So you're on a hike and reach an amazing lookout, and you want to capture the moment, only to realize you've only got your phone on you. 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 also 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 compact camera.
Thankfully, we've done some work narrowing down those options for you. We've bought and tested over 90 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 most important, you can try the best cameras for travel or the best compact cameras.
The Fujifilm X-T5 is one of the best cameras for hiking that we've tested. With a sturdy but relatively compact body with weather-sealing, you can take it on the go without much worry. Fujifilm's classic physical control dials also make adjusting settings on the fly easy. However, the real highlight of this camera is its high-resolution sensor, which has a whopping 40 MP resolution that gives you plenty of leeway to crop in your photos and captures a stunning level of detail.
The camera also includes in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which can help you capture stable handheld shots at slower shutter speeds, meaning you can leave the bulky tripod at home. APS-C lenses are generally smaller than full-frame alternatives, making for a more portable overall kit. Beyond that, the X-T5 has a fantastic battery life for a mirrorless camera, 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.
If you want something a little easier on the wallet, you can't go wrong with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) cameras are a great choice for hikes thanks to their portable size and smaller lenses. The E-M5 Mark III is also well-built, with great ergonomics and a weather-sealed body that the manufacturer advertises as dustproof, splashproof, and freezeproof.
The camera has some neat extra features, including composite photo modes to get higher-resolution images or make long-exposure photography easier. To top it off, it has an excellent five-axis IBIS system to get steadier shots without necessarily having to lug a tripod with you. 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.
The Fujifilm X-T30 II is another great mid-range option for hiking, especially if you don't need in-body image stabilization. While it doesn't have IBIS, it's just as small and lightweight as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, making it easy to hike and travel with. Despite sitting at a lower price point, it also uses the same APS-C sensor as the Fujifilm X-T4, the predecessor to our top pick, so it's a great choice if image quality and low-light capability are priorities.
That said, there's a trade-off in build quality here. This model has no weather sealing, so you must be more careful on rainy days. On the upside, its dedicated exposure dials make adjusting settings a breeze, and you get several film simulation profiles to play around with 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.
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 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III in the Olympus lineup, but it offers many of the same great features that make that camera a standout for backpackers and adventure-seekers.
For one, it's incredibly lightweight and portable, making it a breeze to take on long hikes. Since it's part of the M4/3 system, plenty of compact and affordable lens options are available. On top of that, it's one of the few cameras in this price range to feature in-body image stabilization, allowing for clear shots at slower shutter speeds. The camera doesn't feel as well-built as pricier models, and there's no weather sealing here. However, it checks many boxes at a price that's hard to beat, especially if you're just getting started in photography.
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: this camera is 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 28mm full-frame equivalent lens is a great fit for landscapes and wider shots, and if you prefer a narrower field of view, the RICOH GR IIIx variant has a 40mm 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, and dust can get into the sensor if you're not careful. The fixed screen can also make framing shots at different angles hard. Of course, it also has a more limited battery life, but that's one of the downsides of going with a compact camera. Still, if you want to eliminate the need for a bulkier kit on longer or more strenuous hikes, this truly pocketable camera is the way to go.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras for backpacking for most people to buy, according to their needs. 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.