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10 Best Cameras For Backpacking In 2023

There are lots of great cameras for backpacking out there but here I’ve narrowed it down to 10 of the best to help in your decision.

First of all, the term “backpacking” can refer to backpacking in the travel sense or backpacking in the hiking sense. This post is primarily focused on the hiking angle but they also make great cameras for travelling with as well.

Even only 15 years ago it was considered the case that in order to take the “best quality” pictures you had to have a big DSLR, but that is certainly not the case these days with plenty of smaller cameras taking excellent quality pictures and videos.

You may be wondering who the hell am I when it comes to photography? Well first and foremost I am a travel/hiking blogger who has been writing online since 2013 and using photography to highlight destinations, but my passion for photography goes back several years before I started professionally blogging.

On top of that, I also do freelance photography/writing for some of the largest guidebooks and travel sites out there. I have worked for Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Fodor’s Travel, Bradt Travel Guides, and many more. My photography has all been featured there.

I initially started out in around 2008 with a large Pentax DSLR where I honed my photography “skills” and even downsized from my Pentax to a small Canon camera in 2012 that took RAW images and had manual controls.

By 2013 when I started blogging and getting freelance photography/writing work with bigger brands I switched up to a mirrorless Sony Nex 6 which I used for all photos on Backpackingman until 2016 when I upgraded to the legendary Sony A7II which was smaller than an average DSLR but still a full-frame camera and has excellent image quality, which is the camera I still use today, although an upgrade is in the works.

During this time I have made many professional photographer friends and have gotten to know the gear that they use and the advice they have given. It is in that regard where this post comes about as this is my advice on what to get, but also what other professional photographers suggest as well.

My main point here is that for backpacking you really don’t need a big bulky DSLR setup and it is actually way better as far as cameras for backpacking go that they remain on the smaller/medium size of things, which is why I won’t be recommending any DSLR’S here.

First a disclaimer: There are links in the article where you can check the prices on Amazon. These are affiliate links which means I get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through them. I’m only recommending cameras I have used myself or that are recommended by professional photographer friends. Thanks.


What Style of Photography Do You Want To Do

First of all, you will have to think about what kind of photography you would like to do.

For example, if you love the idea of wildlife photography and maybe you will be in Africa on safari or in other wildlife destinations in the world, then you will want to have a good zoom lens on the camera which rules out certain models listed in the best cameras for backpacking list below.

Lenses Setup

Although some of the best cameras for backpacking are point-and-shoot, some of the better options for the future of your camera setup are the ones with the option to change the lenses used.

If you plan on going down this route then research carefully what brand you get and the lenses that are available as you will not just be buying the camera but investing in the future for new lenses for the system.


Best Cameras For Backpacking

GoPro Cameras

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Let’s start with one of the best budget options for a camera for backpacking that still takes excellent videos and images and on top of that is small and waterproof.

Especially when out hiking this will be a great camera to have as if it rains it will not affect it and it’s small enough to not take up much weight or space.

This is not a good option though if you want to have a good zoom function for taking photos of far-away things like wildlife.

Get the GoPro Hero 11.

Sony a6600 (or Previous Models)

Sony a6500 - best cameras for backpacking
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Personally, I have been using Sony as the brand for my main camera setup since 2013 and I love them. As mentioned before I used the Sony Nex 6 for 3 years before upgrading to the Sony A7II.

The Sony a6600 is one of the best cameras for backpacking due to its size and excellent image quality. If you don’t want to spend the extra money on a full-frame camera then this is a good option to buy.

One great option is to get one of the previous models in the range like the a6500 or a6400 as they still take great pictures but are cheaper to get now.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III 

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III makes for one of the best cameras for backpacking and is also great value for money.

The video is not the best in this camera though compared to others so if the video quality is important to you then give this one a miss and get a different camera mentioned here where the video quality is good.

Google Pixel Phone Cameras

Google Pixel 6 - camera for backpacking
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Don’t laugh at this one as it’s a genuinely good option, especially for backpackers of the travel kind. It has come to the point in time where smartphones can compete with stand-alone cameras for image quality and the Google Pixel series of smartphones rank among the best.

The main reason it takes such excellent images and video though is not just because of the lens, like so many other high-end smartphones, but because of the superb post-processing software for the images that Google uses.

