Which Camera Should I Take on My Thru-Hike?

Rohan Mathew


A typical thru-hike can last anywhere from a few days to months or more. During this time, a person with the intention of capturing moments may feel pressured to buy an expensive camera. However, it turns out that when considering what gear is best for a thru-hike, cost and weight are the most important factors. There are many items on this list that will give you high-quality pictures without breaking your bank account or your back. A camera chest harness from HoldFast Gear is one of those gears that you should consider for your thru-hike.

Some of the best camera models for photography are also surprisingly great for video. The best ones also have lots of features like GPS, touchscreens, and image stabilization that will help you take more amazing photos.

Canon Powershot SX60 HS 16 MP Camera with Optical Image Stabilization

This Canon Powershot has a 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor and can shoot videos at full 1080p HD resolution. Its 5x optical zoom is impressive but you will need to hold the camera steady, otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot of blurry images. Some hikers see this as an advantage because they prefer to have a more stable shot and don’t like to zoom in and out too much.

The backlit CMOS sensor gives you good color reproduction, and it’s also a good option for low-light conditions. The camera is also small, lightweight, and easy to carry. It’s not for everyone though. Because it’s a fixed lens camera, there are times when you won’t be able to get that perfect shot. Also, the image stabilization won’t work underwater or if you’re taking videos in dim light. Overall though, this camera has been well-received by hikers.

Canon Rebel T3i / T3 20.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD

If you are looking for an affordable camera for your thru-hike, this is a really good option. It has a 20.2-megapixel sensor and can take 1080p HD videos at 60 frames per second. It has the same sensor as the DSLR models made before it, but they just repackaged it into a digital camera body that’s cheaper to buy. You can do a lot of things with this camera like taking panoramic images, make time-lapse videos, and edit photos in different editing programs.

You’ll need to be careful though because it does not have the anti-aliasing filter you find on more expensive DSLR models. This means that the camera will capture more high-frequency details which can improve the image quality, but the downside is that it increases image noise and introduces artifacts. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Camera For a Thru-hike

For anyone planning a thru-hike, choosing a camera is a vital part of the experience. You have to be prepared for anything that could happen while on the trail, and what better way than having multiple lenses and a waterproof camera with you every step of the way? Choosing the right camera will depend on a couple of factors:


In order to determine this, you have to consider what kind of hike you plan on doing. If you are doing an extremely slow or long hike, as the Smokies, a point-and-shoot is perfectly adequate for documenting your trip. However, if you plan on going deep into the backwoods for a week or two, and there is no way you will be able to carry another 100 pounds worth of gear (including food), a heavy DSLR would be required. If you are doing a moderate thru-hike, or if you have limited space in your car to pack your gear, a point-and-shoot or compact camera will be more than enough.


Your budget will definitely play a factor in your choice of camera. If you plan on going ultralight and are willing to spend more money, then you can invest in a high-quality point-and-shoot. If you are looking for a great deal, then go with the 12-24mm zoom on a DSLR. Although extra weight does add up, there is no question that this will be the best all-around camera to bring on your hike.


When looking at lenses, you have two options: fixed-lens zoom or interchangeable lenses. Fixed-lens zoom means that your lens has a fixed focal length. The lens itself will not move when you zoom in. This is more of a point-and-shoot option. 

Interchangeable lenses are made for DSLRs, and they have a variety of focal lengths that can be swapped out. This lets you change the look of your photos while on the trail, and it also helps you adjust to different weather conditions. The lenses that come with most DSLRs only have a zoom range of 4-12mm.