Photography Pre-Trip Planning Travel Tips

How to Carry Your DSLR without Looking Like You Have One – DIY Camera Bag that looks like a Handbag!

how to travel with a dslr and keep it safe - DIY camera bag

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When you’re off on a travelling adventure, the last thing you want is to be distracted by worrying about your camera getting stolen.

No matter where you go, especially in big cities or tourist areas, there is some risk of pickpockets and petty theft.

While I don’t agree with going over the top with precautions while travelling, there are a few ways you can enjoy peace of mind when travelling with a camera.


One way is to carry your camera in a bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag. You can buy some really nice, and really expensive camera bags that don’t look like typical camera bags, but they are a little too pricey for me.

Instead, you can make your own DIY incognito camera bag that looks like a normal bag. That way, you can carry your DSLR around with you on your travels, without making it obvious that you have an expensive camera.

When I went travelling with my DSLR for the first time, I wasn’t going to bring my camera bag with me, as it was far too obvious. Instead, I decided to bring a normal bag with me that I could turn into a camera bag, keeping my camera safe without the need for a camera bag.

My bag of choice was a Pacha bag from Ibiza that had a thick strap, and was made of a leathery material. It also had a zip, so it was easy to keep closed.

I used the padding from my real camera bag and insulated the Pacha bag with it.

This made a perfect camera bag, and it came everywhere with me. In pretty much every photo of me on my travels, there is my bag!

I even used it on nights out in New Zealand.

By the time it came to the next trip through Asia, it was faded and a little tatty looking. But, I couldn’t find anything better, plus I’m stupidly sentimental about weird things, so I kept using it. Even when the strap got submerged in the Ganges and acquired a layer of stubborn dirt, it continued to keep my camera safe. By the time I left India the Pacha logo was barely visible any more and it was stained with red dust.

When it came to going to Berlin, I had to come up with something else. Taking a chance, I bought a bag from Penneys that cost me €12.

I probably would have bought this bag anyway, as it was red and cheap. But, little did I know just how perfect it would be as a camouflaged camera bag.


This one probably isn’t ideal for backpacking around certain countries in Asia, as a red leather handbag might clash with your hippie pants, but for European countries and big cities it’s great.

So, to make your own DIY camera bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag, you will need…a bag!

You want the bag to have straps that will take the weight of your DSLR and accompanying lenses, along with any other items you carry around with you while sightseeing.

Ideally, it should be made of material that’s sturdy, and possibly waterproof. Leather is ideal.

My Pacha bag was great, as it wasn’t too flashy, it didn’t look like a camera bag, and it’s the perfect size and shape.

My new red camera bag is also perfect, as it is the perfect size,and has a zipper and a fold down front that has a clasp. When I was walking around Berlin in torrential rain for many hours, I didn’t have to worry about my camera getting wet at all.

You will also need some sort of padding. I used the removable padding that was in the camera bag I had. I also used an extra layer of this white foamy material ( I can’t remember how I had that lying around my house!) to cover the part where the different strips of padding didn’t meet.

How to Make a DIY Camera bag for Travelling

Any soft padding will do fine.

So basically, to make a camera bag that doesn’t look like one, you will need a bag and some padding, and that’s it! Place the padding inside the bag, ensuring that the bottom of the bag is lined with padding. This way, if you put your bag down roughly, it won’t bash your camera.

how to pack for a winter weekend in Berlin with carry-on luggage only

Line all sides of your bag with padding. Make sure that you can still close the bag.

If you get the right sized bag, you can even keep other items in it. I was able to carry around my other lens, gloves, a hat, phone and wallet in my new camera bag.

Another way to carry your DSLR without looking like you have one is to place a small camera pouch inside a normal bag.I have a small camera bag that I got in a charity shop in Keri Keri for $4. It’s soft and just the size of my camera with one lens on it.

I can easily place that inside another bag. Like those great soft beach bags you get in Asia, or any other sort of handbag.

You can easily travel with a DSLR and keep it safe. Carrying your camera in a discreet bag will make it less obvious that you’re walking around with a valuable item on you. For little to no money, you can make your own camera bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag!

Happy Travels!

For more tips for keeping your camera safe while travelling, check out my Tips for Travelling with a DSLR post.

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  • Reply
    Ashley Tippins
    August 25, 2015 at 3:26 am

    I’ve done this myself! I went with a domed satchel purse that had a top handle and a cross-body strap. The exterior is polyvinyl, so it’s very hard and sturdy. I line the inside with the liners from my camera bag. It fits my camera body with attached lens, an extra lens, iPhone, iPad, card holder and a pashmina for when I get cold on flights! My only complaint is the strap is a little thin so you can feel the weight more, next time I’ll get something with a thicker strap!
    Ashley Tippins recently posted…Walk Cape Town: A Self-Guided Tour of the City BowlMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      September 1, 2015 at 8:38 am

      Hey Ashley, that’s so cool that you’ve done this too! It’s great when you can fit all the essentials in there, especially a pashmina for flights!

  • Reply
    Susan cooper
    August 26, 2015 at 5:11 am

    I love to travel. And we usually take along an expensive camera. What great ideas. I’m trying before the next trip!
    Susan cooper recently posted…Three Easy Dessert Sauces: #RecipeMy Profile

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      September 1, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Thank you Susan, I hope you have a great next trip!

    • Reply
      Christine Maguire
      September 21, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Thanks Susan, and so sorry for the delay in replying to you!

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