When you’re deep in the backcountry, hiking through a beautiful landscape, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether or not your camera is going to work.
That’s why I’m always on the lookout for the best hiking camera that I can recommend to my friends, family, and readers that they can take with them to avoid any possible mishaps.
When the perfect shot opens up in front of you it’s important that your camera, whether you’re using something small and portable like a mirrorless or smartphone, or something heavy duty like a DSLR, is ready to go when you are.
These days, there are quite a lot of options when it comes to choosing the best camera for backpacking, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for something lightweight, durable, and that’s able to capture stunning images.
It ultimately depends on your budget and personal preferences that decide which camera you should go with.
For something super lightweight, there are some great point-and-shoots that come in at around 0.5 lbs or less.
A little bit heavier, but still lightweight and portable, you can start to find some suitable mirrorless cameras.
At the heaviest you’ve got access to a wide range of DSLRs with lenses, but this is the least lightweight choice.
Keeping your camera, lenses, and gear protected from the outdoor elements is actually pretty easy these days as long as you’re using a dry-bag.
Alternatively, there are some weather-sealed and waterproof cameras that you could go with, but for many people this is overkill and just taking some precautions with packing and storing your gear should be more than good enough.
In this post I want to share with you my top recommendations on the best hiking cameras.
After my recommendations you can check out a more in-depth buyers guide as well, if you’re looking for more information on making the right choice.
The Best Camera for Hiking
Rugged Hiking Cameras
For those of you hiking in extreme conditions or spending extended periods of time out in the backcountry, it might be worth considering one of the rugged hiking cameras designed for outdoor use.
Many of these are made to be waterproof and dustproof, so you don’t have to worry about the weather elements, and also they’re usually crushproof and freezeproof for even more protection.
These features really help to offer a lot of peace of mind, because you won’t be worrying about whether or not your camera is going to keep working, but there is a drawback to using them.
The problem with going for a specifically designed rugged camera for hiking is that they tend to be more expensive compared to devices with similar features, and they’re not as well-equipped for photography lovers.
The image sensor isn’t that great, and there aren’t as many special features that ultimately make it worth it unless you’re looking to use it for a few specific purposes.
For it to be worth it, you’ll want to be participating in some extreme outdoor activities, like skiing, rafting, and rock climbing.
If you’re just going to be hiking it’s better off to go with a higher-quality, less expensive camera and just protect it with a dry-stack or waterproof camera bag/backpack.
However, here are my rugged camera recommendations:
Fujifilm FinePix XP80
The Fujifilm FinePix XP80 is a rugged and waterproof digital camera that’s well-suited for outdoor adventure use.
This bad boy is waterproof up to 15-meters, shockproof from drops up to 1.75-meters, freezeproof in temperatures up to 14-degrees F, and it’s also dustproof and sandproof.
This really makes it a good choice whether you’re going to be rafting, climbing, or just hiking in cold and windy outdoor conditions.
As for the photography aspect, the Fujifilm FinePix XP80 comes with a 16-megapixel sensor, optical image stabilization for a steadier shot, and 1080p filming capability.
All of this in a small, portable size of just 0.39-lbs, making it easy to toss into your daypack or drybag without sacrificing too much weight.
On the back is a crisp, bright LCD screen that you can use for framing photos, quickly changing settings, or looking back through the photos you’ve already taken.
If you’re looking for something rugged, waterproof, and that’s capable of taking decent photos and video then I’d recommend taking a look at the Fujifilm FinePix XP80.
GoPro Hero 5 Black
The GoPro Hero 5 Black is one of my favorite cameras ever, and it’s a practical choice for a wide range of activities.
It’s great for hiking, because it’s really small, portable, lightweight, and the battery lasts quite a while.
It’s also really easy to pick up extra batteries, I carry 4 additional ones myself, and this is at least a few days of regular photos/filming depending on what you’re doing.
Now, the GoPro Hero 5 Black isn’t a traditional style of camera, it’s an action camera, but it captures some really good quality images and amazing 4K video footage.
This model comes with image stabilization, so when you’re record video it comes out rather stable compared to the previous models where it would be jittery.
Another interesting feature is that it has voice control, so you just need to go “GoPro, take a photo” and it will take a photo without you having to push any of the buttons.
