Hiking photography

Hiking photography has long been a popular pastime with travel photographers, and with good reason. Hiking allows us to explore nature in a new environment, benefits both our physical and mental health, and often brings with it ample opportunity for some breathtaking compositions.

The challenge with hiking photography, however, is keeping your camera gear safe and, if possible, easily accessible throughout your hike. In this post, we’ll discuss the best ways to carry your photography gear while hiking and how to protect it from whatever conditions the hike might throw at you.

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Dahab hiking photography<br />

The first important decision when it comes to your hiking photography set-up is choosing a camera backpack for hiking. There are a few different options when it comes to choosing a hiking camera backpack, and not choosing wisely can result in you having to spend hours lugging around an uncomfortable or unsuitable pack, which could ruin what would otherwise be an enjoyable hike in nature.

When it comes to choosing a camera backpack for hiking, there are three main options to consider.

 

A regular camera backpack

 

For those who already own a regular camera backpack, something like Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack, using this is the cheapest way to keep your camera gear safe while hiking with it. They have the benefit of being designed with cameras in mind, meaning that all of your gear will be protected and accessible throughout your hike.

Pros:

  • By far the cheapest option if you already have one
  • Will keep your camera gear safe
  • Can be used when you’re not hiking without looking and feeling out of place

Cons:

  • Not designed for hiking, so may become uncomfortable after a while
  • May offer minimal space for non-camera gear that you may need while hiking, such as an extra layer, hiking poles, food and water

A hiking backpack with a camera compartment

 

When choosing the best camera bags for hiking, looking for a hiking backpack specifically designed to carry photography gear may seem like a no brainer. After all, packs like the Lowepro Photo Sport BP 200 AW II are designed specifically for hiking photography, so surely no other set up should win out against it.

camera backpack for hiking photography

If this was the case this would be an extremely short post, so there are, as always, pros and cons to discuss even with these hiking-specialised backpacks.

Pros:

  • More comfortable than a regular camera bag
  • More protective of camera gear than a regular hiking backpack
  • Designed specifically for hiking photography so it’s ready for use straight out of the box

Cons:

  • Generally not quite as comfortable as a hiking backpack as they place emphasis on protecting camera gear
  • Great for short day hikes but arguably unsuitable for multi-day hikes
  • The best options tend to be very expensive

Hiking backpack with a camera cube [my pick]

 

Another very cheap solution if you happen to already own a hiking backpack is to simply buy a camera cube to fit inside it. This will help you protect and organise your camera gear while keeping all of the benefits that a specialised hiking backpack provides.

While this isn’t the easiest option as you will have to find two products that work well together, we believe it’s the best option with the fewest compromises when it comes to choosing a camera backpack for hiking.

hiking photography camera cube

Pros:

  • Very cheap if you already own a hiking backpack
  • Much more comfortable than a specially designed hiking camera backpack
  • Far more options to choose from

Cons:

  • More of a hassle to pick out the right combination as the two products are not designed for eachother
  • May not be very well set up for easy access to your equipment

Keeping your camera accessible during your hike

 

Once you have your hiking camera backpack set-up sorted, there is just one more thing to worry about: how to carry your camera during the hike, keeping it easily accessible and also safe. Your chosen method shouldn’t let carrying your camera get in the way of your hiking, while also ensuring that all your gear makes it back in one fully functional piece.

 

Shoulder-strap

 

Using a regular shoulder strap to carry your camera while you’re hiking is a popular, though sometimes risky way to go. It’s often the easiest way to go as you’ll likely own a camera strap already – many cameras even come with a shoulder-strap included when you’re buying your kit.

The problem with using camera straps for hiking photography is that they can allow your camera to swing around unpredictably which can put your kit in harm’s way, particularly if you’re on a more technical hike that requires some light scrambling in places.

While it is possible to stop this from happening by feeding your hiking bag’s waist strap (if you have one) through your camera’s shoulder strap to secure it, this does also add an additional step of having to un-clip and re-clip this every time you reach for your camera.

Take a look at some options here.

 

Hand-strap

Another simple way to carry your camera while hiking is by using a hand-strap. Like using a shoulder-strap, a hand-strap is a cheap and easy way to secure your camera while you’re hiking. But similarly, it also presents some potential issues if the terrain gets steeper and more treacherous.

