Before our trip around the world, I, like most photographers was using a variety of different bags and tools, trying to find a solution that worked best for carrying my mirrorless cameras, lens, and other gear. Some of these solutions worked passably but with 14 months around the world coming up I knew I needed a permanent solution that was comfortable and protected my gear. As a result I set off to find the perfect mirrorless camera bag for travel.
Most photographers likely know the pain of picking the best camera bag for their needs. We buy new bags, try them out, eventually find out that they’re lacking in a certain area, and try something new. Closets slowly fill up with extra bags. Travel photographers have to carry their cameras and gear everywhere, keep it safe, and do so comfortably. Furthermore, depending on where you are travelling you might not have the option to get a new bag and have to make what you have work.
What to look for in a camera bag for travel
I did a bunch of research when picking my bag. I scoured Reddit threads on the photography subreddit, watched Youtube videos, read forum posts and reviews. What I was looking for in my quest for the perfect travel camera bag was the following:
Comfort: One of the big advantages of mirrorless cameras is that they pack a lot of power in to a small package. Being small and lightweight, they allow you to always have a great camera with you. A camera bag for extended travel needs to be lightweight and low profile as well, you don’t want something that’s too bulky and awkward to carry around for long travel days. As an active traveller I also need a bag that fits my travel style. I need a bag that will allow me to easily and comfortably carry my camera gear on whatever adventure I take on without getting in the way.
Size: Your camera bag obviously needs to be big enough to fit all of your gear, but on the other hand, it needs to be comfortable, and ideally, small enough that it fits under the seat in an airplane. You really don’t want to be forced to check your expensive camera gear as there are lots of horror stories about broken gear. So size becomes a bit of a balancing act. The size that’s best for you will vary depending on the gear that you take while travelling, but in my case, I travel with two mirrorless cameras and three lenses. (Check out this post for more detail on my photography gear and why I take each item)
- A Sony A6000 and a Sony A5000
- A wide angle lens (Rokinon 12mm)
- A mid-prime lens (Sony 35mm)
- And a telephoto lens (55-210 + teleconverter)
- It also needed to carry other camera gear (cards, batteries, etc), and bonus points if I could stuff in other travel essentials like my passport and phone.
Thankfully, mirrorless cameras are much smaller than their DSLR alternatives. This makes it easier and lighter to carry the gear that you need to take great travel photos!
Safety: Any bag that you take travelling should also be secure. Straps should be thick enough that they’re not easy to cut off your neck and zippers should be discrete so that a pickpocket can’t open your bag and grab something when you’re not paying attention. Safety is another reason your camera bag should be low profile, you don’t want it to scream “I’m a camera bag with lots of expensive gear!” as that makes you a target for thieves and pickpockets.
Your camera bag should have enough padding and dividers to protect your gear so that your lenses don’t get damaged, but that said, cameras can take more abuse than we often give them credit for. Anything sold as a camera bag is probably going to have enough padding to protect your gear as manufacturers will have taken the use into account. Dividers and padding are nice to make sure that your gear isn’t bouncing around inside but they shouldn’t come at the cost of space or making the bag so bulky that it’s uncomfortable to travel with.
My Mirrorless Camera Bag – The Peak Design Everyday Sling
After purchasing and returning several items on Amazon, I ultimately landed on the Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L. This bag checked all of my boxes and I’ll explain why I think you should give it a go as well. Revisiting my criteria, here’s how the bag performs:
Comfort: I find this camera bag to be comfortable to carry around, even for extended periods of time. The bag itself is lightweight and compact and it holds shape no matter how much or little camera gear you put in it. The strap length is adjustable and it contours to allow the bag to hug your body tightly. This makes it great not just for walking around, but for active travel as well. For instance, I can tighten the strap and carry all of my camera gear on my back while cycling or even running without it bouncing off my back with every step.
Size: I find that the 10L version of the Everyday Sling is perfect for my needs. It’s conveniently sized, and while it’s lightweight and compact, it’s deceptively large. It fits all my gear perfectly, even the telephoto lens and teleconverter when they’re attached to the camera body. The straps are adjustable to allow for a bit more room and expansion if necessary and the bag can compress down to an impressively small package when empty. The compression straps double as a hold for a full sized tripod, although at this point, I only travel with a small Ultrapod.
