How to pack for Backpacking?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by kenghor, Feb 16, 1998.

  1. I'm talking about serious backpacking here where you carry your tent, sleeping bag, food and stove etc that will last you for a week or so.
    How do you pack and carry these with your camera equipments?<BR>

    My camera stuffs include 2 EOS bodies, 70-200L, 20-35, 50, 28-105, 2X converter and a small tripod and say 50 rolls of film. <BR>

    I've been to trips (without the supply of food, tentage and sleeping bag) with these camera equipments. I have to carry a backpack on each side my shoulder(1 is for the camera equipments). I find it rather uncomfortable, especially when going long distance. So when I have to add in the extra equipments, I'll have to get a larger backpack that require me to strip it properly on my shoulders. That'll leave me no room to carry my Lowepro camera backpack. <BR>

    Of course, the fast solution is to carry less camera gear but I wouldn't want to. So do you have any good advice?
     
  2. First, take a look at getting a Llama. If that isn't realistic you will have to make decisions. I use a lightweight synthetic bag(still works in damp & wet-down doesn't) with an Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy Sack and a ridge rest ground pad. It is relatively light weight and is good(if maybe a bit claustrophobic) protection in rain & snow both. Then, light weight stove & fuel, one cooking pot & food. If you are going into some areas you can forget the stove & cook on a fire, check first to find if you are "allowed" to do this.
    I use wool clothes as they work when wet, cost a lot less than the new stuff and don't melt near a campfire when you run into other folks on the trail.
    A good book on camping, such as the NOLS wilderness guides should help a bit. then, a good backpack will make a difference. Use the bag for padding, as well as your extra clothing. Anything that would be "nice to have" usually gets dumped in favor if necessities. I can carry more film if I don't have the gadgets. Then, pack up your outfit & try an overnighter first, then put it to 2-3 days & see how it works before going out for a week. Good luck.
     
  3. I can tell you what I suggest for trips. All camping equipment should be designed for backpacking. A large comfortable backpack, inside I load this with a smaller camera pack or store as room allows in padded inserts by {DOMKE}. I almost always carry my tripod with a camera body and most often used lens over my shoulder. Padding on the tripod legs helps on your shoulder. As for the film I always unbox it before packing, and most of the time store the film cartrige only in ziplock bags. Last on camera equipment take only what you need I feel my best work comes from knowing 1 or 2 good lenses.
     
  4. The previous two posters give good advice. If you've not bought a pack yet, you might investigate one of the internal frame packs that have an upper section that can be removed and used as a fanny pack, to carry camera gear and water and munchies on day hikes. When I've backpacked to photograph, I've usually just packed into a place to set up as a base camp, then dayhike from there to photograph. Not only can I cover a lot more ground much more quickly when not burdened by a pack, I don't tire myself taking the pack on and off repeatedly trying to shoot.

    <p>

    Minimize luxuries, when you're backpacking survival is the only important issue, you don't need clean clothes every day. Just bring enough layers to match expected weather conditions. Wool or modern stuff both work. Usually, if the weather gets too extreme I just leave, but then again these trips aren't once-in-a-lifetime affairs for me as I live in Oregon, prime backpacking country.

    <p>

    I find that food items like Lipton's pre-packaged pasta and rice meals are cheap, starchy (carbs are good for hiking), and easy to cook in a single pot, as Dan suggests you carry. Pasta, nuts, cheese and the like are dense forms of food. Canned goods go on the llama or stay home if you don't have one :)

    <p>

    In most mountain areas you can find water to cook with. You have a choice between purification tablets (not very effective against giardia), filtration systems (tend to be bulky), or boiling drinking water for the next day when you've got the stove lit for dinner. Or you can just choose to get giardia and spend a few days with severe dysentery (I've seen estimates that only about 1/4 of those that are exposed to giardia get symptoms, the rest just pass the critter around infecting new areas).

    <p>

    If you're going out for just a couple of nights, you might also just leave the stove behind and munch on cold food. There's worse things in life than a cold dinner.

    <p>

    Backpacking gear is reasonably priced when you consider how much of the earth is opened up to you once you invest. I still use an old Camp Trails external frame pack that I bought used (VERY used) for $35 twenty-six years ago. My down bag lasted about 17 years, even though I've worked in the field for the last eight or nine years. My new bag's synthetic as these materials have greatly improved. My tent lasted 10 years, I could've repaired it rather than replace it but I like my new tent better...

    <p>

    Lastly, solo backpacking is a great way to photograph, but if you're not an experienced backcountry person, don't go solo. No ifs, ands, or butts.
     
  5. With that much camera gear (2 EOS, all those zooms) and a weeks worth of camp gear and food your talking about 70 pounds+ even using a bivisac and an MSR. OUCH! I hope you really don't intend to go alone....its nice when someone else is carrying the stove. And it can be dangerous to be alone. A sprained ankle and more than ruin your trip. Pick a well used trail in a National Park somewhere don't stray too far from the beaten path...a working alone is best, but there are (as already stressed) dangers.

