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suggestions for carrying camera gear in the backcountry?

So I am an outdoor wildlife photographer. For a long time, going outside and taking pics of wildlife is something I've done, but I've gotten more serious about it lately. This poses a problem of carrying photography gear around with me in the backcountry. 

I'm trying to figure out the best solution for carrying around a mirrorless body + 3-4 lens while protecting them against rain & impact. But still gotta carry hiking & camping gear as well. 

Any suggestions for a good, lightweight way to do this?

11 Replies

Thank you for all the suggestions! I guess I should have been a little more specific. I shoot on a Sony A7R III mirrorless camera. The big lens that poses such a problem is this one.

I do have smaller, lighter weight lenses. But that's the one with the longest zoom reach. And wildlife photography--at least done ethically, and not all wildlife photographers are interested in doing it ethically--really benefits from the longest focal lengths you can get. Long focal length means a big, heavy lens. The only way around that is to compromise image quality in other ways, especially in dim light. When you are shooting wildlife, dim light is a common situation because wildlife are most active around sunset and sunrise, which also happens to be when the light itself is best. Using that lens, I can get an images like this one fairly routinely:

After talking to REI on a virtual outfitting appointment, I went ahead and bought one of these:

It arrived Tuesday night and I was out shooting at Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge yesterday, so I've checked to see if my big lens fits in it--it does! Yay! But I haven't had time to actually stuff it in a backpack.

One thing that I've found, however, is that this has underscored how the photographer community and the outdoors community don't really understand each other very well. Photographers, including wildlife photographers, are not big on leave no trace and don't grasp how an extra pound or two can be significant. And, well, a lot of outdoors people don't understand photographers either. I do have a spiffy Yeti bag. But it's certainly not a carrying case for lenses. And doing outdoor photography means you're carrying lenses around and they are heavy. 

I feel like there's a gap in the market here that may need filling. There are plenty of outdoorspeople out there who want to do outdoor photography. Would be nice to see something built lightweight & tough like an Osprey or Gregory backpack. But with the purpose-built compartments and protection for photography gear. Maybe something REI could make? 🙂 I'll be glad to test it for them. 🙂 

In the meantime, thank you to all for the suggestions! I'm thankful for them all! 


I, too, am struggling with finding something that will work on our upcoming Tanzania trip. We will be trekking up Kilimanjaro and then will follow that with a safari. The trek is a 9-day trip, and I would like to have my camera handy rather than stuff it inside my backpack. And I will obviously need my zoom lens for the safari portion of our excursion; therefore, any carrying case will be heavy. (I will be bringing only one lens with me because another will be too much weight and overkill.)

I have an old Speedo fanny pack that has some cushioning for my camera and lens. I figured I would use that instead of purchasing something new because this is a one-time thing. I don't usually bring my camera equipment with me on extended backcountry backpacking trips. So I thought I would just put my camera inside a dry sack inside the fanny pack, and I thought that would work out. However, the problem is carrying the case somewhere on my body where it's comfortable yet accessible. 

I purchased a USA GEAR DSLR Camera Strap Chest Harness with Quick Release Buckles ( And while it's quite comfortable and will work just fine for the Safari portion of the trip, it's uncomfortable to wear in conjunction with my backpack. The straps of this harness end up sitting underneath my backpack straps, and I think it will be problematic over the course of 9 days.

I had seen somewhere that some folks use a Hill People Gear Kit Bag (, which looks like a great alternative. There's even an image of someone using one of these kit bags in conjunction with a backpack. However, since I find the USA Gear Chest Harness uncomfortable, I don't see how this will be any more comfortable. 


So, as it stands right now, I'm still looking for solutions. I'm going to try rigging my carry case to hang from my shoulder straps (or maybe somewhere else on the pack) using some paracord and carabiners. I was thinking of wearing the fanny pack as it is intended, above the hip belt of my backpack; however, I suspect that this will be fatiguing on my back with the weight of the camera pulling on my waist.

II thought I'd share even though I don't have a solution for you, perhaps one of these harnesses will work for you.

I'll keep you all updated as to what I ultimately end up doing.

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