You’ve gone and done it. Bought your flights, obsessed over countless travel articles, started your own blog, paid for the domain, you even splurged on a sexy website template. You opened your Instagram account aaaand now It's dawned on you having a tip-top camera might go a long way. I mean a once in a lifetime trip needs a once in a lifetime camera. Or if you’re going digital nomad then a lifelong trip needs a lifelong camera. If you are new to photography, then a few technical articles down the road, there is a good chance you are going to get overwhelmed pretty quickly. Hmm now then, which are the best cameras for backpacking? Don’t panic I’ve got you covered! (Answers below.)
**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
Photography can get as technical as you want, but these days you don’t have to get very technical to achieve quality results.
Learn some basics in this article, and then we have chosen 7 products for you to choose from which is a much more manageable decision than the 100’s of thousands of choices at your fingertips online.
If you want to take the next step up from your iPhone, smartphone, or from your simple point and snap camera, then any of the 7 cameras reviewed below will make an excellent choice. They are not pro-level camera’s but they aren’t going to require a bag of their own and tons of extra equipment.
Let’s be honest, when you are backpacking you have quite enough to carry, without another whole bag for your camera equipment.
Once you’ve chosen the best camera for you then you should do some preparation before you leave on your trip.
Make sure to charge up your batteries and try the camera out.
Spend some time practicing at home so you can familiarize yourself with all the settings. Trust me, sometimes the perfect shot doesn’t wait. The sun sinks behind the horizon while you’re fiddling around with the aperture. Or the funky bus has gone by the time you’ve found the "On" button... These things happen!
Also, if you want to capture quality image without worrying about hand-shaking, consider having a good camera stabilizer
So, spend some time learning and practicing. Then, when you want to use the camera quickly on your backpacking trip, you can. As a result, you won’t forever lament the viral picture you almost took.
I always take at least two sets of batteries when I’m backpacking. Charging batteries can present a problem, especially if you are off the beaten track and exploring countries where electricity is unreliable or non-existent.
When you have a couple of spare sets you can go longer without needing a charge if you need to.
Furthermore, buy up some extra memory cards. You don’t know how reliable or frequent your WiFi and internet access will be.
If you have plenty of storage with you in the form of memory cards you don’t have to worry. Then, when you hit a major town you can transfer all the files onto your cloud storage and in-between snap away without always being on the edge because you’re running out of space.
Bear in mind if you are going to shoot in raw, this format will take up a lot more space. Allow for that by packing MORE memory cards.
The best way to protect your camera varies according to the environment you plan to travel to.
Then, you must protect your camera from water.
Getting a dry bag is essential, especially if you plan to get adventurous on rapids, waterfalls, rivers or along the coastline. You can also use a plastic bag wrapped around the camera when you are using it if you are taking images close to water.
Then you need to keep the sand out of the camera.
Make sure you have a good bag to put the camera inside after each use. You can also get a soft brush to brush the sand out of the camera nooks and crannies. You can get little pipets which blow air and can help to remove hidden sand particles, preventing them from working their way inside the camera.
Try to limit the number of times you change the lens (if you choose a camera with changeable lenses.)
When you change the lens, this is the moment the camera body and lens are most vulnerable. Keep an eye on your camera and get professionals to clean it when you get home if you need to.
Getting your camera professionally cleaned after a big trip will help the camera last you much longer.
Use a filter. Doing this helps protect the lens and the filter takes any damage.
Trust me, a filter is much cheaper and easier to replace!
The most important thing to remember when you are taking photographs is to let your creativity do its thing.
After all, what’s the worst which could happen? You’ll have some shots to delete from your memory card! Have fun because these images are capturing your journey from your point of view and there is no right or wrong.
I mean, even out-of-focus pictures are cool in photography, as long as you intended it that way.
When you are taking sweeping panoramic landscape shots, pay attention to what you include in the frame.
Try to find a focal point for the image and notice the details (like don’t chop the top off the mountain).
Look for details in the landscape which can lead the viewer into the picture. For example, a road disappearing into the distance, or a band of cloud stretching across the sky, a person in the distance.
Don’t necessarily put the focal point in the center. Usually, the focal point works well in the top third of the frame and slightly offset to one side.
Again, rules are made to be broken so this isn’t something you HAVE to do. But it’s a formula which co-operates naturally with how the human eye works.
Don’t always just stand, point and shoot. Sometimes trying the same shot from different angles, such as from crouching down, or even lying down, from one side of the path, and from the other.
Doing this can give a different take on the shot and make it more interesting. Furthermore, as you try different angles you notice aspects of the view you might not have noticed just standing where you happened to be and snapping.
In photography, light is a powerful tool. Just look at how light has been fully taken advantage of in the winning photo of 2018’s wildlife photographer of the year photo:
(In the image, the monkeys are beautifully lit and contrast with the darker forest background)
In nature shots particularly, light plays an important role, giving a sense of life and movement to your images.
Look out for the moments when the clouds part and a beam of sunshine hits the mountains in front of you.