The camera bag is designed with airline guidelines in mind so that it will always fit under an airplane seat. In addition, it has convenient pockets where I can stash various accessories (SD cards, batteries, etc) and other travel essentials like my passport or phone without impacting the main compartment for the cameras and lenses.
Safety: The Peak Design Everyday Sling does a good enough job on the safety front that I feel comfortable travelling with it. While it looks pretty decent, it doesn’t scream “I’m a camera bag”. Unless you’re pulling your gear out of it, as far as anybody on the street knows, it could hold anything. I appreciate the fact that the zippers loop together, adding a small layer of security that prevents anyone from getting into the bag. When I’m travelling on buses or in an area I know is popular with pick pockets I add an extra level of security and lock a padlock around the zippers as well. The strap is also strong enough that it wouldn’t be easy for a would-be thief to cut it off quickly.
In terms of protecting my camera equipment, it doesn’t have an extreme amount of padding, but everything seems to be cushioned enough that I wouldn’t cringe too hard if the bag took an unexpected fall or bump. Peak Design’s flex-fold dividers do a good job of keeping cameras and lenses from bumping into one another when they’re in the bag, as well as making organization a breeze. As an added bonus, the bag is waterproof. I’ve been caught in some pretty heavy rainfall without issue but when it’s an extended downpour I put a waterproof pack cover over the whole bag just to be safe.
The bag also has a pouch for storing a small laptop or iPad which unfortunately isn’t much use too me as my Asus Zenbook is too big to fit. That said, it still comes in handy as at times I will stash one of two portable hard drives in it and keep the other in my backpack. Keeping them separate reduces the risk of losing all of my photos from one bag being stolen.
As far durability, so far I’ve taken this bag and my camera gear along for our trip around the world, including 7 months in South America. Extended use and rough conditions have roughed up a fair bit of our travel gear but this camera bag still looks great. The build quality of this bag is simply top notch as it shows only minimal wear and tear and has handled everything I could throw at it.
Camera Backpack or Sling Bag for Travel?
I prefer a sling bag for travel and storing my camera as it is less bulky and helps to keep my camera accessible. Despite carrying two camera bodies and three lenses a sling bag is able to fit everything I need and I don’t need the extra space of a backpack to carry it all. Another advantage of a sling bag is that you can use it as a make-shift ledge to hold and protect your camera while changing lenses. If you have more gear (or larger gear) than I do you may want to consider a dedicated backpack for your camera gear while travelling.
I admittedly haven’t tried as many dedicated carrying backpacks but Peak Design makes one that’s fairly popular, and this one from LowePro receives a lot of positive reviews, especially for hiking and outdoor pursuits.
Other helpful camera accessories for travel
In addition to my Peak Design Sling I use a few other products from Peak Design to carry my camera gear while on the road. I’ve found them to be a reliable producer of high quality gear that takes into account the everyday needs of photographers as well as the little details. Most of the gear is simply designed smartly.
I use their SlideLite strap to carry my camera. It’s strong enough to hold the camera when it’s got the telephoto lens and converter on, and its thick so again, it would be tough for a thief to cut it and grab the camera. I also use a Capture Clip, which I can’t recommend enough, especially for hiking. It’s a great system that allows you to clip the camera to any strap or belt (and the Everyday Sling has an integrated spot for it), allowing the camera to always be accessible and secure. The convenience of having your camera on your pack’s strap and off your neck while hiking is a game changer.
So in short, based on my needs, the 10L Peak Design Everyday Sling is the perfect mirrorless camera bag for travel. If you’re only carrying one camera body and not many lenses you may want to consider the smaller 5L version. The bag is a little pricier than some of the other camera bags I looked at, but it’s the best designed and does everything I need it to without compromising. Camera gear is expensive and I’m willing to shell out a little extra for something that will protect it and make it convenient to travel with. It has also been extremely durable and I have no doubt that it’s going to last me a long time.