Finding the best camera for backpacking is not as easy as it might seem at first. Most options you can find at a first glance are either too heavy to carry with you, or too small for comfortable use. A good image quality is also not a given: even if you find a camera that is just the right size, it doesn’t mean it fits your actual photography needs.
To help you find the outdoor camera of your dreams, we’ve scoured the specialty shops, tried and prodded and also consulted with other hiking camera reviews. This resulting top contains only the best options on the market, complete with pros and tips on how to choose one best suited for your needs. We’ll also share with you the key features to look for when shopping for a good camera for outdoors. Read on to get the scoop of it.
How To Choose A Backpacking Camera – Buying Guide
We understand if the features on most of the backpacking cameras in our top got you a bit confused. Some of the cameras above are needed by photography professionals, while beginners or casual photographers can be more than content with the other, simpler models.
If the language of technical specs is a bit challenging for you, don’t worry. Here is everything you should be looking for in a camera, broken down to laymen’s terms.
Do you know what ends the life of most consumer digital cameras, especially if they’re used outdoors? It’s not their poor performance leading to the owner renouncing them in favor of a newer model. It’s the irreversible damage caused by moisture and fine particles of dirt and debris slowly getting inside the camera over time.
Your camera might look clean on the outside, and you’re relaxed knowing you keep it protected in its special case when you’re not using it. Still, one day your hike camera caves in and suddenly stops working properly, or won’t even start at all. The number one culprit? Not being weather sealed. Therefore, weather sealing is pretty essential if you want your investment in the best camera for hiking to pay off.
Obviously, this is a matter that depends on your traveling habits. If you travel on an off-road car to your designated hiking or camping area and you are able to carry a large suitcase, the weight of the camera shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you’re looking for the best cameras for hiking that actually fit into the lifestyle of someone traveling with a backpack and nothing else, then the weight really does add up.
As a rule of thumb, a heavier camera tends to be more highly performant than a lighter one, or at least this is how it used to be about a decade ago. While this is still true for some of the best professional cameras for hiking (they can pack a bit of weight), the lines aren’t so clearly drawn for the rest of the camera models.
Producers have been successful in trying to make them more and more compact while still preserving their high power and performance. Therefore, a lightweight camera for backpacking that caught your eye from our top 10 choices above is definitely more than capable of fulfilling your photography needs. As long as you’re not trying to film professional documentaries about hiking or whitewater adventures or win photography awards, any of the light cameras will more than do.
The general considerations about weight can also be applied to size whenever searching for the best camera for hiking for your needs. In the top tier of professional cameras, it’s still somewhat true that bigger is better. All that power and high performance still need plenty of components to fully work its magic, so the truly professional machines are still a bit bulky compared to casual options.
But when you’re not aiming higher than the casual options for photography, compact and lightweight are more than reasonable expectations to have. You can rest assured that such a camera will be more than capable of taking great photos and videos of your family outdoors time and your camping or hiking trips.
Especially if you’re traveling with an actual backpack and on foot for long periods of time, saving a bit of space in your luggage will matter. Also, you should look for a camera that can be carried easily with a strap around your neck, to free your hands for rock climbing, or whatever else you’ll be up to.
Image Sensor and Megapixels
For top-quality photos and videos, you need a highly sensitive image sensor, of course. Some of the cameras have sensors with patented names, which may not tell you much about them at first glance. However, as a rule of thumb, if a sensor is widely praised enough to warrant its own patented name, then it’s surely good enough for most photography needs.
The megapixels are usually reflected in a camera’s specifications list with a number and MP next to it. The higher that number, the better quality of the photos. A standard of 24MP usually means the photos produced with that camera are high resolution and will look gorgeous to the human eye. Keep that minimum in mind when shopping for the best cameras for hiking.
There are several kinds of speed a camera can carry. The shutter speed means the camera will be able to keep up with shooting a lot (burst photos, fractions of seconds away). The image processing engine also has a speed of its own, meaning that the camera needs to ‘rest’ less after each image or video you save.
There is also the transferring speed, which refers to how fast it will be for you to transfer all the large files from the camera into your computer, laptop, or other devices once you’re back home or ready to share your work.
You might think that weatherproofing is the same as weather sealing, but the two features couldn’t be more different in digital cameras. We already explained the latter above, but what about the former? Here’s the scoop on whether sealing vs weatherproofing: if a camera is weather sealed it means the rough environment conditions will affect its longevity less. Moisture and dirt won’t creep inside the camera’s inner components as easily as it happens in the case of a lightweight camera that isn’t weather sealed.
But if an action camera is labeled as weatherproof, this doesn’t refer to its long life. It’s rather about the way your outdoor camera will perform when faced with less than ideal conditions that tend to ruin photos. Regular cameras don’t take good photos in foggy or vapory environments, or when water drops are splashing around. The lens on a weatherproof adventure camera, though, are prepared to make the most of the conditions you find yourself in.
Therefore, both weather sealing and weatherproofing are important when shopping for a reliable camera for the outdoors.
Also, neither weatherproofed nor weather-sealed means that the camera is waterproof. Sure, most options in our top above are somewhat waterproof, meaning that they won’t get damaged if you accidentally drop them in shallow water. Most will be perfectly fine if the water depth is up to a few feet, but their water resistance and underwater performance will not be as good as those of a specialized waterproof camera.
Like they say about beauty, quality is in the eye of the beholder. This means that it all comes down to your actual photography needs when you’re trying to decide whether a camera is good enough for you or not. If you’re looking for great shots of your family trips, backpacking time, or nature explorations, any of the less pricey options from our above top will be more than ok. If you have actual professional photography of film-making ambitions, then you should look at the truly pro-level options instead.
Of course, poor quality is always a concern when shopping for anything you haven’t tested out yourself yet, but you can rest assured that all the cameras presented in our top above have passed their quality tests for their tiers with flying colors. The only thing left now for you to decide is how high of a performance you actually need.
Q: What Is The Difference Between A Regular Camera And Action Camera?
Q: How To Choose A Good Camera?
Q: Are All Action Cameras Waterproof?
Globo Surf Overview
One of the most satisfying things about going on an adventure is the fact that you’re not just creating amazing memories, but also documenting them. While it’s not mandatory to snap photos every step of the way, it sure is satisfying to be able to, whenever you want.
If you choose a reliable backpacking camera or an adventure camera, nothing will stand in your way, regardless of the rough conditions of the place you’re exploring. You can even attach it to a waterproof drone, if your adventure you’re on requires both hands. Sky is the limit!
More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:
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- Hiking Watch
- Tactical Watch
- Hydration Pack
- GPS Tracker For Dog
- Backpacking Water Filter
- Backpacking Food
- Leather Backpack
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What did you use so far for taking photos during your camping trips? What made you decide to go scouting for a specialized camera such as one from our list of the best backpacking cameras in 2021? Do you have any examples of photos that ended up exceedingly good or exceedingly bad? Do you have any tips to share for adventure photography, from one outdoors lover to another? Share your experience with the other readers in the comment section below!