Digital Photography Review

The 7 Best Camera Bags for Wildlife Photographers – Camechs

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Wildlife photographers endure some of the toughest terrains on the Earth – from hot deserts, to snowy arctic tundras, and thick, wet rain forests. You need to make sure that your equipment is protected through any environment, while making sure that you can travel a pretty fair distance on foot. Don’t believe me? See for yourself in National Geographic’s Wildlife Photo Gallery.

Backpacks are without question the best camera bag choice for wildlife photographers. They allow you to carry a heavy load of equipment while remaining unencumbered, so you can remain hands-free during a long trek. Not just any backpack will do the trick for wildlife photographers and their long super telephoto lenses.

These bags are also great options for anyone looking for a long lens camera bag. This goes for sports photographers, racing photographers, and even tele landscape photographers. If you have large telephoto lenses, keep reading!

What to Look for in a Camera Bag

When it comes to finding the best camera bag for wildlife photographers, there are a number of essential elements you should consider:

Capacity

Carrying capacity is a no-brainer for this one. You want a bag that will be able to fit all of your essential equipment, and then some. Think about your longest and largest lens first. Some packs will have enough carrying capacity to fit a back-up body, more lenses, and all your accessories.

Protection

Working in rugged terrain, you need to make sure that your bag can take a beating and still protect the valuable equipment inside of it. You want a bag that has a hefty amount of padding inside, and can survive some pretty heavy wear and tear.

Rain Cover

There’s nothing worse than getting out in the field and finding out the hard way that your “rain resistant” bag isn’t so “resistant” after all. The next thing you know, your gear is soaked and malfunctioning. Make sure the bag you buy has a good rain cover that protects the entirety of your gear.

Weight

With hefty camera bodies and telephoto lenses, you’re likely carrying more weight than you care for on your back. The last thing you want is to have your bag add significantly to that weight, especially if you have to carry it far distances in rough terrain. While some heavier bags may have more to offer, a lighter backpack will ease that nagging backache and ultimately be a better choice for you in the long run.

Comfort

While internal padding is important, it’s also essential that there’s plenty of external padding for your comfort. The last thing you want is to have cheap straps digging into your shoulders after carrying your pack for a couple hours. Consider what comfort elements each bag offers: is there a padded hip belt? Padded straps? Does the backpack have ventilated mesh to keep your back cool in hot climates? What about an internal frame to divert weight from your shoulders to your hips? While these seem like minor details right now, all of this will make a big difference when you’re in the field.

Tripod Support

Last but not least, every serious wildlife photographer needs a steady tripod, and chances are you probably already have a favorite one. Tripod support might be something you forget to look for when choosing a camera bag, but this oversight can cause a real headache later on, when you’re trudging through forest underbrush, tripod-in-hand because your ‘trusty’ pack doesn’t have a holster for it.

Different bags may offer varying kinds of tripod support – some may be cumbersome or awkward while others make a little more sense. When bag shopping, pay close attention to exactly how your tripod would attach to each bag.

The Best Bags for Wildlife Photographers

Now that you know what to look for when choosing a backpack for your wildlife photography gear, let’s take a closer look at some of the best bags on the market. We’ve broken up this buying guide into three categories to make it extra easy for you:

1) Oversized Lens Backpacks

2) Backpacks for Medium to Large Lenses

3) Adaptable Everyday Packs

Oversized Lens Backpacks

If you’re hauling a monster telephoto lens with you, then you can’t squeeze that baby into anything. That single piece of equipment cost you thousands, so you need to make sure your investment is properly protected. Here is where the longest lens camera bags are!

Luckily, there are a number of high-quality camera bags specially designed to house these telephoto lenses.

1) LowePro Lens Trekker 600 AW III

LowePro’s Lens Trekker 600 is great if you want to carry a big lens on-body. This bag is made for carrying and protecting heavy loads, and it has an extra comfortable harness system to allow you to carry it with ease. As the name implies, this is a terrific option for monster 600mm prime lenses.

As a side note, LowePro will be mentioned a couple of times on this article. They have a ton of backpack technology created with photographers in mind, and really help serve us wildlife photographers.

