Lockdown has not entirely been lifted but, for some of us, Level 1 means that we can travel by air once again. With so many camera bags to choose from, how do you know which is the best one for you? Looking through the endless options can be daunting, which is why we’ve selected the top six airline-friendly camera backpacks for 2020. These backpacks all comply with hand luggage size requirements, so you don’t have to worry about paying extra to check it in.

Best carry-on luggage size: Before we fly into the best options for you, let’s first have a look at in-flight hand luggage regulations. For both local and international flights, it is best to follow the International Air Transport Association (IATA) standard, which recommends not to exceed 56 (L) x 45 (W) x 25 (D) cm, including handles, side pockets and wheels. There is no standard carry-on size, so it is best to review the airlines you fly with most often and choose a size that works best for all of them.

1. MindShift FirstLight 40 L Backpack

If your camera could speak, it would ask for a MindShift FirstLight 40 L. Measuring 55 x 35 x 23 cm, it comfortably meets most airline carry-on requirements. This is Gunther Swart, an expert sales consultant at Outdoorphoto’s favourite: “This bag is conveniently sized as it fits everything you need, namely two gripped DSLRs with up to eight standard zoom lenses and one to two flashes. It fits a maximum lens size of 600mm f/4 lens detached from or a 500mm f/4 attached to a camera body. The protective layers are more than sufficient to keep your special things neat and safe and allow for maximum packing efficiency. Whether you are a wedding photographer with a stack of flashes, multiple bodies and lenses, or a wildlife photographer with seriously big glass, this bag will handle it like a champion and it sits quite comfortably on your back. I have not yet seen a bag that is more versatile and practical than this one in 2020.”

MindShift FirstLight 40L Backpack

2. Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0 Backpack

Coming in at 52 x 29 x 22 cm, the Think Tank Streetwalker is spacious enough to easily organise a gripped professional DSLR camera with an attached 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, seven additional lenses, a flash, and the included rain cover. It has extra space for a 15″ laptop and 13″ tablet as well as a medium-sized tripod. Equipped with padded shoulder straps, a chest connector, and a removable waist belt, comfort is its middle name. Even more, it features breathable air-mesh back panel, lumbar support, and cooling air channels to keep you feeling fresh. And, made from strong material and treated with water-repellent coatings, you can trust it to last you many travels.

ThinkTank StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0 Backpack

3. Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II Backpack

This is another great option for airline travel, measuring an airline-friendly 52 x 36 x 22 cm that is spacious enough to accommodate eight additional lenses or flash units, accessories, a tripod and a 15″ laptop. Adjustable interior dividers let you customise for a snug fit, and top and side pockets provide easy access to your gear. A built-in weather cover safeguards your gear against the elements while an ActivZone System harness supports your shoulders, lumbar area and waist for comfort on the move.

Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II Backpack

4. Obscura Explorer Backpack

Made in South Africa, this backpack is the ideal multi-purpose travel solution for on-location photographers. The Obscura Explorer comes in three striking colours to suit your personality, namely blue, dark charcoal and red. It measures 59 x 35 x 17 cm, which includes space for your laptop at the back. A strap lets you attach your tripod to the outer bottom of the bag, and adjustable inner padding protects your gear from accidental bumps. Inside, a removable inner bag transforms into a sling bag when you need it using an included strap, and a removable outer bag comes in handy when you need extra storage for clothing or accessories.

Obscura Explorer Backpack

5. Peak Design 30 L Everyday Backpack

This backpack is adaptable to suit your needs, whether you’re carrying a couple of full-frame DSLRs, three to six lenses, or any combination of these. It also carries a 16” laptop or 11” tablet, accessories, tripod, and an umbrella or water bottle in style. Yes, not only is it functional, but it oozes class with its modern design. Measuring in at 59 x 33 x 20 cm, you can trust that it will fit into the overhead stowage compartments. The backpack has adjustable straps, a top grab handle and side briefcase style strap for many comfortable carrying methods, and even allows you to position your bag securely on your rolling suitcase thanks to a pass-through luggage strap.

Peak Design 30L Everyday Backpack

From Londen to Berlin, or just locally to Cape Town, Durban or Hoedspruit, you need an airline friendly camera backpack if you are always on the move. These bags are for sale online at Outdoorphoto, but if you’re in Pretoria, be sure to pop into our physical store to try out our airline-friendly box as in the picture above, which is exactly sized to ensure that your hand luggage fits into the overhead compartment.