Depending on the type of photography you do, a photographer vest can be a handy way to carry all your camera accessories.
Photo vests allow you to move more freely than when carrying a camera bag, with the weight distributed across your upper body.
They also keep your hands free so you can operate your camera more easily.
The best photography vests are colored to blend into your surroundings, have multiple large pockets to store all your items, and are durable enough to withstand adverse weather conditions.
So, whether you’re a wildlife photographer on safari or just don’t want to carry a traditional camera bag, a photographer vest could be just what you’re looking for.
Let’s take a look at the top photo vests of the year.
Table of Contents
Best Photographer Vests in 2023
1. Humvee Cotton Safari Vest
For summer adventures, the Humvee Cotton Safari Vest offers the best bang for the buck. Reasonably priced, 100% cotton, and featuring no less than 21 pockets, the Humvee has more than enough room for your entire kit.
The larger pockets easily hold moderately-sized telephoto lenses (like a 70-200mm), while the layout of the smaller pockets makes it easy to get to your smaller camera accessories. There’s also a large pocket on the backside that can hold a large lens or extra clothing.
While the cotton fabric itself is not waterproof, the many pockets are nylon-lined to help keep things dry.
Also, if you intend to wear the Humvee in hotter climates, be sure to avoid black – the material is fairly breathable, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in warmth between black and khaki,
2. Flygo Summer Vest
The best budget photography vest, the Flygo Summer Vest retails for under $30, yet can carry more stuff than the average camera bag.
It has fewer pockets than the Humvee, but its 16 pockets have more than enough capacity for the average kit (1-2 extra lenses, memory cards, spare batteries, etc.)
Originally designed as a lightweight fishing vest, much of the fabric on the Flygo is mesh making it the perfect companion on hot summer days when you really need to wear something breathable.
Note: Make sure to order a few sizes larger than you normally would – the sizes run small.
3. Rothco Uncle Milty Travel Vest
Looking for a durable vest with long-term staying power? The Uncle Milty is a photo vest that won’t break the wallet but can hold up through even the toughest adventures.
The material is only partially cotton and there’s no mesh, so it’s not quite as breathable as the Humvee or the Flygo – but it’s definitely more durable.
The carrying capacity is about the same as the other two photo vests: it features four large zippered pockets on the outside, a host of smaller velcro pockets for smaller accessories, and a zippered pocket across the backside of this vest that can hold a graphite tripod, tablet, or extra jacket.
Many photographers love this vest, both how it feels on the shoulders and the fact that it holds up well after a lot of use.
4. M&M Photography Travel Vest
The M&M travel photography vest was designed with both street photography and international travel in mind.
It comes with 14 pockets (2 inside and 12 outside), a hydration sleeve for a 2-3 liter hydration system, and a camera strap. (If you like to carry two bodies you can always order an extra camera strap.)
The photographers’ vest itself has military-grade build quality. Well-stitched, with durable hardware and YKK zippers, this vest will last you a VERY long time. The sides are adjustable and even have a space for carrying a tripod.
It’s made in the US by the Vest Guy – one of the top makers of photography vests in the US – and has a lifetime warranty…but it’s unlikely you’ll need to use it any time soon!
At around $220, this photographer’s vest is more than worth the money!
5. Urban 5 Mesh Photo Vest
Another great photo vest from the Vest Guy, the Urban 5 Photo Vest is made from nylon breathable mesh and considerably lighter than the M&M.
Otherwise, it’s pretty similar, with attachments for carrying either one or two camera bodies, large pockets specifically designed for lenses and camera flashes, and plenty of smaller pockets so that you can easily store your wallet, memory cards, and other accessories. There’s even a MOLLE system.
The large-capacity lens pockets can hold most telephoto lenses, or, if you have smaller items, you can use the pocket dividers to keep things organized. The material – even the mesh – is fantastically durable and will likely last a lifetime.
Like most Vest Guy camera vests, the Urban 5 comes with plenty of optional upgrades, a hydration sleeve, and a lifetime warranty.
6. Billingham PhotoVest
Looking for a more elegant look? Try the Billingham Photo Vest. It’s made in true British style and can carry more photography equipment in its unassuming pockets than many camera bags.
The vest itself is comfortable, lightweight, and cut a bit shorter than most photo vests so the gear in the lower pockets won’t hit against your legs or any gear on your belt.
All of the large capacity pockets are extra wide, with the lower lens pockets able to fit a flagship camera body like the Nikon D4s with a 50mm lens attached.
Unlike some of the other photo vests in this list, the Billingham Photo Vest has the same pocket layout on both sides, making it easier to get an even weight distribution.
At just under $300, this vest is quite pricey but again, well worth it!
7. Country Innovation Raptor Waistcoat
Another photo vest made with true English style, the Raptor waistcoat is a workhorse. It’s made from heavily reinforced military-grade Rip-Tec ripstop material and can hold a huge amount of equipment in its generous 15 pockets.
The two expandable cargo pockets can hold a camera body the size of a Canon 1Dx with an attached L-bracket or a nicely-sized telephoto lens.
The upper chest pockets can hold smaller lenses and/or binoculars. One of the internal pockets is big enough to carry a tablet and the rear pouch is perfect for a jacket or other spare layers.
Other features include shoulder padding, a substantial neck collar, and has side tabs to help keep the vest in place when twisting or turning.
Fantastic for birdwatching, wildlife photography, and everyday outdoor photography.
