Access your camera kit with ease when it’s wet and muddy. James Abbott looks at six rear-loading backpacks that are perfect for winter shooting

Manfrotto Pro Light RedBee 210

Manfrotto Pro Light RedBee-210

At a glance:

  • Material Nylon
  • Capacity 22 litres
  • Kit access Back, sides, top
  • Rain cover Yes
  • Personal items storage No
  • Tripod connection Yes
  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 34x25x51cm
  • Weight 1.6kg
  • Price £99
  • Website www.manfrotto.co.uk
  • Score 3/5

With a striking design, the Manfrotto Pro Light redBee-210 is a bag that not only looks good but its generous size and excellent build allow you to carry plenty of kit safely. And with useful grab handles on the top, sides and back, it’s easy to pick up when on the ground or stowed in an overhead locker on a plane, for instance.

Kit is accessible from the top, back and both sides of the bag, so you can position your camera(s) at the top and bottom for quick access. This is possible with two pro-spec DSLRs, without a grip attached but with up to a 70-200mm on each. The bag is also large enough to carry one camera with up to a 400mm lens attached which, alongside the ability to fully customise the internal dividers, makes it a versatile option for photographers who need to frequently rearrange their bag to carry different gear configurations. As well as several internal pockets for memory cards and larger accessories, there’s also storage for a tablet and a 15in laptop.

When you access all kit through the back of the bag, there’s a zipped mesh to provide additional protection to your kit. Whether or not this is necessary is open to debate, and this is the type of marmite feature that some will love while others may find an unnecessary hindrance. Another small negative is that the tripod attachment consists of two straps, which work just fine but could be easily misplaced.

At just £99 for a cavernous, highly versatile and lightweight backpack, the Manfrotto Pro Light redBee-210 is an extremely attractive option, both for individuals on a budget and for those who need a large and lightweight backpack. While the back panel isn’t the most comfortable and doesn’t offer much in the way of air flow, you’ll be hard pressed to find a backpack of this quality and capacity at such a competitive price.


Vanguard Alta Sky 45D

Vanguard Alta Sky 45D

At a glance:

  • Material Polyester
  • Capacity N/A
  • Kit access Back, top, bottom, side
  • Rain cover Yes
  • Personal items storage Yes
  • Tripod connection Yes
  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 31x23x49.5cm
  • Weight 2.2kg
  • Price £199
  • Website www.vanguardworld.co.uk
  • Score 5/5

Photo backpacks have been evolving in recent years as photographers carry an ever-expanding range of kit including drones, second cameras, gimbals and much more. To address this, Vanguard has come up with the Alta Sky 45D, and the larger 49, 66, 51D and 53 to cater for a wide range of photographers.

Offering perhaps the most versatility in the test, the Alta Sky 45D provides access to gear from the top, back, side and bottom with the latter being a small quick-access compartment that can hold a small camera and some lenses. This leaves the remaining two-thirds of the bag for carrying personal items or even a drone.

The Alta Sky provides a highly secure tripod connection that can be configured according to the size of your tripod, and the main ap element of this can also be used to carry a DJI Phantom drone. Of course, if this is the case you wouldn’t be able to use it for your tripod, but there is a second tripod connection on the side of the bag for this situation. In the event of rain, you would have to use the rain cover to protect the drone on the front.

This all provides the flexibility to carry up to a pro-spec DSLR with a 70-200mm lens in the main middle section with additional space at the top and in the bottom section. Alternatively the bag can be reconfigured so the camera is accessed from the top. On the exterior, there are four accessory pockets, as well as many internal pockets for memory cards and other items, including storage for a 13in laptop.

The bright yellow interior makes it easy to see smaller accessories in the bag, plus it’s comfortable to wear and offers excellent air flow on the back panel. While it’s not the lightest bag on test at 2.2kg, what it adds in weight is more than made up for in features.


Mindshift Back Light 18L

Mindshift BackLight 18L

At a glance:

  • Material 420D Velocity Nylon
  • Capacity 18 litres
  • Kit access Back
  • Rain cover Yes
  • Personal items storage Yes
  • Tripod connection Yes
  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 27x18x47cm
  • Weight 1.6kg
  • Price £199
  • Score 4/5

If you’re looking for a backpack that’s designed specifically for outdoor use, the Mindshift BackLight range offers three bags with capacities of 18, 26 and 36 litres. In this test, we’re looking at the Mindshift BackLight 18L – the most compact bag in the range but one that provides enough space for a landscape photographer to carry up to one pro-spec DSLR without a grip attached, a 16-35mm, 70-200mm, filters and accessories. You could also carry up to two cameras if you didn’t carry a telephoto zoom.

As an outdoor daypack, the BackLight offers space for camera gear with two pockets at the front of the bag providing five litres of space for personal items. At just 1.6kg the BackLight is joint lightest in this round-up alongside the Manfrotto redBee. It’s much smaller than its rival with less space for kit, although it is more comfortable to wear with superior airflow.

Kit is accessed only from the back, but the bag is designed so that you can swivel it to your front on the waistbelt and access kit at waist level. Once the back is open it will support itself on your hips and a loop on the rear ap can be placed over your head to hold the rear ap up, making it easier to access your gear.

Additional storage comes in the form of two large elasticated side pockets that can carry a jacket, bottles of water or anything else of this size. one of the pockets doubles up as a tripod connection with a robust elastic loop for extra support. The main tripod connection, however, is found on the front of the bag.

