The Best Camera Bags and Accessories to Carry With You

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If you own photography gear beyond a single camera, you need a good bag for carrying it, and probably a good way of organizing all your gear, and keeping things clean. After doing more than 18 hours of new research and testing, built on the back of more than 45 hours of previous work, we’ve assembled recommendations for everything photographers will need to carry their cameras. These bags and carrying accessories will keep your precious gear organized and protected in the field.

If you’re looking for more gear to make your shots better, take a look at “The Best Camera Lens Filters, Flashes, and Accessories for Taking Great Photos.” And if you want a camera strap for carrying your camera around, see “The Best Camera Straps (for Function and Fashion).”

Last Updated: June 23, 2016
Camera straps have been upgraded to their own guide, and expanded to include more styles of strap. If you’re interested, have a look at The Best Camera Straps (for Function and Fashion)

Camera bags

It can be confusing to find a camera bag these days because it seems that everyone and their cat manufactures them—and it’s just as hard for us to recommend one that’ll fit everyone’s needs. So after talking to six professional photographers and photojournalists, we recommend instead looking to trusted brands that have a style you like, and the size and form factor you need. We suggest figuring out how much gear you want to carry with you, and choosing a bag that you like, matches those needs, and is made by a trustworthy brand—in particular, we like Think Tank, MindShift, Peak, Tenba, Lowepro, and Tamrac.



From left: Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW, Think Tank Urban Approach 15, MindShift Backlight 26L, and Tamrac Anvil 23. Photo: Mike Perlman

When you need to carry multiple 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. Ideally, it’ll offer multiple ways to access your gear, so you might not even have to take it off your back to use.

The consensus among the pros was that Think Tank and MindShift (sibling companies) bags are reliable and capacious. According to 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.” Jim Fisher of PCMag relies on a Think Tank Urban Approach 15 when he’s “out shooting and walking about (nature trails and just weekend trips).

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.” Shutterbug’s John Sienkiewicz favors the Tamrac Anvil 23: “It’s roomy enough to stow a 15-inch 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.”

Messenger bag


Peak Everyday Messenger and Tenba Cooper. Photo: Mike Perlman

A messenger bag is ideal for when you need something less bulky than a backpack. This is also a great option when you need to get in and out of your bag easily and access gear quickly. Perfect for one DSLR or two mirrorless cameras (depending on size), as well as a few lenses and accessories, messenger bags usually also have room for a laptop and tablet. Look for one with adjustable (and preferably removable) inserts so you can change the layout to meet your needs, a laptop compartment big enough for your machine, and external pockets for tucking away small items like short cables, batteries, and memory cards. But keep in mind you’ll be putting all that weight on one shoulder, so they’re not as well-suited as a backpack for extended use.

Peak Everyday Messenger
Designed by photographers and for photographers, it has a laundry list of useful features.

The Peak Everyday Messenger was universally recommended. 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.” The Peak Everyday Messenger was also named as one of the best pieces of gear of 2015 by PopPhoto.

Also Great
Tenba Cooper Slim
The Slim is big enough to fit your camera and laptop—but manages to still look like an everyday messenger bag.

The group also liked the Tenba Cooper line. According to Derrick Story, “I think this messenger is just crazy handsome. 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.” Both the Tenba Cooper and Peak Everyday Messenger will set you back more than $200, but if you want to spend less than that, Tenba’s other messenger bags are as reliable—and often much more affordable. The Tenba Messenger can be had for as low as $60 at times, while the Tenba DNA line runs between $100 and $200.

Smaller bags

There’s no clear pick on a compact bag for toting a small camera and a single extra lens. However, given the positive reviews of Tenba and Think Tank products from our group of photographers, we feel safe in saying that if you find an appropriately sized bag from either one that you like, it’ll be pretty reliable—and if you already have a Timbuk2 messenger, you can convert it into a camera bag with just an insert. —Mike Perlman


Beyond your camera, lenses, and tripod, what should you be carrying in your gear bag? Here are some everyday tools that might make your life easier when out shooting.

Camera cleaning gear


Your first line of defense against a grubby lens—a Rocket Blaster and Pec-Pads. Photo: Tim Barribeau

Camera gear is in an investment that starts in the hundreds of dollars and—for many photography fanatics—easily works its way into the many thousands. To protect your ever-growing assortment of bodies and lenses, a basic set of affordable gear will do the job. For cleaning the front element of your lens, we recommend the Giottos Rocket Air Blaster, a Lenspen, a set of Pec-Pads, a vial of Eclipse cleaner, and if you need to get into your sensor, a box of Sensor Swabs. Between these different cleaning products, you should be able to keep your images spotless.

Cable organizer


Organize all your cables, cards, and drives in one handy package. Photo: Nina Johnson

Photographers, like most gearheads, travel with a huge array of small and easily lost extras: power cords, battery chargers, memory cards and cases, filters, lens cleaning clothes, and so forth. To put some order to this chaos, we began by testing several cases for holding pocket-size gear and their power sources, and found that the Skooba Cable Stable is the best option for organizing.

Skooba Cable Stable
You can jam-pack the Skooba Cable Stable with everything from cables to loose batteries to a Kindle and be assured that nothing will budge from its spot.

In our tests, it fit most bits and bobs comfortably, whether chunky handheld devices or wound cables, and each item had its assigned spot. There are mesh pockets with zippers for loose items like batteries and thumb drives. Once you zip it closed (easy to do with this guy), you don’t have to worry about something falling into your camera bag. The pocket on the outside even has enough space for something small, like a Kindle or Colorchecker Passport. It zips closed easily thanks to its reliable YKK zipper. We also liked that we could squeeze additional stuff in there loosely in a pinch. —Tim Barribeau

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Originally published: June 23, 2016

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