On the back is a touch-screen that you can use for quickly changing settings or browsing through the pictures you’ve already captured.
The biggest benefit of hiking with a GoPro is its small size – it can fit in your pocket and it’s definitely one of the smallest, yet still high quality cameras you could hike or go backpacking with.
As for the photo quality, it does struggle a bit in low light unless you’re using the night mode, but otherwise the photos come out really great even though it has just a 12-megapixel sensor.
The different modes really add another level of versatility, and right out of the box it’s completely waterproof and ready to be used in a wide range of outdoor weather conditions.
I would definitely recommend checking out the GoPro Hero 5 Black if you’re looking for something that isn’t finicky, that’s super portable, and practical to use when you’re spending time outdoors.
Point and Shoot Cameras for Hiking
The point and shoot market these days is amazing and there are a lot of choices if you’re looking for something lightweight and easy to use to bring with you hiking.
These are a good choice if you want to grab some quick shots, maybe capture some high quality video, and not have to worry about lenses or battery life as much.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the mirrorless options, but I think that the next best thing is a nifty and portable little point and shoot.
The quality is really good on the more modern options, the batteries tend to last quite a while, and some of the higher end choices have the same capabilities as a mid-range DSLR.
Some of the best point and shoot cameras come with large image sensors, upwards of 20 or more megapixels, and plenty of other features like touch screens and 4K video capability.
For the price point, it’s also hard to go wrong with a point and shoot for hiking and they’re what I would recommend for anybody that wants to get some great shots on their trip without having to spend an arm and a leg on professional level gear.
Here are the different options that I recommend:
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II is arguably one of the best Canon point and shoot cameras that you can get today and it’s a very well-suited choice for hiking and backpacking with.
This is the device that I’m using on a regular basis and I’m a huge fan of it because the picture quality is amazing, thanks to the 20.1-inch megapixel sensor, the battery seems to last quite a while as well.
It’s able to capture video at 1080p resolution, which is awesome if you want to make some videos of your hiking trip, and on the back is 3-inch touch screen LCD display where you can quickly change settings or browse through photos.
The screen on the back can also be tilted 180° so that you can use it to get some selfies without having to rely on a tripod or selfie-stick or use it for vlogging.
The lens does come equipped with image stabilization and this is a great device if you want to take some low light or night photography shots.
As for using it outdoors, it’s fairly weather resistant so you should be able to snap some quick shots without having to worry about whether or not you damaged the camera, although you definitely don’t want to use it if it’s pouring rain out.
This point and shoot offers near DLSR levels of photography style settings and if you’re a hobbyist or you really want to get some high quality shots, then it’s the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II that I would recommend picking up to use for hiking.
Sony RX100 V
The Sony RX100 V is another great point and shoot for hiking, and arguably one of the best all around point-and-shoot cameras available so far (early 2017).
It features a large,20.1 megapixel sensor, and it’s capable of capturing some pretty amazing photos even in its automatic setting.
It weighs a little bit more than half a pound, so it’s a very lightweight device, and you can just toss it into a small case and wear it on your belt or clip it onto your backpack for quick accessibility and portability.
It features a high quality Carl Zeiss zoom lens and you can choose to capture photos in either JPEG or RAW format depending on your preferences and editing style.
For video, you can capture video quality at up to 4K resolution, making the Sony RX100 V a suitable choice for videographers or anybody looking to make some cool hiking movies.
In my opinion, it is pretty pricey and it’s comparable in price to some of the decent quality mirrorless devices, so if you’re looking for something a little bit more budget-friendly I recommend checking out one of the previous Sony RX100 models.
Canon PowerShot SX720
The Canon PowerShot SX720 offers a great little package if you’re looking for something that can capture high quality images while being a little bit more reasonably priced.
It comes with a 20.3 megapixel sensor and it’s really cool because it has a 40x optical zoom, so you can capture some shots of wildlife off in the distance or some faraway mountain peaks and still get a good photo out of it.
To help make it even easier to grab some good zoom shots, there is a built-in intelligent image stabilization that helps to stabilize the images and prevent blur/motion.
