My Backpacking Camera Kit
When I do day hikes or backcountry pack trips I really want to keep things light. The lighter the pack, the more fun the trip and more importantly I have energy to explore and be creative. I used to haul my big camera (a medium format camera with 5 lenses) into the backcountry with me but rather than use the potential of all that gear, I just ended up tired and sore. Not any more! Pictured above is my lean backcountry camera kit. My goal for a 4 to 5 night backpack trip is to keep my pack in the 35 to 40 lb range including camera gear. I could probably get a even smaller camera like a Panasonic GF-1 but for now the Rebel works great and is not that heavy.
Pictured above is a Canon Rebel XSi with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens (a surpisingly sharp but inexpensive lens). The camera is outfitted with a Really Right Stuff L-bracket, a bubble level and a Cokin P-holder on the lens. My filter kit inclues three Singh-Ray grads (2 and 3-stop hard-step and 3-stop soft step), a Singh-Ray 5-stop solid ND, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer and Singh-Ray Gold-n-Blue Polarizer. I take three fully charged batteries (one battery lasts about two to three days) and a bunch of memory cards (only one is shown here) and a trusty cable release.
All the gear above is packed into a Tamrac Velocity 7 sling bag (shown below), and I use a Gitzo GT2542L tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head. There are lighter tripods out there (this one is 3.5 lbs with the ball head), but the one thing I will not sacrifice on is a sturdy tripod or being stuck with a short tripod. This tripod goes to eye level which for me is a big positive (I hate bending to look through the camera on a tripod) and it is nice and solid which I need when I make long exposures. And finally I always have my bear spray and cougar knife with me. You just never know which furry friend wants to come and help you take photos.
I wear the camera pack on my chest so it is always available to make photos and the tripod goes on the main pack. For the last several years I have been one happy backpacker with this light camera system. If I wanted more range I might add a 18-200mm zoom or something similar, but I like having a f2.8 lens that is sharp all the way across the zoom range.