A photography backpack with its thick padding, dividers for lenses, etc is a necessity for protecting fragile photographic equipment during travel. But such packs are bulky, relatively heavy, and simply overkill for many situations. My all-time favorite daypack for photography is the North Face Recon.
Though not designed for photography, it can easily accommodate a moderately large photographic kit. It has a mesh stash pocket on each side (use one for a tripod and the other for a water bottle), a large stash pocket on the top (jacket, etc), a large and medium zippered compartment, a small sealed zippered compartment, a waist belt and various compression straps. The current model weighs 35 ounces (992 grams). I prefer the earlier version (shown above, no longer available), which weighed about 25% less. However, the current model offers thicker padding and more durable construction, so the extra 8 ounces or so are probably worth it.
A few years ago, I used the Recon to carry a 4X5 kit: a Linhof Technikardan 4X5 view camera, six lenses, 4X5 sheet film and holders, filters, Gitzo G1325 tripod, water bottle etc. Neoprene pouches mitigate any concerns about items damaging each other, and cut down bulk considerably over a photo backpack. The Recon can easily accommodate two large DSLR bodies, several lenses, a tripod with head, filters, etc. Also, it’s an excellent 2nd carry-on bag; I carry a main photo backpack onboard an aircraft (a Lowepro DryZone 200), with the Recon taking an extra camera body and lenses that don’t fit into the main pack, personal sundries, etc.
At $79, it’s a must-have item for photographers who don’t want to carry a pack that weighs 6 pounds when empty. And it’s more comfortable too! I simply never leave on a photo shoot without it. And unlike a photo backpack, it’s versatility doesn’t end with photography.