Lowpro LP36776 Lens Trekker 600 AW III Telephoto Lens... Lowpro LP36776 Lens Trekker 600 AW III Telephoto Lens...

Capacity

Allows for a 600mm attached on body, OR 800mm off-body lens. Also has a little extra room for other gear as well, along with small organizational pockets for personal items.

Protection

Features shock-absorbing foam, adjustable padded dividers and a lens collar to secure your gear in place. It’s known for having extra thick padding at the bottom, to protect your glass.

Rain Cover

Features an all-weather cover guarantee, to keep your gear protected in any environment.

Weight

7.28 pounds

Comfort

This bag features Lowepro’s Activlift System Harness for load-lifting support, with over ten adjustment points. It allows you to adjust torso height, and also has a removable torso harness, and heavily padded straps and hip belt for extra comfort.

Tripod Support

Removable tripod/monopod foot on the side of the pack, with four straps to secure it in place.

The Budget-Friendly Version: Rugged Alpine 600 Lens Backpack

Price: $139 from B&H

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly version of Lowpro’s Lens Trekker, the Rugged Alpine 600 Lens Backpack is a great alternative!

The Takeaway

While the heaviest of our three oversized lens bag options, the LowePro is known for offering truly exceptional padding and gear protection. If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking from point A to point B on your photo treks, you know you can’t simply carry a monster 600 or 800mm telephoto lens in your hands. That’s where the LowePro comes in – it’s the best option for photographers who want to travel on foot with their largest lenses.

2) Think Tank Photo Glass Limo Backpack

Similar to the LowePro, this bag is great if you have one primary piece of oversized glass that you want to bring with you. It’s a simpler, more comfort friendly version that also allows some flexibility in what you carry. This is another great backpack option for 600mm lens owners.

Also have to love the “Glass Limo” name… If you want to learn more here, Think Tank announces specific features on this pack from it’s original release date article.

Think Tank Photo Glass Limo Backpack (Black)Think Tank Photo Glass Limo Backpack (Black)

Capacity

This bag has a few different options for what you can carry. Its carrying capacity allows you to fit a DSLR body with attached 500mm lens, or an unattached 600mm. It’s also capable of holding a regular standard DSLR kit with 5-8 zoom lenses.

Protection

The Think Tank comes with a removable padded lens collar to hold your larger lenses in place, and several adjustable and removable padded dividers for other kit items. However, this bag has somewhat thinner padding on the sides, top, and bottom, so if you know it’s going to be knocked around quite a bit, it may not be your best bet.

Rain Cover

It has a seam-sealed rain cover included to offer premium protection.

Weight

2.6 pounds

Comfort

Strong, comfortable straps make this a popular option, and its light weight means you won’t be bogged down with backache! It also features a nicely padded hip belt, so your shoulders don’t have to bare the brunt of the gear load.

Tripod Support

Includes straps to allow you to carry a tripod or monopod on either side of the bag.

The Takeaway

This is the lightest of the three oversized lens bags by far – it weighs in at just 2.6 pounds, while the LowePro weighs a whopping 7.28 pounds, and our next contender, the Vanguard Alta, weighs 5.58 pounds. So if you’re looking to lighten the load on your back as much as possible while still being able to carry your oversized telephoto, the Think Tank Photo Glass Limo pack is the way to go!

3) Vanguard Alta Sky 66 Camera Backpack

The Vanguard is a good contender with the LowePro as far as protection and carrying capacity goes. It’s designed to allow you to comfortably carry heavy gear loads for long distances, and can fit some of those larger telephoto lenses that others can’t.

Vanguard Alta Sky 66 Camera Backpack for Sony, Nikon,...Vanguard Alta Sky 66 Camera Backpack for Sony, Nikon,...

Capacity

This bag is made for the big boys, capable of carrying 600mm and some 800mm attached lenses. There’s plenty of extra organizer and slip-in pockets for small pieces of gear and personal items, and even a sleeve for a 9” tablet.

