10 Tips for Camping with Your Photography Gear

A beautiful female photographer holds a tripod and a DSLR while hiking and camping.

Being in the outdoors with photography gear can be tricky.

It is summer time in the Northern Hemisphere, and for many of us, that means enjoying photography while camping, hiking, or just being in the great outdoors.  Along with being outdoors with your camera and lenses come several problems: heat, dust, weight, etc.  Since I moved to Idaho, I have been spending a lot of time camping with my photography gear, so most of these tips are from personal experience.  Here you go!

Outdoor Photography Tip #1:  Bring no more than two lenses.  When I am going to be shooting in an easily accessible location in the city, I usually bring a couple bags of gear full of lenses and other stuff, but when I go outdoors I decide on two lenses and do not allow myself to bring any more.  Typically, I bring a 10-24mm lens for landscapes and a 70-200mm lens for close range wildlife photography and some landscapes.

Mountains Photography Tip #2: Do NOT forget the polarizer!  When shooting outdoors, especially if you will be near a lake or some other type of water, the polarizer is an absolute necessity.  In fact, one nice thing about shooting with a polarizer is that it takes the reflection of shiny leaves when the sun is bright, which can extend your shooting time well into the day.  Don’t be tempted to skimp on the polarizer.  For more polarizer tips, check out this post.

Camping with a DSLR Tip #3:  Don’t forget the cooler.  If you live in a hot location and need a safe place to store your gear for a day or two while you are camping, then bring along an empty cooler and put the camera and other gear in the cooler without ice.  Place your gear in the cooler and put the cooler in the trunk of your car.  In my opinion, this is the best way to protect your gear from the heat for a few days while camping.

DSLR Protection while Camping Tip #4:  Invest in a quality camera backpack.  Your gear will likely get squished in the trunk with your other stuff, rained on, be exposed to dirt, and knocked around pretty good while camping.  Purchasing a good quality camera bag is an absolute necessity.  I personally use the Clik Elite Pro Camera Backpack because it is large enough to fit my gear, it has a rain cover, and is built like a tank.  If you want something smaller or don’t have much gear, then I would recommend the Lowepro Fastpack 250.

Lightweight Photography Tip #5: Choose a reasonable tripod.  Most of the time, I use an Induro AT-313 tripod.  It is an absolutely fantastic tripod, but it is far too heavy to enjoy a hike with.  I often bring a monopod while hiking and simply lean it against a tree to make a tripod, or carry a lightweight travel tripod.  Don’t bring your giant tripod or you’ll hate the hike.

Outdoors Photography Tip #6:  Understand sunrises and sunsets are different in the mountains.  Landscape photographers need to change their techniques for shooting in the mountains.  If the sunset is at 8PM and there is a large mountain in west, then the sunrise may be as early as 6PM.  Also, remember that sunrises and sunsets are often colorless in the mountains because of the mountains blocking the rising sun.  Understanding that light works differently in the mountains is the first step that landscape photographers need to understand when shooting in mountainous regions.


Hiking Photography Tip #7:  Including outdoorsmanship in your photos.  While hiking or camping, many photographers focus too much on the landscapes or the wildlife and forget to photograph typical camping or hiking scenes.  Capturing a photo of a tent perched on a mountainside, or a group of people around a campfire, or the stars at night, or people in your party walking down the trail will probably be the most memorable photos from the trip.

Protect DSLR while Camping Tip #8:  Be careful with lens changes.  Being outdoors is a dusty experience–period.  If possible, wait until you’re in a grassy field or in your tent to make a lens swap rather than changing the lens while out on the dusty trail.  This will prevent dirt from getting on your lens or camera sensor and cause spotting.

Camping Photography of Wildlife Tip #9:  If you want to increase your chances of seeing wildlife, then walk into the wind so that animals cannot smell you and do not be in a rush.  The best way to spot wildlife in the wild is to SLOW DOWN so the animals do not perceive you as a threat.  Sorry for the shameless plug, but if wildlife photography is your interest, then you might want to check out my wildlife photography eBook for $5.99.

Photography Outdoor Safety Tip #10:  In some regions, there can be animals which are dangerous to people.  Though I have been in the outdoors almost all of my life and like to think I know how to take care of myself outdoors, I was still charged by an adult black bear a couple years ago.  Fortunately, I had invested $30 in a can of bear spray, which saved me.  If you are in bear country, keep a can on hand.

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. says

    What I’m looking for is a backpack that can hold some lightish camera gear AND camping gear (sleeping bag, pup tent, food/water, etc.) for a few days. The best I’ve been able to come up with (being a retired snowboarder) was a Burton Focus pack. It can’t hold a tent or sleeping bag (that I can tell yet), but it has more technical pockets and loops than any other camera bag I’ve seen. It’s naturally more meant for snowboarding with ice axe/pick loops, shovel pouches, snowshoe loops, etc, but many of those can be repurposed for other things.

  2. says

    Hi,
    I am an avid trekker and have been carrying my gear for more than 9 month in a row this year on 3 continents. I second each tip on this list! It is excellent. I would maybe add to the list to bring a waterproof light bag like the sea to summit Dry Sacks I use. In case of very risky wet situations like river crossing I put my full bag inside. Big sturdy trash bags can do the job most of the times too. Using zip-lock bags for accessories can be helpful also even to prevent moisture inside the bag from heavy sweating in hot and humid conditions. I made an exhausting trek in Laos were everything not in a ziplock was really sweat-wet in my lowepro bag…
    Thanks for sharing those excellent tips.

  3. says

    DSLR Protection while Camping Tip #4: Invest in a quality camera backpack.

    I’d skip a camera specific backpack and pack your gear inside padded storage cubes. Camera specific backpacks never carry as well as real backpack, they waste space with all the extra padding, and they don’t have enough room for carrying anything else.

  4. says

    I am new to your site but loving it so far!
    Brilliant tips! I love the ‘bring a cooler’ tip! I live in Queensland, Australia – and that idea never occurred to me! Even hiking around on a hot day here in summer – putting ‘stuff’ into a ‘cooler’ bag inside my pack would be wise…
    I would also add to your list:
    -rain gear for the camera!

  5. says

    I find that in the rainforests down here just south of laurie anne that a tripod is a necessity, a monopod just doesn’t cut it. After my first couple of hikes with an aluminium one I sprung for a carbon fibre unit. Another necessity down here in Oz is hydration. I have only found one camera backpack with built in hydration so I had to modify my Lowepro Photo Trekker.

  6. says

    Personally, anything that inhibits quick access to the camera is a lost opportunity. I eschew the backpack for a waistpack so that the camera is quickly accessible and can be secured when the hike gets bumpy. I usually carry a backpack for hydration+other supplies.

    A tripod can be a mixed bag. More bulk and gear slows you down, but when outdoors, there are so many shooting opportunities. Light is almost completely in your control.

    When I hiked Mt. Fuji, I carried a tripod and 16-35 lens and this combination worked great. It’s a balancing act, weighing the likeliness of gear use vs. weighing yourself down. If anything, I wish I would have had my 100mm macro with me…

    …next time :)

  7. Ron says

    First off, great write up. I moved to Colorado from Florida in 2011 and what a change. Anyway, I too thought the backpack idea was ideal and bought one. It didnt take long to realize it was a waste of money. No room for water, food, bug spray, rain gear, or any other things you will want/need while hiking. I found that a 44L+ normal hiking backpack fits my needs much better. I can carry everything I need including camera gear. I’ve only had one summer here and got some great shots car camping but next summer I plan on doing more backpack camping to get better locations deeper in the mountains that you cannot get to with out hiking.

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