Reviewing products and listing them from best to worst isn’t easy. And when you’re reviewing 18 camera backpacks, writing accurate and objective reviews is a monumental task.
That’s why we’ve been so thorough, scientific, and honest in our approach. We spent hours deliberating over scores, features, and ratings in order to be as objective as possible.
This article details how we tested, scored, and came to our conclusions about the camera backpacks. Keep reading to see our process in detail.
[Note: ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here].
How We Scored The Bags
The backpacks were reviewed by our in-house writing team, Nick, Trevor, and Chris. We were backed up by our wonderful editorial team. And we all worked hard to maintain consistency at the highest level when reviewing all the camera backpacks.
This approach meant all backpacks were reviewed fairly. And it means you, the reader, can find a camera backpack that meets your needs exactly. You will know each bag’s strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. And you won’t be missold something that isn’t up to scratch.
A cynic might presume we give the best reviews to the bags that come with the biggest commission. Other companies might do that, but we don’t.
It’s true, we do earn a commission if you purchase one through our website. We have nothing to hide there. That revenue keeps the lights on at Expert Photography HQ.
But all the backpacks have been put through the same tests. They have all been judged on the same standards. And all the results are genuine.
Of course, some points in the review are subjective. And when the bags are being reviewed by three different writers, this can be an issue. But with constant communication between the reviewers, we were able to maintain a high level of inter-rater reliability.
The Scoring System
The key to fair and honest testing was our scoring system. Each bag was given a score out of 100. We broke the reviews down into core areas, such as Build Quality and Durability, Functionality and Ease of Use, and Compatibility and Versatility. Each of these sections was then broken down into smaller sections.
Each subcategory had a maximum score assigned to it. And each bag was judged on that criterion and given a score between 0 and the max for that section. This score then adds to the bag’s total out of 100.
We go into more detail on the points system in the following section. But this system allowed all three writers to judge all 18 backpacks on a level playing field. We were all playing from the same rule book. And that means all backpacks were reviewed fairly and consistently, whether in the hands of Chris, Nick, or Trevor.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of our review process.
Design and Aesthetics (8/100 Points)
Design and Aesthetics are broken down into two subcategories. These are Design and Aesthetics and Color and Size Options. This rating was given a maximum of 8 points.
- Design (6.4/100)
The design was assigned 6.4 of the final 100 points. While we understand a camera backpack’s true value is found elsewhere, we also know aesthetics are still important. Let’s face it—we all want to look good.
Whether you like the look of a bag or not is one of the first things you realize. But it’s also the most subjective criterion in the review. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And a bag I like might not look good to you.
This is why communication is key. All three writers talked extensively about what they liked and why. We didn’t always see eye to eye. But we achieved a level of understanding that allowed them to judge the appearance of each bag fairly.
- Color and Size Options (1.6/100)
Color and Size Options were assigned a total of 1.6 points. This section only has a small point assignment because there wasn’t much variation between manufacturers. Black is by far the most common color. And it will always be the most popular color choice.
The points here were basically bonus points for companies that offer a bit of variety.
Build Quality and Durability (32/100 Points)
When reviewing camera backpacks, few things are more important than Build Quality and Durability. That’s why this section was assigned a total of 32 points. It was broken down into subsections for more accurate scoring. This is how we divided the points.
- Exterior Materials (4.8/100)
Exterior Materials has a total of 4.8 points of the 32. We looked at how the materials feel and whether it’s pleasant to touch. We also judged the materials on their strength and durability. They also get more points if the material is ripstop or scratch-resistant.
- Interior Materials (2.4/100)
Interior Materials contribute another 2.4 points to the total. Here we’re looking at quality and durability. We also looked at the consistency between interior and exterior materials. It was surprisingly common for manufacturers to use lower-quality materials on the inside. And a few bags lost marks for that.
- Straps and Back Support (6.4/100)
Straps and Back Support affect every camera backpack. That’s why this subcategory gets 6.4 points. Good padding and adjustability were contributing factors. As were materials and quality of fixtures such as clips and buckles. We also looked at the quality of chest straps and hip belts, if they have them.
- Stitching and Seams (4/100)
A total of 4 points is given to Stitching and Seams. That might seem like a lot for something many people won’t even notice. But when you’re reviewing a backpack, the quality of stitching—good or bad—really stands out. The seams are a good indicator of the overall quality. Good seams show the bag was made with care.
- Internal Padding (2.4/100)
Internal Padding has a possible 2.4 points. Every camera bag needs padding. And we’ve seen good and bad padding during the review process. To some, 2.4 points might seem like a small amount. But other factors also contribute to the protection of your gear.
- Zippers and Fastenings (4/100)
Zippers and Fastenings has a possible 4 points assigned to this section. You might not notice a good zipper. But a bad one can ruin your experience with a backpack. We also looked at the other fastenings, like buckles, clips, and magnet attachments.
- Manufacturer’s Reputation (2.4/100)
The Manufacturer’s Reputation is more subjective. But we determined each company’s score as a group and decided it was worth 2.4 points. We did thorough research on each brand, looking at their media, reviews, and the quality of their other products.