For making videos, the Canon PowerShot SX720 can capture video footage at up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second, resulting in a smooth and standard quality video end result.
This device comes in at just 0.5 pounds, so it’s a decent weight for backpacking with, and you can just toss it into a case to protect it from bumps and debris while also making it more portable and easier to manage.
I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Canon PowerShot SX720 if you’re looking for something that’s lightweight, entry level, easy to use, and still suitable choice to use for hiking or backpacking adventures for capturing great shots.
Mirrorless Cameras for Hiking
Mirrorless cameras offer the best of both worlds when it comes to find something lightweight and portable that’s still capable of taking DSLR-quality images and video.
Actually, depending on the model, there are quite a few mirrorless devices out there that are a lot better compared to DSLRs of similar price.
The different mirrorless cameras available these days are usually bigger than a point and shoot, but a lot smaller than a DSLR/lens combo.
This means that you can really get some professional quality photographs and video without having to add too much additional weight to your backpack or daypack.
When it comes to different photography styles, like landscape photographers and anybody hoping to capture some wildlife, there are a lot of people that have started to use a mirrorless because they’re more portable, easier to travel with, and offer just as much capability as a DSLR without all the fuss.
However, just like with the DSLR market, there are a wide range of price points to choose from when you’re looking for a mirrorless.
On one hand, there are some entry level and more reasonably priced options but depending on what your preferences are, you might end up spending quite a bit to get something you want.
Sony Alpha a6000
The Sony Alpha a6000 has risen to the top as a very well-suited choice for hikers and backpacking photography professional looking to capture some high quality images out in the backcountry.
The a6000 comes equipped with a 24 megapixel sensor and it can be used with the wide range of different Sony lenses depending on what you’re hoping to capture.
The photos that it takes look quite, especially considering the entry level pricing of the a6000.
It’s capable of capturing HD video at 1080p, so you can use it for videography as well.
What makes it even more of a suitable hiking camera is the hybrid autofocus that comes equipped with 179 focal plane phase detection points along with 25 auto focus points, and this allows you to get a super quick focus whenever you’re trying to capture a photo of something.
Some other notable features include the 11FPS continuous shooting mode, the 3-inch LCD screen that makes it really easy to change settings or browse through photos, and it also has great low light capability.
As for its weight, it comes in at just under a pound (0.76 lbs to be exact), and even if you use a bigger lens it’s still quite a manageable weight and not that bulky either.
Finally, the average battery life is about 420 photos or so and this should be enough for a full day of hiking, with the option to pick up some additional batteries if you need more shooting time or if you’re going to be capturing a lot of video.
Sony Alpha a6300
The Sony Alpha a6300 is the upgrade to the entry level a6000, and it’s what I would recommend if you’re looking for something a little better equipped.
The a6300 also comes with a weather sealed body, and this can be really helpful if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors in a variety of different weather conditions and environments.
This device comes equipped with a 24.2 megapixel APS-C image sensor, giving it a lot better performance even compared to some of the top level point shoots, while still offering a lightweight package making it more portable than a DSLR.
The basic model comes with a stock 16-50mm kit lens, and you might not find this suitable if you’re doing a lot of landscape or wildlife photography, so you might want to consider upgrading to something better depending on what your photographic preferences are.
What I really love about the a6300 is that it’s able to capture video in 4K, which is awesome for anybody helping to make hiking or backpacking videos on their trip, and it’s also weather sealed like I mentioned above.
It is a little bit heavier than the a6000, but it’s equally as easy to use and the small difference in weight is negligible considering the improvement of quality and photo capability.
Sony a7R II
The Sony a7R II, in my opinion, is a top contender for the best mirrorless camera for hiking, but given the price point it’s likely out of reach for many hikers and backpackers.
This is one of the latest releases from Sony in the mirrorless market, and it’s the upgrade over the original a7R, which was very well received by photographers and photo enthusiasts.
What makes it so great is that it combines all of the features from the previous model and simply improves on them to provide a powerhouse of a camera.
The Sony a7R II comes equipped with a 42.4 megapixel image sensor that even has back-illumination, which just further improves the quality of the image that you’re able to capture.
