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Cameras for Backpacking

There are 2 camps when it comes to hiking photos: those that never take a picture and just soak it all in and the rest of us. For the rest of us, it’s nice to take photos to share the trip and save the memory.

Many small cameras out there are easy to take hiking or there’s the one already in your phone: your phone. If you’ve got a phone, should you even take a separate camera?

We dig into those questions here with some suggestions for other great hiking cameras.

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The GoPro Hero 8 Black is a very small camera great for hiking

The GoPro Hero 8 Black is a very small camera great for hiking

Hiking Camera Buying Guide

Battery life

No matter how big or small your camera for hiking is, you’ll want it to have good battery life. If it doesn’t, you’ll be stuck carrying around battery packs so you don’t miss the shot. Plenty of cameras have great battery life and can last days taking hundreds of photos.

Try to find a camera with a battery that can last your entire trip. It’s always good to have a spare though. Vide takes a lot of battery power and you never know when you’ll want to take a timelapse or another mode that chews through battery power.

Size and weight

The size of a camera you want to carry is entirely up to you. You may not want to carry a DSLR that weighs a couple pounds but a phone or small point and shoot is ok.

Something like a Canon t7i is 747 grams ( 26 oz) whereas the Elph 180 point and shoot comes in at 111 grams (3.92 oz). If you’re looking at a smaller point and shoot, you might want to ask if your phone just would do the same thing. There are certainly cases where you don’t want to take or use your phone though. I’d much rather lose a cheap camera in the water than my phone.


Olympus Tough TG-6 waterproof camera

Olympus Tough TG-6 waterproof camera

Most cameras are not waterproof. Some of the more expensive models will have weather sealing meaning they can withstand snow and rain for long periods of time.

There are specialized models like the Olympus Tough TG-6 that are completely waterproof. The TG-6 will go down to 15 metres (50 feet) without any issues.

Action cameras like the GoPro Hero 8 can go in the water without a case down to 10 meters (33 feet) as well.

How are you going to hold it?

I don’t recommend holding a camera in your hand the whole time you hike. If the camera is buried in your pack, you probably won’t dig to find it often. Have it accessible.

There are many straps and cases that can hold your camera while you hike. Small cameras can fit in hip belt pockets or small pouches. Bigger cameras need to be attached with a Cotton Carrier, LowePro Front Pouch or something similar. Peak Design Camera clips also work well.

For more details on holding a camera see 5 ways to carry a DSLR camera hiking.

Best Cameras for Hiking

iPhone 11

With it’s stellar cameras the iPhone 11 is hard to beat for a camera hiking. With multiple lenses and portrait mode you can get some solid shots. If you’ve got a good camera on your phone, you may just want to take that.

Where the phones fall down is having the manual options to really get a good long exposure of a waterfall or a dark trail. Phones don’t typically have large zoom lenses to get far away pictures either.

GoPro Hero 8 Black

Action cameras have come a long way since the first GoPro. Their still images are pretty good but their video is really where they shine. If you want to have an all-in-one package that’s got very good video, is waterproof and can take some pictures, the GoPro Hero 8 Black is nice lightweight do-it-all camera.

Canon EOS RP mirrorless camera

If you’re looking to get exceptional pictures with some video, a larger mirrorless camera like the Canon EOS RP is a bit more to carry but will get far better photos than most cameras.

The RP is compatible with all Canon lenses but natively fits their new RF lenses which are extremely sharp but a bit on the pricey side. If you do want to get the best photos hiking check out the RP or it’s big brother the EOS R.

Sony RX100 II

For some solid photos in a point and shoot package, the Sony RX100 VII will get you there. It doesn’t have the interchangeable lenses like the larger mirrorless cameras will but then you don’t have to deal with the size and weight. Your wallet might not be happy to see the price though. It’s going to cost you the same amount as a larger DSLR camera.

Camera Reviews

We dig into the best cameras you can take hiking (or mountain biking or SUPing for that matter).

Photography Tips

Cameras don’t make great images, photographers do. Getting a decent camera for hiking is just the beginning to taking epics shots on your adventures. We’ve got a ton of great tips on how to make the most of your shots out adventuring.

Other Backpacking Gear

You’ll need more than just a stove to head out backpacking. Here are buying guides to all the other gear you need for backpacking.

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