We put six of the best backpacks through a demanding test to find out which offers the best capacity and comfort

If you’ve ever attempted to cram clothes, food or a laptop in a general camera bag that is intended to carry photo kit and nothing else, then you may want to consider a larger, dual-purpose backpack.

Several photobag manufacturers offer backpacks that are designed to split their capacity in half, leaving you with a dedicated area for your camera equipment and a separate space for carrying other items such as a packed lunch, waterproofs or a change of clothes.

Getting the capacity just right for each compartment is half the battle of producing a great backpack, but it must also tick all the other essential boxes. These include offering a waterproof cover to keep your kit dry, a tripod holder to leave you with both hands free, as well as waist and chest straps to make sure it’s comfortable and secure to carry on the move.

There’s a large selection of these type of bags available so we’ve gathered together a selection of similarly sized ones from the likes of Crumpler, Kata, Lowepro, Manfrotto, Tamrac and Vanguard.
Loaded full to the brim with camera kit and other general accessories, we put each one through the demands of a daily commute to find out how they fared in terms of the capacity they offer, their general usability and how comfortable they are on the shoulders.

 

Crumpler JackPack Half Photo

Key Specs

  • Street price: £128
  • Interior Size: 25x36x24cm
  • Exterior Size: 34x46x21cm
  • Laptop compartment: Yes
  • Weight: 1.5kg 

Crumpler’s

Cupcake design has recently been replaced by the Jackpack series of

backpacks. This half photo model is the smaller brother of the full

photo version and is constructed using a Chicken Tex fabric and

waterproof ripstop lining for maximum durability.


Unlike

the Cupcake, the Jackpack design benefits from clip-fastened waist and

chest straps to enhance stability on the move, but we would have liked

the chest strap to be elasticated to allow for movement. The lower

compartment has thick, removable padding and we managed to fit a

semi-pro DSLR (without grip) with standard zoom attached, sqeezing a

pair of smaller primes alongside.

The top compartment offers

plenty of space for everyday essentials and a softly lined compartment

is ready to swallow a 15in laptop. Despite there being only one external

pocket the interior is littered with pockets and there’s space for a

tablet too.

On the shoulder it’s one of the most comfortable

Crumpler packs we’ve ever used. Light when empty and secure when full,

the padded air mesh offers superb ventilation from perspiration and the

side extensions make it comfy at your side when the waist strap is used.

Overall, there’s very little to fault other than it being a bit pricey.

Manfrotto Veloce VII

Key Specs

  • Street price: £75
  • Interior Size: 30x24x17cm
  • Exterior Size: 48.5x34x25cm
  • Laptop compartment: Yes
  • Weight: 1.5kg

Largest

of the six backpacks on test, Manfrotto’s Velcoce VII features a

slightly different design from its rivals. It has a top compartment for

general kit much like the others, and this is accessed via a super-size

buckle on the top corner.

To

get to the main camera compartment, however, you’re required to place

the bag face down on the ground and fold back the shoulder straps before

gaining entry. This is a good design if security is your main concern

but not so good for speedy accessing to your camera kit (not to mention

keeping your bag clean).

As for the size of the camera

compartment – it’s huge. A partition down the side lets you store a

tripod up to 40cm in length and the roomy interior allowed us to cram it

full with a semi-pro DSLR (with grip) and standard lens, 100-400mm

telephoto zoom as well as a pair of smaller primes. Our only main gripe

is the internal padding which didn’t offer a snug fit for gear like the

other bags, leading to our kit moving about a bit when on the move.

It

also comes supplied with a 17in laptop compartment, two large external

pockets, a well-ventilated lumbar pad and a chest strap. Unfortunately,

the chest strap isn’t elasticated as it should be to allow for chest

movement.

Tamrac Adventure 9

Key Specs

  • Street price: £99
  • Interior Size: 29x14x22cm
  • Exterior Size: 33x28x51cm
  • Laptop compartment: Yes
  • Weight: 1.8kg

Tamrac’s

Adventure 9 backpack is available in two coloured versions – grey and

black or red and black. The dual compartment design is equally split and

unzipping the lower compartment reveals a spacious and deep interior.

Capable

of holding a semi-pro DSLR (with grip) and standard zoom attached

there’s ample room for additional lenses including a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a

smaller prime. On the inside flap of the front compartment there are

four useful CompactFlash card pockets and an additional larger pocket

that’s handy for storing filters.

As we discovered though, the

flap that’s designed to prevent rain from creeping past the zipper can

get caught up when the compartment is being opened and closed. This

becomes extremely irritating when you just want to get to your kit

without fuss.

Due to its curved profile, the top compartment

isn’t as spacious as you may expect but it’s still a good place to store

waterproofs, lunch or batteries in the small pouch that’s included. The

two spacious side pockets are a great place to store a water bottle and

a slot to carry a 17in laptop is also provided. In use the bag sat

comfortably on our back and on the move it was extremely secure thanks

to the waist and chest straps.