Not only can you use this device to capture some great shots out in the backcountry, but it’s also very portable, lightweight, and offers awesome performance in low light conditions,
As for video, it’s capable of capturing video footage up to 4K in quality, and it even has built in image stabilization that helps to result in a steady shot and also prevents motion blur from happening.
The lens mount has been reinforced, so the Sony a7R II can handle bigger lenses depending on what you’re trying to capture, and you can even use it with an adapter if you have some Canon or Nikon lenses that you want to use.
One more great feature about the Sony a7R II is that the body has been weather sealed so you don’t have to worry as much about any debris or dust getting inside the body when you’re out in the woods taking photos.
From my point of view, this device is rather pricey compared to some of the alternatives, but if you’re looking for something compact and portable that offers high level DSLR quality, then it’s the Sony a7R II that I would have to recommend checking out.
The Sony a7 is an alternative to the higher priced Sony a7R II, and although it’s definitely not as high quality of camera, it’s still a top level mirrorless and the full frame still continues to allow you to capture some stunning images out in the backcountry.
This device comes with a full frame 24.3 megapixel sensor with an ISO range of 100 to 25600.
This makes a good choice if you’re hoping to capture some low light shots or you plan on getting some photographs done in high contrast conditions.
The average battery life will get you around 340 photos, and this should be suitable enough for a full day of hiking, though you might want to consider picking up a spare battery if you’re going to be spending more than one day away from home.
It’s still quite lightweight, coming in at around 1.04 lbs, and although there are lighter cameras, the image quality coming from the Sony a7 could definitely be worth the little bit of extra weight.
As for video, it’s able to capture up to 1080p resolution, making it a suitable choice for videographers.
One great thing about hiking with a Sony mirrorless is that you have full access to the many different Sony mirrorless lenses and you can pick and choose which ones you want to use depending on your preferences,
I would definitely recommend Sony a7 if you’re looking for a lightweight hiking camera that’s still able to capture stunning imagery and offers a little bit better quality compared to a point and shoot or mid-range DSLR.
DSLRs for Hiking
A lot of beginner photographers, or anyone looking to get into photography when they’re going backpacking, assume that you just need to go out and pick up the best DSLR for hiking and you’ll be all set.
In my opinion, unless you’re already a dedicated photographer and you’re looking to push the limits of your gear, then you really don’t need a DSLR in most cases.
With the mirrorless and point-and-shoot devices being so good, and considering the quality coming out of smartphones these days, DSLRs are overkill.
Given their size, weight, and fragile-design compared to some of the alternatives, I would only recommend bringing along a DSLR if you’re positive that you need one and after you’ve tried out something more portable and lightweight.
On the plus side, using a digital SLR for hiking is going to open up a wide selection of different lenses, making them pretty versatile for a wide range of outdoor shooting conditions, and the full-size bodies also offer incredible quality when it comes to photos and video.
For day hikes or short backpacking trips the added weight and bulk of a DSLR might not be too bad, but if you’re planning on spending a lot more time out in the backcountry then you might want to consider something lighter.
Otherwise, let’s take a look at some of my recommendations!
Canon EOS Rebel T6
The Canon EOS Rebel T6 is a suitable choice if you’re looking for an entry-level DSLR for hiking and backpacking.
It comes equipped with an 18 megapixel sensor, the kit lens is an 18-55mm, and it can capture video at up to 1080p resolution.
You can shoot in either RAW or JPEG, depending on your preference, and the built-in image stabilization helps to keep both your photos and video steady when you’re trying to capture something.
The 18-55mm lens is quite common when it comes to kit lenses, and while it’s capable of getting some decent images you might want to consider upgrading in the future if you’re looking for something a little more versatile.
As for low light or high contrast conditions, the T6 comes with an ISO range of 100-6400, expandable up to 12800, so you can capture some great night shots or in some bright conditions without any issues.
It’s possible to choose between either automatic mode, with auto settings, or manual mode where you have access to the entire range of shooting options that the T6 is capable of.
The 9 autofocus points allow you to quickly focus on the subject of your shot, and pair it with a dedicated hiking tripod and you’ve got yourself a great, reasonably priced set up here.
At 3.2 lbs or so, that’s the biggest drawback of this device, so you’ll want to consider using a camera bag or daypack for carrying it around with you.
