Best Outdoor Camera Backpacks for Hiking and Watersports in 2017

The Best Outdoors Camera Backpack in 2017

 
Most people believe they can just throw their DSLR camera in any bag and roll with it: that may be okay if you take pictures in your garden but if you want to go on an adventure and take the best pictures of your life, I and many other photographers, from amateurs to professionals, will assure you that having a comfortable and waterproof bag to keep your gear safe is not an option !

We tested over 15 bags and backpacks by climbing, hiking, doing boat trips and watersports like rafting to properly assess what a good outdoor camera backpack must be: comfortable, waterproof, light yet rugged, and having cool features.

Whether you are looking for the best camera backpack for sailing, canoeing, fishing, or simply hiking in the rain this review will provide valuable analysis on how to choose the best all-around product, the most durable, the most capacity, and the best value products.

Here's the list of the selected products, you can scroll down to check the review:

Name Waterproofness Capacity Bonus features  

Lowepro DryZone

Waterproof 11.4 x 14.6 x 19.1 inches Hidden tripod strap

Pelican ProGear

Partly Waterproof 13.5 x 9 x 20 inches Crushproof case

Thule Covert

Water Resistant 17.7 x 7.9 x 21.3 inches Reflective logo

Ruggard Thunderhead

Water Resistant 13.0 x 9.25 x 20.5 inches Security whistle

Caden Camera Backpack

Water Resistant 16.2 x 9 x 8 inches None

Lowepro Trekking

Waterproof 8.78 x 17.36 x 12.87 inches None

What is an Outdoor Camera Backpack ?

As the name implies, an outdoor camera backpack is a bag that will allow you to travel or take part in outdoor activities (hiking, sailing, etc) without having to worry about it being uncomfortable, taking hits, or your camera getting wet.
For an outdoor camera backpack to be good it needs to protect your valuables against water, rain, and shock. It needs to be able to hold, of course, your camera and lenses, but also other things you might have and need like a tripod, a bottle of water, a computer, etc.

There are two kinds of photographers: those who talk about it and the explorers.

We selected the best outdoor camera backpacks for those that love to explore the wilderness and are willing to fight against a harsh weather to have the perfect shot. These outdoor camera backpacks are also perfect for those that love watersports, imagine having fun rafting down a river and having your camera with you at all times, with no risk of damaging it.

More and more people are starting to invest in quality and durable outdoor camera backpacks as the choice increases, but with so many options it gets harder to buy the right backpack for your needs, this is where we come in handy.

Best Outdoor Camera Backpacks 2017 (Waterproof)

We wrote down a list that contains the best outdoor camera backpacks in the market, that have been selected for their waterproofness, durability, value for money, dimensions, and ease of use.
Now, let’s get into the heart of the matter of the best outdoor camera backpacks of 2017.

 

1. Lowepro DryZone Backpacks – The best waterproof camera backpacks

The Lowepro Dryzone series consist of four backpacks: the Dryzone 100 and Dryzone 200 which are fully waterproof, the Rover, where only the camera compartment is submersible, and a smaller bag that we will review later.
All of those are excellent outdoor camera backpacks and we could've listed them individually in our top 6 but since they are from the same series we decided not to.


The Dryzone 200 is huge, and has a lot amount of space and zippers in it. It is perfect outdoor camera backpack for the traveler and/or multi-day hiker.
You can easily fit a massive DSLR camera with all your lenses, flashes and accessories.
On top of that, and the reason why it is very traveler friendly, is that there will still be a lot of space for you to put in a laptop, books, travel documents and headphones, or whatever you might need for your exploring purposes.

The Lowepro Dryzone 200 is the ultimate camera backpack: when you have to walk in water, explore on unstable boats and trek under waterfalls for that perfect photography, you will need the peace of mind that your camera equipment will be all right.
You can trust the Lowepro Dryzone 200 for that: made with a water-repelling material, it also ensures that your camera stays 100% dry thanks to the waterproof TZIP zipper.

