The Best Camera For Backpacking, Hiking And Travel Photography Guide!


Whilst travelling there is always a challenge when one considers which cameras to take, travelling light is always important for enjoyability, portability and flexibility but at the same time we all want to take the best photos to capture our memories and experiences as we possibly can. We love to explore cities as well as the mountains, the best camera for hiking isn’t always an all rounder! That’s where some tough decisions come when we’re planning our travels, do we go with the large DSLR with heavy multiple lenses, do we instead use a compact or even decide on a mirrorless system, or even just use your phone? Each have their advantages and disadvantages when trying to pick out the best camera for travel photography. But after spending 3 years on the road backpacking as well as various shorter trips before, trying out different cameras along the way, we’ve come up with our ultimate guide to the best camera for backpacking. 

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The Best Camera for Backpacking & The Best Camera for Travel Photography! 


The Compact Option: Sony RX100 

We understand the need to travel with a super compact but high quality camera. One that easily fits in your bag or a small case around your shoulder or even in your pocket, which makes it up there as the best camera for hiking. At the same time though many travellers want a high quality camera capable of manual settings and impressive shots. The Sony RX100 is a great compromise and one we used for a long time whilst travelling. It has a 1 inch sensor and an impressive 20mp with a a good mid range-zoom lens, its compact size makes it a contender for the best camera for backpacking. 

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It also shoots in RAW or JPEG, has full manual controls as well as many other settings from fully automates to partially automated which is why it possibly the best camera for travel photography. This makes it perfect for both more advanced photographers, beginners and those wanting to experiment with more. It’s real advantage comes with its size which is incredibly portable and perfect for travel. It really is an advanced point and shoot!

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Taken on a Sony RX100 M3. Is this lightweight compact camera the best for hiking?

See Prices For The Sony RX100 M3 Here

See Prices For The Sony RX100 M5 Here


The Semi Pro Mirrorless: A Compact Alternative To An DSLR & A Step Up From A Compact: Sony a6500

If you crave both compactness but also quality then the perfect camera is a crop sensor Mirrorless set up the combination of size and quality makes this type of system a real choice for the best camera for backpacking. The most popular of these and what we’ve used for over a year is the Sony a6000 and it’s newest model, the Sony a6500. This small but powerful camera offers a great lineup of interchangeable lenses, an APS-C sensor (the same size in most DSLR’s), 24mp image size and super fast auto focus. The combination of size and quality makes it the best camera for hiking due to its portability! 

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Is this the best camera for hiking due to its quality and size?

It might not be entirely pocket size but its still very portable and gives you complete control over the photo taking process as well as DSLR quality at a fraction of the size and weight. It does also feature several different auto and semi auto modes and is a natural progression from the RX100 having a similar menu system. For those who are into photography, need quality but also a small system, this might just be the best camera for travel photography. 

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Taken on the Sony a6000 and Sigma 19mm

See Prices For The Sony A600 With Kit Lens Here

See Prices For The Sony A6500 Body Here

Recommended Lenses for Sony a6000 – a6500

See Prices For The Sigma 19mm Here

See Prices For The Sigma 30mm Here

See Prices For The Sigma 60mm Here


The Pro Mirrorless Full Frame Option: A Top Quality Alternative To DSLR: Sony a7ii

If quality is your main concern but you still want something a little more portable than a large DSLR then a full frame mirrorless camera such as the Sony a7ii is ideal. This pro level camera has all the features you would imagine from a high end camera system and with a full frame sensor and 24mp of image quality, as well as some of the best lenses on the market available for the Sony FE mount. It does come with a high price, both financially and with quite a bit more size and weight to boot too which means it might not be the best camera for hiking. However, compared to the equivalent DSLR the size and weight is still much less. For those wanting the ultimate in quality without the huge size of DSLR’s this is the best camera for travel photography! 