    <p>

    For that much weight you really need to go with an external frame expedition style back, like Don's old Camp Trails. Tenba makes a huge photobackpacksack designed to be used with (attached to) the legendary Kelty external frame. I've seen them, and they have enough room for what your doing; they're designed for it. I use Zing neoprene camera covers to protect my camera/lenses...and I don't carry near as much gear as you intend.

    <p>

    The newer style internal frame packs are better for lighter loads, and have a better fit for keeping nimble while carrying it, but they can't be loaded with a weeks food + gear + complete photo kit. So this means leaving you LowePro at home. You can attach a hip pack to your external frame to use when your camp is set up and your looking for shots.

    <p>

    Anyway...have a great trip...I take a week-4day trip out alone every summer!
     
  6. I'm not a great nature photographer, just your average amateur. (I strive to get better, though :) But backpacking -- that's something near and dear to my heart. Combining these two hobbies can be a very rewarding experience. The view from the trail in not the same as from your car window, and nothing can replace it.
    Two most important pieces of gear for backpacker are sturdy boots and good backpack. If your feet hurt, you are not going anywhere. And they will if you walk in sneakers on sharp stones for a day with heavy load. Boots are like tripod -- the stiffer and heavier, the better. If you are interested in mountaineering (or you think you might be in the future) get good (and expensive) stiff boots that are crampon-compatible. This means they must have absolutely stiff sole and those places above the toe and heel where the crampons snap in -- sort of like ski boots. Plastic shell mountaineering boots are too big and clumsy for backpacking, go with the leather ones. Besides, I like leather boots because they offer more control and precision on the technical rock. Good boots last long and are wise investment.
    You should carry all your stuff in a good backpack, that's what it's for. Forget about tripod over the shoulder, a bag in the hands, or the second backpack which you don't know where to put. They reduce your mobility, and will kill you long before the day is over. Backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of the load so that it is easier to carry. Properly balanced backpack transfers as much as 80% of the load from your shoulders to your hips (look for a good hipbelt!), making even heavy loads comfortable. In any case, it pays to get a good backpack with frame, harness and hipbelt that could be fitted to your body. Backpack is a personal item, like a toothbrush. As for the internal/external frames - I find both convenient if adjusted properly. External frame allows easier packing, faster access to stuff, and you can strap loads of stuff to the frame. However, external frame interferes with full range of motions when climbing or scrambling, at least for me. If you plan to do a lot of that, get internal frame one. Dana Designs makes the best ones. North Face ones are very good too. In any case, pack light -- 60 pounds is about as much as you want to carry. Of course, this depends on how fit you are and how steep is the climb.
    The rest of the stuff is optional, but makes life a lot easier. You want to stay relatively comfortable on the trail: it keeps your morale up and you can go faster/farther/higher. Beside basic gear -- tent/bivysack, foam ground pad, sleeping bag, food, stove, pot -- bring some warm clothes and raingear. Dan is right, synthetic bags work better than down when they are wet, but down is lighter, warmer and compresses far better. Might I humbly suggest taking a look at 3M Thinsulate sleeping bags. They are warm, compress quite small for synthetic bag, and are relatively cheap (about $100-$200 will buy you a good one new). Mountain stove is pretty much a necessity - you are not going to be in a mood for swinging an axe and collecting firewood after a good day's trek. Ideally, you should have just enough strength left to eat and crawl into your sleeping bag. If you feel like exercise, you are not hiking hard enough :). Water filter is nice to have, it saves more fuel than it weights. Fleece is nicer than wool, as it doesn't absorb water. Avoid cotton - it absorbs water as sponge, and you will feel very clammy long after you finished sweating. Polypropylene underwear is the best - comfortable, warm, breathable and easy to clean. If you have big bucks, buy good GoreTex jacket ($400-$500), nothing can replace that in rough weather.
    As for carrying photo gear around, only one way works for me. I carry one body with lens attached in padded Lowepro bag (Zoom I, I believe) on the hipbelt of the backpack, along with maybe one or two lenses in individual padded cases. The rest goes inside the backpack, well padded of course. The tripod is strapped outside (don't upset the balance!). That way I can take quick shots without stopping, or stop, take of the backpack, and have access to tripod and all my gear. Taking of the backpack is necessary - have you ever tried to stoop near a tripod with 60 pounds on you back? It takes a lot of effort to get back up, and you shake a lot when in position. Fanny packs and photo backpacks are useful if you go on day hikes, not backpacking, as your shoulders and hips are already occupied.
    Before buying all the stuff you think you'll need, go for a couple simple overnight hikes. This will give you some experience, and idea of what to expect on longer, harder routes. After you buy the gear, test it, get to know it, before using it on the trail. Every time you go for a longer serious route check all your equipment, look it over for signs of wear or missing parts. Every tiny problem gets magnified to epic proportions on the trail. If your backpack's buckle breaks and you don't have a spare or something to fix it with - you are in a big trouble. If your feet blister and you don't have moleskin, you have two options: sit in one place until your food runs out, or go on despite blisters, which will hurt like hell and will definitely slow you down. If... well, you get the idea.
    Above all, as Don says, don't go out alone until you are really experienced. Bring your buddy. Tell other people where you are going. Someone must have your entire detailed route and estimated time of arrival at extraction point in case of emergency. Nobody will start looking for you until a couple of days after you don't show up on due date, and you can die of exposure in a day if you are not prepared. You must be ready to handle any medical emergency that arises on the trail -- it's your responsibility. Bring medical kit, and take a first aid course if you don't know what to do.
    I hope I didn't scare you out of taking up backpacking, which is the great hobby, with my harsh words. But nature is serious and demands respect. Two kinds of people die on the route: "dickless yuppies" (as Philip puts it) who don't have a clue, or seasoned professionals who go on neck-breaking routes. People in the middle of the spectrum usually have a healthy measure of respect and fear, and stay out of trouble, and get home alive.
    To Bob Atkins: I am bringing up my backpacking/mountaineering website sometime this spring (hopefully), and with little more work I can write an introduction to backpacking for photographers to put on photo.net Nature Forum. Do you think this might be useful? It seems there are questions about this from time to time...
    Regards, Andrei.
     
