Camera sling bags occupy a unique-but-useful segment of the camera bag space. They don’t hold as much sheer volume as a backpack, but they offer much quicker access to your gear and considerably less bulk. Slings offer the same convenience you get with a messenger-style bag, but their compact form factor and high-riding fit make them better suited for vigorous activities like hiking or even riding a bike. These convenient carrying solutions offer ample protection, plenty of pockets, and quick access to your camera and accessories so you don’t miss a shot trying to get your gear out before the moment passes. Here are our top picks for the best camera sling bags.
Things to consider when looking for the best camera sling bag
The best camera sling bag will fit your specific gear and shooting style, so there’s no one-size-fits-all winner. While the picks on this list suggest their most ideal user, there’s lots of crossover. Here are some crucial aspects to consider when shopping for the best camera sling bags.
It can be difficult to really gauge how much storage a camera bag really offers. Even pure dimensions can’t always tell you how much stuff will actually fit when it comes to packing in the real world. Looking at product images can actually give you a solid idea of what might fit. Slings aren’t typically meant to hold more than one or two bodies and a few lenses or accessories. Some of the smaller models on the list are better suited for just one camera and one extra lens.
While it may be tempting to always get the larger model bag for more capacity, the smaller option may fit your preferred carry better. Lots of empty space in a bag makes the gear less secure, so really try to imagine what you’re going to be carrying before you make a purchase.
You’ll often find capacity indicated in liters or “L,” and that can be somewhat useful for getting a general idea of the size in comparison to other options, orientation makes a big difference when it comes to what actually fits.
Almost all camera bags offer modular padding that attaches to the inside of the compartment with Velcro. Some options offer more flexibility than others, however, so if you’re planning to switch up your gear load, make sure it offers the flexibility you require. Some bags also offer more padding than others. If you get something very small and low-profile, don’t expect it to have the same protective properties as a bulkier bag with more cushioning.
Some bags offer more protection from the elements than others. Some more fashionable bags emphasize looks over ruggedness, which is fine in some circumstances. Some bags also offer optional rain covers that add an extra protective shell around the outside of the bag when the conditions get gnarly. If you’re planning to take your sling out in bad weather, specifically look for options that boast about weatherproofing and extra protection.
Slings tend to offer fewer overall pockets than backpacks or even other shoulder bags. These aren’t meant to carry tons of gear so you won’t find dozens of compartments scattered around. If you’re looking to carry lots of stuff and get a ton of pockets, maybe consider some of the best camera backpacks.
Our picks for the best camera sling bags
Here, we’ll get into specific picks regarding the best camera sling bags. Each one has its own specific strengths and weaknesses depending on your intended usage.
Best for traveling: Hex Ranger Sling V2
Why it made the cut: This attractive-looking bag offers ample space inside for larger cameras, but folds flat if you need to pack it during travel.
- Dimensions: 14.5″ L x 7.5″ W x 4.75″
- Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Capacity: 8L
- Removable bottom padding allows it to pack flat
- Sturdy materials
- Burly zippers
- Strap could be longer
- Outer pocket feels weirdly positioned
This relatively long bag sports a wide nylon strap and ample modelar padding that makes it feel comfortable and secure. I managed to fit a pair of SLRs (one film and one digital) in the bag with lenses attached at once. It was a bit cramped, but not uncomfortably so. I could also easily carry my Pentax 645N II medium format camera with an extra lens.
Even after some hiking through particularly pokey trees and mud, the outer material proved strong and resilient. I personally could have used a strap that was slightly longer but it rests comfortably in a good spot regardless.
From a pocket standpoint, the layout is fairly simple. There’s a large outer pocket on the front, which is roomy and secure, but the zipper arrangement is slightly strange. Because it zips all the way down on one side, you’re incentivized to keep the bag on your right shoulder, otherwise the front pocket seems upside down. There’s also a flat zippered pocket on the back of the main compartment for carrying small accessories.
If you’re traveling, you can take the padding out and flatting the bag completely to fit it into a suitcase, which is a nice touch.
Best for hiking: Lowepro Slingshot Edge 250
Why it made the cut: Originally meant for street photography, this weather-resistant, versatile bag feels right at home in the woods.
- Dimensions: 9.06” x 4.72” x 8.27”
- Weight: 1.76 pounds
- Capacity: Not given
- Tough, weather-resistant exterior
- Very comfortable
- Space enough for an iPad or tablet
- Exterior pockets
- Bigger than other options
This all-black bag was built for street photography, but it has everything a great hiking bag requires. The gear compartment offers ample padding and opens on the back, so you can put it down in the dirt without worrying about tracking gunk onto your clothes when you put it back on. The large top pocket provides plenty of room for extra clothes, sunscreen, snacks, and whatever else you may want to bring along for the trip.
The chunky strap provides a comfortable fit. It’s very adjustable, so it can accommodate a wide array of body types. Plus, it’s part of Lowepro’s AW (all-weather) line, so it protects against dust, moisture, and anything else mother nature offers up without an additional cover. It’s larger than just about every other option on the list, but you might need that room on the trail. Despite its size, it’s still easy to rotate around and access your gear through the side opening if you’re trying to grab your camera in a hurry.
Best for commuting: Chrome Niko Sling
Why it made the cut: Sturdy straps and a compact design make this a great option if you plan to ride a bike with your camera gear.