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This is an incredible travel camera set up that is intended for those of an advanced level to take advantage of all the manual controls available, however, it does still offer auto mode as well as Aperture priority, shutter priority and has a dedicated exposure compensation dial and a good number of customisable buttons. Despite the increase in size it still is a very portable camera and with the incredible quality it is the best camera for backpacking if you are willing to make some sacrifices in size. We have opted for the 24-105mm f4 lens, it’s one of the sharpest zoom lenses on the market and for travel photography it is really versatile in its focal length and has a consistent f4 through the range which is great. The only downside is that it is quite big, though smaller for this type of lens than Nikon or Canon and Sigma offer. It could also be faster at times and it is quite expensive!!   

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Photo taken on the Sony a7ii with Sony FE 24-105 at 24mm. Despite its size is it still portable enough to be the best camera for hiking?

See Prices For The Sony A7ii With and Without Lens Kits Here

See Prices For The Sony A7iii With and Without Lens Kits Here

Recommended Lenses for Sony a7ii / a7iii/ a7riii

See Prices For The Sony FE 24-105mm f4 Here 

See Prices For The Sony FE 16-35mm f4 Here 

See Prices For The Sony FE 55mm f1.8 Here 

See Prices For The Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Here 


The Action Cam For All Conditions: GoPro

Of course, when travelling in some of the most challenging conditions, or just taking a dip in the sea or a swimming pool, we need something a little different than the other cameras mentioned. For action sports and situations where you need your camera to be waterproof, tough and easily hands free, a GoPro is the perfect travel companion and the best camera for hiking and adventures. These tiny but powerful cameras offer a super wide angle view, HD video, single shots, multi shots, touch screen and even voice activation. For actions and all weather adventures this is the best camera for travel photography. 

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I keep my Go Pro in an old lens bag

The numerous mounts available mean you can attach it easily to your helmet or wear it on your wrist, chest, handlebars or anywhere you can think of to get that perfect action shot! It’s size also means you can easily carry it in your pocket and it takes up hardly any room in your bag!  We’ve taken our GoPro scuba diving down to 18m, paragliding, climbing, surfing, snowboarding and even to capture our adventures at the Thingyan water festival in Myanmar! As an all round camera that can do anywhere a GoPro is the best camera for backpacking and whatever it throws at you! 

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Taken on a GoPro Hero 6

See Prices For The GoPro Hero 7 Black Here

See Prices For The GoPro Hero 7 Silver Here

See Prices For The GoPro Fusion Here

And Accessories Here:


For The Ultimate Convenience & Great Quality: iPhone X. 

Lets face it, carrying around multiple cameras, no matter how compact, it always a bit of a drag! It takes up more room, requires editing or sending over to your phone for sharing and also makes the contents of your bag worth that much more money which is never ideal. I can see why many people would rather use their Iphone than more intrusive camera equipment and why phones can make the best camera for travel photography list! Phones these days offer great quality, HDR settings and are often instantly backed up too. Considering many people in the past would have just used a disposable film camera, the difference in quality between the holidays snaps of the past and those available with such convenience and instant shareability is astounding! The top phones out there at the moment such as the iphone X offer top of the range technology making it a real contender for the best camera for backpacking as well as the best camera for hiking due to its portability. 

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Taken on an Iphone 6

See Prices For The iphone XR Here


Accessories for your cameras:

Tripods:

Carrying around a tripod might seem unnecessary but it can make such a difference to your photography, especially in low light or for landscape. Depending on your camera set up and the type of images you plan on taking a portable travel tripod or a Gorilla pod are ideal. The travel tripod allows you to keep any size of camera stable but requires a pretty level surface where as a Gorilla Pod can wrap around any surface such as poles as offers much more unique angles as well as being much smaller. No matter if you have the best camera for travel photography or not, a tripod will help your photography no end. 

See Prices For Travel Tripods Here

See Prices For Gorillapods Here

Bags and cases:

Keeping your camera safe whilst travelling requires a decent case, especially if you are bringing along a larger camera with multiple lenses. Selecting the right one which protects your equipment, keeps everything together but is also light and practical is another challenge, especially if you’re on the lookout for the best camera for hiking. We like to have a case we can use to carry our camera on its own as a shoulder pack but that also fits inside our larger bag. If you go to the effort of picking out the best camera for backpacking you should also do the same for the case you bring too! Cases and bags are particularly important when you are out in the mountains too so if you’ve got the best camera for hiking you also need the best hiking camera backpack too. 