  7. I've yet to do any overnight backpacking but plan to do lots this summer. I've done plenty of self-supported cycle touring.
    <P>
    My plan is to use a backpack for hiking and wear a fanny pack in the front. (crotch pack? navel pack?) I've got a lowepro sideline shooter which can hold an SLR with a few lenses and accessories. I'm planning to sew a few loops and things onto it so I can attach my tripod (a SLIK compact model) to the bottom with some velcro.
    <P>
    I've got high hopes for this as-yet-untried setup. Wearing a fanny pack in the front probably only works well for smaller packs -- sounds like it wouldn't work for the amount of gear you want to carry. I took a look at some other models like the OffRoad (by LowePro, I think) or the Orion (also by LowePro) or the Tamron quartermoon but they were just too bulky to sit in front. I also tried a photorunner but it was too small and the double zip was really annoying.
     
  8. Andrei's response is fantastic. I would suggest that you try to limit weight to 45 lbs or so rather than the 60 he lugs, until you get some experience. Nothing discourages neophyte backpackers than the carrying of too much weight, IMO. After you've got some trips under your belt you'll learn more about adjusting your pack for greater comfort, how to pace yourself, etc. Backpack with folks who are flexible if you can. Some folks like to hike hard and fast with long rests, others, like me, prefer a steady, more modest pace with few breaks. Trying to match another's pace can be very wearying, especially at first before you've experimented to see what works for you.

    <p>

    I suggest you reduce the camera load, too - just bring one body, if it breaks, hike out and come back. Figure out which lenses you're most likely to use. The 20-35 + 50 and one body would be a pretty light package. You'll be shooting landscapes and perhaps shots of friends and camp - I doubt you'll burn 50 rolls!

    <p>

    Of course, most of the advice your reading from the group presumes you're interested in combining backpacking and shooting over the long term, not just for a handful of trips. If this is a one-time deal, or perhaps you just want to plan packing trips for a single trip out west or wherever, you might consider looking into outfitters. The llama comments are no joke, though I've never gone out with a llama string the idea's quite appealing - I could take my 600/4 on such a trip!
     
  9. Don is right, reduce the weight as far as you can. If you try to
    carry more than your physical capacity, it will reduce your day
    trek distance exponentially. That's why I buy best hiking gear I can
    afford. Modern gear is extremely light and well thought-out. My
    backpack (external frame Jansport) is 6 pounds,
    two-person tent (Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight) is 3 pounds,
    sleeping bag (Thinsulate) 2 pounds, GoreTex jacket (Marmot) 1 pound.
    60 pound backpack holds all the food and gear I need for two week
    trek plus daily supply of water.

    <P>Compared to that photo gear is indeed heavy. If I'm going hard, I'm
    tempted just to take my P&S. My biggest gripe is
    with tripods - it weights as all my sleeping gear combined! Oh well,
    the things we do for the perfect picture...
     
  10. I'd echo previous advice about carrying the bulk of your stuff inside your pack and maybe a single padded bag outside. If you have a 70-200, one of the Lowepro models (Topload Zoom 2 AW?) will carry this and and EOS-5 with VG-10. It can be attached to the backpack to hang over your chest, but 1) it could prove a pain to take your pack off and 2) if it is hot, your are going to sweat like mad.

    <p>

    On the subject of weight, it sounds like you are carrying 8-10 kilos of camera gear. That's huge. I usually carry a total of 20 kilos when on trips longer than a week. Give serious consideration to cutting down on your gear. For example, why carry both the 28-105 at all?
     
  11. In my earlier post I mentioned using wool clothing for backpacking. I use it along with some of the newer stuff for a number of reasons. For me, it is much cheaper, being available at the thrift stores. I don't worry too much how it looks, just that it works. With photo-specific trips, wool has another advantage over the plastics. Much, much less static electricity. I don't know how many have ever gotten static marks on film but it can sure kill a good image. Then, I have a couple of interesting images of a group around a good campfire with two having melted a layer of clothes off. Polypro is plastic & melts if you are too close to the heat. That said, I sure do enjoy the synthetic bags, especially in the wet where down just doesn't work too well. As for camera gear. Take a few extra plastic bags as they come in handy when the unexpected hard rain just won't let up.
     
