My Photography Gear: Hiking and Backpacking with a DSLR
Hiking and Backpacking with DSLR Camera Gear| Words and Photos by Julie Boyd
My first camera was an old Canon SLR that shot 35 mm film. Well, it was actually my dad’s old Canon that he let me use when I took a black and white photography class in high school. I fell in love with photography during that semester, and before I knew it I was on my first trip to Yosemite trying to emulate Ansel Adams. In college, I began shooting color film, and by the time I graduated the quality of digital cameras was improving, so I bought my first DSLR, the Canon 20D.
Since then, camera technology has come a long way, and it continues to develop faster than I can save up to buy the next best thing. My equipment for hiking and backpacking with DSLR camera gear isn’t the most expensive, or the newest, but it is what works for me and my budget. I invested in good lenses, and a stable tripod, and combining those things with my artistry has yielded me some photos that I am proud of. For those who are curious, here is what is currently in my camera bag when I am on the road, or the trail.
My must-have gear for hiking and backpacking with DSLR cameras!
I chose the Canon EOS 6D SLR initially as a more affordable alternative to 5D Mark IV. While I do wish I had duel memory card slots for backing up purposes, I really love that this camera can shoot video and that it is Wi-Fi capable (see why below).
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II – Really awesome and versatile focal range. I probably use this lens the most!
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II – Great for portraits and zooming in for detail shots, especially when you want to separate your subject from the background. I also like to use this lens for a different perspective if I ever want to compress the background of a landscape with a foreground subject. If you don’t plan on shooting people in low light situations, I recommend cutting the price and weight and getting the f/4 version of this lens.
Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L II – My go-to landscape lens for when I want to shoot extra wide, epic scenes.
3. iPhone with the EOS Remote App
I love this app! It allows me to connect my phone to my 6D’s Wi-Fi and use it for remote shooting, which works great in low-light situations when I want to avoid camera shake. I have bought dozens of other remote shutter releases, and they have all broken, so this has been a perfect alternative. This set-up is also how we take couples photos of ourselves when we travel, as you can use the phone screen to compose your shot. Pretty cool! The Wi-Fi feature of the 6D also allows me to directly save photos to my phone, so that I can share them instantly on social media.
On most occasions I use the MeFoto Globe Trotter since it is compact, lightweight, and durable. Plus it comes in fun colors!
For backpacking trips or day hikes where every ounce matters, I recently invested in the Sirui T-25SK T-0S Series Travel Tripod. It weighs about two pounds, and it can support my DSLR.
Osprey Kestral 32: I searched far and wide for a camera backpack that has room for hiking gear and a water bladder. I have yet to find one that I like, so I decided to buy a day pack that I liked, and turn it into a camera bag. Inside, I put my camera body and lenses in this insert from Mindshift, which is inside an Osprey UltraLight Dry Sack for extra protection from the elements, or in the event that my water bladder leaks. One of the things that I also love about the Kestral pack is that I can attach my tripod to the back. This system does have two cons, however. The pack only has one small compartment for things like memory cards and lens filters, but I just use my lens cases, and put any extra bits and bobs in them that don’t fit in the larger compartment. Also, you have to take the entire pack off to change lenses, which can become burdensome at times.
6. Filters: Neutral Density + Circular Polarizer
These are great for bright days, waterfall shots, blurring clouds, and more. I use the Tiffen 0.6 and 0.9 stop neutral density filters, which aren’t the best as I have noticed that they do give off a slight green cast. You can fix this by adjusting your magenta levels in camera, or you can adjust the color balance in Lightroom. The Singh-Ray filters are reviewed by other as the best, and I have heard that they don’t have this issue, but they are quite expensive; starting at around $300 each. I also use a B+W Circular Polarizer, which is additionally useful for cutting the glare on water and other bright surfaces, and adding saturation and contrast to the sky.
I also use Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters. These make such a huge difference in being able to capture the dynamic range in many low-light situations. I also use the Lee Circular Polarizer in tandem with the graduated filters. I did a lot of research, and decided these were the essential pieces I needed to get started.
Lee Filters Foundation Kit / Filter Holder
Lee Filters 4 x 6″ Graduated Neutral Density 0.9 Soft Resin Filter
Lee Filters 4 x 6in. Graduated Neutral Density 0.9 Hard Resin Filter
LEE Filters 105mm Slim Landscape Polarizer with Lee Filters 105mm Front Accessory ring
Lee Filters 82mm wide angle adapter ring
Lee Filters 77mm wide angle adapter ring
7. Camera Strap
I rarely use a camera strap. I hate the way they hang around my neck and weigh me down. Instead, I use the Peak Design CapturePRO Camera Clip. This is a must-have for hiking as it allows me to hike hands-free while keeping keeping my camera accessible. When I do need to use a strap for safety reasons, I easily clip in the Peak Design Sling Strap.
8. Memory Cards
SanDisk Extreme 16GB because I prefer shooting on multiple smaller cards rather than one or two large cards in case one of them becomes corrupted.
