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The 5 Best Cameras For Hiking And Backpacking - Spring 2024 Reviews

Updated May 16, 2024 at 04:13 pm
Best Cameras For Hiking And Backpacking

So you're on a hike and reach an amazing lookout, and you want to capture the moment, only to realize that all you've got on you is your phone. Bummer, right? Sure, your smartphone will do in a pinch, but having a dedicated camera means capturing those stunning views with more clarity and detail. The best cameras for backpacking need to be portable and, ideally, weather-sealed so you can shoot in all kinds of weather conditions without worry. Crop sensor mirrorless cameras are the ideal choice for a mix of image quality, portability, and durability, but the more adventurous among us may prefer to grab a GoPro or action camera for video capture, and others may decide to give up the versatility of an interchangeable lens for the portability that comes with a fixed-lens point-and-shoot camera.

Thankfully, we've done some work narrowing down those options for you. We've bought and tested over 100 cameras in our lab, and below, you'll find our recommended cameras for hiking and backpacking. If you don't care as much about the portability of your camera and want the best possible image quality, you can also check out our buying guide for the best cameras for landscape photography. On the flip side, if portability is your top priority, you can try the best cameras for travel or the best compact cameras.

  1. Best Camera For Hiking And Backpacking

    The Fujifilm X-T5 is the best camera for hiking that we've tested. With a sturdy, weather-sealed design and a relatively portable body, it's a breeze to bring with you on the go. Plus, APS-C lenses are generally smaller than full-frame alternatives, making for a more portable overall kit. Fujifilm's old-school dedicated exposure dials also give you more hands-on control over your settings. But the real highlight of this camera is its high-resolution sensor, which has a whopping 40.2 MP resolution that captures a stunning level of detail and gives you plenty of room to crop and adjust your photos.

    The camera also features in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which can help you capture stable handheld shots at slower shutter speeds, so you can leave the bulky tripod at home. Beyond that, the X-T5 has a fantastic battery life for a mirrorless model, making it a great choice for long hikes and backpacking excursions. If you want to save some money, its predecessor, the Fujifilm X-T4, is still a great choice, though it uses a lower-resolution sensor and is a tad bigger and heavier.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range Camera For Hiking And Backpacking

    If you want something a little easier on the wallet, check out the OM SYSTEM OM-5. A Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera like this is a great choice for hikes thanks to its portable size and smaller lenses. The OM-5 is a well-built camera with good ergonomics for its size and a weather-sealed body that the manufacturer advertises as dustproof, splashproof, and freezeproof.

    It has some neat extra features, including computational photography modes to get higher-resolution composite images or make it easier to get long-exposure shots. To top it off, it has an excellent five-axis IBIS system to get steadier shots without a tripod. The battery life isn't as good as on the Fujifilm X-T5, but this is still a fantastic choice for adventurous photographers who want something compact and feature-rich without spending a fortune. If you can find one for less, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is the OM-5's predecessor and a great alternative with a largely identical feature set, though it uses an older processor.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Camera For Hiking And Backpacking

    The Fujifilm X-T30 II is another great mid-range option for hiking. While it doesn't have IBIS, it's just as small and lightweight as the OM SYSTEM OM-5, making it easy to hike and travel with. Unlike the OM SYSTEM, it uses an APS-C sensor, which captures excellent image quality, and this camera is compatible with a wide range of different lenses. They won't be as compact as Micro Four Thirds options, but there are plenty of portable and high-quality primes for Fuji's X mount.

    That said, there's a trade-off in build quality here. This model has no weather sealing, so you'll have to be more careful in adverse weather conditions. On the upside, its dedicated exposure dials make adjusting settings very easy, and you can play with its preset film simulation profiles to change up the look of your JPEGs in-camera. Ultimately, if you can live without weather sealing or built-in stabilization, this is an excellent little camera for the money.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Camera For Hiking And Backpacking

    If you're on an even tighter budget, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is one of the best-value options for hiking and backpacking. It's a step down from the OM SYSTEM OM-5 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III in the Olympus lineup, but it offers a lot of the same features that make the OM-5 a standout for backpackers and adventure-seekers.

    For one, it's incredibly lightweight and portable, and since it's part of the MFT system, you'll have plenty of compact and relatively affordable lens options to choose from. On top of that, it's one of the few budget options to feature IBIS, making it easier to get clear handheld shots at slower shutter speeds. The camera doesn't feel as well-built as pricier models and has no weather sealing, but it checks a lot of boxes at a price that's hard to beat, especially if you're just getting started in photography.

    See our review

  5. Best Point-And-Shoot Camera For Hiking And Backpacking

    While an interchangeable lens camera will give you the best image quality and the most flexibility, a point-and-shoot like the RICOH GR III is an excellent take-anywhere camera. It's incredibly compact, easily fitting into a pocket, and thanks to a high-res APS-C sensor and a sharp built-in lens, it's tough to beat its size-to-image-quality ratio. The fixed 28 mm full-frame equivalent lens is a great fit for landscapes and wider shots, but if you prefer a narrower field of view, the RICOH GR IIIx has a 40 mm lens that may suit you better.

    The camera's minimalist design makes it easy to shoot with, and it feels well-built overall, though it isn't weather-sealed to keep out dust and moisture. The fixed screen can also make it difficult to shoot at different angles. Of course, since it's so compact, it has a more limited battery life, so you may want to pack a spare battery for longer hikes. Having said that, if you want to eliminate the need for a bulkier kit, this truly pocketable camera is the way to go.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • OM SYSTEM OM-1 Mark II: The OM SYSTEM OM-1 Mark II shares many great features with the OM SYSTEM OM-5, including composite photo modes and IBIS, with the added benefit of a more rugged build and better ergonomics, not to mention a stacked sensor and better video features. However, it's notably bulkier and, with a higher price tag than the Fujifilm X-T5, is likely overkill for hiking. See our review
  • Sony α7C II: If you want full-frame image quality without the bulk, the Sony α7C II is the best option, with an impressively compact design for a full-frame camera. That said, it still isn't as portable as the Fujifilm X-T5, especially when you factor in lens sizes, and it has a small viewfinder that's harder to shoot with. See our review
  • Sony RX100 VII: The Sony RX100 VII is an excellent point-and-shoot camera with a more versatile zoom lens than the RICOH GR III. However, it's more expensive and uses a smaller sensor, resulting in worse overall image quality. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. May 16, 2024: We brushed up some of the text to bring the article up to date, including removing a reference to the older Fujifilm X-T4. Our top recommended cameras remain the same.

  2. Mar 21, 2024: We've reviewed the article to ensure the picks are up to date and touched up some of the text for clarity.

  3. Jan 30, 2024: Replaced the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III with the OM SYSTEM OM-5 because of better availability.

  4. Dec 01, 2023: Removed the Nikon D5600 from Notable Mentions, as it's been discontinued, and replaced the Sony α7C with the Sony α7C II as a Notable Mention.

  5. Oct 06, 2023: Added mention of the OM SYSTEM OM-5 in discussing the upper mid-range pick.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras for most people to buy for hiking and backpacking. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the U.S.).

If you'd like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our camera reviews. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.