The Best Carry-on Camera Bags: Here Are 6 to Fly With

It’s not only puppies that suffer from separation anxiety. Tell me that I have to check my camera bag at the airport and I’m going to anxiety all over the place. I might even opt for a Greyhound. So when it comes to selecting a carry-on camera bag, I’m doggone careful. Here are six great camera bags to fly with and a detailed explanation of the rules that surround carry-on baggage size.

To say that there is some confusion regarding the maximum size of carry-on luggage is like saying that it might take a long time to build an exact-scale replica of an F-16 Fighting Falcon using only miniature marshmallows.

In most instances, but certainly not all, carry-on bags must be no larger than 14 x 22 x 9 inches (35 x 56 x 22 centimeters) including handles and wheels. But there are exceptions. Check with your airline. Be aware that the regulations for domestic flights may not apply to international travel, particularly if you’re traveling on a foreign carrier. According to their websites, American, Delta and United all subscribe to the 14 by 22 by 9 policy for domestic flights. But don’t take my word for it—check for yourself. Things change.

The FAA is vague, to say the least. Here is what they say on their official website: “The maximum size carry-on bag for most airlines is 45 linear inches (the total of the height, width, and depth of the bag). Anything larger should be checked.”

Over at, in their FAQ section, we find this deferral: “Size dimensions of carry-on baggage allowed in the cabin of the aircraft vary by airline. Contact your airline to ensure what can fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.”

One more word of explanation: a couple of the bags listed below have official measurements that slightly exceed the 14-22-9 rule. However, the bags are said to fit in the test frame provided by most airlines, as shown in the photo of a Shimoda Designs bag below. It’s understandable, since most bags allow some stretch and compression.

Shimoda Designs Carry-On Roller fits comfortably inside the 14 x 22 x 9 inch test frame usually found at an airport, according to the photo that appears on Shimoda's website.

Think Tank Photo Airport Advantage Plus, $289
Exterior dimensions: 13.8 x 22 x 7.3 inches.
Weight 6.9 pounds.

Think Tank Photo was founded back in 2005 by two veteran bag designers: Doug Murdoch and Mike Sturm, and two widely acclaimed photographers: Deanne Fitzmaurice and Kurt Rogers. Having personally used a wide assortment of Think Tank bags, rollers and belt systems over the past 13 years I can attest that everything they make is very rugged, intelligently designed and built using only the best materials.

The Think Tank Airport Advantage Plus fits one gripped DSLR with lens attached plus one standard-size DSLR with lens attached and between five and eight additional lenses. In addition it holds a 17-inch laptop and a 10-inch tablet. It has a tripod mount on one side and an extra long handle for maneuverability. Materials used include lockable YKK RC Fuse zippers, seam-sealed ballistic nylon and closed-cell foam. The wheels are 80mm diameter and contain ABEC grade 5 bearings for smooth operation.


Shimoda Designs Carry-On Roller, $299
Exterior Dimensions: 15.4 x 20.5 x 9.8 inches.
Weight: 7.4 pounds.

Shimoda Designs is a relative newcomer that has already acquired a sterling reputation for quality and performance. I reviewed their Adventure Photo Backpacks on these pages last winter. While all bag makers endeavor to make their products comfortable, in addition Shimoda bags are created with convenience features that help users conserve energy.

The Shimoda Designs Carry-On Roller opens like a doctor’s bag—a great feature—and holds an enormous amount of equipment stored safely in camera/lens cradles (they call them Core Units). The Core Units come in two sizes and include a fabric overwrap that keeps dust out and can be used to convert the Core Unit into a lightweight shoulder bag. The exterior is a nylon carbonate ether resin-coated ripstop nylon shell for improved water-resistance and overall durability. The eight user-replaceable wheels are of the 80mm variety and there are full-length zippered pockets on each side.


Gura Gear G Elite G32 Pro, $399
Exterior dimensions:   14.2 x 20.9 x 9.1 inches.
Weight: 4.8 pounds.

Gura Gear is one with Tamrac now but lives its own life as the G Elite series. Tamrac has been making photo equipment bags and backpacks since 1977 and has made its bones among professional and amateurs alike. Gura Gear launched in 2005 and acquired Tamrac in 2014. Combined they have a star-studded legacy that’s sure to endure.