Or when you’re high up in the mountains and a mist rolls up towards you. These moments, are gifts for photographers.
Notice the light in the environment around you and then use this to your advantage.
Take advantage of the golden hours for photography.
From dawn to mid-morning and then again in the mid-afternoon until sunset. During these times of day as the sun is rising and sinking, the natural light softens and you will notice richer colors in the environment.
Not just in nature, in cities as well. These are the times when colors sing.
Time your visits to key sites on your trip and to beautiful places with these times of day in mind.
Then, your photographs will naturally look brighter and more visually stunning without needing lots of fancy equipment and hours working on the image with an editing suite.
Take some time before your trip to learn all the settings and practice with them.
Different settings can open the doors to some amazing shots. For example, using a long exposure in the day while photographing a moving target, can result in the target in focus with a blurred background.
You can get some cool effects here, particularly when you use this technique in cities and busy places.
Or learn how to maximize the depth of field of your images so when you capture mountain ranges the close mountains are in focus as well as the distant ones.
Learn to play with the depth of field by choosing and controlling the focus. A few skills will go a long way, especially when you are traveling and you will find it hard to go wrong in some places because they are so stunning already!
Now, let’s spend some time discussing some products which may make a good choice for your backpacking trip.
We’re going to touch on the pros, cons and the reasons you might choose each particular camera. In short, we'll try to help you understand who will make a good match with each option.
If you want to choose a camera which can handle fast moving shots, and a massive variation of light levels then this will make an excellent choice.
This isn’t quite a pro camera but is a lightweight version which will deliver high-quality shots. You need to buy the body, and at least one lens to attach.
I would suggest getting two if you are keen (and willing to carry them). But if you don’t want to break the bank or carry too much on your travels get one lens and another one later as you develop your skills.
This is one of the bigger cameras I’m reviewing, and as a backpacking camera, you might feel it’s a little too big for you. If that’s you, then choose a more lightweight camera.
However, if you really want to explore photography as a hobby, or to really capture head-turning shots for your blog, Instagram etc., or even dabble with the pro’s then this camera is a tool which will help you.
In short, the camera can be set to manual (of course!), you can capture raw images, there is a massive ISO range which means you can take pictures in a really wide range of light.
The shutter speed is really fast and you can use the built-in time-lapse setting to capture continuous shots (up to 100 continuous shots at JPEG fine/ large setting, or up to 27 on the raw image setting).
The camera also has video, and other cool tech features like you can pair it with your smartphone with a simple touch (making for quick and easy transferring and online sharing as you travel.)
All these things make the camera a good choice if you want a quality camera without needing a whole backpack full of your camera equipment.
As you can probably tell I’m a fan of the Nikon.
However, this Fujifilm camera has some very cool features which make it an attractive choice for backpackers.
Firstly, yes, this one needs a lens. You will need to part with more money and it’s larger than cameras with a built-in lens.
However, the quality of the images you will capture will own the images you can capture with a camera with a built-in lens.
This camera should make a great choice for backpackers because the body has been weather sealed and can handle low temperatures to –10. If you are traveling to the colder regions of our world, this camera makes a good choice.
The body is also dust resistant... so deserts are good to go too. The video feature has a 4k quality which is very good for a camera and you can view different film simulation settings (there are 15 modes to choose from) while you film. If you do a lot of filming then this will be a fun feature to have.
The other feature which is particularly nifty for travelers is the two SD card slot... rather well thought through in my humble opinion. The camera has manual and auto settings, and you can capture images in raw.
This camera is mirrorless which means you use the digital screen at all times to shoot.
If you are wavering between wanting a camera with which you can take high-quality pictures, but you really don’t want a camera the size of #1 and #2 (even though they are already small) then this Sony camera might make an excellent choice for you.
The body of the camera is incredibly small, light-weight and you can still get a different lens to increase the shooting power and versatility of the camera.
As a backpacker, I’m often self-conscious when I’m in developing countries and I get out a massive clearly expensive camera. While I’ve never personally had any problems, you do sometimes see eyes widen and having obviously expensive equipment can make you vulnerable if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A good benefit of this camera is its size. You’re not losing very much on picture quality but the camera is subtler because of its size. The fact the model is mirrorless helps reduce the size.
The video option is fully HD and easy to use. The ISO settings are wide ranging which means you can tackle a wide range of shots with low lighting.
You’re not going to get quite the same range as #1 (Nikon) BUT the difference is not huge.
This is a great option for people who want to keep their equipment lightweight and want to improve their photography in comparison to what they can do with their Smartphone/ iPhone.
As a beginner wanting to take the first step towards capturing high-quality images, this camera makes an excellent choice.
If you don’t want to have a camera with a separate lens, a camera with a built-in lens is the next option.
You can still get products like this Canon which will achieve a lot and if you are just getting starting taking pictures this kind of camera can be much less overwhelming.
The camera has manual options and can take raw files (although not in auto mode). This means you can start to get the hang of the manual settings without having to think too much about if you need a different lens or not.
