Back to Adventure Alan’s Ultralight Backpacking Home Page: This contains a wealth of information on backpacking with gear lists, trip reports, backpacking techniques for various weather and environments (cold rainy weather, alipine hiking, desert hiking), etc. While focused on lightweight backpacking, much of the content applies to all styles of backpacking.

A sudden opening in the clouds illuminates a lone tree and a small outcrop overlooking Loch Marie in Wester Ross. The summit
of Slioch (left) is still shrouded in mist at midday. [Handheld with Olympus E-520 and stock 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko ED Zoom lens.]
This photo looks great enlarged to 14x19.

2009 Gear List for Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking Photography

Save 4.8 lb, $3,650 on backpacking photography gear and camera equipment

The following compares my Olympus 4/3 format based Lightweight Backpacking Gear List to that of a fairly well known backpacking photographer’s gear list based on the Canon 5D Mk II full frame sensor camera. His is a very nice list as well, and if I was to go on a day hike where photography were the primary objective, I would be sorely tempted use his equipment. On the other hand, when I’m out backpacking for a week, off trail most of the time (bushwhacking and climbing) and photography is only one of my objectives (I like to fly fish and bag a few peaks), I might downsize to just the E-620 body and Zuiko 14-54mm 1:2.8-3.5 II lens.

Backpacking Photography Equipment: Lightweight vs. Traditional Gear Lists

4.9 lb, $2,600 lightweight backpacking photography gear - Olympus 4/3 format
9.7 lb, $6,250 “traditional” backpacking photography gear - Canon 5D Mk II full frame
4.8 lb, $3,650 Savings

While I love the image quality of Digital SLRs, there is a limit to how large a backpacking camera needs to be for good image quality, especially if you don’t intend to print at 20 x 30 inches. With many of the prosumer/top-end DSLR’s approaching a camera class comparable (in size/weight and possibly resolution) to the medium format cameras of the 70’s and 80’s, there is a need for DSLRs in the spirit of the take-anywhere 35mm film cameras of the same era (small, light, but with respectable, if not superb, resolution and optics). The original objective of the 35 mm SLR was to find a balance between weight, size and image quality—an objective that many DSLR manufactures seem to have forsaken. They make 6-ounce point and shoot cameras with wretched image quality or 3½ pound cameras like the Canon 5d with superb image quality. They make few cameras for that in between “sweet spot.”

Arguably the Olympus 4/3 cameras and lenses have come closest to this sweet spot. My lightweight backpacking photography gear list reflects this. The Zuiko 4/3 zoom lenses are in a class by themselves for weight and image quality. (To be fair the Canon 450D does very well. It has a slightly bettor sensor, but it is a bit heavier and the Zuiko optics are lighter and far superior to anything Canon offers. In fact, Canon’s kit lens can’t approach the resolution of the 450D’s sensor.) And as always, I am very interested in the μ4/3 cameras—Pansonic’s once they have high quality lens options and the Olympus μ4/3 entry when, if ever, it debuts.