The Gura Gear G Elite G32 Pro will safely stow a pair of DSLRs and several lenses up to 800mm (unmounted). In addition, it has a separate laptop compartment (up to 15 inches) an expandable exterior mesh pocket, water bottle pocket and removable waist belt. The exterior is made of Dyneema (that’s the stuff braided fishing line is made from for you anglers) and ripstop nylon, and the inside is PU coated Cordura. Zippers are YKK RC Fuse and have color-coded pull tabs. Comes with rain cover and dust cover. One really cool feature: the bag can be opened one side at a time (long-ways like butterfly wings) or all at once.


Lowepro Photostream SP 200, $299
Exterior dimensions: 13.8 x 21.7 x 8.8 inches.
Weight: 9.7 pounds.

Lowepro is one of the oldest and most respected bag brands around. They were founded in 1967 and recently came under the Vitec Imaging Solutions umbrella with other great brands like Manfrotto, Joby and Gitzo.

The Lowepro Photostream SP 200 is a four-wheeler with a molded EVA front panel and a laptop compartment (15-inch or smaller). It accommodates a pair of pro-size DSLRs (with grips) including one with a lens up to 70-200mm f/2.8 attached, plus up to eight more lenses, flash or combinations thereof. It has grab handles on three sides and a telescoping trolley handle. There are lashings for a tripod on one side, but apart from that there’s nothing that suggests that it contains valuable cameras—which is great when flying under the radar.


Manfrotto Pro Roller Bag-70, $399
Exterior dimensions: 14.8 x 22 x 9 inches.
Weight: 10.5 pounds.

Manfrotto offers a very complete array of camera backpacks, messengers, shoulder bags, holsters and rollers, plus bags for drones and tripods, and—as most are aware—world class tripods, ball heads and related accessories. If you’re not familiar with their full line of carry solutions, it’s worth your while to take a look.

The Manfrotto Pro Roller Bag-70 stores two DSLRs, up to eight lenses and two EFU (Electronic Flash Units) plus a 17-inch notebook computer and a small tablet. It will even devour a 600mm f/4 lens (if the inside partitions are arranged correctly). The exterior Cordura nylon fabric is water resistant but they also include a fold-out cover for even greater protection. Manfrotto takes pride in their CPS, or Camera Protection System, which offers a high level of impact resistance.


Clik Elite Escape 2.0, $279
Exterior: 11.4 x 22 x 9.1 inches.
Weight: 4.4 pounds.

Sadly, Clik Elite is out of business. For some readers that’s a deal breaker. But for my money, the fact that Clik Elite has perished is not a deterrent to purchase. I have never had to return a gadget bag or photo backpack to the manufacturer because it was defective (knock on wood). Therefore, why should I care if the manufacturer is defunct? Click Elite products are high quality and comfortable—and I have owned and used enough of them to state that with confidence.

The Clik Elite Escape 2.0 fits a pro-size DSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 attached plus four more lenses (or five), flash, 10-inch tablet and other small miscellany. This is a true photo backpack (not a roller) and is a comfortable rider. On top there’s a large pocket that can be accessed quickly from the outside or easily from the inside when the bag is fully open. Includes a hideaway rain cover and a hydration sleeve. One big reason why it’s included in this roundup, look at the weight: just 4.4 pounds.


NYA-EVO Fjord 60-C Carry-On, about $385
13.4 x 22 x 9.8 inches.
Weight: 4.2 pounds.

Be warned that this backpack is still in Kickstarter and cannot yet be purchased at retail. I’m including it here only because I reviewed the smaller NYA-EVO Fjord 36 a few months back on these pages and thereby have clear expectations of the production quality of this new offering as well as the confidence that it will survive crowdfunding. That said, specs are subject to change.

Like the smaller Fjord 36, the Fjord 60-C (the C stands for carry-on) uses optional camera cradle modules to protect equipment. This approach makes it easy to customize the innards to exactly suit your needs. The modules (NYA-EVO calls theirs RCIs, or Removable Camera Inserts) are available in three sizes. The modules fit snugly and securely, and even when the largest is in place there’s still room for other essentials like a raincoat, food or clothing.

—Jon Sienkiewicz