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Cases for our: Sony RX100 / a6000/ a7ii with Sony FE 24-105mm Lens. Which do you think is the best camera for travel photography based on size?

If you carry a lot of gear around you can also get backpacks specially designed with compartments for your camera and accessories as well as main storage compartments for laptops and other items.

Another bag we have been looking at lately since upgrading our camera is a pacsafe bag, these are specially designed to keep your bag super safe. They are made of material which can’t be cut, zips that can be locked and several hidden compartments, they are ideal for travellers in general but especially if you have the best camera for backpacking, you need to keep it safe!

See Prices For Sony RX100 Cases Here

See Prices For Sony a6000+ Here

See Prices For Sony A7+ Here

See Prices For Camera Backpacks Here

Taken on The Sony a7ii in our home village!

Protection For Your Gear:

Another thing we usually take with us is to keep our equipment safe is a dry sack, if you have the best camera for backpacking you can get you really need to make sure its protected! These come in a variety of sizes and types and roll up and clip to make a waterproof bag. We often use them when travelling from one place to another in case of getting caught out in bad weather as well as taking a thicker version out on boat trips or whilst hiking. We also have some smaller ones to keep our external hard drives and pen drives in. 

Memory Cards, Spare Batteries and Back ups: 

It’s always useful to carry around spare batteries and memories cards when you’re on the road. You never know when you might run out of space or juice so they really are so invaluable! You should also make sure to get top quality cards from sandisk or kingston, even though they might seem expensive for what they are these much more reliable than cheaper versions and Sandisk ones are also waterproof just in case! 

Backing up your photos on the road is also important, you never know when your computer might crash, get damaged or stolen and the same goes for your camera and memory cards. Bringing along an external Hard Drive as well as smaller but more reliable pen drives is idea and can be kept separate from your laptop and camera. We also advice using cloud services such as Dropbox or Crashplan. There’s no point searching out for the best camera for backpacking if you don’t have any space on your memory card!! 

See Prices For The 1tb Seagate HDD Here

See Prices For The 128gb SanDisk Pen Drives Here

See Prices For A 64gb SD Here

See Prices For A 64gb MicroSD Here

Our Camera Setup and Our Advice:

We take our photography pretty seriously and have in the past few month upgraded our camera system to reflect that. However everything mentioned in this post are cameras we’ve travelled with at one point or another, this makes us positive we can advise what is the best camera for backpacking  as well as the best camera for hiking taking into consideration size, quality and practicality. 

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Size comparison of the camera systems we’ve had and upgraded to. In order: Sony RX100 III/ Sony a6000/ Sony a7ii with Sony FE 24-105mm.
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Which one do you think is the best camera for travel photography?

For a long time we had only the Sony RX100 and the Go Pro which was a super light and portable set up idea for those with an interest in photography but without the need for much larger cameras. This is ideal for backpacking or hiking trip and is so easy to keep safe too.  At a certain point in the trip we upgraded to a more recent version of the same camera and decided to keep the old one too as it’s so portable, this comes in handy as we both have camera each plus the old one is ideal for when you go out to a party or if you’re just at the beach! 

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Taken on a Sony RX100 III

Our second set up we used for around a year and was a little larger but offered us more quality and flexibility. We upgraded to the Sony a6000 and bought 3 Sigma prime lenses at 19mm/ 30mm / 60mm. We absolutely loved this camera set up as it was still very light but felt much more like a proper camera to use. Having used DSLR’s for many years before backpacking I loved how much easier it felt to use on manual as well as using the viewfinder which for me really seems to change how I take photos and made it so fun use on our recent trip to Istanbul

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Taken on a GoPro Hero 6

Our current set up from our most recent upgrade adds quite a lot of size and weight but was something we decided on as we began to take our photography much more serious. We upgraded to the pro level full frame Sony a7ii plus the Sony FE 24mm- 105mm. This offers us incredible image quality and the zoom lens is much more practical for us whilst travelling that the previous set of primes we used before, for us and our needs this is the best camera for travel photography for us. 