  12. You've hit the classic problem, whenever you combine anything with camping, you seem to end up with too much to carry. For example, if you are climbing in the winter you might end up with a couple of ice axes, 50 meters of rope and a rack of gear in your pack, along with the camping equipment.

    <p>

    While you can do this sort of thing on your own, the only comfortable way is to share the load with someone. You end up sharing the weight of a tent, stove, water filter e.t.c. For ease of carrying the optimum number is perhaps 3 to a tent, but three's a crowd ....

    <p>

    If you havn't done this sort of thing before, then you'll take too much, you'll take the wrong things, you'll set fire to the tent or your hair, you'll drop things in the stream and lose your tent pegs. But hey, that all part of the fun and I doubt that we could give you advice specific enough to your situation. We could have a whole series of articles on which stove to take, for example, but that would be best discussed elsewhere. The best approach is to go do it and have fun learning.

    <p>

    For the camera equipment, I have to agree with some sort of pouch on the hip belt. Even if most of your photography ends up being done on day trips from the tent (which I would advise) you will always have the camera to hand. If it is in the pack you just won't get it out when you're tired. I use a Camera Care System pouch. In fact I have several and I find them great for pictures while hiking and climbing.
     
  13. Thanks for all your sound advice especially the Llama tip! <BR>
    I'm not that nuts as to carry all those heavy load and trek for days! It is more of transporting these loads say from the airport to the hotel, from one campsite to another or taking a public bus (in a 3rd world country). It is includes backpacking tour in a city rather than just in the backcountry. I'll unload the bulk and then venture out with just a daypack and camera equipments. <BR>
    I can always seperate them into serveral packs but I've found it to be very troublesome. So I'm looking for ways as to how to load majority of these stuffs in just one main backpack. <BR>
    Nevertheless I've received some very invaulable advice! Thanks agian!
     
  14. Sad to say, my answer comes down to triage. I try to imagine what I'll be running into and plan accordingly. I have an Elan II, 70-200L, 28-105, 20/2.8, a 1.4X, and a Bogen 3001. On a 5 day trip this summer I left behind the 20 mm and my tripod. On a really strenuous 12 hour bike ride last month I only brought the body with my 28-105. When I car-camp I bring everything!

    Fact is, all my gear must weigh 20 pounds and if I'm going to keep up with everyone else I can only carry 10-15 pounds extra. I'm self-conscious enough as it is about taking pictures while backpacking in a group, so I don't want to add any more issues!

    <p>

    As far as physical storage, I usually wrap my L zoom in a sweatshirt and the rest fits into a Tamrac bag.

    <p>

    -Matt
     
  15. Oh yeah, I usually strap my Tamrac bag and the tripod to the outside of my pack for easy access.

    <p>

    -Matt
     
  16. Some great advice on this thread (some of the best seen in the forum so far). I'm another who's a far more experienced backpacker than I am a photographer, and can re-iterate that you are definitely going to struggle with all that camera equipment.
    <p>
    Personally I hate carrying much weight when I'm walking, so usually restrict myself to a lightweight 35mm SLR (Pentax MZ5) with a very good 24mm prime, and a 28-200 for snapshooting, portraits etc. I also carry a medium format TLR (which is quite light) and a panoramic camera (Horizon 202). Along with film, filters and a tripod this is all quite light and doesn't take up much weight.
    <p>
    With your kit I'd probably only take the 20-35, the 28-105 and one of the bodies - along with the tripod of course. I'd need a real good reason for carrying the 70-200L lens about with me. There really is nothing I hate worse than hiking with too heavy a pack.
     
  17. Dear Wee,

    <p>

    After reading the many excellent replies offered by folks here on photo.net, I feel that they are answering the question more in terms of the wilderness backpacker (afterall it is the nature photography forum here), but as your second reply indicates, you are more thinking in terms of travel backpacking in general and not limited to just wilderness/back country backpacking. Hence, even though many folks have suggested that you leave your big and heavy 70-200 2.8L at home and while it is great packing advice for hiking or climbing mountains, it is arguably less valid for travel photography because such a lens offer flexibility and quality in a situation where a light load is less critically important (though it would still help).

    <p>

    I can totally sympathize with your problem. When I went to China for 3 weeks and tried to carry a big internal frame backpack with a separate (and very heavy) camera bag, the results were disastrous. Problems arise when I get off a train and try to catch a taxi with my backpack on and my camera bag hanging off one of my shoulders. My back and hips are supporting what seems to be a ton already, it is too much (and unbalanced) when I try to add on a 20 pound camera bag on one of my shoulders and walk even just 100 meters.

    <p>

    As for the solution(s) to our gear-hauling problems when we already have one big backpack, I was also thinking, as someone had already suggested here, that putting the camera and a zoom lens (like 28-105) attached into a topload zoom bag for quick access, and the rest of your lenses in padded cases in your main backpack is probably the best way to go.

