Help me choose a backpack: Waterfield (SFBags) or PeakDesign?

Finally decided I need a backpack to complement (not replace) the Waterfield Cargo Laptop bag that I use.

For combo vacation/work travel, would prefer a backpack fits under airline seat but can carry tech gear plus camera gear (no clothes/personal items).

I would need (most of the time) to carry MacBook Pro 15", iPad Pro 12.9" (newer with smaller bezel), and mirrorless 35mm camera along with cables, chargers, dongles, batteries, etc.

Based on podcasters and general recommendations, narrowing things down to a Waterfield backpack (I think MacSparky uses) and PeakDesigns (some of the other Relay.FM folks recommend), but open to other suggestions too.

I own several Waterfield bags (though not the specific one you’re looking at) and I’m very happy with their quality.

What works for one person in a bag (shoulder bag, laptop bag, messenger bag, backpack) is often very different from what works for someone else, which makes it so hard to answer your question.

While I really like the Peak Design camera carrying hardware, I have not found their backpacks of much appeal, the excellent reviews online notwithstanding. The nice thing is that Peak Design products are sold in a lot of bricks and mortar locations, like camera stores, making it possible to check it out in person before you buy.

Sadly, my favorite bag makers - Waterfield, Tom Bihn, and Goruck - only sell online which means you have to order and rely on their return policy if something doesn’t work out once you receive it.

I also happen to like The North Face (some of their backpacks) even tif they are not as “high end” as the other brands.

If you are looking at an everyday carry backpack, check out the Carryology website where there are many product reviews.

I have used the Peak Design Everyday backpack (30 liters) as my daily carry since it shipped. Best backpack I have ever used, and I have used backpacks for almost 50 years now :smile:

It fits under the airplane seat in front of you, the internal “shelf” system is great and it has been extremely durable. It is comfortable on my back, but I do have a long’ish torso. Some find it too long. Laptop and iPad will fit.

The backpack is versatile as well, you can quickly reconfigure it for different loads. It is a very well designed pack IMO, so I do recommend you take a serious look at it.


I also have a PD 30L, but whenever I don’t actually carry a camera I prefer a smaller bag - specifically a thinner bag.

My problem with the Peak Design bag is the rigidity - even if it’s empty it looks massive. I have a Waterfield Staad (their slim model) and love it, the stout should hold what you need (the slim would, but you’d have to ask for one with a 15" sleeve or the laptop would start marking the leather flap) and they have other bags which are roomier too should you prefer.

Yeah. I commute on a train, and it other Norwegians actually LOOK AT ME when I try to move through a crowd.
Obviously I can’t deal with that, so I had to get something else.


@Shruggie - get the classic “Bergan med meis” and you’ll blend right in :smile:

For me, that is a feature. It provides great protection, and stuff inside never get crushed.


I have used a Waterfield Bolt backpack in ballistic leather for years. It looks as new as they day it arrived. Carries a lot of stuff – I have carried laptop, 12.9" ipad, camera, gear, as @SpivR mentioned. I have several Waterfield gear cases that I keep prepped for travel and just toss the gear case with dongles, chargers, etc., in the Bolt when I’m ready to go.


I have the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 with a laptop cache that mounts inside, and slides out (and remains attached) for airport screening. There are also mounting rails for a second cache that could be used for an iPad. I just put mine in the interior pocket, where it is protected by my headphone in their case, which live in the larger central outer pocket. I occasionally use the waist strap if I have a lot of books and/or papers and the lot gets heavy. I also have a Freudian slip that holds pens, chargers and whatnot (I remove it for travel). I’ve used it as my sole travel bag on weeklong trips and it works fine. Packing cubes, etc.

I hate to run out of space, and being the family’s designated shopping sherpa, that backpack has been at max capacity a lot of times. It has been the ”just right” size for me.

Me too, Rose. Both bags are great, but for everyday carry, I reach for my Waterfield bag. The Peak bag is rigid.

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I know that last thing you want when looking for backpacks is more backpacks to pick from, but I recommend you check out Brevite bags. They have some pretty lowkey bags which I think is important for traveling (obvious camera bags are obvious targets for thieves).

But most importantly to me, the camera aspect of it can be completely removed since it is just a cube inside of their bags. This makes the bag a lot more versatile which is great for my needs.

Only downside is I do not believe that they offer any bags with separate laptop and iPad sleeves.

I’ve been looking for a bag and doing a lot of research. Here’s my list of bags I looked at and a spreadsheet with different features I was looking for in a bag:

I’m planning to go with either an Aer Tech Bag, the Icon Incase, or the PRVKE, but haven’t made my final decision.


If you have a combination of camera and computer/tech gear, Peak Design is a better choice. Their customizable capability allows you to configure it to your specific need for any given outing.

If you are referring to the Waterfield Executive Pro backback, I purchased that after hearing @MacSparky discuss it. It is fine for carrying your computer/tech and business supplies in but it is NOT configurable at all. What you see is what you get. It really has no space at all for carrying a DSLR or mirrorless camera system.

Also, a very disappointing quality control issue came up when the very first time I pulled the zipper to open the top compartment of the backpack, the small metal item that is wrapped around the end of the zipper pull to bundle the loose ends pulled off leaving the loose ends exposed and looking tacky.

Since the backpack was brand new I contacted Waterfield customer support and was told “Yeah, we’ve been getting reports of that happening. We will send you a new part…it is very easy to install.” No part has ever been received nor did Waterfield even offer an apology.

By contrast, Peak Design has a serial number on their products and a lifetime warranty. I have not had to use it personally, however I have heard of more than one person say that even after they had used a Peak Design Everyday backpack for over three years and it had shown some signs of normal wear and tear, they called Peak Design to see what could be done about it and they simply shipped them a BRAND NEW backpack at no charge…no questions asked!

It’s your choice, but Peak Design stands firmly behind every product they sell. Waterfield talks the talk, but I’m still sitting here with a backpack I paid a lot of money for that I doubt I will ever use. I will never buy another Waterfield product.

However my bitter personal experience aside, I still honestly believe a Peak Design Everyday backpack will serve you much better with camera gear.


Sorry, but I have to call you out on a point here. I own both a Waterfield Bolt backpack and messenger. They are great bags…on that point I do not disagree. IMHO, the ONLY Waterfield product I might buy again.

However, while there is SPACE to carry a camera in a Bolt backpack, it is not configurable to allow you to create a modular space that will securely hold and protect your camera in the bag.

I don’t want my nice camera and lens bouncing around in my backpack with whatever other stuff I have packed in there.

These bags are designed for the mobile office commuter…NOT for photographers!

“Call you out” seems harsh. I wonder what that’s about?

Perhaps they are not designed for all photographers, but they are quite workable for some photographers. When I was writing for a living, I travelled extensively for work, in many countries, and lots of modes of transport, with my laptop in the interior sleeve of the Bolt bag, my Sony Alpha snug on the bottom of the bag, and a Waterfield gear case (or two) on top, as mentioned above.

I used to carry a separate camera bag with all those fussy Velcro dividers. It’s just an extra bag, which gets very burdensome when on the road for several weeks or months.

Enjoy your bag!


I guess I have not appreciated fully how small those bodies are. Perhaps with very minimal gear it may be okay, but when I go out shooting I am always having to choose what gear I am taking and what is staying home.

With two bodies and eight or nine lenses at this point (accumulated over time) there is just no way I can or want to carry that much stuff around in any bag!

I love the Bolt but I couldn’t even get one DSLR with a wide angle in it and feel that it was securely protected.

I know it’s either one of these but Bellroy makes the best backpacks I’ve ever used. I have had waterfield but never peak design.

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