It’s been a while since I last did a “Q&A” post for this blog but moving forward I want to focus more on creating useful content rather than merely show off my work. The rest of my site is already dedicated to showing off my work so I would rather use my words for other purposes. Here are the previous Question of the Day posts.
I recently received a camera question from a college student that is planning to hike the Appalachian Trail next spring. She wanted to know where to shop for a lightweight, durable and inexpensive camera for backpacking in addition to what camera to purchase. That’s a fair question and one that is probably on a lot of people’s minds. While I personally don’t backpack myself I know all too well what it’s like to carry heavy equipment on hard hiking trails. I would not want to hike a 2,000+ mile trail with my typical landscape photography gear. Identifying your needs is an important first step. Wanting lightweight, durable and cheap is a trickier proposition though. Most photographers are probably looking for that type of camera. That view is often at odds with camera manufacturers’ business objectives however so there are definite pros and cons with each of those qualities.
If you want lightweight there are plenty of point & shoot cameras or small mirrorless cameras. I’m not sure that many of those could be considered durable however. When backpacking or during any type of outdoor photography you are probably going to bang your cameras around whether in the backpack or on some rocks while scrambling at some point. The other factor is rain. The Appalachian Trail probably sees its fair amount of rain during the spring so you would ideally have a weather-sealed camera and lens. Weather-sealing doesn’t guarantee against water damage but it helps. The budget travel workaround is to buy a dry bag of some sort from REI and only bring the camera out during dry weather.
Regarding affordable cameras – the student described herself as a “poor college student” so while I would have suggested a Fujifilm mirrorless camera (my personal choice for lightweight quality cameras) those are probably a little bit too expensive. I’m not an expert on every camera model out there but the lower end of the Canon’s Rebel line are generally the most affordable cameras that have decent quality. The tradeoff with these cameras are going to be durability and weather-sealing. With caution however I believe one could hike the Appalachian Trail with a Canon Rebel without wrecking it.
The final option to consider is probably the least expensive option. Since most people have a smartphone these days you might not even need to buy a camera depending on what your priorities are. Just buy a solar charger and dry bag then you’re good to go.