    <p>

    As for the padded lens cases, instead of buying them, I was thinking maybe we can take advantage of the lens cases offered by the lens manufacturers. Both Canon and Nikon supply lens cases when you buy a decent lens, and I believe most of those cases are probably padded enough to withstand shock. An added benefit of those cases is that they are usually designed for the lens you bought so they fit snugly. Though I would probably not store the cases with lenses in them at the dead bottom of the pack since I tend to unconsciously set my pack down roughly sometimes.

    <p>

    Like you, I'd probably want to get a small, foldaway daypack so I can take day trips with my gear when I get to my destination and leave the big pack behind. Or a photo vest might be able to solve the problem, though trying to fit a 70-200L into a photo vest pocket may not be a comfortable solution.

    <p>

    Another potential problem with this packing-all-my-gear-in-one-backpack solution is when I have to check in the backpack before my flight but I don't want to leave $2,000 worth of lenses at the mercy of the baggage handler. One solution is to buy a backpack that is small enough to carry on and fit in the overhead bin; the other solution, again, is to carry a separate, foldaway daypack for this situation.

    <p>

    All this however, is just pure speculation. I am still waiting for my next trip to test it out and if it works or not.

    <p>

    Good traveling to ya all.
     
  18. As a backpacker and photographer, I, too, frequently struggle with the gear issue. First and foremost, NEVER compromise safety so you can carry more camera gear. In terms of a tent, as others have mentioned, a bivy is a good alternative if you don't mind the cramped feel (Outdoor Research makes several bivy styles), but for my money, as long as we are talking 3 season packing here, check out Sierra Design's Clip Flashlight tent. At less that 4 pounds, it is the perfect TRUE tent for a solo outing.

    <p>

    In terms of camera gear, its good to decide beforehand what you intend on photographing, and strip down your outfit from there. In terms of filters, I will carry a UV, sky or 81a on the lens, and a polarizer which doubles as a ND. Certainly limit yourself to one body, and if at all possible, strip down your lenses to match your needs. In terms of a good all around setup, take your 20-35, or spring for a 24 or 28mm prime. In addition, throw in a 50mm prime (weighs mere ounces), a 90, 105 or 200mm macro which can double as your portrait and closeup lens, and if you anticipate wildlife encounters, take a lightweight 400/5.6 (Tokina make on weighing less than 1000 grams, allowing handholding). If you got it, take along a good 1.4x teleconverter, which, when combined with a 200mm macro will nearly eliminate the 400mm altogether, saving even more weight. I leave my Bogen 3221 behind, and opt for a 3001S. It's not as sturdy, but pounds lighter, and much shorter.

    <p>

    If weight is a serious consideration, consider Tamron's 28-200mm Super. When stopped down, you can achieve excellent, publishable results (according to Shutterbug, good enough for double page spreads), and it close focuses to 1:4. Add a 4x closeup lens, and you're in business.

    <p>

    Like most photographers, I tend to be a lens junkie, and when I'm close to the road, I tend to take everything I can fit into my Photo Trekker, but we have to be picky when we leave civilization. Although it is an idea many will find difficult to swallow (you mean leave the 600/4 behind???), you might even want to consider limiting yourself to ONE, yes I said ONE lens, and let your creativity overrule your technology. Take a 24mm or 50mm prime, no more, and I think you might find the experience very challenging and enriching. Happy packing.
     
  19. I would reiterate support for those urging lighter backpacking options as a way of accommodating heavier photo equipment. Here are some more ideas--skip this section if you're not interested.

    <p>

    Enthusiasts should check out Ray Jardine's PCT Handbook which outlines many strategies for lightening the BP load--not all of which I would advise (e.g. he opts for little clothing on the assumption that you'll be hiking--whereas I'm cold blooded and when photographing end up needing warm clothes for the sitting and waiting). I've pared down to a 40 lb pack for a week-long trip including photo equipment (I'm a beginner so only bring 1 camera body and 3 lenses + tripod & ball head), essential gear and food. What's worked for me is as follows: I initially took the "good pack" advice--started out w/ Dana, switched to Northface (both weighed around 6-7 lbs) and eventually moved to a $100 cheap job that weighs less than 3lbs. Ironically, I find its design distributes weight better but my main logic was that it was lighter and I could wear it out and buy a new one 3 times and still pay less than another NF or Dana. I looked at a bunch of packs made for snowboarders/skiers and came up with some ideas for a custom tripod holder and padded camera bag which I sewed onto the back (tripod) and side (camera)of the pack for quick easy access. I keep my lenses in lightly padded cases, always pack my down jacket on the top of the main compartment, stuff my lenses down the sleeves and roll them under for extra protection. I can access my camera without taking off the pack, get the tripod off instantly and get extra lenses out easily. For Tents, in addition to the Sierra CLip tents: Walrus also has good light versions and Eureka has a great 1 person that weighs 2.8 lbs, is more comfy than a bivy and costs around $80. Noone has done it yet but some engineer will eventually design a system for using tripod legs as tent poles reducing the need to carry both. For now, in light weather, using a tripod--or monopod, a tarp and some Sierra Designs clips makes an effective tent. The added benefit is the tarp can later be used as temporary shelter for photographing (standing up) while you wait for that moose to come by whereas bivys and light-weight tents mandate a prone position. MSR stoves weigh a lot and (in my humble opinion) suck. A light cheap option is the backpacking micro stove with the little grey cartridges (around $25, can't remember the name but I've used it for 3 years now with no problems). I used tec-dry waterproofing on my backpack, camera and lens pouches etc. but I always carry a backpack cover to throw over the whole thing which is particularly useful if you leave your pack outside overnight or ever need to "bear bag" it...
     