The Google Pixel 7 is currently the latest and best version and the one to get if you can afford it, but the older models can be found at decent prices and are still worth getting such as the Pixel 6 and even the Pixel 5.

If you really want to take your photography seriously it’s a very good idea to have a smartphone that takes good pictures as well as a decent camera, as a general rule you will most likely always have your phone with you ready to capture images when you don’t have your main camera around.

The latest Apple iPhone also takes excellent pictures and videos, as well as other flagship models from other companies, so they make for a good option as well if your budget can afford it. Personally, I’m recommending the Google Pixel phones as cameras for backpacking as they are good value for money compared with other high-end phones.

Sony RX100 VII (and others in the range)

Sony RX100
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The Sony RX100 was a game-changer when released due to its small size and excellent image quality. One of the recent versions is the Sony RX100 VII and this is the one you will want to invest in.

However, the earlier models are also excellent and cheaper now to get so if you want to save some money then think about getting one of those.

Fujifilm X-T30

Fujifilm X-T30 camera for backpacking
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Fujifilm makes some of the best cameras you can get and the Fujifilm X-T30 is the model you will want to be getting as a camera for backpacking.

It also takes good 4K video.

Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera

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The Olympus Tough TG-6 makes for a great budget option as far as cameras for backpacking go and is also waterproof, so especially if you plan to hike in rainy environments a lot (looking at you Scottish Highlands) then this makes a good alternative to the GoPro.

It also takes RAW images for better post-production photo editing.

Panasonic Lumix ZS70

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I used a compact Panasonic camera for a backpacking trip from Ethiopia to South Africa back in 2010 and it took great pics, and they still do a range of great cameras for backpacking today.

The current good one to get is the Panasonic Lumix ZS70 that offers great value for money.

It takes 4K video.

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

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No list of cameras would feel complete without a recommendation for Canon and they offer one of the best point and shoot cameras to use, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II.

Sony A7II (and Others in the Range)

Sony A7II - cameras for backpacking
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I’ll end this list with my own favourite of the past five years, the Sony A7II. Although it is several years old now it still takes great pictures and is a full-frame camera. But the main thing is that you can get them at bargain prices now and it makes a great camera to start a Sony lens setup.

The only problem is the video quality as it doesn’t have the 4k option so if you want to do a lot of video work I would suggest one of the other cameras mentioned here. But for still photography it is still a very good option.

Start a small collection of lenses for it and slowly build a collection and a few years from now upgrade to a newer version of it or if you feel like diving in straight away then you could go for the later models such as the Sony A7R and above.

If money is no object then out of all the best cameras for backpacking the Sony a7R IV is the one to get. If I was to buy a brand new camera now it would most likely be the Sony A7R III as it’s good value for money and great for photos and video.

The Sony 16-35mm F4 lens makes a good versatile all-around lens to get as your first lens for the setup as it will take great landscape photos and is a small size for carrying. It’s not cheap but it’s an investment into a camera lens setup for the future.

If you want to take close up wildlife pictures then look for a bigger zoom lens, although that will be bigger and heavier to carry.

The Sony A7 range is easily some of the best cameras for backpacking to get.


Camera Backpacks

If you are planning to just do some hiking day trips and want to have a camera with multiple lenses to take, for example, a landscape lens and a zoom lens for wildlife, as well as carrying a tripod, etc, then taking a dedicated camera backpack makes a good option over a normal hiking backpack.

Note though that these are only good for day hikes as you won’t have enough space for camping gear etc that multiple-day hiking trips require.

If the camera backpack is small enough it also makes for a good day pack on longer travel trips, as you will need a decent day pack for when exploring around where you are.

I highly recommend the Thule Aspect as a camera backpack. I have been using it for 3 years now as a day trip out with the camera and lenses backpack and it’s comfortable and practical, with enough space for what you will most likely need (unless you have a huge zoom lens).


Best Cameras For Backpacking

And those are 10 of the best cameras for backpacking you can choose from today. This list will be updated every year to reflect new cameras being released.

As a backpacker, you may be travelling on a budget in which case obviously go for a budget camera option and use the money saved to spend in the countries visited or for some hiking gear if hiking.

Otherwise, if you want to take photography more seriously then look into the mid-range options or splurge for the pricier models and be happily set for years to come.

For more reading about gear for backpacking check out my article about the best gifts for hikers.


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