We all love memories of our adventures and the photos of our favorite moments are the ideal way to preserve them. In the old days we were forced to be very selective of what we captured because of film photography, but in the digital age it has become so easy to snap hundreds of shots and just delete the ones we don’t like.
When we embark on backpacking expeditions its really nice having a compact and easy to use camera to capture those moments anywhere we find ourselves. Obviously for backpacking we don’t want a heavy camera with a truckload of equipment to carry, as any seasoned backpacker will tell you, space is of the essence.
So let’s have a look at 5 really great hiking cameras that will be perfect for a backpacking trip. We’ll start from light and small to larger and more powerful. You’ll need to decide how big (and heavy) you’re willing to go for that perfect shot.
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Here are Our Winners!
Top 5 Choices, starting with the Most Compact and working up to the Highest Quality
Smallest – Sony Compact Cybershot W800/S
If you are packing ultralight and don’t have much space then the Sony W800/S 20.1 MP Digital is an excellent choice for images (not so much for video). Its really small size and all-round capabilities make it the most compact and value for money here.
It features an Easy Mode function which simplifies the option menu, so you can literally just grab the camera from your pocket or backpack and fire away. The USB charging port is quite cool, so you can charge it directly from you’re vehicles lighter port.
It also takes 720 HD movies and has a 5X optical zoom. As really a nice bonus is the full 360 degree panoramic shots in its sweep mode.
The Sony might not be the best image quality here, but it comes very close and its compact size and easy menus make it our very best choice for great point-and-shoot photography.
Toughest – Olympus Tough TG-4
The Olympus Tough 16 Megapixel is the best hiking camera for the outdoor backpacker taking on adventure in the rough wilderness.
It lives up to its name by having the following awesome rugged features:
- Waterproof to 50 feet
- Shockproof to 7 feet
- Crush resistance of 220 pounds.
- Freeze proof functionality down to 14 degrees F
It has a 4X optical zoom with excellent pictures and pretty good 1080 HD movies. It’s also GPS and Wi-Fi enabled, making it awesome for travellers doing travel vlogs to upload videos straight to your smartphone or laptop.
This camera is sold as a bundle with all the bells and whistles that you need to make your photo expedition perfect. The underwater floating wrist strap is an awesome part of the kit, so if you got tumbled by a wave or lost grip underwater it will float to the surface attached to the bright orange floats.
The kit also includes a handy adjustable bubble style tripod for getting a perfect stand on uneven terrain.
It might not be the best option for a general road trip, but is a sure winner for any rough-and-ready outdoor & backpacking enthusiasts that want to have ease of mind while taking pictures in rugged, wet or precarious situations.
If you have an untamed spirit for adventure and adrenalin then the Olympus Tough is the option you’ve been looking for.
Non-Interchangeable Lens – Nikon COOLPIX B500
Now here’s a really cool compact lightweight camera, the Nikon Coolpix B500 has some awesome High tech function packed into a small package. Because the lens is fixed, you get some of the benefits of an Digital SLR (like Pulling Focus & Shallow Depth of Field) but without the hassle of swapping lenses.
The 40X optical zoom, which extends to 80X dynamic zoom is unbelievable in this price class. The lens on this Nikon is not interchangeable, however with a zoom capability like this, who would worry?
Another great feature is the mere fact that it is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. By downloading the Snapbridge app from Nikon, your camera automatically transfers photos to your devices on hand, for example a smartphone. Perfect for the times you want to quickly send a photo home on your travels.
The Nikon Coolpix B500 is a perfect option for backpack travelers that want high tech features but on a device that’s uncomplicated and easy to operate. It’s a great buy at a great price.
Compact Mirrorless – Sony Alpha a6000
The Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless is a brilliant little design with a real classic look about it and the small, compact body makes it an ideal for travel. Mirrorless technology brings down the weight and size of a DSLR. There is no mirror so it’s much flatter overall. But you can still swap lenses for creative macro shots, shallow depth of field or longer zoom.
The 24.3MP sensor and processor capture exquisite images with the finest detail. The 1080HD movie capability on this model is the best we’ve seen (for its size), recording up to 60 fps as well as recording in dual function, meaning that you can record the same video in various formats making it easier to upload your movies to your social media platforms like Instagram.
The camera also features a multi-purpose shoe so you can fit an external microphone or continuous light. This feature, as well as the excellent movie function make it perfect for vlogging.
The Sony Alpha a6000 may be quite an high-end option and unfortunately does not come with a bag or the extras, but if you are serious about capturing perfect memories or movies of your travels then the money spent will truly reflect in your albums.
Backpacking DSLR – Canon EOS Rebel T6
The Canon EOS Rebel DSLR comes as a full kit with everything and more! You can’t really beat the value of this bundle, it literally covers all your needs to capture really great footage from the word go.
As a start the bundle is supplied with three fantastic lenses, an 18 – 55mm lens, a wide angle lens and a 58mm 2X telephoto lens. This opens wide possibilities to your photography experience. The rest of the bundle includes various UV filters, memory cards, a full size tripod plus a table-top tripod, a remote switch and an awesome kit bag.
The full kit might be a bit big though for a solo backpacking trip, but it would be an awesome kit if you were backpacking in group and one of the members of the group carried the kit in their backpack.
The Canon EOS Rebel T6 has great all-round function and capability, so if you are looking for a great kit with great value then this one is for you.
Hiking photography can add real depth to an already amazing hobby. We’d definitely suggest picking model that suits your own personal style of hiking or backpacking. Let’s look at the strengths of each product and why you would buy it.
The Sony w800 is small and takes great pictures. The main reason you’d get it though is it’s really compact size and easy to use menu’s.
The options which really stand out as perfect backpacking companions are the Olympus Tough and the Nikon COOLPIX. The capabilities of both these cameras are perfect for the backpacker who wants something compact and light to travel with. The Olympus Tough is an awesome choice for the rough and ready, adventure driven backpacker.
Great Travel Camera and Best Video (for it’s size)
The Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless would be perfect for vloggers doing Euro backpacking trips where there is more of a focus on the culture and vibe of food, drink and leisure vlogging.
For the Really Creative Outdoor Photographer (who doesn’t mind the weight)
The Canon is a fantastic, reliable DSLR. It allows you the freedom to get very creative with your photography and the action is clean and true, just like we’ve come to expect from any Canon.
Mirrorless Options Only
If you’re particularly interested in mirrorless cameras, check out our Best Mirrorless Camera Under 400 Dollars review.
What About Video Quality?
Remember to set the video quality below to 1080 p for a more accurate representation.
#1 Sony W800 Video?
Unfortunately the Sony W800 doesn’t have the best video quality. If this is what you’re after, you should strongly consider upgrading to one of the models below.
#2 Olympus Video Test
#3 Nikon Coolpix Video Test
#4 Sony Alpha a600 Video Test
#5 Canon Rebel T6 Video Test
Get out there and start making memories!