Backpacking DSLR Setup

***Updated: See what I’m now hiking with here!

For great videos and photos, Canon DSLR cameras offer incredible image quality. Here is my camera setup I took when I hiked and documented every trail in Glacier National Park in 2011 and continue to take when I get out. (Look for a future video on how I hauled around all of my equipment)

Canon 7D (camera body)
Canon EF 70-200mm 2.8L IS II (telephoto zoom lens)
Canon 2x EF Extender II (lens doubler for telephoto lens)
Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 AT-X Pro DX (wide angle zoom lens)
Manfrotto 755Cx3 with Manfrotto 701HDV Pro tripod head (carbon fiber tripod legs with video head)

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21 Responses to Backpacking DSLR Setup

  1. Carbon Fibre Tripod November 7, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    I enjoy your writing style truly enjoying this web site .

  2. Mark November 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Jake, YouTube is telling me that this video is set to private.

    (But since I’m a Nikon guy, that’s probably OK. 🙂

    • hike734 November 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      Gaaa!! Oops, I fixed it. Thanks for the heads up and try it now!

  3. Marci November 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I think I saw a term in a Western Horseman magazine a few months back for what I’m experiencing right now: gear lust. 🙂 I’ve just gotten into photography the last couple years and want to get a better lens. Looks like a great setup!!! What’s the difference between a Tokina lens and a comparable Canon one, besides the name? 😉 Also, do you ever use a remote shutter release?? Thanks!!

    • hike734 November 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      I have my own “gear lust” list myself. Can you ever have it all? (hint: nope) As far as the differences between lenses, you just have to look at quality. There are high end Canon lenses and lower end ones. The Tokina happens to be an excellent value for its quality. I do notice some chromatic aberration with it with certain pictures, but my budget wasn’t super crazy and I wanted a zoom lens, so you get what you get!

      As far as a remote shutter release, I’ve used them in the past, but don’t have one. That’s on my “list”. 😉

  4. Mike November 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Great post. Our family went to Glacier this past summer for 10 days. Not campers, so a lot of driving in and out of the park and short hikes, but still the best vacation ever!

    I struggled with the whole carrying gear in a pack designed for hiking concept. Camera backpacks are way too heavy and bulky for hiking in my opinion. I probably was over the top on gear outfitting due to our short hikes. Would normally have 3 or 4 lenses, camera (Canon 5D MkIII) filters, tripod, GPS, water, random kid things and a snack. For me the most frustrating part was how long it took to setup and then pack away for a shot. Any tips on that aspect would be appreciated. Can’t recall how many times right after packing all of the stuff up we would come to another great shooting location. Most of the time the camera was at the ready on a CSLR strap system, but the camera was never as protected as I would have liked. Looking forward to your next post on how you carry it all.

    Thanks again for maintaining this site. These are tiding me over until we can get out there again in 2013 or 2014.

  5. Jon November 11, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Hey Jake, Have you thought about leading a “workshop” this spring? Maybe a smaller hike to Avalanche Lake, where you talk about your adventures and maybe also discuss safety, back country hiking, and photography?
    Or maybe leading a snowshoe trip one Saturday?
    Thanks again for allowing us to tag along on your journeys through the website!

    • hike734 November 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      That sounds like a great idea! I’ll have to see how we can make that work. Do you live in the area?

      • Jon November 30, 2012 at 8:29 am #

        Right now, I’m attending the Carolina Film Institute which is located in South Carolina but I’ll be finishing up & going back to the valley right after Christmas. I remember your presentation at the Whitefish Mountain Films, ‘Black Phantoms’, it was great!

  6. Matt February 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Hi Jake, You’ve got some great info in here. I’m curious how you address battery power on your longer trips. Do you just carry extra batteries? Solar charger? Other?

    One of my favorite things is overnight time-lapse photography, which is a real power-sink (at least on my Sony A55). I managed to recharge in the backcountry with Goal Zero’s Nomad 7 solar panel (and 3 batteries for shuffling around). It worked great, but it also took some time and effort to make sure I was capturing enough sun-power.

    Also, are you mostly sticking around GNP this upcoming summer, or is there a new location in your sights?

    • hike734 February 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

      I have three batteries for my 7D. I’ve ran out of cards before my battery, but then again, I wasn’t doing any time lapse. So many fun things to do huh?!

      Do you like the solar charger?

      As far as other trips, I’ll be doing mainly GNP, but I miss my Bob Marshall Wilderness area and might do a longer Chinese Wall trip in there in September. It gets infinitely harder to do the kind of project I did when you don’t live right next to it. 😀

      • Matt February 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

        It’s a marvel how easy it has become to document great scenery in this digital age.
        The solar charger was fantastic! The real key with the solar charger was pointing it directly at the sun. Pointing just 10 or 20 degrees off made a big difference in the power output/recharge rate. I always had enough power, though I was careful to conserve power when possible. An all night series burned through two batteries, so recharging was critical.
        There was a nice balance in power use/recharge. While I couldn’t recharge on cloudy/rainy days, I also wasn’t taking as many pictures (especially when you couldn’t see the stars).
        It was also reassuring that we had 4 point-and-shoot cameras in the group…

        • Jake Bramante February 10, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

          It has become easy! I like how you don’t have to process tons of film to find those one or two nice shots… also the instant feedback so you know that you’re capturing everything perfectly!

          Thanks for the info on the charger!

          • Matt Leathen February 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

            I can’t imagine how hard it was to get good pictures without the immediate feedback!

            You’ve just seriously raised my ‘gear lust’ for a powerful telephoto lense (just starting to build my collection). What is some of the gear at the top of your lust list (camera/general backpacking)?

            • Jake Bramante February 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

              Not sure about camera gear at the moment. I really need to get a new tent first and foremost. After that, I’m still trying to get the perfect backpack. As far as camera gear, I’m okay with what I have, although I’d not be opposed to getting something like the Canon C300 to get better video. Then again, I like taking stills too. 😉

  7. Griff Jones May 9, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Wow! Really cool insight into what you need for backpacking videography. I’m actually curious: why a DSLR and not a camcorder like the Canon XA10? I’m looking into getting a camera for outdoor videography, and I know DSLRs are hot right now, but for compactness and ease of use, isn’t something like the XA10 a really good option too?

    • Jake Bramante May 12, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      It looks like the XA10 would be great for sure! I chose my camera because I wanted amazing looking video AND photos. Of course my setup is much heavier, but I have a larger range from wide angle to zoom. I also like the colors and depth of field I get from better lenses and a larger sensor… but it definitely costs more. 😉

  8. mplsadventures January 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    Thanks for this post, I recently did a hike where I didn’t bring my dslr and have been looking for different ways to carry it. I had thought about getting a cross strap or buying a new one, but a bag attached with carabiner seems like a great idea

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