The Best Hard Shell Camera Backpacks

Finding the perfect camera bag is just as important as buying the device. If protecting your camera gear is a priority, then a hard case backpack is ideal for you. 

A hard case backpack suits people on the go and those who like to take care of their camera like a newborn baby. 

Many photographers prefer a hard case backpack because it is drop-proof and shock-proof. It’s also resistant to various elements such as water, heat, cold – you name it. 

Thanks to its material, storage, and certain high-tech features, a hard case backpack offers the perfect combination of protection, durability, security, and comfort. Some even come with a lifetime warranty!

Learn more about the benefits of owning a hard case backpack for your camera, the things you should consider, and the top models available in the market today.

Hard Case Backpacks for Your Camera: Things To Look For

Because hard case backpacks come in various features, shapes, and sizes, it’s essential to know what to look for when shopping around for one. 

Here are seven things to consider when looking for a hard case backpack for your camera:

Protection

Protection is the ultimate reason why photographers and camera enthusiasts swear by hard case backpacks.

Their build and material are perfect for multiple shoots, frequent outdoor travels, and rough terrains. 

Durability

If you’re looking for a bag resistant to punctures, scratches, and abrasions, then hard case backpacks are a definite go-to.

Because of breathable materials and sponge padding, hard case backpacks offer excellent protection against inclement weather and uncompromising environments.

If you want the technical details on the material, then this one’s for you. Hard case backpacks contain the following:

  • Polycarbonate
  • acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • aluminum
  • PVC fabric
  • Kevlar
  • Plastic
  • cotton canvas 
  • ripstop nylon

These materials make hard case backpacks waterproof and resistant to scratches and cracks. They also make these bags lightweight despite their bulky and seemingly heavy appearance.

Other models also include the following: 

  • polyethylene vinyl foam that adds extra padding and straps
  • aluminum or stainless steel that make the reinforcement grommets and buckles
  • suede or leather liners
  • nylon thread, one of the strongest threads available, used for hemming and invisible stitching
  • Cordura fabric, a synthetic, fiber-based technology that makes backpacks water- and fire-proof

Power tip: 

If you’re looking for the sturdiest, most durable hard case backpacks, then go for those that are made of ABS polycarbonate. 

Hard case backpacks made in aluminum are extra durable as well. Still, they come with a higher price tag as aluminum is more expensive (and so much heavier) than ABS polycarbonate. 

For more budget-friendly options that are still considered durable and lightweight, those made of plain polycarbonate or polypropylene are great choices.

Storage

When looking for a suitable camera bag, you’ll need one with enough storage not just for your camera but also for your gear. 

Select one that can carry your equipment securely and steadily. Look for one that has dividers and organizers, especially if you like your gear compact at all times.

Comfort and Convenience

With heavier camera equipment, you’ll need a hard case backpack that’s easy to carry. Look for a model that has accessories like hip belts and straps made of nylon or polyester. 

Go for padded shoulder straps and adjustable sternum straps, especially when shooting outdoors or in rough terrains. 

Some hard shell backpacks may look like a block of cement – bulky and clunky; this is why some users steer clear of them.

However, hard case backpacks are primarily lightweight, flexible, soft, and comfortable. Some are even convertible and can turn into an urban-style bag for everyday use.

Security

Certain models come with secure locks and other technology that prevent theft.

Some brands include TSA-approved locking systems and padlocks, which are convenient at checkpoints, security areas in airports, border crossings, etc. 

Others have anti-theft structures and flaps that hide zippers, making it extra difficult for uninitiated users to open specific compartments.

Certain tech features like hidden security whistles and RFID safe pockets are present in some of the backpacks.

While these features come with a higher price tag, keeping your expensive camera and equipment safe is worth every penny.

Prices

Hard case backpacks come in a range of prices – from budget-friendly to premium – based on material, brand, features, and quality.

Affordable options range from $30 to $60 and are great for carrying smaller gear. However, they do not offer the best protection for fragile and expensive equipment.

When traveling, you may want to use them as carry-on instead of check-in baggage.

Mid-range models cost $60 to $120. They are more durable and lightweight than the budget-friendly options.

Best for lugging around fragile electronics, these backpacks offer protection from the sudden drop as well as resistance to extreme weather conditions.

Hard shell backpacks on the premium side are designed for solid durability and ultimate security. These are best for keeping expensive cameras and other devices secure and well-protected.

Ranging from $120 to $500 and up, the prices of hard case backpacks vary because of excellent features like secure locks, extra compartments, waterproof materials, rain accessories, padded shoulder straps, and pockets. 

Style

Functionality should not compromise style. You can have the best of both worlds – durable bags with maximum protection and a dash of style. 

Various models come in different colors, shapes, and sizes. When looking for a hard case camera backpack, remember that you can find one that suits your personality and preferences.

Top 5 Hard Case Camera Backpacks

This is where the rubber hits the road. Here are the top 5 hard case camera backpacks available in the market today:

Hazard 4 Grayman Pillbox Hard Shell Backpack

Made of waterproof polyester and almost exclusively from a lightweight thermoformed shell, this hard case backpack protects and shields your camera and all your equipment from shock, heavy impact, and rain. 

The Hazard 4 Grayman Pillbox Hard Shell Backpack is perfect for multiple pieces of equipment of various sizes, thanks to multiple movable padded dividers.