Prime lenses are often superior but upgrading the system as a whole meant that a full frame top end Sony zoom lens offers us more than crop frame primes. It is however heavier, larger and of course, we’re much more protective over it! For this level of camera and amount of focal lengths available using this lens it is still a light and portable set up compared with equivalent DSLR’s. 

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Which one of these do you think is the best camera for travel photography?

General Advice for The Best Camera for Travel Photography! 

Our advice would be to really think about what you need overall and what your priority is, pick out the best camera for travel photography for you. Do you need the best of the best quality or is portability more useful, are you a serious photographer or just taking snaps for fun, do you need the best camera for hiking? How much use would you get out of a pro level camera and how comfortable would you feel using it? Or do you find even advanced compacts to be too restrictive? Experiment with different cameras, take them on short trips and see how practical each one is to carry around and to use. We’ve been on the road now for 3 years and gone through many changes searching for the set up that suits us, so it really is something that needs quite a bit of consideration! One thing you need to do is find the best camera for backpacking for you and your needs!

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Which do you think is the best camera for hiking?

How about taking a photography tour to help you use the best camera for travel photography? 

Do you have a particular travel camera set up, what do you think is the best camera for backpacking? What do you use and what is on our wish list?

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23 thoughts on “The Best Camera For Backpacking, Hiking And Travel Photography Guide!

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1 parent" id="comment-3394">

    Great way to compare different sizes, optimal use & shots taken. I’m still a die hard DSLR fan, despite the annoyance of lugging around a large camera and lenses. I’m happy with the mirrorless sony option here, but not sure if there’s much of a size difference.

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor odd alt depth-2" id="comment-3400">

      It’s a really great alternative, we’ve been DLSR hardcore fans before so it’s a good compromise.

    li class="comment even thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-3391">
    Travel with Mei and Kerstin

    We brought along a huge Canon when we traveled around SEAsia, but it was so heavy and we were tired of carrying it around all the time. When we came back, the photos taken with our iPhone 4 and 5 were better (because more spontaneous) than the ones with that big Canon. So since then we always take photos with our iPhones when traveling (now the 7 not the X but the quality is good enough since we never print out our photos anyway). Last year we bought an Olympus TG Tracker action cam for specific uses and it’s quite good too. 🙂

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1 parent" id="comment-3389">
    cynthiagraner

    There are so many different choices in cameras these days, it’s amazing! My personal preference is simply my cell phone, as it’s compact and immediately backups to the cloud. However there are limitations to what it can do (and is a drain on the battery after an entire day of siteseeing, especially when using the map and internet in addition to the camera!) I’ve considered the idea of a GoPro, especially for underwater shots so might expand my camera inventory soon!

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3390">

      Yeah I can totally see why people just use their phones, I mean, the photos are so much better than they would have been on the small film cameras we used to have when we were kids! The Go Pro is a great addition as it is more specific to certain needs, but it is also good for some landscape shots too tbh and it has WIFI so you can send the pics to your phone, its very small too.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1 parent" id="comment-3384">

    This is quite an interesting post here – I love my DSLR but it can be bulky to carry around. The mirrorless cameras have intrigued me for a while and I love how you included examples of pictures taken with the cameras.

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3388">

      Thanks. Yeah they are a great alternative, I don’t think I would go back to a DSLR now tbh, they offer so much more.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1 parent" id="comment-3383">

    Great compilation of cameras in your post. I’m looking to upgrade my phone to one with a better camera, but don’t want an IPhone. What do you think is the next best option?

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3387">

      Thanks! I’m not too sure as we’ve used iphones for a long time. I hear the samsung galaxy phones are good though and the Huawei phones too.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1 parent" id="comment-3382">

    As a new travel blogger, I am looking to replace my big DSLR and replace with a smaller one for convenience. My iPhone only captures so much. So this was interesting to read about the options.

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3386">

      The mirrorless options are a great alternative to a DSLR, comparable quality, if not better as they are newer. Iphone are great though too and really convenient!

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1 parent" id="comment-3381">
    Susanne Jungbluth

    We also use a Sony Kompaktkamers (Alpha 6000) and are very satisfied. Now that we’ve gotten a second battery, the power lasts longer. Before, the electricity was already scarce at noon.

