Hiking/Adventure Photographer Survival Kit
28 May 2013
How many times have you been out with your photographic equipment and thought to yourself, "GAH!!! Why don't I have this with me?!" This becomes even more dire when you are in the middle of a multiple day hike and will not have access to these things for several days. A lot of this stuff is common sense, but I have discovered throughout my adventure photographic career, sometimes common sense goes out the window while packing. But if you have these materials in your pack AT ALL TIMES, you never have worry about forgetting it. These items are good to have whether you are just a hiker who enjoys taking photographs, or a full on adventure photographer who takes crazy hiking trips specifically for "the perfect shot."
1. A good pack
Yes, a good hiking pack is expensive, and yes, a good photographer's hiking pack is even more expensive. But if you are willing to drag your expensive camera set up into the great wild, you should be willing to fork over some cash to get it there safely. Also, just remember, a good pack can also save your back. I personally use a satori exp from f stop gear. My camera equipment has always been safe in it, and my back generally doesn't hurt after schlepping it around for ten hours.
2. Rain Covers
Rain covers for EVERYTHING. I have a rain fly for my pack (also an F Stop Gear product), two rainsleeves from OP/TECH USA for my camera and lenses, a Mountain Hardware rain coat for myself, and several extra ziplock bags, just in case. I once made the mistake of not having a rain fly for my pack. I was fairly new to the hiking scene and didn't realize how fast weather can catch up to you. Trust me, that NEVER happened again!
3. Knife or Scissors
I personally carry both. Yes, my knife adds a bit of weight to my pack, but you'll seriously never know what you might need a cutting utensil for until you don't have one available.
4. Pen and Paper
I use a Moleskine notebook. It's small and compact, but if I want to remember where I took that really awesome photograph, I'll write it down. It's also a great place to write down sunrise/sunset times, or to make a list of what you might have forgotten for this hike that you would like to remember for the next one. It's also a good idea to write down your impressions of a place, so you can give a description of your image when the time comes.
5. Camera Cleaning Stuff
I have both a basic cleaning cloth and a more intense cleaning solution with me just in case. I have made that most unfortunate mistake of dropping a filter while preparing to screw a different one on. If you don't have a cleaning cloth at the very least with you and you do what I did, you have just rendered a filter unusable until you can get back home to clean it. I also find it cathartic to clean my filters at the end of every rough day on the trail.
I personally like the gloves with open fingers that you can cover with a mitten top. I like to feel the shutter release button with my actual finger while I'm taking a photograph, so these work great for me. Again, this is something that you think you don't need until you suddenly need it.
7. Microfiber Towel
When I photographed my first waterfall, I didn't think about water droplets getting on the front of my lens. I don't know why I didn't, but the thought didn't cross my mind. If I had had my microfiber towel with me, it wouldn't have mattered. These things suck up moisture like you wouldn't believe, and they even work great with semi frozen water. Also if your gear happens to get a little wet from a surprise rain downpour, these things work great for an emergency dry off.
I photograph a LOT at night, and having a headlamp, especially one with a red light, is a must. If you are photographing at night out in the middle of nowhere, you don't have a nearby streetlamp to help you out with your camera settings. Headlamps are also great if you haven't reached your destination for the day and the sun has set. I also find it quite useful to see into the depths of my pack.
9. Lighter and or Matches
Useful to light things on fire. This is more a precautionary thing; a "just in case I get lost" sort of thing. I've never had to use my matches or lighter (which ironically is currently missing), but I've heard my fair share of stories of people not having a fire lighting device with them and really regretting it.
10. Think Tank V2.0 camera straps
"Nice product placement," you are probably thinking to yourself. But seriously, I wouldn't have enjoyed ninety percent of the hikes I went on if it wasn't for these straps. They have literally saved my neck. The straps attach to my pack's shoulder straps. Then the metal clips clip onto my camera strap. My camera is then at the perfect spot to pull up for a photograph quickly. And all the weight of my camera is now on my shoulders instead of around my neck. I don't have to carry my camera in my hand, so it frees up my hands in case I slip, or in case I need to climb a little bit. Some people like holsters, which would do the same thing as these straps, and trust me, they are soooo worth it.
I didn't include a lot of photo gear, because I know when I go out to photograph, those are the things that I think about. Memory cards, extra batteries, lenses, remote shutter releases, these are all things that are obvious to photographers to pack, but sometimes the littlest things (like a cleaning cloth) are easily looked over. I always have these items in my pack. It frees up my mind to think about what I may need photographically.