Tools

Tripod required. Looking north from the Skyline Divide, Mt. Judge Howay in the distance. Sony a6300, Canon 70-200mm f/4.

Tripod required: Looking north from Baker’s Skyline Divide, Mt. Judge Howay in the distance. Sony a6300, Canon 70-200mm f/4.

Updated 2016/10/14. All photographers need tools. Away from home, a hotel stay invites a big toolset; a car camp likewise. A moderate-volume sea kayak with oval hatch openings can carry the gear you need. With backpacking — or with minimalist-type sea kayaking — it’s essentials only.

Below is my current backpacking camera gear list for the Sony a6300, which for backpacking has replace my Canon 5D Mark III. The a6300 takes generally better pictures compared with the 5D III, weighs only 14 ounces, and, with the 1.5 crop factor, allows for smaller, lighter lenses. An a6300 downside is slightly higher noise compared to the 5D at high ISO’s, about half a stop, but the Sony has better dynamic range for more usable detail in the shadows. My three lens systems consists of the excellent-value Rokinon 12mm f/2, the marginal kit-lens Sony 16-50mm, plus a telephoto. For now, my stand-by Canon 70-200mm f/4 serves, but it requires not just a converter (Metabones), but a heavier ball head and a longer lens plate. Eventually for backpacking I’ll replace the zooms with something better, sharper and/or lighter. I’m not enamored with Sony’s current C-size options, so I’ll wait a season or two for Sony or someone else to produce a suitable, light-weight telephoto zoom, a zoom that matches the capability of the a6300.

As I’ve often said in the past, I no longer carry split ND filters, preferring to take two to several exposures for combining in Lightroom (or Photoshop). Another weight saver is my wood panorama tool, which simplifies single-row vertical pans while allowing close foreground elements that blend smoothly when merged. Technology keeps pushing what’s possible in the remote backcountry. We live in exciting times.

I don’t have a specific sea kayak camera list. Sea kayaks can carry a lot of gear, and my equipment changes to meet the needs of the trip.

Backpacking Camera Gear List

Getting quality shots on backpack trips is a game of ounces: how much gear can you carry into the wild; how far are you willing (or able) to carry it. Optimizing a shoot almost always means an SLR (or mirrorless) and tripod, but it also demands trekking lightly. Forget about covering all contingencies — think 80-20 rule. Sometimes you should just take one lens.

For three-season backpacking, my pack weight is about 24 pounds for a 3-night trip: 11 pounds for pack, clothing, shelter, stove, etc.; 8 pounds for camera gear; 5 pounds for food. I wrote about light-weight backpacking photography in the 2009/10 tip, with an update in 2010/11 and 2012/01. Here’s my current backpacking camera list based on the Sony a6300.

Equipment       Weight (oz)

Sony a6300                                14.2 oz.
Batteries (3)                            4.8 oz.
Sony 16-50mm f/4L                   4.1 oz.
Rokinon 12mm f/2.0                 9.0 oz
Canon 70-200mm f/4                30.5 oz
Metabones adapter                  8.0 oz
Polarizing filter 67mm               2.0 oz.
Polarizing filter 14.5mm                .9 oz
Vello Freeware plus remote         3.0 oz.
Cleaning cloth                            .4 oz.
Tamrac Jazz Zoom 25                 5.4 oz.
Oben CT-2331 tripod                22.6 oz.
Markins Q3 ballhead                  13 oz.
Markins plate PL-15                  2.4 oz.
Wood pano tool                        2.7 oz.
cloth bandana                          1.5 oz.
SD cards (1)                              .15 oz.
Total:                                    124.6 oz.
                                             7.79 lbs.

For a fast and light backpack trip, I’ll drop the 70-200mm Canon lens. That also means no Metabones adaptor, a smaller ball head and a shorter lens plate. Total camera weight drops to an impressive 5.07 lb., though telephoto capability is sacrificed.

Gary