The Nikon D3400 is another reasonably priced entry-level DSLR for hiking that you should consider checking out.
It comes with 24.2-megapixel sensor along with an 18-55mm stock kit lens right out of the box.
The native ISO features a range of 100 at the low end up to 25,600 at the high end, so you can use it in both low-light and high contrast outdoor conditions and still capture a great shot.
For video, it’s possible to capture footage at up 1080p resolution and if you want to grab some continuous shooting shots you’re able to use a steady 5 FPS with full autofocus capability so you don’t miss what’s going on in front of you.
Depending on your skill level, you can shoot in either manual or automatic, and the included battery can easily get you a full day of photos if you don’t go overboard.
What I really love about the Nikon D3400 is the weight, with the body and lens coming in at just under 1 lb, so if you’re looking for a lightweight and portable DSLR for backpacking then you’ll definitely want to check this one out.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is one of the best full-frame cameras you could pick up at the moment, and it’s what I’d recommend for professional photographers looking for incredible image quality.
Keep in mind that a device like this, especially when paired with a few extra lenses, is going to add some additional weight to your pack, but it’s totally worth it for getting the best possible shot out in the backcountry.
The Canon 5D Mark IV comes with an impressive 30.4 megapixel full-frame sensor that really helps to capture jaw-dropping levels of depth and quality for images.
For videographers, it’s hard to go wrong with this device as it’s able to record video at 4K resolution and can even grab 8.8 megapixel still images from the footage.
As for the weight, at just 1.76 lbs the Canon 5D Mark IV body is one of the lighter full-frame DSLRs available to choose from, and even adding a zoom lens simply puts it into the 2-3 lb range, making it still very manageable.
Once you get into carrying different lenses and batteries you’ll need to use a dedicated camera bag or a hiking day pack, but otherwise it’s still a reasonable weight for hiking with, especially for a full-frame DSLR.
Hiking Camera Buying Guide
Do You Really Need Weather Sealing?
One important feature that you need to consider when you’re in the marketing for a new camera for backpacking and hiking is whether or not it’s weather sealed.
Weather sealing is designed to reduce the exposure of the internal components of your camera from dust, moisture, and debris.
The way it works is that there is typically a rubber seal along the buttons, joints, and body of the camera so that nothing can get inside.
This doesn’t mean that the device is totally water and weatherproof, but it does help protect it during the rain, windy conditions, dusty conditions, and other outdoor weather elements that you might be exposed to on a hike or backpacking trip.
For those of you that are spending 99% of your time shooting outdoors in a wide range of different conditions, then weather sealing is something you should consider.
Otherwise, it can be overkill and a feature you don’t really need if you’re only going hiking and getting stuck in poor weather a few times during the year.
With point-and-shoots and most mirrorless devices there isn’t really any options for weather sealing.
Sure, you can go with one of the waterproof, rugged style cameras designed for outdoor adventure use in mind, but for skilled photographers these devices simply aren’t the ideal choice.
You start to get a few options if you’re looking for a weather-sealed DSLR, and many of my recommendations in this post do in-fact offer that feature.
However, I’m not sure that it’s the most important thing you should be keeping an eye out for, and if you don’t plan on spending a significant amount of time hiking in poor conditions then I actually wouldn’t personally recommend it as necessary.
Once you decide that you want to bring a better camera along with you for hiking rather than just relying on your smartphone, you’re going to be immediately adding a little bit of extra weight to your backpack.
Many of the different devices range from being super lightweight, at under 0.5 lbs, all the way up to rather bulky and heavy, coming in at more than 3 to 4 lbs.
It’s ultimately up to you to decide how much extra weight you’re comfortable with carrying and in this post I have covered a range of different devices whether you’re looking for something lightweight or you don’t mind carrying something a little bit heavier.
The lightest of the bunch is of course going to be a point and shoot, or something like the GoPro.
Once you include everything, like the battery and the memory card, these still end up being the most lightweight choice, although they also aren’t the best choice if you’re looking for professional level image quality.
The problem with using a point and shoot is that the sensors tend to be quite small, you can’t change out the lens, and they’re not as well designed for things like landscape or wildlife photography.