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3385">

      Yeah, the battery is the only thing I could complain about but it’s not too hard to carry two, they are great cameras.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1 parent" id="comment-3374">

    I always take the Panasonic Lumix compact with me when travelling as its great for food photos and in low light, but more often than not I end up using my iPhone! I leave the heavy photo kit for hubby and his DSLR – I can always steal his photos (with permission and full credit of course!). Useful tips re packing and additional accessories – and I think I’m swayed by the idea of a GoPro!

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3376">

      Those Panasonics are great but I get why you use your phone, the other half does and he is more than happy with the results and they are just there to share instantly too. I prefer the bigger cameras as I like messing around too much but each to their own I guess! Yeah the Go Pro is a really great piece of kit. It has wifi too so you can send pics to your phone.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1 parent" id="comment-3372">
    kavitafavelle

    I often have this same conversation. I’ve had an SLR since I was a young teenager (back in the mid 1980s!) so I used to be pretty attached to travelling with one, though it has to be said I don’t backpack. But in later years, problems with shoulders and back encouraged me to move away from a DSLR to a smaller option. For a while I used a high end compact camera, it gave me good quality RAW and JPEG images at a time when many compacts offered only lossy jpegs, and was light and portable. But these days, with phone cameras so much better, I’ve switched to using my Samsung Galaxy for most of my day to day travel photography. I still carry my very small DSLR with just a single small 50mm lens on it, which I love for shallow DOF food photography. And the phone camera for the rest. The exception is safari or other wildlife-oriented trips, when the full arsenal of tripods, multiple DSLR bodies and a whole raft of lenses are taken. They usually weight more than the entirety of the rest of my luggage! ROFL!

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3375">

      It’s a tough choice sometimes but I do think the mirrorless systems are a good compromise, especially the a6500 which is a lot lighter and has smaller lenses than the a7ii which does feel a little bulky after using the a6000. I agree though, phone cameras are great these days and if all you want to do it look at it on the computer or your phone anyway then they do a great job, the hdr is also great on them and they can be edited in one touch!

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1 parent" id="comment-3363">
    nitnatshredder

    I read this with great interest as I have the Sony A 6000 and have been using it for about 3 years. My go to lens is the Sony 18-135 and I also have the Rokinon wide angle lens (manual focus) which I have mixed success with. I also do not use the 55 -210. There is definitely more choice in affordable lenses than there was a few years ago. Still not convinced I get consistently crisp shots with my gear. Do you think the Sigma and Zeiss lenses outperform the Sony ones?

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3364">

      Hey! I do love that camera and as I am just adjusting to the a7ii I do miss the size a little. For me I do think the Sigma primes out perform many of the Sony lenses, but then again, that is what a prime is for and when travelling having a zoom is much more practical, so it’s a trade off either way. That is one reason I got the a7ii as the zoom I got is very good and much more practical for day to day use, though the trade off is the bigger size and weight! Nothing’s perfect!! I did consider getting the Rokinon but the manual focus put me off. I do use manual focus a bit but having auto focus is too important for me day to day.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-even depth-1 parent" id="comment-3361">
    Ray

    I have several working horses – Canon D50 with several lenses and GoPro 6, but looking forward to upgrade. I was looking for Sony too.. But still not sure! Tuff decision to make haha as I prefer heavy and solid gear..

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3366">

      I think it depends which side you are coming from, we used DSLR’s, always Nikon, before backpacking but have gotten used to much more compact and light equipment that the a7ii seems larger and heavier. Though I can see if you’ve come from DSLR down to that it might feel light. It depends on what you need, that’s a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. I think it’s the right balance for us and it still feels very sturdy. We also need to upgrade our Go Pro but with just upgrading our main camera that might have to wait a little while!! Thanks for your comment.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1 parent" id="comment-3359">

    I def go with more compact for convenience Nic but those eye-popping lenses work too.

      li class="comment byuser comment-author-nic-hilditch17hotmail-co-uk bypostauthor even depth-2" id="comment-3368">

      Yeah I get that for sure. We’ll see how we go, it’s always an experiment!

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