Ten Tips

Hiking/Adventure Photographer Survival Kit

My Pack
Outside of the Pack
Rain Gear
Knife and Scissors
Pen and Paper
Cleaning Stuff
Microfiber towel
V2.0 Think Tank Straps

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.

6. Gloves

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.

8. Headlamp

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.

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8 responses

  • Bob Lazzarini

    Bob Lazzarini said (30 May 2013):

    Very Good Article!
    BTW ...

    • If you're taking matches along, be sure to keep them in a waterproof container, and

    • if you're taking along a lighter, make sure it's filled with a functional flint, and that you have some additional fuel and flints ... just-in-case.

    • Amazon.com has some nice compact metal cases for matches (with built-on striker bar) and small metal compact containers for carrying extra lighter fuel & flints.

    I like the idea of a headlamp, rather than a flashlight since it leaves your hands free to do other things. Though having a small hi-powered flashlight along couldn't hurt.

    By now most folks are carrying along their fully charged" cell phones. :)


  • Alyson Hansen

    Alyson Hansen said (30 May 2013):

    Thanks for the suggestions, Bob!!

    I love having my headlamp because it does free up my hands and it's light weight, but having another small flashlight would be a good idea as well. I usually don't keep my cell phone turned on when I'm hiking, especially if it's for several days, but I know others don't feel the same way as me :D
    Thank you again for the extra suggestions!

  • Rey mos

    Rey mos said (31 May 2013):

    I am not really a hiker and adventurous but your tips are very helpful. I always bring 3 to 4 different types of cameras to ensure that I will not miss a thing during my travel.

  • Rob Wilson

    Rob Wilson said (31 May 2013):

    Really good story/article; very useful info/advice.

    Would have been nice if your "strap" link, which I very much would like to buy, had linked directly to the product. Instead, it serves up pages and pages of no-value strap-type products and backpacks. Maddening!!

  • Alyson Hansen

    Alyson Hansen said (31 May 2013):

    Hey Rob,
    I didn't put any links in this article, but I'll put the link to the straps below this comment. I found them on Amazon, but I'll give you the link to Think Tank so you can check out the specs on the straps. Thanks!

  • Frank Summers

    Frank Summers   gave props (3 Aug 2013):

    GMV, Very good information. Well written.

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (31 Dec 2013):

    Spectacular shot........

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