Updated on August 7th, 2017
I don’t care what anyone says: I really do need my DSLR camera when hiking through the backcountry. That’s right, NEED it.
If I’m not carrying that thing with me on a backpacking trek, I’ll be fretting over all the killer shots I’ve missed. My tool of choice used to be a relatively Old School Olympus E-410 four-thirds camera, which in 2010 was the smallest, most light-weight DSLR around.
But recently (February, 2016), I decided to upgrade my camera gear. And I was blown away by all the all options out there for trek-worthy photography equipment.
So I recruited the advice of a photojournalist I used to work with back in my newspaper days to build this list of the best cameras for backpacking.
What camera did I finally settle on? I'll get to that shortly. But first...
If you’re in the market for a new light-weight, tough-as-hell digital camera, check these out.
Best Point & Shoot Cameras for Backpacking & Hiking
Maybe you’re not into tweaking f-stops and bouncing the flash to get just the right exposure. Maybe you just want to take a bloody picture to stick on Instagram or something — without having to worry about your precious equipment breaking all the time. Fair enough. Here are three compact, point-and-shoot style cameras that are waterproof, shockproof and even crushproof to a point.
Point & Shoot
Best Mirrorless Cameras for Backpacking & Hiking
It's all about balance. This category of cameras is for folks who want to get crisp, eye-popping shots but aren't keen on lugging around a big-ass SLR camera with a half-foot zoom lens.
Mirrorless cameras are great for hiking and backpacking because of their smaller size and lower weight. But the reduced girth won't bring you any price cuts -- expect to pay as much for a mirrorless camera as you would for a DSLR.
All three of these cameras are super-small but ultra-powerful.
1 inch (13.2mm x 8.8mm)
35mm (35.9mm x 24.0mm)
APS-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm)
Four Thirds (17.3 x 13mm)
Best DSLR Cameras for Backpacking & Hiking
OK, now we're getting into the big guns.
More trekkers seem to be shying away from using DSLRs because of the extra weight and bulk. And I get that. But I still believe that the added performance you get from these cameras is worth it.
Also, some DSLRs are far better suited to hiking and backpacking than others. I wouldn't recommend getting any DSLR for trekking unless:
- It's weather-sealed
- It's compact
- It's (relatively) lightweight
And that's on top of delivering stellar image quality and responsiveness. Here are my top picks:
APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
APS-C (22.4 x 15mm)
APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)
Water & Dust Resist
Looking for a tough bag to haul your camera in?
Check out this review of the best camera backpacks for hiking.
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