Best Camera Bag Inserts for Backpacks and Messenger Bags

An unconventional camera bag can be made by using camera bag inserts for backpacks and messenger bags.

How do I protect my photo gear when traveling? This is the age-old question both newbie and seasoned photographers alike grapple with. What are the best camera bag inserts for backpacks and messenger bags?

In this camera gear guide, I’ll show you the options you can use to turn your backpack into camera bag.

My story: My first camera bag was the Kata Bumblebee. I bought it for a work trip to China and loved having my camera fully protected, but it was not a good backpack for the rest of my work trip requirements. Kataa Bumblebee

It didn’t hold files and folders that I needed to carry from factory to factory, and it only had one small compartment on top of the padded section of the pack to carry things like my passport, wallet, batteries, cords, and mouse. I wish I knew then that I could easily turn my favorite bag into a dslr backpack with dslr padded backpack inserts like the Timbuk2 camera insert. I would’ve saved myself a lot of money (camera bags aren’t cheap) – and a trip of trial and error.

Now that I’m down the road and experienced protecting my camera while traveling, I’ve learned how to utilize my existing bags to carry my camera gear.

I’ve found a lot of ways to protect camera and lenses without having to purchase a padded camera messenger or camera backpack.

Solution: If you’re like me, you already have a favorite bag and just need to get your stuff from point A to point B. By purchasing one, or a few, of the following padded camera cases, padded dslr wraps or padded lens protectors you’ll be ready for any bumps, jostles or dings you’ll experience getting around.

Here’s a comprehensive list of the best camera bag inserts for backpacks and messenger bags – and even handbags and luggage. You can easily get your camera road ready with the DIY camera bag inserts ahead.


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Padded Camera Inserts and Camera Lens Wraps – DIY Camera Bag Inserts

Tenba padded dslr insert wraps, camera bag inserts dividers

Tenba Padded Camera Wraps – a DIY Padded Camera Insert Solution

Starting off in the basic mode, if you want to wrap up your camera and lenses quickly, picking up a few padded, fold-over camera lens wraps are the perfect solution for a DIY camera bag insert.

Padded wraps are generally sewn squares that have velcro on all four corners. The beauty of the padded camera wraps is that they can custom fit whatever you need to pack. I like to use mine when I’m heading to NYC for the weekend.

I’ll wrap up my Canon 7D with my 50MM lens on, use another wrap to protect my wide angle lens, and then put a 40mm pancake lens into a smaller wrap. They fit easily into my backpack and don’t take up too much room.

domke camera wrap

Domke Camera and Lens Wrap

I have a variety of sizes of these padded dslr wraps that I keep around for quick trips and to protect my camera on the fly. Tenba & Domke both make some awesome padded camera wraps or you can pick up some generic wraps on Amazon. Either way, they are affordable and a convenient way to turn your backpack or messenger into camera bag.

Best Uses: Use lens wraps and dslr body wraps as a DIY camera protection solution when you know you will have total control over your bag. They are great at protecting your gear as long as your bag is not going to be man-handled by others. They offer just enough protection to keep your camera from being scratched, banged up while bouncing around inside an already full bag.

Dslr padded wraps won’t protect your camera or lenses from being crushed. I don’t recommend using these in soft side luggage or duffle bags that are checked onto airplanes or placed in overhead bins. We’ve all seen how flight attendants and other passengers can cram stuff into the overhead without paying attention to other peoples stuff. If you do use these for airplane travel be sure to put your bag on the floor in front of your feet where you can keep your gear from being crushed. Click Here to Learn More about Padded Wraps on Amazon



Padded Lens & Camera Cases

hazard 4 lens pouch camo

Hazard 4 Jelly Roll Camera Pouch

Lens and camera cases come in a variety of shapes and materials and easily turn any bag into a camera bag. They can be as simple as a fabric padded dslr pouch with a cinch top or as complicated as a .5″ to 1″ padded polyester pouch that zips shut. Click here to learn more or buy now on Amazon

Some fully padded dslr inserts come with clips, belt loop options and carabiners so that you can carry them on your belt or clip them to the outside of your backpack or messenger bag.

If you already have a camera bag or backpack and want to carry a few extra lenses in other compartments, pick up a few padded lens cases for your extra gear. Lens or camera cases generally fit your photo gear snugly and offer 360 degree padding.

Neoprene Camera and Lens Cases

Neoprene cases work well to protect your lenses from dents, dings, jostles and vibrations… but like the Tenba wraps, they won’t protect your lenses from being crushed. Don’t load anything heavy on top of your camera. Neoprene camera bag inserts work as individual protection and are best for keeping your Padded Neoprene Lens Case with Cinch Top and lensgear lightly protected.

You can generally pick up lens cases in 3 or 4 packs. Brands such as Altura are the best sellers on Amazon, and there are a lot of brands on Amazon with similar features. Click here to learn more or buy now on Amazon

Neoprene Padded Camera Body Cases

For your camera body, brands that make cool neoprene camera bag inserts for backpacks and messenger bags include USA Gear who make dope cases in a variety of colors. Click here to buy now on Amazon

Or if you want a little different look, check out Fotodiox neoprene wraps that work with larger dslr’s that may have a battery grip. Click here to buy now on Amazon



camera bag inserts for backpacks, neoprene padded camera case


The only concern I have with Fotodiox is the open corners. Something may make its way into the neoprene case and scratch up your camera body or lens accidentally.

camera bag insert for backpacks


Padded Camera Lens Pouches & Holster Cases

Padded camera lens pouches are generally structured and have a harder shell than the neoprene camera wraps. Padded lens cases offer more protection and you can use them in bags that have a lot of gear without worrying that your lens will be crushed (unless you put a lot of weight on your lens pouch).

