If you’re on the hunt for the best travel camera, whether you’re looking for a mirrorless camera for travel or you’re thinking about just using a GoPro, there are a few important features you’ll want to consider when it comes to making the right choice.
Action cameras have their place if you’re going to be participating in any outdoor adventures or spending a lot of time in places where the elements are less than satisfactory but if you’re just going to be walking around and exploring a new city then it’s ultimately up to you decide whether or not the GoPro makes for a suitable travel camera.
In this post I’m going to go over the benefits and drawbacks of just using your GoPro when you’re traveling and I’ll also cover some practical combinations and alternatives for you to consider as well.
Using a GoPro as a Travel Camera
Why You Should Bring It Along
Small and Portable
One of the main features that makes the GoPro such a practical choice for traveling with is that it’s very small and portable.
If you’re wearing jeans or cargo shorts and even if you’re traveling with a jacket or sweater on it’s possible that you can just tuck the GoPro into your pocket and always be able to quickly access it whenever you want to take a picture.
It also doesn’t take up too much space in a daypack or camera bag so it allows you to travel lighter and you can spend more time focusing on the experience rather than fiddling with a more intense camera.
Easy to Use
Much unlike a point and shoot or DSLR camera the GoPro is straightforward to use and there aren’t as many settings that you have to worry about when you’re looking to capture photos or video.
Basically, all you need to do is turn it on and right away you can start capturing video or you just press one button and then you can start taking photos.
It’s also very easy to setup to use for time lapses or long exposure shots and depending on the model you have there isn’t even a viewfinder or display screen so again you’re able to spend more time looking at what’s in front of you and enjoying the experience rather than staring at the scene through a lens.
With so few settings and controls you’re able to quickly choose a specific shooting mode or style and you’re pretty much good to go right away without having to worry about lenses and the variety of other things that require your attention when you’re using a more serious camera.
Waterproof and Weatherproof
One of the biggest benefits of traveling with the GoPro is that the camera is waterproof and weatherproof if you have it in the waterproof housing.
It comes with this waterproof housing so you don’t have to go out and buy one on your own and this means that you can use it in inclement weather, underwater and you can use it for a wide range of outdoor action based activities.
Apart from being waterproof (as long as you’re using the right housing) the GoPro is very durable and hard to damage or break during regular use.
If you’re just walking around on foot and exploring a new city it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever break or damage your Go Pro and even if you’re doing something like skiing or downhill biking it’s also very unlikely that anything will ever happen to it.
I’ve had mine fly off the car at 80 km/h and smash into the concrete divider at the side of the highway only to go look for it and find that apart from some superficial damage to the case that the camera inside was totally fine.
There’s a reason that they attach GoPro cameras to balloons to then send up into space and there are plenty of other scenarios that people use them in the roughest environments.
If you’re looking for a way to damage or break it I’m sure you’ll be able to find one, and keep in mind that it’s very vulnerable when it’s not inside its standard housing.
Otherwise the GoPro is an extremely durable camera and if you’re looking to use it regularly for the long term it’s actually what I would recommend considering as a backup or even as a main travel camera depending on the shots you’re looking to get.
Lots of Accessories Available
There are a surprising amount of accessories for the GoPro available that allow you to attach it to nearly anything and use it in a variety of situations safely.
Whether you’re looking to attach it to the roof of your car, to your bike handles, to your surfboard, you want to wear it around on your chest while you’re walking around, you want to mount it on your head and basically anywhere else you would want to attach the camera to you’re bound to be able to find related accessories or even make your own without too much trouble.
When it comes to traveling I see a lot of people using it as a selfie camera and there are even countless GoPro selfie sticks available for you to use to get a more unique perspective and interesting photo than you would with just your typical point and shoot, mirrorless or DSLR.
The Drawbacks of Using a GoPro for Travel
Even with all of the benefits but there are also some drawbacks to consider and a few reasons why you wouldn’t want to use a GoPro as a dedicated travel camera.
One of the biggest drawbacks to using it regularly is the fact that the GoPro doesn’t take nearly as good images as a point and shoot, mirrorless or DSLR.
