Lowepro Topload Zoom AW
Topload Zoom AW Camera Case

How do I keep camera gear safe, but easily accessible, while backpacking?

Is there a backpack out there that will house fragile camera gear as well as all of the other essentials for camping? Or do you have any suggestions for packing it so it'll stay safe and is still easily accessible? Ara Wichita, Kansas

Lowepro Topload Zoom AW

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Well, there are camera-specific packs such as the Lowepro Pro Trekker AW II ($477), which can swallow two SLRs and a half-dozen lenses up to a long telephoto, plus all the accessories you might reasonably need. But it isn’t really a backpacking pack, so it doesn’t do a good job of handling all your camping gear. In fact, it does a lousy job.

Lowepro Topload Zoom AW

Lowepro Topload Zoom AW Topload Zoom AW Camera Case

But people have long carried camera gear when backpacking. I know I used to, before I got tired of adding 20 pounds to a heavy pack. The solution is simply to give each piece of camera gear its own protection. That means, for instance, buying a pair of holster-type camera cases such as Lowepro’s Topload Zoom AW ($70), which can swallow a big SLR body and a longish zoom lens. Or, go for an updated, front-facing fanny-pack of sorts with the Lowepro Inverse 100 AW ($80). The advantage here is that your SLR body plus an additional lens will be super easy to access.

Then, simply buy cases for individual lenses. Case Logic makes a series of lens cases from $15 to $25 that can handle most any lens.

It also helps to get a backpack with external pockets that are camera- and lens-friendly. Gregory’s Baltoro 70 ($270) is pretty good on this count—it’s a 4,300-cubic-inch pack with a large external pocket. Osprey’s Argon 85 ($369) is a little larger at 5,100 cubic inches, and it has a large outside pocket as well.

The 2008 Summer Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From riding to trail-running to camping, get reviews of nearly 400 gear must-haves.