Backpacking With a Camera: How to Keep it Safe

Backpacking with a Camera: Hiker in front of scenic mountains, planning their next shot

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Satisfying your wanderlust by backpacking with your camera is an amazing experience, but it comes with safety challenges. We want to ensure your trusty travel companion stays safe and working so it can capture all the memories of your journey.

This post provides tips on protecting your camera while traveling to or from your destination, backpacking, and staying at a campsite, ensuring it stays in excellent condition throughout your journey.

Packing Your Camera for Travel

Before starting your hiking or backpacking adventure or returning home, it’s crucial to take important steps to safeguard your camera.

Disassembly:

  • Protecting Threads and Parts: Disassembling your camera prevents wear and tear on its threads and moving parts. When your hiking with a camera, we all know it might shift around, and this can cause damage. Disassembly helps avoid that.
  • Preventing Battery Drain: There’s another advantage too. Sometimes, cameras accidentally switch on in your bag. This can drain your battery, leaving you with a dead camera when you’re ready to take photos. Disassembly is a good habit to prevent this from happening.

Padding and Protection:

  • Padded Protection: You want to protect your camera body and lenses from any knocks or bumps. Some folks use padded inserts designed specifically for camera gear. Others opt for cloth wraps or even their hiking clothes for camera protection. Both of these options work well.
  • Cushioning: As you pack each camera component in your bag, try to insert some soft items (like hiking clothes) between them. This extra cushioning adds an extra layer of protection if you don’t have dedicated dividers.

Before heading out, also check the next section as you may need to order some accessories to fully protect your camera during your next outdoor adventure.

Hiking or Backpacking with a Camera

Hiking with a Camera: A backpacker taking a photo in a forest

When hiking or backpacking with your camera, being prepared is crucial to avoid missing great shots or damaging your gear. Let’s discuss key considerations.

Protecting Your Camera Gear While Hiking or Backpacking With a Camera:

  • Prepare Your Bag: Before hiking, organize your camera gear into zipped quick-access pockets, grouping similar items like batteries, charger and remote together for easy access.
  • Use Camera Cases: Opt for a lightweight neoprene camera case, around 1.4 oz (40g), to cushion your camera without bulk. It offers protection even when quickly stowed in your backpack. Some popular brand who offer these include MegaGear and USA Gear.
  • Waterproof Your Pack: Bring along an ultralight dry sack. If it rains, you can place your camera inside it within your backpack. This extra layer of protection can give you peace of mind and keep your camera dry. And if you’re wondering whether a backpack rain cover is a good idea, check out our post here.
  • Use a Hiking Camera Strap: When searching for a camera strap tailored for hiking, prioritize comfort over a standard neck strap. A hiking-specific camera strap should offer adjustability to ensure a secure fit while evenly distributing your camera’s weight.

BONUS TIP: For extra camera protection in bad weather while capturing epic landscape shots, consider a camera shell cover. You can find one from Peak Design or Zing.

At Camp: Preventing Theft

Hiking with a camera: How to keep it safe at camp?

If you’re on a multi-day trip and it’s time to camp after a day of walking, and you want to explore a bit without carrying your big camera, what should you do?

If you’re in the wilderness, theft is typically not a concern since there likely won’t be anyone nearby.

However, if you’re in a public campsite near a town and plan to visit the town without your camera, you have a few choices:

  • Camp Office or Store: When there’s an open office or store, you can safely entrust the employees with your gear. If you arrive late, you can retrieve your valuables in the morning.
  • Choosing a Campsite with Lockers: Certain campsites offer secure electronic lockers for storing your valuables. When you have the option of several nearby campsites, select the one with lockers. These are often placed near the washing facilities, and while they may not seem extremely secure, they are a better choice compared to leaving your valuables in your tent.
  • Leaving it in the Tent: Not our top choice, but doable. Hide it out of sight, maybe in a sleeping bag, and consider using AirTags or similar devices for tracking. Be cautious about heat on sunny days, and if necessary, remove the batteries.

Conclusion

Careful packing, utilizing protective gear like camera cases and straps, and taking steps to prevent damage and theft can help you capture incredible moments in nature without compromising your equipment. Remember to assess weather conditions, research your destination, and organize your camera bag wisely.

Follow these tips, and your camera will be ready to hit the trail with you, resulting in amazing photographs and hassle-free hiking experiences. May your shutter be fast and your exposure be perfect!

And if you need inspiration for what to capture on the trail, we recommend exploring the hiking photography book authored by Alison Newberry and Matt Sparapani.

FAQ

How do you carry a tripod with a backpack?

When backpacking with a tripod, the best way to carry it is to attach it to the exterior of your backpack. Most backpacks have straps, buckles or attachment points that allow you to securely fasten the folded tripod legs and head. Position the tripod upright with the feet pointing down and the head at the top. This distributes the weight evenly and keeps the tripod from swinging around. Make sure to cinch the straps tightly so the tripod stays in place and doesn’t bounce against your back as you hike.

Is it safe to carry a camera in a backpack?

Yes, it’s safe to carry a camera in a backpack if you take the right precautions. Properly organizing and padding your camera gear, using dedicated camera cases, and considering weather conditions like rain can help ensure your camera stays safe and protected during your adventures. Additionally, using camera straps designed for hiking and selecting a secure backpack can enhance the safety of your equipment. With the right measures in place, you can confidently carry your camera in a backpack while exploring the outdoors.

What type of camera is suitable for backpacking?

When picking a camera for backpacking, go for a lighter mirrorless or high-end point-and-shoot under 1 lb. Look for a tough, weather-sealed build. Opt for models with interchangeable lenses for flexibility, like primes or zooms. Prioritize features such as manual controls, RAW shooting, low-light capability, fast autofocus, and good battery life or USB charging. Compact cameras that fit securely in your hands are easier to carry. Consider mirrorless cameras from Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic, especially those with Micro Four Thirds for a good balance of size, weight, and performance on the trail.

Is it OK to leave lens on camera when hiking?

It’s generally okay to leave a lens on your camera when hiking, especially if you plan to use it frequently for capturing moments on the trail. However, for those wanting to be extra cautious, particularly in challenging weather conditions, it’s advisable to remove the lens and use protective measures like lens filters and camera covers to safeguard your gear from dust and moisture during your hike. Balancing convenience and equipment protection is essential for a worry-free hiking photography experience.

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