Help me find the perfect backpack for my travels
April 9, 2013 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I need a backpack that can hold a 15" laptop and also have a great area for a DSLR camera, flash, and a couple of lenses. Do you have suggestions?

I travel quite a bit for business where I will be doing professional photography that needs to be uploaded quickly. My travel equipment is usually 3 or 4 DSLR bodies and between 4 and 10 lenses of various lengths.

I have a rolling cart that I use to carry all this camera equipment on the plane, but when I get into the field I take with me just what I need for that day. For that I would like a useful backpack.

Ideally I'd like the backpack to double as a TSA-friendly laptop container. That way I can use the backpack as my second carry-on while flying (though it would have no camera, just laptop, copious chargers, etc.) then when I get to the destination the backpack would have some storage PLUS being safe and secure carrying for my DSLR quipment.

A place to attach a monopod and carry a bottle of water on the backpack is a plus.

I do need it to meet carry-on requirements for international travel but beyond that I'd like it to be large as possible,

I DID see previous questions from 2007 and 2009 but as that was before those awesome TSA unzip-and-flip backpacks that would make security so much easier. My googling and Amazon searches are coming up short, so can you help?
posted by arniec to Technology (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Something from ThinkTank.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:10 AM on April 9, 2013

Lowepro makes bags for cameras and laptops
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2013

Timbuk2 has a line of camera bags including 2 backpacks, but I might look into one of their TSA-friendly bags paired with this camera insert.
posted by beyond_pink at 10:35 AM on April 9, 2013

Do you want a padded bag?
Do you care about fashion vs function?

I ask, because I carry the same amount of gear you describe for the same purpose. I bags by Maxpedition which are tough as nail but not specifically designed for photo gear. I have always hated "real" photo bags with padded compartments, etc and instead prefer to package my lenses and bodies in individual cases or neoprene covers. Then, I've got a completely modular system. I also don't need or want my camera bag to obviously BE a camera bag, so Maxpedition fits the bill all around.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:19 AM on April 9, 2013

I've had my eye on Langley Camera Bags as a present for someone for a while - laptop compartment (outside accessible pocket though not super TSA friendly), padded DSLR slots, extra pockets, pretty durable and pretty.

Water Bottle can fit in the side pockets, not sure about a monopod although you could surely jury-rig something...

Also, they were born via kickstarter if that matters as a pro or con for ya.
posted by McSwaggers at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2013

Oh, I should mention if it isn't clear from the pictures on their site - one of the things I like about those bags is that unlike a typical rucksack - the bag is essentially divided into two portions: on the bottom is the padded gear compartment which is accessible from an outside horizontal zipper that you basically unzip to fold the bag in half and access fairly easily (you can see the canvas that overhangs the zipper in the main pictures of the bag, while the top compartment is a fairly typical rucksack bit with a top access zipper.
posted by McSwaggers at 11:44 AM on April 9, 2013

I came in to second the timbuk2 backpacks and messenger bags... You may not even need the camera insert, depending.

I toss my DSLR, full-size flash, spare batteries, 1-2 lenses and a laptop into a small Timbuk2 commute... I either wrap the lenses in some microfiber and just toss it in, or use the little netting containers on the inside. There are two of them, and you could easily use them for lenses, unless they are huge... The D7100 fits perfectly in it on its back with plenty of room to spare, and I'm sure you could fit a full frame as well.

You can carry bottled water on one of the outside side pouches. Not really sure what to do about the monopod, not knowing the dimensions.

I have done some professional photo work, and this would be my field kit - but I do it all on a much smaller scale. From what you are telling us, I'm guessing you aren't just using a high quality APS-C lens and a 35mm prime... I'm guessing more full-frame body, and full-frame lenses to match. How big are we talking here? Are we talking good quality prime lenses, or giant 70-200 2.8 zooms?

If I was using the beastly giant professional metal lenses, I'd be more concerned with protecting my laptop from the lens than protecting the lens itself.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:17 PM on April 9, 2013

I've been extremely pleased with my Crumpler backpack, the Karachi Outpost small, though you'd need a larger one to fit your laptop. I've had it for 5 years and it's still in great shape even though I'm rough with it. All the interior dividers can be removed so you can fit chargers or other cargo, and easily reinstalled. I don't own a monopod but my tripod hangs nicely on the back.
posted by elerina at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2013

Following on blaneyphoto's suggestion, you might also consider TADGear's backpacks.
posted by evoque at 2:34 PM on April 9, 2013

2nding that Crumpler bags are bomb-proof.
posted by hannahelastic at 2:49 PM on April 9, 2013

Advice: As you travel, be aware of the target potential of the backpack. It doesn't take much for somebody (or a small group) to steal your backpack or camera bag when it screams "There is expensive stuff in here!". Putting a tripod/monopod outside of it just advertises the contents even more...

I have a great looking Think Tank shoulder bag that holds my three lenses and add-ons and doesn't look like a "Tamrac", "LowePro", or most other bags. It is way too small for what you are looking for.

Nods to Crumpler and Think Tank (for their designs)

Good luck.
posted by Leenie at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2013

I have a Tenba messenger bag that is designed to hold both laptop and DSLR, and I love it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:32 PM on April 9, 2013

It doesn't take much for somebody (or a small group) to steal your backpack or camera bag when it screams "There is expensive stuff in here!".
posted by Leenie

This is a very good reason to look into products from PacSafe which offer a variety of modular bags and components. Some are photo-specific others not. All are great - very theft resistant.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:15 PM on April 9, 2013

I have the Crumpler Karachi Outpost medium, and easily carried a 15" MacBook Pro, DSLR, 4 lenses, flash, tripod, and assorted accessories through Europe. It opens from the area against your back so that you don't have to worry about theft while riding a subway or walking in a crowded area. Excellent quality, and the camera dividers are adjustable and/or removable.
posted by notaninja at 8:36 PM on April 9, 2013

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