Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a dedicated outdoor enthusiast with a collection of camera lenses, it’s not always easy to figure out the best way to go hiking with a camera. I’ve tried at least a dozen camera backpacks, camera bags, and different gizmos to make my camera more accessible. However, more often than not I still end up feeling inconvenienced. Worse is coming home with a sore neck or damaged camera equipment because you didn’t store it properly on your hike.
Finally, after many years of blogging, I’ve found a good system for how to carry a camera while hiking that works for day hiking, backpacking, or even skiing. These bags and accessories are tried and trusted and I’m confident you’ll find them helpful and comfortable too!
Learn how to safely and comfortably go hiking with a camera on your next outdoor adventure.
Protecting your Camera & Making it Easily Accessible
Hiking with a camera is all about easy access. After all, the point of having it on you while you’re traveling, hiking, or on your next outdoor adventure is being able to capture the moment and document experiences as they come. Making sure your camera and camera gear are all accessible while hiking is key and the best way that I’ve found to do that is by using camera straps that attach to your backpack. Before we get to that, though, there are a few preliminary things to take care of when it comes to carrying your camera while hiking.
Storing your Camera
As you pack your bag and camera gear and get things organized, be sure to use this quick checklist prior to heading outside:
- Have proper storage and organizational accessories so you don’t have to dig through your pack when switching lens. I use the Tenba BYOB 10 DSLR Backpack Insert (pictured below). This fits a DSLR + 1 extra lens and you can adjust the padding based whatever you are carrying.
- Bring along extra batteries and an SD card, just in case.
Protecting your Camera
When I’m not packing my camera in the insert pictured above, I store it in a lightweight neoprene camera case like the one below. At a minimum, this gives the camera some padding when I want to quickly throw it in my pack, but it doesn’t add bulk. I also keep this sleeve on if I’m hiking with my camera outside my pack.
Waterproofing your Camera
Finally, if you’re hiking in inclement weather and you think there is a good chance of rain, I recommend bringing an ultralight dry sack with you, just in case you get caught in the rain. You can throw your camera in here inside your pack for extra peace of mind.
Best Camera Straps for Hiking
Having a good camera strap makes your camera more secure and provides added comfort. Here are two of my favorite straps that I use almost every time I go hiking with a camera:
Think Tank Camera Strap
The Think Tank Camera Support Straps will save you from throbbing neck pain after hours of hiking with your camera hanging off your neck. These straps work by shifting the weight of your camera strap from your neck to your shoulders. First, you easily attach the Think Tank support straps to virtually any backpack via two metal clips. Then you take the hooks on the other end of the straps and attach them to your camera. Watch towards the end of my W Trek YouTube video to see how they work.
Since the camera now hangs from my backpack’s straps, the load completely transfers to my shoulders. Even so, I still keep my normal Peak Designs camera strap (see below) on the camera and put that around my neck, so when I unhook the camera from my backpack, the camera remains attached to my body. This is the solution I’ve been using on day hikes, backpacking trips, and international travel. It looks a little nerdy and takes some getting used to, but this system has alleviated a lot of my neck pain on hikes and allows me to keep my camera out without discomfort. I can even use my trekking poles without the camera getting in the way.
Peak Design Black Slide Camera Strap
As I mentioned, even with the system above, a normal camera strap still comes in handy. The Peak Design Black Slide Camera Strap is a durable, secure, and comfortable camera strap. It’s wide so it doesn’t dig into your neck, will hold the weight of a heavy camera, and slides really easily on your body so you’re able to pull it up when you want to take a photo. This stays on my camera 24-7.
Best Hiking Camera Backpacks
On the less scenic stretches of hiking, I put my camera away in my backpack. I’ve tried so many different packs and these ones below come in as front runners for easy camera access.
Rotation 180 Horizon 34 L Backpack
This Think Tank Rotation 180 Horizon 34L backpack allows you to access your camera without taking the backpack off. Basically, the bottom of the pack where your camera is stored slides out of the pack and you can pull it to the side of your body, all with one hand. You can fit the camera and one lens in this bottom zippered compartment, plus more in the main body of the bag.
The only thing I don’t love about this pack is my 15″ Macbook Pro doesn’t fit, so for traveling with my computer it doesn’t work. This pack also isn’t women’s specific, so it fits a little big on me (I’m 5’5″ and have a shorter torso). However, it’s still a great option with specific features for holding your camera and gear while hiking. Being able to access your camera with a single hand is also awesome for skiing in the winter.
Deuter Rise 32+ SL Women’s Pack
This Deuter Rise 32+ SL Women’s pack is actually made for skiing with a huge zippered entry back panel for easy access. This makes it a great option for carrying your camera while hiking since you don’t have to pull all of your other stuff out of your backpack just to access your camera.
The Tenba BYOB 10 DSLR Backpack Insert, that I store my camera and lens in, fits perfectly at the bottom of the Deuter Rise pack. Aside from the camera storage, I like this pack because it is tall and skinny which means the load sits right up against my back.
Also, this pack is made to carry heavy ski touring gear, so it’s comfortable with a lot of weight. It has tons of adjustable straps and a supportive waist belt for ultimate comfort on those long hiking days, which not all camera-specific bags have.
Tips For Hiking With a GoPro
GoPros are awesome because they are small, easy to stow, and they’re waterproof. I’m currently using the GoPro Hero8 Black, and I’ve been impressed with how steady the video recording is to previous models. For these reasons, it’s a no-brainer for me to carry it on my hikes.
Unless I’m using a gimbal, I usually have the GoPro mounted on the smallest stick possible and then slide the stick under my waist belt or chest strap if I’m not carrying a regular camera (see the photo below). This is a great way to keep it safely out of the way but also on hand for when I need to use it.
Do you have questions about hiking with a camera or how best to carry your camera gear? Leave a comment below!