It also offers comfort and convenience, especially when traveling around as it has the right accessories for it: a removable waist belt, and an adjustable sternum strap.

This hard case backpack offers great storage: 49 L x 30.5 W x 1.5 D cm. It even has a back compartment for your laptop if you need to transfer image and video files straight after the shoot.

While there is only one color available (grey, with a golden brown interior lining), this hard case backpack is stylish that gives both an urban and adventurous vibe.

Price: $184.72

Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2

If you’re looking for a hard case camera backpack that’s designed for organization and easy access, then the Peak Design Everyday Backpack is the best one for you.

Made of 100% recycled 400D double poly-coated nylon canvas shell, this hard case backpack is highly durable and weatherproof thanks to its DWR (durable water repellent) coating.

Its minimalist style offers multiple padded dividers that can easily be moved and reconfigured, sans any dangling straps. It provides flexibility as it provides storage, expansion, and protection regardless of lifestyle and settings.

If you plan to carry your DSLR along with accessories, documents, and devices, then the externally accessed 15” laptop sleeve that includes pockets would suit your on-the-go, multi-screen needs.

It only comes in grey, but its lifetime warranty should more than make up for the lack of color options.

The Everyday Camera Line: Peter McKinnon X NOMATIC

Nomatic is a well-known backpack brand. Peter McKinnon is one of the biggest names in the photography scene. When these two megabrands come together, expect fireworks.

This fusion comes in the form of the Nomatic McKinnon 35L Camera bag.

It’s a hard case camera backpack designed for photographers and enthusiasts alike – all centered around organization and flexibility.

This hard case backpack features multiple compartments that can make any organization-freak drool.

It has a main compartment where you can easily reach out for your camera and accessories such as batteries, lenses, and many more. 

It contains a 15” laptop, a tablet compartment, and clothing storage, which is perfect when packing for a trip. 

The bag is expandable from 35L to 42L, accommodating more camera gear, more days of traveling, and a small drone. Even as a 42L bag, it can still fit as a carry-on bag on the plane.

It comes with dedicated cases for batteries, hard drives, filters, and memory cards – either through the see-through mesh pockets or the main compartment.

The bag has side pockets where you can put your camera and access it quickly the next time you find a great outdoor shot. You can also insert your tripod or water jug in them.

The Nomatic McKinnon camera bag is perfect for the outdoors and adventurous terrains, thanks to its removable Velcro hip strap.

The downside is its size – it’s on the larger end of the spectrum. The bag alone weighs 5.75 lbs. due to its size and padding; when full, it can go from 15 to 25 lbs. and up.

All these features come with a higher price tag, but it is worth the investment for hard-core photographers.

Price: $399.99 

Lowepro Protactic BP 350 AW II

You can tell just by looking at the Lowepro ProTactic that it’s a hard case backpack designed especially for cameras.

The Lowepro Protactic BP 350 AW II is the perfect bag for carrying bulky cameras (stores 2 DSLRs), lens (fits up to 8), gimbals, and even drones.

During inclement weather, it’s the go-to choice as it comes with rain protection and an all-weather cover.

This bag with a modular build has a laptop compartment, an external tripod strap, a convertible waist belt that can turn into a utility belt, five modular accessories, and air cool padding.

It also comes with multiple dividers that are rearrangeable into multiple configurations that best suit your cameras and accessories.

The rigid EVA molded top armored section and protective padding surrounding the whole bag guarantees protection.

With all this storage and build, it’s incredible how the Lowepro Protactic BP 350 AW II remains lightweight. 

It offers extra comfort for an all-day mission due to the Activzone System Technology that provides targeted support for the shoulders, lumbar region, and waist.

The Lowepro ProTactic may relatively be more expensive, but professional photographers will appreciate all the benefits it offers.

Price: $198.88 

Endurax ShellX P01 Extra Large Camera Backpack Hardshell Protection 

The Endurax ShellX PO1 camera backpack is perfect for lugging around your DSLR camera gear, gimbals, and other accessories and equipment.

This hard case camera backpack is all about storage and protection.

It can fit two DSLRs, up to 8 lenses, and a drone. With small pockets and extra sets of dividers, this backpack has an extra-large capacity to safely store valuable gears during rugged use.

Each side has mesh pockets for either a tripod or water bottle. It also features a 17” laptop compartment and a pouch for a 10” tablet.

It provides strong protection because of its PVA-made front armored section in the upper and lower compartments, including the extra-large padding throughout the bag.

The Endurax ShellX P01 Extra Large Camera Backpack is real value-for-money for its storage capacity and protective features.

Price: $167

FAQ

Is a hard case camera backpack great for carrying expensive drones too?

Yes, as it offers protection throughout – from specific compartments to protective padding surrounding the pockets and the entire bag.

Many manufacturers and brands design hard case camera backpacks with various equipment and gears in mind, including drones of varying sizes. 

What are some of the tech and security features of hard case camera backpacks?

Some brands include TSA-approved locking systems and padlocks, making it easier for the user to open up the backpacks at checkpoints, security areas in airports, border crossings, etc. 

There are also anti-theft backpacks available in the market, which have structures and flaps that hide zippers, making it extra tricky for uninitiated users to access specific compartments.

Certain tech features like hidden security whistles and RFID safe pockets are present in some of the backpacks.