If you’re about to go on a long hike (we’re talking longer than a few days here people) then there’s a fine balance between what you need to survive and what you need to take good photos.
Obviously leaving your camera on the shelf at home isn’t an option. There’s nothing worse than getting to the top of a mountain with the whole wide world in front of your eyes before realising you can’t actually take a decent photo. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not fun.
So, what camera gear do you actually need to take with you while hiking.
The first thing I downgrade is my tripod. If I took my Manfrotto 190 carbon fiber tripod it’s an extra 1.6 kgs that I have to account for. And unlike food and water, I know that’s a weight that’s just not going to get any lighter. However, on the flip side you can’t exactly leave your tripod at home, can you? How are you going to take those long exposure night shots of the Milky Way? That’s why I take my Manfrotto Pixi tripod with me.
This thing is tiny, and it’s actually a lot sturdier than it looks. It can easily take the weight of my wide angle lens, and it just about takes my Tamron 24-70mm lens too, so it’s got me covered for most situations.
I love having the Pixi with me because I know I can use it for night photography, but I can also use it as a handle for shooting selfies too (I often use it for piece-to-camera when I’m vlogging). Hey, you’re only going to be on top of that mountain once!
The next thing is lenses. I can think of only one occasion when I was hiking in the Rocky Mountains in Canada when I wished I had my Canon 70-200mm lens with me, and that’s when a grizzly bear walked past our camp site. Thankfully, the grizzly was far enough away for us not to be too worried, but it was one of those moments I found myself reaching for my camera with the wrong kit.
However, saying that, I can’t really think of any other occasion where I’ve needed my telephoto lens. Bear in mind I usually shoot landscape anyway, but it’s just a lot of weight I can do without on a long hike.
Obviously comfort and practicality is key while hiking with your camera gear, and it’s important to pick a backpack that serves both purposes.
These days you can pick up a specific camera gear hiking backpack, and I think they’re well worth the investment. They are long and cylindrical so you can keep all the weight off your shoulders and on your hips, but incredibly practical too with a number of compartments for quick access to your camera.
When I’m hiking, I usually have my camera out with me at all times unless I come to a particularly tricky bit of the climb (such as slippery scree underfoot). Over the course of a few days I know I’m going to take thousands of photos and I don’t like the hassle of constantly taking my camera out just to put it away again, so I just have it out all the time.
There is one thing I can’t do without though, and that’s a really good waterproof cover. Most good camera bags will always have one of these incorporated in them anyway, but I’d buy a second one regardless as a backup.
I was once caught out in a huge tropical thunderstorm in the middle of the jungle in Honduras – it just came from nowhere, dry one second, all the water in the world falling on us the next – and I was so thankful that I had a second waterproof cover, more for peace of mind than anything else, but it’s in situations like those that you’ll be glad to have one. And let’s be honest, no matter how much you wish it won’t, it always seems to rain on a hike.
Obviously there are some things you can do without – the flashgun, the million filters you have, that extended battery grip – but the one thing you’ll need more than anything is the camera itself. Don’t leave it at home; you’ll only regret it if you do. And trust me, it really is worth taking even for the longest hikes. Now it’s time to head for the hills.
Macca Sherifi is a blogger, photographer and presenter who has worked in the travel industry for the past five years. He has travelled to over 70 countries, volunteered in Bangladesh and worked in both China and Australia.