Protection

This bag features an adjustable, padded cradle to support your camera body while your lens is attached. It also offers a decent amount of foam padding on the sides and bottom of the bag, so if you knock into anything while trekking through the wilderness, your gear will still be protected.

Rain Cover

Complete-bag rain cover included for optimum protection from the elements.

Weight

5.58 pounds

Comfort

Ventilated and breathable back, straps, and waist belt to keep you cool and comfortable. Vanguard’s harness system is designed to contour to your back to allow you to comfortably carry heavy gear-loads of long distances.

Tripod Support

Tripod straps and support are offered both on the sides and on the back of the bag, giving you two different placement options for how you want to carry.

The Takeaway

This bag is lighter than the LowePro, but offers more padded protection than the Think Tank. If you’re looking for a happy medium in between the two, which will allow you to carefully protect expensive gear from rugged terrain while also offering comfort for your back and shoulders, then the Vanguard Alta Sky 66 Camera Backpack is a good option!

Medium to Large Lens Backpacks

Even if you don’t have an oversized telephoto lens to haul around, chances are you still have least one midsized telephoto lens to capture wildlife, in addition to your other equipment.

If you’re looking to accommodate the bulk of your equipment on your treks, including multiple bodies, half a dozen lenses, and more, then take a look at these photography backpacks designed to suit those with medium to large lenses.

4) LowePro Whistler Backpack 450 AW II

We’ll say it right off the bat – this bag is a beast. It’s a four season ultra-resistant bag that has room for all of your photography gear and essential wilderness survival equipment.

Lowepro Whistler Backpack 450 AW II

Capacity

Adjustable padded dividers allow you to customize this pack as you want, whether you want to carry multiple camera bodies with up to eight lenses, or a body with a larger telephoto lens and endless options. This bag really has the capacity to allow you to carry all of your wildlife photography equipment. There’s also room for a 15-inch laptop.

If you plan on winter treks through the mountains, the bag also has side straps for skis or a rear harness for your snowboard. It also has an expandable front pocket that allows you to carry other essentials like extra clothes and wilderness equipment.

Protection

In addition to its exceptional ability to protect your gear from the elements, the LowePro Whistler offers fully customizable padded dividers, so you can organize your gear however you want. It also features padded side walls for extra protection.

Rain Cover

This bag is constructed from top-notch water-resistant, tear-resistant material, and also includes an additional all-weather cover.

And if you get drenched out in the field and want to change into a dry pair of clothes, the LowePro Whistler has got you covered. It has a water-proof barrier with a drain hole to keep your wet clothes separated from your essential dry gear.

Weight

6.81 Pounds

Comfort

The ActivZone back panel and foam-padded straps make this pack extra comfortable for you to carry.

Tripod Support

It supports your skis and your snowboard, so of course it supports your tripod as well! Multiple straps on the exterior of the bag offer carrying placement options for your tripod or monopod.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for a pack that can truly endure the rugged wilderness and all of its harsh environments, while still offering premium protection for a heavy equipment load, this is the pack for you. The LowePro Whistler while fit all of your essential photography and wilderness gear for those of you who do some serious backcountry trekking on your wildlife photography ventures.

5) Think Tank Photo Urban Access 15

This pack is great for everyday photo treks, as it’s not as bulky as some of our other options, but still has enough carrying capacity for most of your photo equipment, while offering all day comfort. This pack has the always welcome side access for quick removal and storage of your gear.

Think Tank Photo Urban Access 15 Side-Loading Backpack...

Capacity

This pack offers a lot of carrying space for your gear – you can fit a full DSLR body with 4-5 lenses. There’s even room for a 15 inch laptop or large tablet! The dividers are fully adjustable, so you can organize the carrying arrangement however you choose.

Protection

The Think Tank Urban Access features foam padded sidewalls and fully customizable foam dividers, so you can organize as you please. It’s just enough protection to keep your equipment safe and sound for daily use.

Rain Cover

A seam-sealed rain cover is also included in a specific pocket for easy access.

