLR or mirrorless body, plus several lenses. This leaves the bag’s upper free for other kit – or an additional Core. There’s rear and side access, lockable zips and, in a move other manufacturers could learn from, a choice of straps meant for female image makers at no extra cost. 

RRP: £369

BlackRapid Sport Breathe
It’s not only bags that help you carry a camera. Choosing the right strap can make a big difference to your photography, too, and you can improve on the basic versions that come with most bodies. BlackRapid has always made comfortable and secure straps, and the Breathe range is the latest. Worn across the body, it uses an ‘air mesh’ shoulder pad, allowing improved grip and weight distribution. The pad is generously sized and very comfortable, measuring 40.5cm long and 6.5cm thick, with an ergonomic shape to fit around the neck and shoulder. There’s a removable underarm stabilising strap included. For security, it uses BlackRapid’s trusted CR-3 connector, LockStar cover and FR-5 fastener. The nylon strap can extend to 167cm. 

RRP: £82

Billingham Eventer MKII
Maker of some of the most iconic and durable camera bags, Billingham is back with an upgraded Eventer model. The series has long been a favourite for those wanting a premium-quality shoulder bag, and the new version adds features to the series’ classic styling and handling. The Mark II offers a ‘TukTop’ design, where the main compartment’s zips can be tucked behind the bag’s padded insert, so they don’t get in the way when you’re removing a camera or lenses. There’s also a slimmer and more ergonomic carry handle and weatherproofed zips. The Eventer MKII comes in five colour combinations, measuring 40x18x35cm externally, 34x12x26cm internally.

RRP: £560

Tenba Fulton V2 10L
Even if you already have a backpack, it’s worth adding versions that deal with specific needs. For instance, a smaller model like the Tenba Fulton V2 10L is great for short trips, street or travel photography. Although slimline and inconspicuous, it can hold a decent amount of kit in its dedicated, rear-opening camera section – like a DSLR with two to four lenses, up to a typical 24-70mm in size. There’s also a roll-top upper which can expand to fit larger items or be cinched down, as well as space for up to an 11in laptop. The bag measures 25x38x15cm externally, and has a thick, water-repellent canvas outer and premium YKK zips. 

RRP: £85

Originally published in Issue 99 of Photography News.

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