Although you can change some of the settings there are a lot of times where the GoPro is it really going to cut it like in low-light situations and anytime that you happen to be facing the sun directly.
If you’re someone who likes to edit their photos after you take them then the image quality might not be such a big deal because you can change the exposure, color and other settings and post butt if you just want to upload them directly to Facebook or Instagram without any editing then you might not be happy with the overall image quality.
Another thing you’ll have to focus on is making sure that you have a steady hand.
The GoPro doesn’t come with any built-in stabilization so if you’re capturing video or photos and your hand isn’t steady then your footage is going to be quite shaky and your photos might come out a little blurry so you’ll want to consider using a travel tripod.
It also is lacking when it comes to capturing photos up close or doing any zoom cropping so if you’re only trying to capture landscapes or wider areas then you should be okay but if you want to capture some details or take some close-ups/zoom shots than the GoPro likely isn’t going to be a suitable choice for you
I recently covered this in a post about how to extend the battery life of your GoPro but overall these little cameras don’t have the best battery life and you’ll definitely run into some problems if you’re not traveling with spare batteries.
I know with my Canon G7X and Canon S120 that I can basically get a full day of shooting video or capturing photos without having to change the battery and although I still travel with a single spare the battery life of those cameras has never been a problem.
DSLR’s last even longer before you have to worry about changing the battery so if this is what you’re traveling with you might be in for a surprise if you start using a GoPro regularly.
if you’re going to be out all day taking photos and creating videos then you’ll have to carry around at least two or three additional spare batteries with your GoPro and for many people it’s not really worth the hassle to have to manage and charge this amount of batteries every night when it’s easier to just focus on one or two.
Should You Bring the GoPro With You Traveling?
Overall, I think that the GoPro makes a decent travel camera and despite its drawbacks I believe that it’s good enough for the majority of travelers looking to take some photos or videos that will act as memories for the future.
If you want to travel light and you’re not really that interested in general photography then I would recommend traveling with the GoPro along with a more recent model smartphone.
Both of these are quite light, portable and whatever you don’t want to capture with the GoPro you can use your smartphone for.
If you’re a more serious photographer or it’s your passion to take photos or create videos then I would recommend traveling with the GoPro along with whatever other camera you prefer to use.
Again, it’s very small and it’s easy to just toss into a camera bag so that you always have it if the need ever arises where you want to take advantage of the cameras wide-angle lens or use it to get some pretty nifty time-lapses as well.
Personally, I’ll always travel with a GoPro camera (or a similar alternative).
I love using it to create videos and especially useful when I want to take time-lapses and not have to leave my more serious camera and recording or capturing photos for an extended period of time.
I also wouldn’t feel too comfortable mounting a $900 camera to the outside of a hotel window or leaving it precariously perched on a bridge so having the GoPro and all of its related accessories make this a lot easier and less stressful for me.
Another thing I like using the GoPro for is to take epic selfies and the wide-angle lens makes this really easy.
Thanks to its small size and portability I’m also able to carry it with me almost anywhere I’ll be traveling and even in cases where a more standard camera doesn’t cut it the GoPro is always a practical secondary choice.
Some Tips for Traveling with a GoPro
Use a Carrying Case
It’s a good idea to travel with a GoPro carrying case so that you’re able to keep everything organized and to keep all of your accessories safe from any damage while you’re in transit.
There are a wide variety of cases available and if you’re interested in picking one up I recommend checking out my post on the best GoPro carrying case to get some ideas and to see my recommendations.
I use one and it’s able to hold all of my batteries, the charger, the charging cord that can also be used for a time-lapse, two cameras with their standard housing, my memory cards and a few other small screws as well.
Learn How to Use it Beforehand
It’s a good idea to learn how your GoPro works before you head out onto your trip.
Don’t just grab it the day before you go and a few weeks before you leave I recommend playing around with it and figuring out how to change the settings, how to take time-lapses, how to record videos, how to take photos and just getting a better idea of what you’re able to do with the camera.
You should also look into how you want to edit the photos and videos you take.
I wrote a post on GoPro editing software so I recommend taking a look at that to see what I recommend and there are plenty of resources online when it comes to editing photos that you can look for as well.