  20. Hi Wee, you probably know me.

    <p>

    What I do when I go for backpacking trips is to simply put my Tamrac camera bag(sort of a daypack thats softer(without a hard metal frame) and stuff in into my 80-litre backpack. and my tripod strapped outside the 80-litre.Thats it!

    <p>

    Joshua

    <p>

    Joshua
     
  21. I avidly pack, and that has proved my motivation to get better with
    photography. Photographically communicating what it's like on a
    10,000 foot ridge with 360 degrees of mountains as far as the eye can
    see is an exciting challenge I hope you are faced with soon. For this
    challenge, I respectfully disagree with advice to take only one lens -
    unless it's a zoom with a fairly wide lower end.

    <p>

    Because the subject excites me, I'm tempted to repeat everything said
    already, but instead I'll observe a 70-200 zoom and a teleconverter
    and a tripod in your list of gear. Is your intent to create a long
    zoom? If so, believe it or not, you may not need the tripod. I found
    an old used Rowi shoulder stock which I bought for $40. It's
    made of aluminum and plastic, is strong, collapses, and weighs less
    than a pound. I use it for my Tokina 400mm f/5.6, and absolutely love
    the combo. Because the lens is only about 2 lbs, it's very useable on
    a shoulder stock, and they definitely go into the wilderness with me
    (that's why I bought 'em!). Len Rue recommends stocks for anything
    300mm or less, and Moose Petersen recommends 'em for light 400mm's,
    too. They are also great for extra stability with wide lenses, IMHO.
    In any event, while a tripod may be nice, I don't think there's
    anything in your equiptment list which requires one. In packing,
    lighter is better, and you can find shoulder stocks which are both
    more compact and lighter than any tripod.

    <p>

    I wish you many great photo opps, and many happily worn boot soles...
     
  22. Hi Wee,

    <p>

    I just returned from a camping trip to Western Australia and can
    empathise with what you are saying. Luckily I went with my girlfriend
    who is not a photography and she helped in carrying some of the common
    equipement.

    <p>

    Anyway, I carried one external frame pack for my non -photo equipement
    on my back and my Lowepro backpack on my front.
     
  23. Here's what I use and it works for me. Take it or leave it. I use a lowepro photo runner worn in front to carry the items I want quick access to while on the trail. I carry my tripod on the outside of my backpack like an ice axe. The rest of the equipment I take with me rides in my pack. I suggest you try a couple of options and see what works best for you and the equipment you have. For me the above has worked quite well, recently my brother and I took a trip whcih included enough food for ten days, all gear required for an early fall trip and my pack weighed approx. 55lbs at the beginning of the trip.

    <p>

    Good luck and good backpacking.
     