Other stuff that is pretty great to have on hand when you are hiking or backpacking with DSLR cameras.
1. Spider Holster Memory Card Organizer: Keeps cards safe and organized.
2. OP/TECH USA Rainsleeve: Essential for protecting my gear on or rainy days or from misty waterfalls.
3. Microfiber Cleaning Cloths: You can never have enough have enough handy!
4. Peak Design Sling Strap: When I do use a camera strap, it is this one. I like the versatility of this strap since I can wear it in a more traditional way, or use it as a sling strap. I’m also a fan of how easy the straps are to adjust, which is especially nice while out on a shoot.
5. Osprey UltraLight Dry Sack: Protects my gear in the event that my water bladder leaks on a hike. Also, it is an added layer of protection if my pack gets wet from the outside.
6. Satechi WTR-A Wireless Timer Shutter for Canon EOS: So far this remote timer has served me well. It is essential for doing long exposures, night photography, and timelapses.
7. Rocket Air Blaster: Helps clean dust that might get inside your camera when changing lenses.
8. Headlamp: For sunrise and sunset adventures.
9. An extra battery for my camera and rechargeable AA batteries for other gear (headlamp, timer, etc.)
Do you recommend any hiking and backpacking with DSLR gear that’s not on my list? I would love to hear what’s in your camera bag in the comments below.
For more photography tips be sure to check out the blogs posts below:
Beginner Tips for Taking Great Travel Photos
Photography Ethics and Getting the Shot
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41 thoughts on “My Photography Gear: Hiking and Backpacking with a DSLR”
Thanks for this wonderful list of camera gadgets. I, too, am a Canon person and use my iPhone for many pics. I’ve given up on carrying the extra lenses as the point and shoot Canon does the trick quite well with its 50x zoom.
You are welcome Doreen! I sometimes think about changing to a mirrorless camera to cut down on all the weight and lenses, but I just love my DSLR so much that I can’t seem to give it up!
A camera clip? Such a clever idea! I am struggling with the strap so thanks for this tip! I have a Samsung Nx2000 and I love it too but I am not as well prepared as you!
Yes! The clip has made my life so much easier! I attach it to my backpack strap, but you can attach it to any bag or belt. I can’t recommend it enough!
My kids told me I need to take a photography class now that I’m travel blogging. I will use this as a guide to what I need whether or not I take the class. Ty
I am glad that you will be able to use this article as a guide Alison. There is tons of great information online to learn about photography. Be sure to check out my article linked above for beginner tips! 🙂
I love reading about what goes into the bag of a fellow traveler, thanks for sharing with us! Like yourself, I love to travel and have a passion for photography as well and much as I want to reduce the amount of camera gear I carry, my bag still tend to be quite bulky. I guess all that weight is worth it when I finally get a chance to utilize all those gear to get the photo that I want 🙂
Happy traveling and continue to shoot great photos! Cheers!!
I agree Claire! It is worth the weight! Most of the time that I leave things behind to reduce the load, I end up regretting my decision. Happy shooting!
Great post! As I’ve gotten more and more into photography, my arsenal of equipment has grown. The only thing I’ve been weary of is getting a tripod. I love hiking and many of my photos are from my hikes. I see people hiking with tripods and it looks painful. Do you take your tripod when hiking? If so, pros and cons? thanks!
Thanks April! It can be painful, especially because my tripod weighs almost 4 pounds. I have tried some more light weight ones, but they are not as sturdy, so I returned them. There are ones out there that are more light weight, but I am not quite ready to spend $1,000 + on one of them. I take my tripod depending on what I plan on shooting and the time of day. If I know there will be a waterfall, I want to do a long exposure for on the hike, then I definitely need my tripod. Also, if I am doing a sunrise/sunset hike I bring it along to get sharp images in the low light, and to bracket my exposures incase I need to stack them in post (I try to avoid doing composite images though). On most day hikes I don’t bring it along though.
I’m just beginning to get into photography and I had no idea some of this stuff existed. The camera clip sounds useful so I’ll definitely need to look into that! I also never knew you could use a neutral density filter for bright days, I should get one of those too! Thanks for sharing what’s inside your camera bag for newbies like me!
Thanks Constance! I am glad that you found some of the information useful. Yes, the Peak Design Clip is my favorite things for hiking! I can’t believe I went years without having it in my arsenal.
Been looking for a lightweight and sturdy tripod for traveling. I’ll check out the MeFoto one you suggest. I find most to flimsy for the larger lenses.
I have found that to be the case as well. I recently tried their Backpacker Air tripod and it was terrible. I’ll be sticking with my Globetrotter for a bit.
I dont fully agree that your three L lenses can be labelled “affordable” 😂 I’ve been looking into the 70-200 lately and the f2.8 is too expensive. If I were to get one now I would probably choose the f4.