- Warranty (5.6/100)
Warranty is vitally important when you buy any product. That’s why it has a weight of 5.6 points out of the total 100. We were also more scientific when scoring this category.
Companies were assigned full points for a lifetime guarantee. They were given 80% of points for a 20-year warranty. Other companies were given 60-70% of the total points for anything between 10 and 15 years of coverage. A five-year warranty got the bags 50% of the total points. And a two-year warranty was given 35% of the total points.
Functionality and Ease of Use (36/100 Points)
A camera backpack isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t do what you need or is difficult to use. That’s why we assigned a maximum of 36 points to this section of the review. Here’s how we broke it down.
- Size and Weight (2.67/100)
2.67 points are available for Size and Weight. We all want a lightweight backpack. But we also want something strong and durable. It’s all about finding a balance between durability and weight. You also don’t want a bag that’s too bulky. And efficient use of space is important.
- Capacity (2.67/100)
When assigning the 2.67 points for Capacity, we asked, “Can it carry everything you need?” And we don’t just mean camera gear. Can the bag also hold your laptop, tablet, and other accessories? Is there a water bottle and tripod holder? Is there any free space for clothes and other extras?
- Organization and Customization (8/100)
Organization and Customization is given a total of 8 points. That’s because every photographer is different. They have different cameras, lenses, and equipment setups. The ability to rearrange the space makes the backpack more usable. Are the dividers removable? Can you change the space for different types of items? How much control does the user have over the space?
- Accessibility (9.33/100)
Accessibility is always important for photographers. That’s why this section has a total of 9.33 points. We looked at the number of access points each bag has. Do they have rear and side access? And we also judged them on how user-friendly the access points were.
- Security (5.33/100)
Every photographer has concerns about the security of their gear. That’s why there are 5.33 points for this section. Camera gear is expensive. And the more security-conscious a camera bag is, the more points they get. This includes things like built-in locks, lockable zipper heads, and a discreet appearance.
- Additional Features (8/100)
There are 8 points for Additional Features. Each bag was given points if it had the following features: a tripod strap, water bottle holder, dedicated laptop sleeve, tripod sleeve, chest strap, waist strap, a mesh pocket, fleece-lined pockets, and room for a card organizer. There were also bonus points awarded for high-quality features or extras.
Weather Resistance (8/100 Points)
Weather Resistance has its own category, with 8 points out of the total 100. It was divided into two subcategories for more accurate scoring.
- Rain Protection (5.33/100)
The first section was Rain Protection, with 5.33 points. This looks at each backpack’s weather resistance—whether it was water-repellent or waterproof. And points were awarded if the manufacturer included a rain cover.
- Waterproof Zippers (2.67/100)
Waterproof Zippers is the other subcategory, with 2.67 points up for grabs. We looked at whether the zippers had protective coatings. And we looked for rubber hoods at the ends of the zippers.
Compatibility and Versatility (8/100 Points)
Compatibility and Versatility contribute a total of 8 points to the final score. We’ve broken it down into three sections: Compatibility, Versatility, and Sustainability.
- Compatibility (1.6/100)
Compatibility has 1.6 of the total 8 points. This relates to where the backpack can take your camera. What kind of gear is it intended to carry? And what kind of cameras and lenses can it hold safely?
- Versatility (4/100)
Versatility has a share of 4 points. To score well, the bag needs to have different carrying options. It scored points if it was useable as a sling or duffle configuration. Or maybe it has different handles for carrying the backpack in various situations.
- Sustainability (2.4/100)
Sustainability has a max point score of 2.4. And this was a difficult one to mark. We trawled through all the information we could find on each company. And some were very open about their sustainable practices. But others gave very little information about being environmentally friendly. Companies also got points for ethical practices like fair pay and good working conditions for employees.
Value for Money (8/100 Points)
We used a formula to determine this score. We totaled the scores above for each camera bag and then divided the total points by the price of the bag in dollars. This allowed us to calculate how many points to assign to each bag for Value for Money.
This resulted in some cheaper bags getting a higher score. And some high-quality bags have a lower score than some might expect, but that’s only due to their high price. But this system removed subjectivity and allowed us to give each bag a fair score.
All Camera Bag Scores
For full transparency, you can view exactly how we broke down the score of every bag in detail in this spreadsheet.
All 18 bags reviewed in this process were kindly sent to us by the manufacturers. We selected the manufacturers because of their reputations in the photography world. And all have been incredibly kind in allowing us to review their products.
We are allowed to keep some bags, but other manufacturers wanted us to return them after we reviewed them.
Of course, this is a quid pro quo relationship. We are selling the bags through our affiliate links. And for each sale, we earn a commission. That’s why it’s a win-win situation for us and the manufacturers.
All our scores are honest and genuine. We haven’t given better scores to bags that come with higher commission percentages. And we haven’t had any directives from the boss to say which bags should score what. The writers had complete autonomy when reviewing the bags and compiling the lists.
All 18 camera backpacks have gone through the same level of testing. They were distributed between the three writers. But the review process was calibrated so all bags were judged fairly and consistently.
Yes, we are making money from these reviews. But we hope our transparency in our review process inspires trust. And we hope you can find the best camera backpack that suits your needs.