When you have to carry all your own gear, it can be really hard to figure out what camera to take on a multi-day hike. That 70-300mm lens sounded like a great idea at the time, but after four days of trekking the extra weight really adds up. I’ve just got back from a six day hike lugging my own gear. Thankfully this time I’d converted to a lighter body, the Nikon D750, and my new full frame camera meant I only needed to take one lens (the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8) vs two (an additional wide-angle). But you might be wondering what the best option is for you…
What camera should I take hiking?
The best way to make the decision about what camera to take is made easier by working backwards. Ask yourself: What am I going to use these photos for? If you’re going to post selfies to social media and be done with it, then you might be better off with a phone. Or are you going to sell them later to a stock agency? Then you’ll probably need a DSLR.
I recently had to weigh up between switching to mirrorless cameras and purchasing another DSLR body, and despite the extra weight I got another DSLR. I decided to keep going with a DSLR as I wouldn’t need to buy new lenses, plus I sell my images on stock sites and as prints, so I want them to be high quality.
You should’ve seen all the weight calculations I did before making the decision! It’s about balancing image quality against weight. Here are the pros and cons of each type of camera.
- Extremely light
- Quickly accessible
- Sometimes water resistant
- No powerpoints in the wilderness. Some people get around this by using a solar charger or battery pack. On a side note, when I was doing Everest Base Camp Trek, you could actually pay to charge your phone or camera batteries along the way!
- Image quality is only suitable for limited uses
- You have to carry a charger
Recommended for: those who want to post pics to social media, take a few selfies along the way. A bonus tip for phone camera users: see if your phone has an ultra power saving mode. While in that mode, enable the camera function. It’ll give you several more days of photo time!
- Lightweight compromise between phone quality and DSLR
- Variety of lenses available including wide angle for landscapes
- Can weigh almost as much as a DSLR with good quality lenses
Recommended for: People who haven’t already committed to a DSLR system, photographic enthusiasts.
- Superior image quality
- Huge range of lenses
- The top models will be environmentally sealed and able to withstand rugged conditions.
- Heavy, especially with good lenses
- Hard to attach to exterior of pack
Recommended for: Professional photographers, people wanting to make large prints or sell photos online
I also take a very small gorillapod with me, so I can set up long exposure shots with ease. I’ve found it to be a great compromise for travelling, rather than taking my full carbon fibre tripod along.
The other piece of kit I’ve recently purchased is a Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50, which is just big enough to carry a Nikon D750 with a 24-70 f/2.8 attached. I want to keep the bag close at hand, either on my chest or belt clip so I can get it out easily. I’ve previously travelled with a Crumpler Haven M, but because it’s not a closed bag I’ve had to keep it in a dry bag in my backpack, and take my pack off every time I want to use it, or keep the camera around my neck. I still use the Crumpler for my urban adventures with a satchel bag.
I still haven’t figured out the best way to carry this equipment while hiking. While I was carrying this on a recent trek with the strap across my body over my hiking bag, I found it pulled across my neck too much. I think a better way to carry it would be across the chest strap, but it’s tricky as a woman as the bag won’t sit flat. I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for good camera bags for multi-day hikes.
Photo credit – the pictures of me were taken by my lovely husband Justin.