This camera is cheaper than full-on lens changing cameras. If you want to keep your costs down, don’t want your camera to get toooo complicated and you want a lightweight model for you backpacking, then this camera will make a good choice.
This model also has a fun “star mode” for star photography which is excellent for a camera from this price bracket. And of course, the “star mode” will be an attractive feature for backpackers.
You can shoot video with the camera, and it has an anti-shake device built-in to help reduce wobble as you film and walk.
There are also several fun effects settings which you can apply to your photographs.
This Canon is a step up from #4 and is another good choice for people wanting a backpacking camera body to which they can attach a different lens.
This kind of camera is going to give you the technological power to take better quality pictures and will grow with you as you learn, but it isn’t as full on as a pro-model.
Again, you need to weigh up the weight and bulk versus quality and decide which is your priority. However, having said that, this Canon is really small for what you get.
The ISO range is good, continuous shooting shots are competitive, and you can shoot in raw or large format JEPG as you prefer. There are manual settings and some fun auto modes for shooting food, and portraits by candlelight.
This camera has some interesting features which will be particularly useful for backpackers. You can get a GPS receiver to attach to the camera and then it will record the location you take the pictures.
This is particularly helpful when you travel long-term and it’s easy to forget over time exactly where you took what. You can resize and crop images in camera which will be handy if you are traveling and wanting to post quickly and easily online without having to spend lots of hours editing on a laptop.
Furthermore, creative filters can be applied while you shoot which is very handy for beginners. The video feature has good quality and you can shoot in HD as well as other formats.
All in all, this is a good all-rounder which takes high-quality shots while remaining a small lightweight camera...
If your priority is small, and lightweight then you can’t go far wrong with the Ricoh digital camera.
Despite its small size they still manage to squeeze in a 3-inch screen and a wide-angle lens. You can shoot raw images even though it’s a small fixed lens camera, which is pretty cool.
I think, as a camera for backpacking, you will have a lot of fun with it. Besides, you will also find the product discreet and lightweight to have with you all the time.
For nighttime shots, you are not going to get the same quality or agility as the more powerful models (#1, 2, 3 and 5). If you’re not a starry nighttime nut then you might not mind! You can also share the images you take via WiFi to your Smartphone/ iPhone/ Tablet/ Laptop, which makes a useful feature for travelers.
The camera can shoot video in HD, but I think it’s not going to be the best quality pro-level videos... But then, that is not what this camera is for.
So, if you might want to capture a few short shots while backpacking, to capture a moving moment or the sounds and colors of a place then the video will satisfy.
If you want to get technical and produce pro-level videos this feature will likely fall short. In the end, this camera produces surprisingly good quality shots with the wide-angle lens.
If you want to focus on buying a lightweight camera for your trip, this may well do the job for you.
The last thing I kind of like about this camera is the style.
It has a vintage look to it which you may love or hate but I think the look helps the camera to not seem obviously expensive.
And as far as I’m concerned, I think this is only an advantage when backpacking.
For those backpackers who want to prioritize carrying a small camera then this Sony product should make an excellent choice.
At only 1.1 pounds the camera is very small and light, in fact, not much bigger than the screen.
The new technology powering this camera means you can still take surprisingly excellent quality images (even raw images).
You do lose some zooming capacity with a camera of this size, BUT you are definitely going to improve on the quality of images you can take with your Smartphone/ iPhone without losing the convenience of being able to carry the camera with you readily.
Furthermore, the easy-to-use settings mean you can get as technical as you want, as and when you are ready. The camera’s not too much of a leap into the deep-end if you are a beginner.
This camera also has useful WiFi and NFC connect features which means you can easily share your images on your blog or Instagram without too many complicated steps.
You can save images to your cloud storage without having to go through a computer. If you’re wanting to avoid taking your laptop on your travels then this is a compelling reason to choose this camera.
There are various apps you can add to the camera to help you maximize your use of the product for particular styles of shooting. For example, there are time lapse and motion shot apps. These features can help you learn and get better shots, even as a beginner.
Another handy bonus is the rotatable screen which makes taking selfies easy, a bonus if you are a solo traveler.
I’m wavering between the #1 (Nikon) and #2 (Fujifilm). Personally, I’ve used a lot of cameras with a fixed lens. I’m at the stage of my photography where I want to take the next step and buy a camera which you can use with more than one lens.
However, these cameras are not for everyone. You need to get more technical to really get the best out of them, and you have to carry them as well.
Furthermore, when you’re traveling you don’t always want to carry a lot. In the end, you need to weigh up your priorities and consider how passionate you are about photography.
I think it comes down to one of the following two questions:
Once you narrow your choice down from those questions take a closer look at the sizes, the camera specs and their features.
Then, you will probably find one will stand out to you as a winner suiting your tastes, photography style, and video needs.
Last but not least, have an amazing trip. Don’t forget to let us know in the comments which camera you chose, and how well it worked for you on your backpacking journey.
Sign up for EXCLUSIVE updates and travel tips, delivered straight to your email!