Vanguard Adaptor 46

Key Specs

  • Street price: £52
  • Interior Size: 24x15x26cm
  • Exterior Size: 27x25x45cm
  • Laptop compartment: Yes
  • Weight: 1.8kg 

Vanguard’s

Adaptor 46 is one of four bags in the series, and is a smaller

alternative to the Adaptor 48. Weighing just 1kg it’s the second

lightest bag on test, and features zipper openings to the lower camera

compartment on both sides.

Whether

you’re left or right handed you can slip a shoulder strap off the

shoulder, pull it round and gain access to your camera and lenses in a

flash. With a bit of persuasion we crammed in a semi-pro DSLR (without

grip) and a pair of primes alongside but there wasn’t space for any

additional lenses or a flashgun.

Opening the top compartment

reveals this area is also on the small side and we just about squeezed

in a packed lunch. There are two mesh pockets within the lower

compartment to store compactflash media, and the side compartment is

handy for transporting a tablet or laptop provided it doesn’t exceed

13in.

Like all the bags in this test the standard of the

stitching is exceptional and the addition of a tripod holder could prove

valuable if you want to keep both hands free when you’re walking. Like

Kata’s 3N1 there’s also the option to turn it into a sling bag.

Generally, we found the Adaptor 46 slightly small and it lacks waist and

chest straps.

Lowepro DSLR Video Pack 350AW

Key Specs

  • Street price: £69
  • Interior Size: 26x14x22.5cm
  • Exterior Size: 35x25x49cm
  • Laptop compartment: Yes
  • Weight: 1.8kg 
  • Weight: 1.5kg

Lowepro’s

DSLR Video Pack is a great example of a fifty-fifty backpack that

provides an equal amount of space for carrying camera kit and everyday

essentials. Within the top compartment you’ll find a handy pouch for

storing chargers and cables, as well as smaller pockets and a

transparent sleeve for storing business cards.

The

laptop section is designed to hold a 17in model and the lower camera

compartment offers masses of space to store kit. We had no difficulties

accommodating a semi-pro D-SLR (with grip) and standard telephoto

attached.

The deep compartment also gave us plenty of room to fit

70-200mm f/2.8 and 105mm f/2.8 lenses and flashgun alongside. Thick

internal dividers offer strong levels of protection and for those who’d

like the support for carrying a tripod there’s a hideaway sleeve and

securing buckle on the side that doesn’t impede access.

Swing the

pack off to your left shoulder and it’s possible to gain access to kit

in a matter of seconds – great for any spur-of-the-moment shots. Waist

straps and chest straps are both featured and the AW initials in the

product name is the tell-tale sign that it’s also supplied with an

all-weather cover that is permanently secured to prevent it being lost.

Kata 3N1-20 DL

Key Specs

  • Street price: £99
  • Interior Size: 28x20x15cm
  • Exterior Size:25x42x21cm
  • Laptop compartment: No
  • Weight: 0.9kg

The

3N1-20 DL is a new addition to Kata’s backpack fleet. To separate it

apart from other models it features three carrying options in one and,

as well as being used as a backpack, the left and right shoulder straps

can be tucked away to turn it into a sling if preferred.

The

design portrays a cleaner look to previous 3N1 models and there are

fewer buckles to speed up entry to both the top and bottom compartments.

The bright yellow interior is designed to make it easier to find the

kit you want when you need it and we managed to fit in a semi-pro DSLR

(without grip) and kit lens attached with space to the side for a

flashgun and two small prime lenses.

Most of the space is

dedicated to the camera compartment in this bag so don’t expect to cram

much more than a small lunchbox in the top compartment. Being so slim,

it’s not surprising that it can’t cater for a laptop or tablet, but it

does benefit from rain cover to keep kit dry.

As for pockets,

there’s one internal pocket and two external ones to hold chargers or

other small accessories. Fully laden, the pack feels great but is let

down by the lack of waist and chest straps. Without these the bag can

sway a little, particularly when moving fast.

Verdict

In

all, three bags have picked up an 86% rating. First is Kata’s 3N1-20

DL
. It’s suitable if you own an entry-level DSLR kit and like the idea

of slinging it over the shoulder but as we found out it’s trickier to

access than others and you can barely fit anything in the top

compartment.

Tamrac’s

Adventure 9
holds lots of kit but unfortunately the zipper cover got

caught in the zip on more than one occasion and became a real nuisance

over time.

As for Vanguard’s Adaptor 46 it’s well constructed and

comfortable, just a tad too small, so you may be tempted by its bigger

brother – the Adaptor 48. In stark contrast, Manfrotto’s Veloce VII

swallows kit with ease, but of all the bags, we found it was hardest to

prevent our kit moving about in transit.

Crumpler’s Jackpack Half

Photo
is a top-notch bag: durable, stylish and comfy, it’s a pleasure

to use, and despite the camera compartment being slightly smaller than

we’d have liked, the main section is spacious enough for a spare pair of

shoes!

Our winner here though is Lowepro’s DSLR Video Pack

350AW
, which has everything you need and want with this type of bag.

With pockets galore and space to accommodate even a pro DSLR, it offers

exceptional value for money at just £69 – and it’s for these reasons it

deserves a WDC Gold Award.

 

  • Isabella Sarah

    I like photography and blogging. Any bag with both of camera space and laptop compartment?
    I wanna my old one.
    Thanks…..