Weight

4.0 pounds

Comfort

Wide, padded shoulder straps allow for all-day comfort, as well as a body-contoured frame. The back panel is also constructed of air-mesh to keep your back cool. Its slim design makes for easy, comfortable movement throughout the day.

Tripod Support

This bag features a tripod mount on the outer panel, and also includes a tripod cup to support those larger, heavier pieces of equipment.

The Takeaway

If you’re still looking for a sturdy pack with decent carrying capacity, but don’t need something quite as rugged as the LowePro Whistler, the Think Tank Photo Streetwalker pack is a great option. It’s significantly lighter than the LowePro (Lowepro’s 6.8 pounds, compared to Think Tanks 4.5 pound), which makes it a great everyday, all day option for avid wildlife photographers.

Adaptable Everyday Backpacks

Looking for something that offers a little more versatility than camera specific packs? Sometimes camera bags just can’t compare to a good hiking backpack, which is designed for maximum comfort during all-day hikes.

Luckily, there are a number of hiking packs that are fully customizable with various inserts and lens sleeves for added protection for your wildlife photography gear, while also allowing you to bring all of your outdoor essentials.

6) REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack

Price: $96.99 from REI

If professional wildlife photography isn’t your everyday focus, then you might not need a bag that’s designed specifically for that purpose. If you love hiking and traveling but sometimes want to bring your photo gear along with you, the REI Co-op Trail 40 pack is a great option!

Capacity

This is a 40L pack, meaning it can withstand carrying a hefty load. In addition to the main compartment, there are also an additional 6 organizational pockets for other gear and personal items.

Protection

This backpack is made from tear-resistant nylon, and is large enough to fit a wide number of camera and lens protection inserts.

Rain Cover

Comes complete with a rain cover that is stowed in its own specified pocket.

Weight

3 pounds

Comfort

The back panel of this bag is made to conform to your body, while also featuring padded straps and mesh lining to keep you cool and comfortable all day.

Tripod Support

While this pack doesn’t feature specified tripod support, you could easily slip your tripod into one of the two water bottle pockets and secure it in place with the side strap.

The Takeaway

For the avid hiker looking to indulge their photo itches and bring a couple pieces of gear into the field, the REI Co-op Trail Pack offers the perfect combination for your everyday trail gear and equipment protection with foam inserts. If you’re not going to be traversing the Himalayas or hauling massive telephoto lenses, this is a great option for you!

7) ALPS Mountaineering Baja Day Backpack 40L

The Baja Day Backpack is a great option for those who want an everyday backpack that they can convert into a camera bag on the fly whenever they choose. Its simple design makes it a no-brainer for everyone!

ALPS Mountaineering Baja Day Backpack 40LALPS Mountaineering Baja Day Backpack 40L

Capacity

Similar to the REI Co-op Trail pack, this is a 40L bag, which means it’s great for personal trekking but will also fit those protective lens and camera inserts for your equipment. In addition to the main compartment, it has three additional pockets for small equipment and personal items.

Protection

This pack is constructed from double rip-stop nylon, making it extra tough. It can sustain lots of wear and tear whether on the street or the trail.

Rain Cover

Similar to the REI Co-op, this pack comes complete with a full rain cover in a designated bottom pocket.

Weight

2 pounds

Comfort

This bag features a suspended mesh back panel for breathability, hip and sternum straps for stabilization of heavy gear loads, and lightly padded shoulder straps.

Tripod Support

Similar to the REI Co-op, the ALPS pack does not have designated tripod support. However, you again have the option to use one of the two water bottle pockets as a tripod cradle, while using the side strap to secure it.

The Takeaway

Even lighter than the REI Co-op pack, the ALPS Mountaineering Baja Day Pack is a perfect choice for people who want to be able to convert an everyday backpack into a protective photo pack when they want.

Find the Best Camera Bag For You

Whether you’re a professional wildlife photographer trekking through tumultuous terrain and enduring the elements, or an occasional hobbyist who enjoys a jaunt through the woods now and again, there are plenty of camera bag options to keep your gear safe.

Again, remember the key elements to look for when choosing your pack, and consider which essentials are most important to you. Happy shooting!

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