The Mindshift Backlight 18L is incredibly comfortable and can carry enough kit for a day’s shooting. If you’d like to carry minimal kit this bag is ideal, but if you require more space the 26L and 36L are worth a look. All in all, this is a practical option for outdoor photographers.


Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II

Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II

At a glance:

  • Material FormShell
  • Capacity N/A
  • Kit access Back, top, both sides
  • Rain cover Yes
  • Personal items storage Yes
  • Tripod connection Yes
  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 30x18x47cm
  • Weight 2.12kg
  • Price £209
  • Website www.lowepro.com
  • Score 4/5

This is a compact backpack designed for use with mirrorless cameras and smaller entry-level and mid-range DSLRs. You can also carry a full-frame pro-spec mirrorless camera, but this is best carried at the top of the bag and accessed via the top or rear entry points. If you wish to carry a professional-size DSLR, the larger BP 450 AW II is more appropriate.

Access to kit can be achieved from the top, rear and both sides. There are two accessory pockets on both sides of the waist belt alongside two additional pockets on each side of the bag. Inside the bag, there’s no shortage of pockets for accessories, and there’s a slot in the rear ap for a 13in laptop or a tablet.

As you’d expect, the ProTactic offers a tripod connection but this is achieved using two straps and an attachment that holds one of the tripod legs for additional security and stability. This combination works well and if desired the straps and leg holder can be left attached to the front of the bag, but being the removable type does increase the risk of losing them.

An interesting feature of the ProTactic is that as well as having Molle connections all over the front of the bag to attach accessories such as lens pouches, the waist belt can be removed from the bag and used as a utility belt that the modular Lowepro accessories can be attached to alongside other items such as filter cases.

The Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II is a backpack that looks great and provides a high degree of protection for your kit with multiple access points. While the weight of the bag isn’t a major issue, at 2.12kg it is the heaviest bag in this round-up. This additional weight is most likely due to the overall construction of the bag which offers armoured protection of your kit from knocks and bumps thanks to the effective FormShell. Overall, a good solid bag.


Gitzo Adventury 30L

Gitzo Adventury 30L

At a glance:

  • Material Ripstop Nylon
  • Capacity 30 litres
  • Kit access Back
  • Rain cover Yes
  • Personal items storage Yes
  • Tripod connection Yes
  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 31x19x48cm
  • Weight 2.05kg
  • Price £219
  • Website www.manfrotto.co.uk
  • Score 5/5

When you hear the name Gitzo the thing that instantly springs to mind is high-quality tripods, but the brand also produces a number of bags including the Adventury 30L. This backpack is aimed at outdoor photographers and offers an alternative and direct competition for the Mindshift BackLight series. As well as the 30L there’s also a larger 45L, which as its name suggests offers a 45-litre capacity.

The top of the bag features a roll design that can be secured like a dry bag when the top section is full of personal items. When empty or filled with fewer items, the roll top will connect to two clasps on the sides of the bag. The bag’s outer material is water repellent, but you also get a rain cover for extra protection.

Access to kit is only available from the rear, but with a deep design the bag will comfortably carry a pro-spec DSLR with a grip attached and up to a 400mm lens. The customisable dividers allow you to set up the bag as desired and there’s good space to carry additional lenses, a second body and accessories. Plus, there are slots for a 13in laptop and a tablet. Like the Manfrotto, there’s a zipped mesh on the camera insert to help protect kit. And if you prefer not to use the mesh, it can be tucked away neatly at the top of the bag.

The Gitzo Adventury 30L is an undoubtedly high-quality and comfortable backpack that lives up to the Gitzo name. And at £219 it’s competitively priced and competes with most of the bags in this round-up in terms of cost. With space for personal items, photography kit, and a removable insert that allows the bag to be used as a standard backpack, this is a highly versatile option that will no doubt appeal to many photographers covering a range of subjects, despite the outdoor design aimed at landscape, wildlife and travel photographers.


Millican Marsden The Camera Pack 32L

Millican Marsden The Camera Pack 32L

At a glance:

  • Material Weatherproof Bionic Canvas
  • Capacity 32 litres
  • Kit access Back
  • Rain cover No
  • Personal items storage Yes
  • Tripod connection Yes
  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 35x20x47cm
  • Weight 1.4kg; 1.85kg inc insert
  • Price £190 (£265 with camera insert)
  • Website www.homeofmillican.com
  • Score 3/5

Breaking into the crowded camera bag market is no easy task, but that’s what Millican has done with its outdoor and travel-inspired Marsden The Camera Pack 32L. Not only does this bag defy camera bag convention in terms of design and storage, but it’s also beautifully made and would look equally at home in the mountains or on the city streets.

To make the Marsden a functional camera bag you have to purchase a camera insert, which adds an additional £75, making it the most expensive option in the test. Access to the camera insert is via the rear flap, which includes space for a 15in laptop, and to access your camera and lenses you have to remove the insert. This can be fiddly when in the field, so another option is to wear the insert around the waist while shooting to provide near-instant access to your kit. With five litres available, you can carry a couple of APS-C mirrorless cameras and a lens or two, or one full-frame mirrorless camera or full-frame DSLR with a short to medium zoom lens attached with room for a small prime.

The Marsden doesn’t include a dedicated tripod attachment, although either of the two side pockets and compression straps double up for this purpose.

The Millican Marsden The Camera Pack 32L offers a solution that’s completely different from the others here. The bag and insert themselves are of high quality, but with just a five-litre capacity the amount of kit that you can carry is much more limited than with the other bags. However, none of the other bags provide as much space for personal items, making the Marsden a compelling option for travel and outdoor photographers who need to carry more non-photographic kit than cameras and lenses.