  24. As others have confessed, I know a lot more about backpacking than I do about photography. But being an avid backpacker since I was 7, and a photoeditor for a campus paper constantly up and running to an assignment (and what I'd hope to consider not a half-bad photographer), I'll gladly give my three cents about the subject. This is after all, a discussion group.
    I would echo the loads of great advice on this page not only for practical photography info, (as opposed to good photography technique advice as I'm sure all the people reading this with their F5's and millions in glass would need more of) but on how to safely pack in the great outdoors. I would echo all of Andrei's comments on the grits of backpacking and the safe-living-in-the-wilderness ways of a sane and smart person.
    Well... perhaps I'd say a bit more about feet. Being completely bi-pedal as a packer, your feet are arguably your most important asset when packing. Therefore you must take very good care of them. Moleskin, and even second skin (a burn remedy) for those very prone to nasty blisters...at least a couple of dry pairs of socks to come home to. Just good common sense and a love for one's feet will do. Leather boots are a must, and weatherproofed at that. Wet feet are a definite no-no unless you have a day camp where you can go back to the tent and save yourself from foot-rot, even more blisters, and maybe even hypothermia. I see too many "city slickers" going around in tennis shoes or those light day-hike boots for week-long trips and with those leaky garbage bags for rain-cover. Water-tightness is a must from your boots, to a pair of pants, to a jacket, to your pack. Lack of preparation for wetness is perhaps the most common and prevalent form of stupidity in the population of packers. That and hiking in the threat of lightning storms on high passes...and perhaps leaving their food out on the ground at night for all the critters to see and smell. Sooner or later, if those people continue those things long enough, probability will win over. A good measure of sobriety in relation to one's mortality is always a good thing to have on hand in any case.
    The one theme of all these answers seems to be: keep it light. I would very much agree. It simply amazes me every year to remember how much the feet can get tired of the load on your back and that I had somehow forgotten that painful sensation of my metatarcels slowly splaying out to a new flatter shape and the points of my hipbone slowly penetrating the thin layer of skin between it and the load resting on that necessary but gruesome torture device--the hipbelt. (That is, if you're a really skinny guy like me with no padding in the places that seem to need it most.)
    Like I said, if your aim is not to gross your entire yearly income in this one trip by selling all your 50 pulitzer-winning shots to the Sierra Club and Backpacker, lighter is so much incredibly better.
    As an experiment a while back, I made a fancy suspension system for my Nova 3 out front right around my stomach so I could take along some more equipment and have it right at hand without having to dig through the pack if I just wanted my tele to get that bird in the tree over there in that perfect position that would probably be gone in about 10 seconds. It was a novel idea and worked fairly well for the non-rock-climbing backpacking I do, but was too big to be sticking in front of me. The next year I trimmed down my load and used a Lowepro Zoom 2 on a chest harness (with it's own hand-made little rain cover) and fell in love with that setup. I take off the pack for lunch, and zoom! Being completely modularized, away I run carefree like the wind to scope out the vicinity really quick for possible great pictures. I have a 24-120 (don't use the longer end much) on my Nikon that I can pop in and out, and have just a few extra goodies in my pack for those times that can afford a planned shoot. (Very rare occasions in the wild) A tripod on the side of my pack in a bag to keep the dust away from joints puts the stable sharp cherry on top. It saves the not-too-fast-zoom lenser's hide in those early evening shots. (most things at midday will usually be best shot in the sweet spot, making the need for really fast lenses in the wild--at least moderately--on the unnecessary side. For all other needs, I've never found the occasion that a sub 3-lb tripod wouldn't do the trick... unless you're a real sharpness nut and don't mind carrying a 6-lb tripod & ballhead) The great thing is that for nearly every shot you're going to take, that's just about all you need for a non "on-site in the wilderness shoot" experience and still get great clear shots of everything from landscapes to cool star bulb-sweeps, wild-flower closeups, and (what I find are the most valuable pictures I take...) the pictures of the PEOPLE I'm with. They, after all, are the irreplaceable elements in your trips and constantly change over time. You can always go back and see that mountain and if you wait long enough, get that perfect lighting. But when I look back in my portfolio and albums, I remember much more fondley the experiences I had and the people I was with. (though I guess they wouldn't make nearly as good posters for other people to hang on their walls in their living rooms)
    More gear usually means I use less creativity and go slower. It just has never been for me a wild great improvement on the kind and quality of shots I can take. That is, unless I really want to turn my trip into a heavily photo-emphasized trapse into the woods. But then, I'm more likely to enjoy the trip and have more fun if I'm not constantly focused on not missing the perfect picture...which is what experiencing nature is all about. Enjoying. Not about the best photo you can come away with. (Though it's fun to try)
    It's revealing to consider that most nature photographers were first nature lovers. You can usually take a good backpacker and make them a reasonably good photographer, but you can't necessarily take a good photographer and make them a good level-headed backpacker. (At least on the first try. :)
    My first focus is not me photographing the wilderness but rather experiencing the wilderness, and getting the occasional calendar worthy shot as a part of that experience to remember it by and for others to enjoy. And I think many other backpackers/"photographers on the side" would agree. If you don't fit into that category, then take the loads of equipment and provide the world with the museum gift-shop posters that delight the public and bring the wilderness (albeit 2-dimensionally) to everyone. Someone has to do it if I'm going to have a mountain photos in my living room or my calendars. If I could have a couple trips where that was my focus, I'd love to do just that: have time and the stuff to wait forever for just the right light, to search out the coolest looking blackened dead tree against all that green or the reddest looking poisonous mushroom or the perfect clouds behind that peak...and have a lot of spectacular shots to show instead of the consistent but occasional "really good" shot. But I'd probably have to rent a pack animal first.
    Side note: On the matter of pack animals, I'd like to say a few things about the preceding llama suggestions. While llamas are very handy, can carry up to 80-odd lbs, and are really cute too, they can often be mean-tempered and spit. (green sticky stuff too) They can attract other wildlife including sweat-salty-nylon chewing rodents and even bears. (I haven't heard of that too much, but I wouldn't want to have a llama in camp if a bear came snooping) Llamas are extremely great if you are in a group though, if don't have to contend with them alone. But many people have had very many great experiences with them and they still remain the most popular high-mountain pack animal. If your main aim is to do some hardcore photographing of the wilderness and not to enjoy simply the challenge of documenting what it really looks like and in hopes of the offhanded chance your picture could end up on a calendar somewhere, then this route of a pack animal is a very valid one. Might I recommend, however, looking into pack goats as an alternative. They carry just a little less, but are very friendly, will take naps in your lap, and some of those males with big horns could easily take on a bear if needed. Some of those mountain goats can get pretty big! But they're still very friendly. But then, this isn't a forum on pack animals, is it? Shucks.
    I don't know about you, but I couldn't handle the 80+ pounds of gear Ansel Adams took with him everywhere. But then, he had several mules, didn't he? (Though he also didn't take any pictures from any kind of summit or height that required severe off-the-trail bushwhaking or rock-climbing where a lot of interesting shots are...)
    If anyone, Ansel Adams holds the throne of being the main idol of many a backpacking photographer, and many of his greatest shots were when he had 5 minutes to get out everything and snap it before the lighting changed. This is something to take into account about the nature of nature photography if any reading this are new to the field. Some shots are the result of patience, stellar equipment, and flawless technique. But the majority of the shots people always admire more and remember are the surprises. And to capture those you don't necessarily need 8X10 negatives or loads of glass and pricey equipment. (Though sometimes the do help...) Mostly I've found success and joy in photography come with a creative eye, some luck, and above all... a love for the art.
    Many blessings to all of you. I wish you safe packing, tastes of awe and wonder, the perfect shot every now and then, and may you happen upon a huge mother moose and her cub in high valleys...from a great distance.
     