Mirrorless cameras are also pretty lightweight and allow you to change the lens around depending on your preferences, which really helps to increase your versatility when it comes to what you’re able to capture.
At the heavy end of the spectrum are the DSLR cameras and once you start to hike with an additional lens or two, you can easily add upwards of 5 to 10 additional pounds of gear to your pack just for photography.
Anybody interested in ultralight hiking is going to want to go with a point-and-shoot, or a smaller mirrorless, just to keep weight down while still being able to capture some decent images.
Dedicated photographers are going to want to consider carrying a full frame mirrorless or even a full-size DSLR, but keep in mind that this is going to add a considerable amount of additional weight to your gear.
Like I said at the beginning, it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth it to carry something lightweight or a lot heavier, so trying to think about what you want to do beforehand rather than with getting stuck with something heavy or not having the right gear with you.
Choosing the Right Lens
Skilled photographers are going to have a lot to say when it comes to choosing the right lens to use when you’re out hiking.
If you’re look a point and shoots, then obviously the lens doesn’t have as much as an impact on picking the right device, although you should still consider the zoom range before settling on a specific option.
At the wide end, the majority of point and shoots are going to come in at the 24mm range, or narrower, apart from a few select cameras.
Many people likely prefer a bigger sensor, especially for things like capturing landscapes and low-light shots, but the trade off with a point and shoot is the portability and ease of use.
As for DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, there are also a few things to keep in mind.
It’s a good idea to keep your eye out for the 35mm equivalent lens, because this offers the most versatility when you’re out in the field, depending on what you’re trying to capture.
For example, the APS-C sensor that comes on many of the DSLR and mirrorless devices, is usually found with 18-55mm kit lenses.
For Nikon and Canon cameras, the equivalent you want to look for are 27-82.5mm and 29-88mm respectively.
For getting the best range of shots, carrying the kit lens should be enough, but for the most versatility you can also consider adding a dedicated wide-angle lens as well.
You’re going to have to buy the wide-angle, if you don’t already have one, and it’s definitely going to add some weight to your camera bag or hiking backpack.
However, the additional lens will allow you to capture the widest range of different styles of shots when you’re out in the backcountry and definitely helps to open up your field of view while leaving you with better image quality overall.
Focal Length Considerations
Unless you’re just hiking with a point and shoot, both the lens as well as the body of your camera will play an important role when it comes to determining the quality, style, and composition of your photos.
Think of it like this – if you’re hoping to capture some stunning landscape shots, you’re going to need more than just the 18-55mm kit lens if you’re using a mirrorless or DSLR.
You can obviously get some incredible photos with the kit lens, but you’ll need to consider tossing a wide-angle lens into the mix.
If a wide angle isn’t something you’re interested in, then you can also pick up a dedicated zoom lens that offers good performance at the wide end of the range.
This is great for both landscape and wildlife photography, upping your overall versatility out in the field and leaving you with a lot more options than having to rely strictly on the kit gear.
For the majority of landscape shots, anything with a focal length range between 16mm and 24mm is going to result in some decent quality shots.
You don’t want to go too wide or too narrow, outside of the range I just stated, or else you’ll run into some trouble finding that sweet spot of landscape photography.
For photographing the people you’re hiking with, or wildlife that you chance upon, you should be good enough with the kit lens or something with a zoom depending on your preferences.
Otherwise, for landscape and scenery shots, I’d recommend going with something in the 16mm to 24mm range for the most versatility.
Hopefully I’ve provided you with some helpful information when it comes to choosing the best camera for hiking, backpacking, or any of your other outdoor adventures.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to go out and drop a few thousand dollars to get the best gear possible just to get some good shots.
If all you have is a smartphone or point and shoot, that’s more than suitable enough to get started with and the quality in these lower-end devices is amazing these days so you’re not missing out as much as you might think.
With a DSLR or mirrorless, you’re going to have to consider all of the additional weight in your gear, especially if you’re adding lenses and tripods to the mix.
This is all going to take you time to set everything up, fiddle around with the settings, and you might end up taking less photos overall.
For professionals and serious hobbyists, this isn’t likely going to be an issue, but for someone just looking to have fun and get some decent photos on their next hike, you’ll likely be better off with a point-and-shoot.