Anyway I wanted to ask you if your tripod is suitable for carry on luggage or if you must check it in. I have a compact one I take in my carry on that is not very stable and I would like to upgrade, but I don’t know how far I can go getting a bigger and more stable one and still being able to take it in my carry on luggage. I also have a ginormous old tripod that I have taken with me in my checked baggage. It is stable but ancient and heavy and it definitely wouldn’t make it through airport security in my hand luggage!
Yes, I agree that the lenses are pricey. They were my one splurge and I chose to invest in them, and be more economic with my choice of camera and other gear. I went with the f/2.8 over the f/4 because I shoot weddings, but if you don’t anticipate doing many portraits, or shooting in a lot of dark churches, the f/4 is perfect. I have a few wedding industry friends who use the Tamron 70-200mm, which is also less expensive.
I have never carried my tripod on, but it is small enough to fit inside a cary-on bag. When folded down it is about 16 inches. Hope that helps! 🙂
For some reason I prefer to still splurge on Canon and never really owned a Tamron. My 6D performs really well at high iso so f4 doesn’t scare me and I don’t do any weddings anymore really. Thanks for the extra piece of info about your tripod, and sorry I got back to you so late but I was on holiday 😀
The one thing we still really need is a good backpack. I want one that holds a computer, drone, all camera gear and isn’t too big and isn’t too expensive. I like your make shift solution, need to think about if I can do something like that for us.
I really recommend finding something that works well for you. Then it can be flexible and you can customize it to fit your needs. Let me know what you end up doing!
This is a great and comprehensive list!! I need a new camera SO badly but my 18-300mm lens is my actual favorite travel companion ever!
I bet! That is a diverse focal range. I sometimes wish I had something longer than 200 mm for shooting wildlife, but it’s not my passion, so I can’t justify spending the extra money. Hehe! 🙂
Loved browsing through your gear bag, Julie. I was particularly curious to see what tripod you use. I’ve got a heavy Manfrotto for wildlife, and I’m keen to find a compact & lightweight one for the smaller lenses. Have you come across any inexpensive ones? MePhoto one is probably a bit much for my purposes. I wouldn’t put anything other than a wide angle lens & a reasonably light-weight camera body on it.
Thanks Margarita! I am not sure about other tripods. There are less expensive ones out there, but since I have not personally used them, I can’t recommend any. I will say that this is the third tripod I have purchased, and I wish I just spent the extra money on it from the beginning. Manfrotto is is well-known brand, and I know they have some smaller tripods out there if you are looking to upgrade. Hope that helps! 🙂
Looks like you have got everything that you require for the secret ingredient to awesome photography. Now a days there are so many gears available that it’s really hard to tell which all to take. The prices of the lenses are so high, and so are the other gears. But I am sure if one is a passionate photographer, one definitely needs these equipments to get the best of shots.
Thank you Neha! Yes, it is important to do thorough research to see what gear is the best. Photography gear is just a tool though; the best investment you can make to improve you photography is education.
This is an awesome list! I love that you added a headlamp to this list. I always have to fumble around with my phone’s flashlight when it’s dark out, but it is so inconvenient.
Thanks Jess! Yes! A headlamp is always great to have on hand. 🙂
This is a great list. I too am a Canon user and have struggled with finding a perfect backpack (there are a variety languishing in the bottom of cupboard!). Particularly interested in the tripod which I will check out.
Thanks Bridget! I have quite a few bags that didn’t work out laying around as well. I still have hope that one day a perfect bag will be created, but for now my system works pretty well.
Thanks so much for putting together such a comprehensive & accessible list! I’m getting ready to invest in a new lens, and I found your descriptions to be very helpful for where I’m at with my photography. I also didn’t know that rainsleeves existed – yikes! – I’m always sticking my camera in a plastic bag, and I need to change that. And I’m always misplacing memory cards, so I should finally invest in a cardholder too!
I am so happy you found it useful Brianne! Yes! The rain sleeves are so handy! I just got back form a trip and it was raining most days. They definitely helped my keep my camera dry and were easier to maneuver than a plastic bag (I used to use them too!).
This is really helpful! I’ve been wanting to get a tripod, so I’ll have to check out MeFoto now.
Thanks Kelly! Happy shopping!
I am die-hard fan of Canon and love its quality of photography. I haven’t used this model but after reading your reviews, I am convinced that this camera is for me. Having Back-up, controlling through phone, Wi-Fi and peak Design Clip for better grip. Thanks for sharing valuable information.
I am so glad that you found it useful!
This is a very useful piece. I was particularly interested in the EOS remote app. I like how you are using your iPhone in tandem with the camera. We use a Nikon DSLR and iPhone along with a tripod. But looking at upgrading the camera and thinking of Mirrorless, but of course, that would be an expensive proposition!
I keep thinking about switching to mirrorless as well, but I have already invested so much in my system, it would be quite expensive to switch, even after selling everything.
Wow, soms great gadgets, definitely saving this for later!!
First time here on your blog and it’s amazing! Really had a great time! Keep up the good work.
Thank you very much! We appreciate you checking it out!