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Any advice for a beginner camera for taking photos while backpacking?

Hi All, Does anyone have any advice on buying a baseline camera to get started backpacking with? I've been using my phone which is okay for some stuff, but terrible for scenery. Maybe something that just has a good all-around lens because I won't be carrying extra lenses with me, at least not yet. We're not super weight-conscious. Thanks!

13 Replies

@djw You have received some great advice thus far! I agree that, for the most part, using a newer phone is sufficient for photos (if you are trying to go high pixilation, professional grade, then invest in a good camera). HOWEVER, I personally don't use my phone for photos when I go backpacking, as I get worried about draining down the battery (even though I have an external battery pack that I always bring). Moreover, I like to have the control that many cameras give you, and I personally can line up shots better looking through a viewfinder than staring at a large screen.

If you want to get a small, compact, high-quality camera, this is what I suggest (I copied this from another Conversations thread about go-to cameras on the trail, which I suggest you read. You can find it here)

2) Camera #2: LUMIX 4K Digital Camera ZS100 (Panasonic) (DMC-ZS100)

I initially got this camera essentially as the "mini" version of my Canon EOS Rebel SL1. It's pocket-sized, but packs a punch, containing many of the same features as its larger digital counterparts.

      Pro's of the LUMIX 4K Digital Camera ZS100:

-Small & Light, but with the Image Quality of a Larger Camera: This camera only weighs 9.5 oz and measures 4.35" x 2.54" x 1.74" (just over the size of your palm), but still produces images of the same quality as the Canon EOS Rebel series and other similar larger DSLR cameras. 

-Large Lens Zoom & Aperture for its Size: This camera is awesome in that it's pocket-sized but still has a zoom of 25-250 mm and a F/2.8-5.9 aperture. Such variability results in this camera being great for a variety of photography styles and image types.

-Relatively Inexpensive: The LUMIX 4K Digital Camera ZS100 only costs $699.99, which is a great price for such a high-quality digital camera (especially since you don't have to buy lenses in addition to the camera body!). This is the ideal camera for someone on a budget who is looking to take quality photos while traveling light and staying space-efficient.

     Con's of the LUMIX 4K Digital Camera ZS100:

-Fewer Features: While this small camera has an amazing number of features for its size, it sadly does not have as many as many of the larger DSLR cameras. However, unless you are searching for a camera that excels in a particular type of photography, this camera has all of the features you will need.


Hope this helps! (Oh and to check out some examples of shots I have taken using this camera and my 2 other main cameras, check out my website

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I can't agree more with the choices above. When I hike, canoe, camp, or just travel, I rely on my iPhone 11 pro. Cell phones today shoot larger files than my first professional digital camera. The portrait mode is awesome. If you're doing video or timelapse, definitely use a tripod or a gimble. Quality audio is key to a good video. 


so many people posting about this lately! I have been shooting on my iphone for several brands and my personal instagram page, @ speakingquitefrankly

I just wrote this basic article about backpacking camera gear. The first tripod is what I have been using and love it


Buy a used, consumer-lever DSLR.   I have a pro-level metal body Nikon that I could use for pounding tent stakes.  But my older 3000 series body feels like a "box of air" and the "VR" version of the kit lens is very good.    You can buy this kit now for $150.    Yes I know we all want the high-end SLR but they weigh a ton and cost a fortune and you don't really want to be using $2,000 of equipment in the rain or snow.   But used consumer SLR are light and cheap and do VERY good publishable work.  I always shoot RAW format.    THere are also $150 used Canon EOS bodies out there.

Look on eBay for a d3100 with 18-50 lens for about $140.  Cheap and realy good.

I shoot for years with film cameras, a mechanical SLR.  They work even if you remove the battery,  Scan the negatives when you get home.   I used portrait film.