Mike's Backpacking Reference


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One of my loves is outdoor photography.   As a child I had a Box Camera and learned to develop and print my pictures (B&W).   Over the years I graduated to 35mm film and then on to digital.   I look to take more than just snapshots so my requirements are higher than just wanting to take a few photos to share with friends.    My general requirements for a camera are:

  • Have enough resolution to enlarge photos to at least 8" x10" allowing for some cropping.
  • Have wide angle capability to capture the outdoor landscapes.   For DSLR 18mm is OK.
  • Have enough close up capability to capture flowers and small critters.  Here the ability to close focus is important.

Digital cameras run on batteries.   Cameras that require a screen not only take more power, but the screen is often hard to see in bright sunlight.  You need to have an understanding of battery consumption to determine how many you will need.

Cell Phones

Cell phone cameras have gotten better and new expensive phones often will satisfy my requirements.    The biggest drawback is keeping the phone charged.   Note that a phone can also serve as a navigation aid and as a book.    Cell phones can be recharged by solar panels or external batteries.  

Point and Shoot

Point and Shoot cameras are a good compromise between weight and image quality.  To me the ideal model has an optical zoom and a view finder.   Cameras that require the use of the screen are harder to see in the bright sun.   Running on conventional batteries is a plus (like AA) since these last longer than rechargeable and you may be able to use the same batteries in another device.  Most models have a lens cover which is desirable. Point and shoot cameras can be stored in a pouch attached to you shoulder strap or in a waist belt pouch.


Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras are big and heavy.   You need to committed to carry one!   That said I usually carry one as I want the best pictures.   The main feature here is one that does not use the screen all the time.  I have found that I commonly can do a week's trip (maybe 300-500 photos) on a single battery with my Nikon 5100.  In my older model the screen was always on and multiple batteries were required.   "Big glass" lenses with low f stops are cool but heavy.  I have found f4-5 lenses usually work fine.  Of course with a DSLR you can use multiple lenses.   I generally just use a 18-55 zoom.   This is nod to keeping the weight reasonable.   On occasion I will do a "photo" trip and take something wider or longer, but the weight adds up.  Carrying the camera is an issue. I have developed a sternum strap that holds the camera in the ready and can be used as a carrying strap when not carrying a pack. 


To take selfie with a DSLR you may be tempted to carry a small tripod.   I have found I can usually prop the camera on a rock and save the weight.  Learn to use the self-timer.

Selfie Sticks.   Really?  Save the weight.  Definition:   A portable rod with a camera at one end and a _______ at the other.  (You can fill in the blank. )

Note: if you are on a major trail just ask another hiker for help...   Practice your social skills.