- Dimensions: 7.25″ x 11″ x 7″
- Weight: 1.63 pounds
- Capacity: 5L
- Excellent fit
- Sturdy padding
- Extremely rugged exterior
- Surprisingly roomy
Chrome has been making some of the best messenger-style bags on the market for decades now. The Niko 2.0 camera sling only offers five liters of capacity, but it fits a surprising amount of gear inside. You can expect to get a body with a lens attached and another small-ish lens to go with it.
The outer shell employs Chrome’s familiar rugged tarp material outer layer which resists both scrapes and moisture. The strap allows this bag to be worn cross-body or on the hip if you’d prefer to have it around your waist instead of on your back. The full-zip main compartment offers quick access to the gear inside and sturdy clips hold the front flap down security when you’re in transit.
The extra stability and ruggedness make this a really great choice if you’re going to be riding a bike or even just braving the wear-and-tear of regular commuting.
Best affordable: Neewar Sing Backpack
Why it made the cut: At less than half the price of other options on the list, it’s a great option as a backup or a starter bag.
- Dimensions: 15.8 x 9.8 x 6.1 inches
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Capacity: Not given
- Very affordable
- Lots of storage capacity
- Relatively sturdy
- Roomy top pocket
At roughly half the price of most other option on this list, Neewar’s boxy sling is a great option for people who only occasionally need this kind of bag. It’s also solid if you’re just getting started. The polyester exterior adds some natural weatherproofing and the padding inside is thick enough to endure serious jostling. The bright orange padding also makes it easy to find gear that’s inside the compartment because it provides excellent contrast.
It’s one of the biggest bags on the list, which allows it to hold more than one body with some lenses as well. That means it won’t sit as nicely against your torso, but it will allow you to haul more gear. It has an internal mesh pocket, as well as a roomy top compartment for hauling non-camera accessories. If you’re going out into particularly bad weather, you can add the removable rain cover to keep the elements out. The built-in tripod straps also come in handy if you’re carrying around stabilization.
Best small: Moment 6L Rugged Camera Sling
Why it made the cut: Despite its compact size, this stylish sling holds a full day worth of gear for many shooters.
- Dimensions: 12.6 x 7.9 x 4.7″
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Capacity: 6L
- Roomy enough to fit an 11-inch iPad
- Padding is thinner than some other options
This basic bag emphasizes comfort and durability over lots of features. The outside employs a waterproof material called NPX, which absolves it from requiring an extra rain cover. It has a relatively stiff structure, so the back panel is curved to move along the lines of your torso. It offers a moderately wide strap that’s easily adjustable and long enough to fit just about any body type.
In addition to the main compartment, it offers zippered pockets on the front and the lid. It comes with an extra strap to stabilize the entire bag on your body as you wear it so it won’t slide around if you’re hustling to catch a bus or even riding a bike or skateboard.
In our hands-on testing, we found this to have some of the best natural waterproofing among all the options, which is handy if you’re planning to take it out into the weather a lot.
Best for DSLRs: Think Tank Turnstyle 20
Why it made the cut: A clever form factor makes lots of space inside a bag that doesn’t take up a ton of space.
- Dimensions: 8.3 W x 15 H x 4.8 D
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Capacity: Not given
- Lots of room for gear
- Long strap
Think Tank has a solid reputation for making pro-grade camera bags and this sling is no exception. It offers a more rounded design that’s either appealing our outdated depending on how you view it. Inside that main compartment, however, it can fit a DSLR with a sizeable lens attached. Not all the options on this list could handle a 70-200mm zoom lens, but the Think Tank can.
It offers a dedicated tablet pocket that can accommodate a 10-inch model. Plus, it has a flap-open front pocket where you can store accessories, batteries, memory cards, and anything else you might need on a shoot. As you’d expect from a Think Tank bag, it offers plush padding that provides ample protection. It doesn’t have a ton of extra room for non-camera stuff, but this is a great option if you want to bring a larger camera into the field without a lot of other gear.
Q: What should you carry in a sling bag?
If you’re looking for tons of storage for heavy stuff you’re going to carry around all day, then a sling bag probably isn’t the right call. I find slings work best if you’re carrying around one body and a lens or a camera and some accessories. If you’re going to carry around a lot more heavy stuff, you likely want to use both shoulders for lugging with a backpack. Slings offer quick, easy access to a smaller amount of gear and that’s how you should use them.
Q: How do you carry a camera without it looking like a tourist?
Most of the bags on this list offer muted colors, which make them fairly inconspicuous in most situations. If you don’t want to look too much like a tourist, carry the bag in a comfortable, natural position and check on it relatively frequently. If you’re wearing the bag unnaturally in order to keep a tight eye on it, you’re going to look more like a tourist.
Q: What is the difference between a sling bag and a crossbody bag?
These terms can be a little nebulous and there’s certainly some overlap here. Sling bags, however, typically sit higher and much closer to the body than cross-body and should bags. Slings more closely resemble fanny packs you wear over your shoulder or even backpacks with one strap, which changes the way you wear them.
I personally love camera sling bags and use them often for professional and personal work. I’ve been working as an editor at Popular Photography since 2008 and as a professional photographer since 2004. We tested several models on this list in our own review process, and combined that with research into user reviews, editorial reviews, and spec comparisons.
We focused on models that offer robust weatherproofing, flexible storage space, comfortable fit, durable construction, and extra room for items that aren’t cameras. We started with dozens of options and narrowed them down to this list while getting hands-on time with some of the best-regarded options.
While there’s no one perfect camera sling bag for every shooter, there are a ton of great options on the market. In our tests, we found great options from a number of brands, all of which offered solid protection and ample flexibility to make them great for going on photography adventures.
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