Just as a chef has a cutting board to accompany his knife, or a cyclist has her bike rack to carry her bike, a nature photographer should have a quality camera pack to provide the best experience possible when hiking and photographing in the wilderness.
A cutting board isn’t vital to a knife, a cyclist can ride without a bike rack, and a photographer can certainly photograph without a camera pack. But each activity is made better with the addition of these tools that, if used in concert, make everything better.
So, picture yourself a mountain biker for a minute. Even if you aren’t, just humor us.
You love getting out, getting dirty and shredding the gnar as often as possible (gnar…See, we’re still hip!). You went out and purchased the perfect bike, but, you didn’t bother to get a bike rack because you drive an Outback and putting the seats down and sliding the bike in the back after taking off a wheel works ok for you.
There are certainly drawbacks to this method. It’s difficult and awkward to put the bike into the vehicle. The bike then takes up all the space. No room left for say groceries, or, more importantly, friends in the backseat.
We’re hoping you see the analogy we’re attempting here to being a hiking photographer who chooses to not get an appropriate backpack for the job.
Lugging camera bodies, lenses, flashes, tripods and accessories in a bag not designed to do so can lead to struggle in more ways than one. Packs not suited for the job will more than likely create disorganization, damage and poor weight distribution – which leads to poor, painful carries. For hiking and backpacking photographers, a camera pack that distributes the weight across both shoulders and waist is imperative. Non-weatherproof exteriors can expose your expensive gear investments to the elements and possible destruction.
Whether you are in the market for a camera pack because you’ve been perusing Backcountry Journey’s website and are growing overwhelmingly interested in joining us on our Wildlife of Costa Rica Tour or if you’ve just been “making it work” with your regular daypack and are ready for an upgrade, we’d recommend paying close attention to a few details when deciding what is best for you.
First, establish how you’ll be using your pack the most. Some packs are better suited for one activity versus another, so think hard on what you’ll more than likely be doing the most, and buy to accommodate that activity.
Secondly, consider what your equipment carrying needs are. Do you carry multiple camera bodies, a laptop, or a massive telephoto lense? Do you need a sleeve for hydration, or say, a laptop? Or do you need a way to strap on backpacking items such as a tent and sleeping bag? Its important to consider a pack’s Internal Camera Units (ICUs) -or lack thereof- as they are important for organization, storage and balance. Not to mention safekeeping your delicate items.
The following are three camera packs for photography hiking that we feel are wonderful choices, keeping in mind your personal needs. Packs, such as these three, by the way, are gear that we would deem critical to bring with you on a Backcountry Journeys hike-style trip.
The Tanuck 40L Backpack from Mountainsmith features a spacious main compartment that is compatible with their Kit Cube & Tanuck 10L. This would be useful for taking side trips with less gear, and as a storage option. It also features a rear zippered compartment that can accommodate a laptop up to 17″.
The front of the pack unzips on three sides to reveal two zippered, clear-mesh pockets under the lid and a hydration bladder sleeve with exit port. The removable top lid helps keep contents protected and has a hook closure.
Dual side accessory pockets have drawstring closures and may be used for water bottles, similarly-sized items or the base of a tripod. Three removable compression straps may be used for attaching gear to the sides.
This pack offers 40 liters of internal space and nicely padded shoulder harness and waist belt regions, making it ideal for long day hikes in which you’d need a comfortable carry and more items than only your camera gear. A full rain cover is stored inside the zippered base of the pack.
Keep in mind this pack features an open storage area, so you’ll need to have either one of the previously mentioned kits, or your own ICU for divided storage, which we recommend.
Material: 610D Cordura nylon, 630D nylon carbonate, 210D nylon liner, EVA & high-density PE foam, YKK zippers.
Carrying/Transport Options: Padded shoulder straps with connector
Tripod Attachment: Two side panel pockets for water bottles, light stands, tripods, accessories, etc.
Volume: 38.5 L
Extended: 59.5 L
Torso Fit Range: 16-19″
Waist Belt Fit Range: 28-48″
Load Capacity: 50 lb
Dimensions: 23.5 x 15 x 13″
Unpacked weight: 3.5 lb
The word that to us best describes the LowePro Pro Trekker 450aw is “durability” and “comfort.”
I suppose that’s two words, isn’t it?
This pack is strong. And carries a LOT. It also hikes comfortably with a hydration-ready side pocket with a seam-sealed pouch that offers easy access for a 2 liter hydration bladder, if you have one.
Pack the maximum amount of gear and micro-adjust for a snug and secure fit with LowePro’s MaxFit System of padded and adjustable dividers. Attach and access extra gear via the tuck-away tripod holder, tall mesh side pockets and bottom compression straps. If you remove the pack’s lid, it can be utilized as a wearable waistpack for side trips. There is a built-in cover with cinch straps and rain flap to protect the contents of your pack from the elements.
This pack also travels well in the front country, boasting a front pocket sleeve for your laptop, and fits in most overhead aircraft bins.
This bag will fit approximately: 1-2 Pro DSLRs, 4-6 extra lenses, 2 flashes, tripod or monopod, up to a 15″ laptop, accessories and personal gear.
Internal Dimensions: 11” x 7.5” x 17”
External Dimensions: 19.5” x 14” x 22.5”
Weight: 9 lbs
Mindshift Backlight 36
We like the BackLight 36L Photo Daypack by Mindshift because we enjoy being able to access our gear, and this pack is a lot about rapid access to gear. It’s also a comfortable carry, but that should be a baseline requirement, right?
The back panel opening allows access to all of your gear and the zippered rear opening helps with the stresses of environmental concerns, Did we mention the pack cover takes into account the tripod? Because it does.
The BackLight 36L additionally has 11 liters capacity for non-camera related items, providing plenty of space for personal gear, including separate dedicated compartments for a 10” tablet and 15” laptop.
Exterior Dimensions: 13.8” W x 22.4” H x 10.2” D
Interior Dimensions: 12.6” W x 21” H x 7.1” D
Laptop: 11.2” W x 16.1” H x 1” D
Tablet: 10.6” W x 10.2” H x 0.6” D
Weight: 4.9 lbs
Volume: 36 Liters
We hope that you all had meaningful, and safe, holiday celebrations and have settled on a few solid resolutions for the year to come. We’d say one of those resolutions should be to get out and do more photography, and we’d certainly love it if you were to do so with us!
If you are unfamiliar with Backcountry Journeys, by all means check out some of our past blog posts so as to familiarize yourself with things like our Bald Eagles of Alaska tour, or find out how our last trip to Glacier National Park went!
Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.