8. Country Innovation Traveller II Jacket
When it comes to protection from the elements during outdoor photography, there are few things that can beat a solid photography jacket.
The Country Innovation Traveller II jacket has everything you can want for shooting in a cold and/or wet climate: comfort, style, warmth, waterproofing, and plenty of pockets.
The Traveller II is made with material that is both windproof and breathable – water instantly beads off the waterproof exterior, keeping everything inside dry.
The full-vision, detachable hood is particularly nice. You can adjust the hood to whatever you’re wearing, whether it be a helmet, hat, or nothing at all, all while maintaining full visibility.
An award-winning jacket, many photographers say this is the best jacket they have ever bought – both for photography and as an everyday raincoat.
With a total of 12 well-sized pockets, ample warmth, and the perfect blend of waterproofing and breathability, the Traveler II is a great choice for any outdoor adventure in cold or wet weather.
9. Langly Field Jacket
Need a photo jacket that’s not only stylish and functional but also bomb-proof? Take a look at the Langly Photography Field Jacket.
Based on the M-65 field jacket used during the Vietnam War, the Langly Field Jacket’s style works equally well in the city, on the road, or out in the field, all while offering serious protection from the elements.
The outer fabric is made of a waterproof micro rip-stop material that instantly sheds water, while the large underarm vents and adjustable hood and cuffs allow your body to breathe.
The multitude of pockets is reinforced, with the four larger pockets lined with RFID-blocking material to help keep the info on your passport, credit cards, and other travel documents safe.
There’s also an optional five-piece accessory kit that clips to the jacket. It contains lens wipes, a memory card holder, a battery/film holder, a lens cap holder, and a lens filter holder.
If you’re looking for urban style that’s bombproof, this is where it’s at – click the button above to see if this stylish photography jacket is still on sale.
10. Country Innovation Aperture Jacket
If you like the style of the Raptor waistcoat but wish there was a winter version, the Country Innovation Aperture jacket might be just what you’re looking for.
Developed primarily for wildlife photographers and birders, the Aperture jacket exudes quality in both the material and craftsmanship.
The heavyweight, rustle-free outer fabric repels briars, thorns, and brambles with ease. The waterproof lining and water-repellant front zipper keeps out cold, wind, and rain.
The upper and lower front pockets are expandable to the point of holding a medium-format setup. There are also plenty of medium-sized and smaller pockets for holding things like spotting scopes for birding and all the incidentals.
The Aperture is available in many different sizes and there’s a full sizing chart on the Country Innovation website to help you choose the jacket that’s right for you.
Pricey, but one of the nicest photography jackets on the market in 2023.
8 Benefits of Using a Photographer Vest
- Keeps equipment super handy – Photography vests keep all of your camera gear within hand’s reach. There’s no taking a pack on and off or swinging it around to get at your kit. You also don’t have to twist and turn to get to your camera gear – it’s all right in front of you.
- You have your gear with you at all times – With a photography vest or jacket, you can walk away a few meters to get a different angle and all of your photo gear will stay with you. There’s no missing a shot because you had to return to your camera bag to get something.
- Many are custom-designed for silence – Many photo vests and jackets are designed for wildlife photography, the fabric will be made to keep rustling at a minimum. Some photo vests are also velcro-free, which is important when trying to be wildlife-friendly.
- Evenly distribute weight – A well-made photography vest will evenly distribute weight throughout your shoulders.
- Don’t worry about too much weight in your carry-on when flying – Don’t want to pay extra for checked baggage? No problem! Stash all of your photography equipment into the pockets of a photo vest and save your carry-on for personal items. Wearing your camera equipment is also a great way to avoid carry-on weight restrictions.
- Super Versatile! – Photographer’s vests can be used for much more than photography! The plethora of pockets makes them an ideal companion for fishing, hiking and camping, or any other activity where you need to carry lots of stuff with you.
- You’ll never have to put your gear down! – Tired of putting your camera bag down on muddy or wet ground? Wear a photo vest and everything will stay clean and safe…well, unless you’re lying on the ground as well…
- Fast access – Extricating your gear from the pockets of a photographer’s vest – is much quicker than getting something out of a camera bag.
While some photographers may eschew photography vests and jackets as “not hip” or “too obvious” or even just too geeky, there are definitely huge benefits that come along with them – especially if you’re a wildlife photographer.
What outdoor photographer hasn’t left their camera backpack a few feet away from them and then felt annoyed that they had to walk back to change lenses?
Or set their pack down at the beach only to see that the tide was coming in and their pack wasn’t in the safest of places? W
earing a photo vest nullifies both of these situations.
Of course, if crawling on the ground or climbing trees is part of how you land fantastic shots, a photo vest may not be the best idea.
Otherwise, try one out. Many photographers who try out a photo vest or jacket – even reluctantly – often like them so much they ditch the camera bag.
One thing to keep in mind, though, when buying a photo vest: make sure to pay attention to the manufacturer size charts, as figuring out the right size may not be as simple as you think.
When in doubt, choose a size larger than you think you need. Many of the better quality vests will have drawstring waists and/or straps on the sides to tighten things up.
Let’s hear from you: What’s your preference? Camera bag or photo vest?
Note: Two other excellent photography jackets – Stealth Gear Extreme Photographers Jacket2 and Domke Photogs Convertible Jacket/Vest – would have been included in this list, but they’re no longer available.