  25. This isn't much of an answer with respect to photography, since I'm not a very good photographer. I am a decent hiker, on the other hand, so bear this in mind.

    The rule of thumb for total pack weight is a maximum of 1/4 of bodyweight, up to 1/3 for very fit or experienced hikers. I recall learning these as a boy scout (which was a long time ago), but I believe that the Canadian Forces also observes them, so bear that in mind. The suggestions for a 40-50lb pack fit right in here. These limits don't change for a longer or shorter hike, as well :). Just because you're out for longer doesn't mean that you can carry more. When attempting an alpine environment err on the light side; your feet and legs will thank you. If you think that the fast solution is to carry less camera gear, you're completely correct, and it's probably the right solution as well.

    Most of that pack weight is going to be food on a long trip, but don't count on the drop in food weight giving you a boost towards the end of the trip. By the time you've eaten your way down, you'll be more than proportionally run down in body and spirit. Count on making your best distance on the second, third, and fourth days of a week long trip.

    You might also want to consider balance when you're putting your pack together. You don't want to be too far forwards, because you're going to be spending a lot of energy keeping yourself stable, and too far backwards is outright dangerous. This doesn't apply to your pack only; your camera bag can throw you off as well (as it did me, last weekend in Algonquin Park). I'm not sure how hipbelts and waist-mounted bags coexist, and I have my suspicions about these as well.

    I can't emphasize how much I agree with everyone who's talked about good-fitting boots. They are, quite literally, the most important part of your trip. Breaking in new boots is bad. Some boots are better and some are worse, but all are bad.

    Finally, a word of caution: go with a partner, preferably one who is an equally apt photographer (probably an enthusiastic amateur or partner). Going alone is foolhardy, and going with a non-photographer will be unpleasant for both of you as you move around, stop, start, fiddle with equipment, etcetera.
     
  26. A resource to consider is "The Backpacker's Photography Handbook" by Charles Campbell. (see a description of the book at http:// www.photonaturalist.com/book.html)
     
  27. I have two giant black labs who can carry about 40 pounds apiece and never get exhausted. I hiked about 120 miles in the Sawtooth Wilderness area last summer with them, and rekindled a love for photography in the process. Dogs are better than either goats or lamas since they can ride inside the car and are great companions. I have photos of those two guys RUNNING down the trail and RUNNING after deer fully loaded. They love it. Save some of these pathetic beasts from certain death at the hands of the Pound. For winter camping, dogs can pull sleds, leaving you free to photograph on your winter ski campout trips. With a properly designed sled, those labs can easily pull over 100 pounds apiece and easily keep up with you unladen on skis. Your hands and back are completely free!!

    Once you pass 80 pounds onto those beasts (Dogs can carry 1/3 of their weight as well), you should be able to get by with no more than 40 pounds for yourself and your mate.

    What kind of photography are you doing? If it is nature photography, then certainly go with the SLR and zoom. If it is to get those dramatic shots from on top of ridges, nothing more is needed than the ultralight and water resistant Yashica T-4 Super, or a lightweight Yashica 124 G for medium format. A very lightweight and effective tripod is available from REI that only weighs 4 ounces and can strap itself onto a tree for higher leverage.
     
  28. Larry,
    I hope you are not actually allowing your dogs to chase deer! Just as you would not distrub an animal you are photographing you should not allow your dogs to harass the wildlife. The only thing worse is leaving your trash in the wilderness. As a native Idahoian and dog lover please get out of the woods if you continue this behavior.

    BV
     
  29. Hmmmm....

    EOS 3 plus 24mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f4L + 1.4x TC in two LowePro pouches on the pack belt...? Could do just the 28-135USM and save a LOT of weight. The 70-200mm and 24mm seem more rugged though. Optional: Olympus Stylus to cover 35mm and as backup. Lightweight, rugged and versatile.

    I also like the 24mm + 50mm + 100 macro for outdoors/landscape. However, I find that when hiking with others I need to do quick snaps or people get pissed at me for lagging. I got nagged for slowing down to take pics with my old Tamron 28-200mm. I have since replaced that with EF28-135mm USM IS lens. Pentax K1000 + 28+50+135 is compact, cheap and rugged too.
     
  30. hahaha, do you realize you just answered a thread that is over 12 years old and the most recent comment was from 8 years ago... why the hell did stumbleupon bring me here?
     
    jeanfuller likes this.

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