First and foremost, your camera should probably be the last thing you pack (or worry about packing, for that matter).
If you’re going for a multi-day hike, that pretty much means there will be some camping involved; you’ll be far away from all the beneficial aspects of modern-day lifestyle, so make sure you have everything you need with you.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring your camera at all – it would be a shame to miss the chance to capture all the breathtaking scenery.
I’m just saying there are far more important things to worry about before you go on a hike, so deal with those first; then (and only then) proceed to find a spot in your backpack for your camera.
That brings us to my list of tips for packing your camera:
- A Dry Bag Is An Absolute Must – Even if you already have a waterproof backpack, I would suggest placing your camera in a dry bag anyway – just to be on the safe side. In case you don’t have a dry bag yet, a quick trip to the nearest outdoor sports retailer is in order.
- Extra Walling – If your regular camera backpack has some extra walling, by all means, feel free to use it – it will provide an additional layer of cushion and keep your camera safe during your hikes. Wrap it around your camera before you place it in the dry bag.
- Keep It On Top Of Your Backpack – There’s a lot of stuff you’ll need during your hike, especially if you’re going camping, as well. You don’t want your camera crushed by the weight of the backpack’s content – you want it on top, where it’s safe and accessible to you whenever the opportunity for a great shot appears.
- If You Insist On Bringing Your Tripod With You… – Unless you’re setting out to take some pro-level shots, it would pretty much be a waste of space to bring a tripod with you on a hiking trip. But if you insist on bringing it, there are several ways to attach it to your backpack: sides, top, bottom, or center. I wouldn’t suggest fastening it to the side, though, as it creates an uneven distribution of weight. Placing it on the bottom, however, means you’ll get it dirty whenever you take off your backpack. In most cases, I opt for attaching it to the top – it’s easily accessed, and it doesn’t mess with overall weight distribution.
Features: What To Look For In A Hiking Camera
- The Weight Of The Camera – It’s easy to get distracted by all the other features a camera might offer; the fact that you’ll be carrying it around all day during your hike might slip your mind. While the weight of the camera itself won’t be something you can’t handle, you need to keep in mind all the additional camera gear, as well as your hiking backpack – you’ll have to carry all of it with you at all times.That’s when weight becomes an issue. It might not seem like a lot now, but once you’re out there on the trail, you’ll be sorry you didn’t pay attention to details like this. So, don’t get yourself in that position – think about how much you’re comfortable with carrying around.
- Image Quality When The Camera Is Handheld – Yes, you may bring your tripod with you (and decide to ignore the fact that it will only increase the weight of your already heavy backpack). But will you have the time (and will) to take it out every time you want to take a photo? Probably not.That’s why you’ll need a camera with excellent image stabilization, especially in when the lighting conditions aren’t that great (I’ll talk a bit more about dawn and dusk performance later on in the article). Anyway, since a tripod should be used only as a last resort, you need to be able to rely on your camera to take sharp, high-quality photos even when it’s handheld.
- A Good Viewfinder Goes A Long Way – While rear screen displays were all the rage when they first appeared on the market, out there in the wild, they’re pretty much useless. I know, „useless“ seems like a too harsh thing to say, but have you ever tried using the rear display in broad daylight?It’s practically impossible – either you see nothing at all, or the image is soo small that seeing all the essential details is out of the question. Nothing can replace a good viewfinder in that sense; by „good“ I mean one that provides all the critical info you’ll need before taking a photo. And when it comes to manual focus, viewfinders are your best bet.
- Controls That Are Easily Accessed – The entire point of hiking is going places, isn’t it? There’s plenty of things to do and see, and more often than not, you’ll have to be quick about taking your photos, so you, and everyone else you’re hiking with, can move on. What I’m trying to say is you won’t have a lot of time to mess around with your camera.You need to be able to take it out, adjust every primary camera setting (exposure, shutter speed, ISO settings, and the like), take a shot, and be done with it – I’m talking about seconds here. Not having to take your eye off of the viewfinder while you do all this is always a huge bonus. Stay away from cameras that hide all the necessary adjustments in some never-ending menus – these will only slow you down.
- Performance In Dawn Or Dusk – Let’s face it: when all the city lights are gone, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of dim light. And while dawn and dusk are the times of day when you can take some astonishing photos of the surrounding landscape, no one tells how hard it is to get the perfect shot in such conditions. Anything from camera shake to low shutter speed can pretty much ruin your photo by making it blurry.That’s not something that is frequently talked about when it comes to camera reviews, but I think it’s one of the make-or-brake features of a hiking camera. What good is it really if you can’t take a decent photo of a sunrise over the hills, right?
- Environmental Sealing – When it comes to weather sealing, I can’t say it’s a definitive must-have, but I’d want a camera with this type of protection if I were you. You might not need it all the time, but there will be occasions when you most certainly will. Rubber-covered buttons and joints on the camera will especially come in handy when it comes to protecting your camera from dust.And believe me, there will be A LOT of dust. If you opt for a model with environmental sealing, don’t push it – shooting in the pouring rain is pretty much never a good idea.
- Can You Justify The Price – With all that in mind, take a look at your favorite model; can you justify its price? I’m not saying you should find the cheapest one out there – a good camera calls for a high figure on its price tag, which is entirely understandable. The issue here is paying too much for something that doesn’t quite meet your particular requirements.