Use padded camera lens pouches on trips where you know you won’t have total control of your bags.

If you know you will need to put your bag in the overhead bin while traveling, harder padded camera lens pouches are the perfect protection.

Another useful feature for some lens cases is that they are belt friendly. In fact, you can pick up a belt with lens cases system.


Because you can easily carry your lenses on your waist instead of in a backpack or messenger. You can take some of the stress off your back and move the load to your hips and legs instead.

Think Tank Pro Photo Speed Belt and Holster

Think Tank Pro Photo Speed Belt and Holster

Padded DSLR Holster Cases

A great option to combine with the padded lens case is a fully padded holster style camera case. Some padded dslr holster cases also come with a shoulder strap. Once you get to your destination, use the holster case with the shoulder strap to carry your camera around during the day or night.

Case logic zoom holster

Case Logic Zoom Holster

Or, remove the shoulder strap and just pack your camera away in your favorite messenger or backpack. Either way, the padded holster is going to protect your camera from heavy items and major bumps and bruises that a neoprene camera sleeve won’t. Click here to see the Think Tank Holster on Amazon

Padded Modular Component Systems

If you want a complete set of padded pouches and camera bags, Think Tank has put together a system that should cover all your carry needs.

think tank modular-component-set-v2-1

Think Tank Modular Component Set v2.1

The Modular Component Set V2.0 combines a selection of lens pouches and a carrying case.

The Think Tank lens pouches fit on their belt system so that you can carry these on your waist for quick changes when shooting.

It’s a full gear kit for long lenses, wide-angles, flash & accessories.

Perfect for pretty much everything you need on a trip.

Click here to see the Think Tank Modular Set on Amazon





Zip Around Camera Bag Inserts for Backpacks & Messenger Bags

When you’re toting your dslr in a bag and need to put the bag in an overhead bin on an airplane – where people tend to cram as much stuff as possible directly above their seat – you will want to have 360 degree padding to protect your dslr and camera gear.

timbuk2 zipped camera bag insert for backpack

Timbuk2 Insert

Brands that make the best fully padded camera bag inserts with a zip closure for messenger bags include Timbuk2 whose insert fits inside their Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag, but it can also be a stand alone camera insert for a bag you already own. Click here to see the Timbuk2 Insert on Amazon

camera bag insert for backpack

Mountain Smith Kit Cubes

And, check out a variety of Mountain Smith Kit Cubes for your backpack, luggage or messenger bag. These little cubes will fit any pack or messenger effortlessly.


Fully padded and enclosed cubes are also the best option when you will be checking your luggage. Click here to see the Mountain Smith Kit Cubes on Amazon


Open Top and Flap Closure Padded Camera Bag Inserts

The ONA Roma Insert is made from waxed canvas and has hits of leather. The ONA Roma Insert easily fits into a handbag, duffel, messenger or backpack. It will turn your messenger bag into a dslr camera bag flawlessly.  Just throw open the flap of your bag and grab your camera when you need it. It fits nicely in an average size messenger bag and holds your camera and a few personal items. Click here to see the Ona Roma Insert on Amazon

camera bag inserts for backpacks

ONA Roma Insert


It’s the perfect stylish solution for light trips and shoots where only your camera is needed. The Roma Insert’s exterior pockets let you stash your extras so they don’t fall underneath the camera bag insert in the bottom of your messenger.

And, if you need a more affordable option for your camera and lenses that work well in a messenger bag see the Bestek, Ciesta, and BBP brand products. They hold a camera and lens or lenses comfortably. They also provide enough protection when traveling that you won’t have to worry about your camera gear.

camera bag insert for backpack

Padded Camera Insert for Backpacks

Tenba Cooler CAmera Bag insert 2

Tenba BYOB Cooler / Camera Insert

Taller and narrower inserts are perfect for backpacks. Tenba makes a padded dslr insert for your backpack that doubles as an insulated cooler. Part of the Tenba BYOB  (bring your own bag) series of padded cases… and well, these camera bag inserts are just too cool.

The BYOB Cooler Case holds 6 cans or bottles with ice comfortably… it will be hard to decide what to carry… cold beer or camera lenses?? Hmm…

Fun and games aside… taller inserts for backpacks will hold your gear differently than the messenger bag inserts.  Backpacks need vertical height to be useful. Click here to see the BYOB Cooler Case on Amazon

Learn more about the TENBA BYOB Padded Inserts System. There are 4 sizes of dedicated inserts to fit your needs. See the features & read reviews from your photography cohorts.

BYOB 7      BYOB 9     BYOB 10     BYOB 13     BYOB Cooler Case 

The Mindshift Gear DSLR insert for your backpack is a great choice if you are hiking or using a backpack for travel.

padded camera bag insert

Mindshift Gear Pro Padded Insert

The Mindshift Gear Professional Photo Insert is sized at 10.5” x 7.5” x 13.5” and will fit in most large sized packs and rucksacks – especially top loading packs. You can access your camera through the top of the insert, and you can get access to your lenses and extras by pulling the insert out of your pack.

It’s a minor inconvenience to be able to carry your gear in a bag you already own. Before you buy this, make sure you backpack will fit at least a 7.5″ insert into the main compartment. Click here to see the Mindshift Gear Insert on Amazon

Final Thoughts

padded neoprene lens case

You should have a pretty good idea by now which way you will go to protect your gear. I personally use the Tenba wraps to carry my gear to the city…

Finding the best camera bag inserts for backpacks and messenger bags is pretty easy. Most photography brands make what you are looking for. You may not want a branded solution – because of the price – if not, Amazon has a lot of choices if you need something inexpensive to protect your camera in transit.

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