Hand-straps, surprisingly enough, require one hand to hold the camera at all times, meaning you will not be able to do any scrambling or climbing where you need to have three points of contact with the ground.

Regardless of the size and weight of your kit, holding a camera for the entirety of a hike, particularly if that hike takes several hours, is hardly ideal. Therefore, it’s hard to recommend a hand strap as anything more than a complement to something like the next item on this list.

Take a look at some hand straps here.

 

Camera clip [my pick]

Peak Design hand strap

My personal favourite way of carrying my camera when I’m out hiking is by attaching a camera clip to my backpack. These consist of a small plate that attaches to your camera’s hot shoe mount, and a clip with a quick release mechanism that you can attach to a backpack strap or waist belt.

Camera clip for backpack

I usually attach my camera clip to my backpack strap (it just about fits on the Mammut Ducan 30’s wider strap), carrying my camera on my right shoulder with the lens pointed downwards. This ensures that the camera is safe, and the lens is well protected as there is very little chance of something flying up at the lens from below.

The gold standard of camera clips that I, as well as many photographers, even those with weighty full-frame kits stand by is the Peak Design Capture Clip V3. It’s by no means a cheap accessory for your camera, but even avoiding a single hiking photography mishap with your camera will pay back the price of this clip several times over.

What I use for hiking photography

 

After a fair amount of trial and error, this is the set-up I landed on. This may not be the ideal hiking photography set-up for everyone, but it works perfectly for me.

 

Fosoto camera cube

 

I use a Fosoto camera cube that I picked up on Amazon for £24 (or approximately US $30). It’s shock-proof, water-resistant and fits my camera gear perfectly. I usually carry my Fujifilm X-T2, as well as the XF 10-24mm, XF 55-200mm and the Samyang 12mm f/2 if I’m camping in a place where there may be opportunities for some astro-photography.

The camera cube has a thick, adjustable divider within it so you can alter its position based on the equipment you’re carrying. It’s the perfect size for the gear I like to carry, as well as the hiking backpack I like to use.

 

Mammut Ducan 30

 

Of the many hiking backpacks that I’ve bought, used and sold in the past few years, the Mammut Ducan 30 is by far my favourite for hiking photography. I’ve used it on every hike I’ve done in the 2 years that I’ve owned it, and it checks every box that I have for the ideal camera backpack for hiking.

At 30L, and a bit more if you stuff it, it has enough space for me to use it on anything up to a 3 – 4 day hike, while also being fitted with enough compression straps to not look out of place during a quick 2-hour morning hike where all I need to bring is water and my camera.

Mammut Ducan 30

At 30L, and a bit more if you stuff it, it has enough space for me to use it on anything up to a 3 – 4 day hike, while also being fitted with enough compression straps to not look out of place during a quick 2-hour morning hike where all I need to bring is water and my camera.

Its wide and anatomically shaped shoulder strap make it very easy to carry the weight of the pack, the mesh trampoline-like back panel provides fantastic ventilation and the back frame helps massively with load distribution. It also has two very stretchy side pockets which can be used for water or a tripod – I’ve even managed to fit a spare pair of trail shoes in one of them before.

The only issue that I’ve had with this pack is that the buckles for the top lid can be quite flimsy, meaning that they can break if you aren’t careful. But given the numerous other benefits provided by the Mammut Ducan 30, this is definitely a tolerable issue from my perspective.

Take a look at the latest prices here.

Peak Design Capture Clip V3

 

The final component to my hiking photography set-up is, in my view, one of the most integral in determining whether hiking with my camera equipment is a pleasant or tedious experience. While, as I’ve mentioned, the Peak Design Capture Clip is not a cheap camera accessory, if you hike a lot, it will more than pay for itself very quickly.

It allows you to hike with both of your hands completely free, keeping your camera kit secure and safe throughout. I haven’t hiked without it since I bought it and I don’t see myself intentionally doing so any time soon.

Check out the latest prices here.

Wrap up

Naxos hiking photography

So there we are: a guide on how to safely carrying your camera equipment while hiking, from the best camera backpacks for hiking to the best ways of keeping your camera accessible throughout the hike.

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