Check out this video review to give you a better idea of what it can hold and how it is built:

 

The Lowepro Dryzone 100 is the same model but in a smaller size. It is the right choice if you are a woman or don't need that much space (one day-hike or minimalist traveler).


Now, the Lowepro Dryzone Rover is slightly different, designed for everyday carry, it is lightweight and a lot less bulky. This outdoor camera backpack can hold your camera and up to 4 lenses in it's waterproof bottom compartment. In the upper compartment, you'll have a lot of space left to put anything you want that is not water-sensitive.
The Lowepro Dryzone Rover is perfect for the sport and adventure photographer out for the day because it also includes a Hydrapak hydration system.

 

All Dryzone bags are ergonomic and extremely comfortable to carry around. They have solid chest and waist straps to distribute evenly the load. They also have a fold-out tripod holder out of the bag which is eye-pleasing and makes you save space.
You've probably already heard about Lowepro products before, as it is a trusted brand among serious photographers.

The real difference between a water-proof and a water-resistant backpack is that the latter cannot be soaked, with Dryzone backpacks you can swim underwater and your camera gear will stay safe.

 

Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Comfortable
  • Great Customer Service
  • Good amount of space
Cons
  • Zipping needs strength
  • Expensive

2. Pelican U160 – The best rugged outdoor camera backpack

The Pelican U160 is an excellent backpack and is the perfect choice if you want to protect your camera gear from water plus impacts !
Indeed, it includes a waterproof hardcase that will keep your stuff dry down to 3 meters (more than enough to swim or even jump into water).

Pelican is well-known for its protective cases which are their bread and butter, and the case used in this backpack is no exception. You can expect the same tough protective cases that they developed for major high-tech companies and government agencies.

Like the Dryzone Rover, only the bottom compartment is waterproof, whereas the top is water resistant. So it is able to cope with rain and splashes but not soaking (water will enter through the zippers).
Check out this video to see it from different angles:


The main benefit the Pelican U160 Urban Elite Backpack has compared to the Lowepro Dryzones is the easy access to your camera gear. However it is also much smaller and heavier.
With that being said, this outdoor camera backpack is still very comfortable as it was designed with an S-curve spine and waist straps to distribute the weight evenly.

Pros
  • Waterproof case
  • Crushproof case
  • Design
Cons
  • Limited Camera Space
  • No Laptop Space

3. Thule Covert – the best water resistant camera backpack for hiking

Thule is a 75 years old swedish brand geared towards active and outdoor bags.
Their Covert DSLR Backpack reflects that and you can definitely feel the experience and the sport DNA of the company: it is extremely well-thought, versatile, with tons of pockets, storage place and even has a reflective logo that comes in handy whether you are hiking at night with friends or just cycling in your city.

Stylish, comfortable and water-resistant, it is the perfect choice for the everyday explorer, whether it is in the city or the great outdoors. Indeed, the camera compartment is removable, which allows you to have full access to the entire volume of the bag when you do not need your camera gear.

The camera storage can be accessed by a side pocket, which is great because it becomes extremely difficult for rain to enter, and you can be 100% sure rain won't touch your gear by securing the compartment with the second zipper ! It has built-in dividers that you can move around to your specifications. Of course the fabric of the bag is also water-resistant.
Check out this video to understand all it's storage system:


The Thule Covert DSLR Backpack also has the ability to store a 15 inch laptop and a tablet in padded pockets without having to sacrifice on storage space.

The main downsides of this bag is that the camera storage space is quite small and that it's not waterproof. This might not be a problem for you if you only use one camera and a couple of lenses, or that you don't plan in jumping into water.

Reminder: the difference between a water-proof and a water-resistant backpack is that the latter cannot be soaked, but are able to keep your stuff dry if it rains or snow.

Our verdict is that it's the best all-around backpack thanks to it's versatility.

