Our New Favorite Camera Backpack: The RVCA Zak Noyle Signature Camera Bag

We were on the hunt for a camera backpack that truly fit a water housing, but this bag is much more than that.

The bottom compartment fits all kinds of body and lens arrangements. Photo: RVCA

Have you ever dreamed a piece of gear in your mind but resigned yourself to the assumption that it will never exist? “One day I’ll design it myself,” you think, as you try to make whatever you have work for your needs.

I had searched for a camera backpack that could fit a water housing as well as at least one body and lens, but had started to define success as just finding a bag that was big enough to cram everything together into one compartment and still be able to yank the zipper shut.

That is, until RVCA released their collaboration with SURFER staff photographer and Pipeline shooting veteran Zak Noyle, the RVCA Zak Noyle Signature Camera Bag ($100).

Designed to specifically meet Noyle’s needs as a water photographer, this camera backpack compartmentalizes your equipment to make sure every component and accessory has its own space with proper protection, with a sleek aesthetic to boot.

After testing the bag on a handful of trips, I learned that gear dreams really do come true.

A bottom compartment with adjustable padding houses your body and lenses, “selfishly sized to fit my exact cameras, as I have the largest height of any Canon camera body, so you know every DSLR camera will fit without being too tall,” according to Noyle.

I fit multiple combinations of lenses and bodies in the compartment. On a boat trip off Maui I packed a Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon 8008, as well as 50mm and 35-135mm lenses; and on a road trip to Santa Cruz I was able to arrange a 7D, Fuji Instax Mini and Nikon F3 in the compartment.

There are seven other pockets to stash batteries, film, chargers, hard drives, card readers, GoPros and more, including three internal pockets coated with plastic for a little extra moisture protection, and one lined with a soft cloth to prevent scratches.

A roll-top upper compartment big enough to fit a water housing was the selling point for this tester. Photo: RVCA

But seeing as how my challenge wasn’t with the small accessories, and rather the large ones, I was thrilled to confirm Noyle’s claim that a SPL water housing fit in the top compartment, with tons of room to spare. A roll top closure with side clips lets you adjust the size of the bag and gives you plenty of extra height if you need it (like for throwing in a pair of fins).

For those without these needs, the top compartment is also big enough to stash a change of clothes, towel, or whatever else you need for a day or overnight of shooting.

And because you won’t want to wait until you get home to upload and edit, a padded back compartment snugly fits a 15″ laptop.

A water-repellent exterior gave peace of mind when the bag was exposed to boat spray. Photo: RVCA

The 100% polyester exterior is water repellent, which gave extra peace of mind when the bag was vulnerable to splash on the boat. Sure, a fully water-resistant material would be a nice upgrade, but on the flip side, this bag is at a friendly price point of $100, where fully waterproof bags spike in price.

When traveling with expensive equipment, I also appreciated that this bag didn’t scream “CAMERAS INSIDE” thanks to a sleek look that didn’t reveal its interior features, and a brand that isn’t usually associated with camera bags.

After traveling with this bag to Maui, Baja, NorCal, New Mexico and more, with polaroid cameras, DSLRs, and lenses as small as 50mm and as big as 400mm, I can attest that the Zak Noyle Signature Camera Bag’s strength comes from being thoughtfully designed by an experienced water photographer, but that its look, function and price point make it a great choice for anyone trying to travel with cameras.

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