Pros
  • Water-Resistant
  • General Storage space
  • Design
  • Versatility
Cons
  • Small Camera Space
  • Not Water-proof
  • No waist strap

4. Ruggard Thunderhead – the best camera backpack for professional photographers

While the previous backpacks we reviewed were very versatile, the Ruggard Thunderhead was specifically designed to "only" carry your camera gear. Sure you'll have a little space for some protein bars and there is a laptop compartment but don't even think about adding  much more.

The Ruggard Thunderhead is for those that have a lot of camera equipment and want to take it all with them. It is an extremely well-built backpack with padded arm, chest, shoulder and waist straps. The numerous pockets are well thought and allow you to easily keep track of what equipment is in your bag (1 pocket = 1 accessory).

Check out this video to see it in action:

This bag is not waterproof but water-repellent, so no problem with rain but you may encounter some issues with big splashes, no dipping in the water either, obviously.
Also, it comes with a rain cover, just in case you want an extra layer of security ! Speaking of security ... a security (that's a lot of "security" words) whistle is included and can be useful in the outdoors.

If you are a "all or nothing" type of photographer and have money to spend on a "camera only" bag then the Ruggard Thunderhead is the right match for you !

Pros
  • Water repellent
  • Comfort
  • Camera space
  • Fits 17" laptop
Cons
  • Not waterproof
  • Little space for personal items

5. Caden Camera Bag – the best budget outdoor camera bag

The Caden Camera Bag is a great alternative if you have a low budget. It is very straightforward, which means it is designed to carry your camera + up to 3 lenses, a laptop and that's it.
All the valuables are only accessible from the back, which means you don't have to worry about theft if the bag is on you.

The neon orange backpack is made with high density nylon which makes it water-resistant, but there is an extra rain cover that is included in the bottom pocket.
Your camera equipment has also a double layer of nylon protection, which means you can have up to 3 water-resistant covers, just in case !

Even if it's a budget bag, comfort was a priority for the designers: you will be able to use a waist belt and adjustable chest straps to distribute the weight evenly.

Most of the time, when you buy something on a budget, it is of bad quality and comes with no warranty, but the Caden camera backpack is made of durable materials and comes with a 18 months warranty.

However, even if it did not happen to us, some people have complained about the adjustable shoulder straps that tend to unleash. So if you think this is the backpack for you always put both shoulder straps, because if you only have one and it fails, all your camera gear will fall and possibly break.

Pros
  • Cost-effective
  • Lightweight
  • Water, sand and dust resistant
Cons
  • Small
  • Weak strap loops

6. Lowepro DryZone BP40L – the best small waterproof camera bag

We've discussed previous Lowepro Dryzone bags, Lowepro is a trusted and well-known brand among professional photographers. The DryZone series is completely waterproof, Lowepro is the only good company building this kind of quality complete waterproof backpacks.

The DryZone BP40L is no exception to their reputation. It was designed as a camera equipment only backpack. It is very minimalist with only a removable, padded, adjustable camera case that can fit one DSLR camera and up to 2 lenses.

Extremely light and allowing quick and easy access to the camera compartment it is the perfect choice for sailing and rafting.

Pros
  • 100% Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Floats
  • Possibility to strap additional gear on the outside
Cons
  • No dedicated space for accessories (memory card, batteries, etc)
  • Small capacity

Outdoor Camera Backpack 2017 Buyer's Guide

Before choosing your best outdoor camera backpack either from the list above or somewhere else, I recommend you to still read our Buyer’s Guide, that will help you understand the main differences between each type of camera bags.

So without further ado, let’s follow with our outdoor camera backpack buying guide.

Water-proof vs Water-resistant - Which is best for you ?

Choosing one or the other will depend on the kind of activities you do:
Do you canoe, whitewater raft, water ski, or wake board ? Then water-proof is definitely for you. You don't want splashes or risk your camera gear going overboard if your backpack is not completely water-proof.
On the other side, if you prefer trekking or hiking, even in water environments, water resistant is often enough.
Still not sure which one to choose ? In case of doubt we recommend the Pelican U160, it is the best all-around product.

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