Gear List: Essentials and Photo Equipment
It’s that time of year again. The snow is melting. The temperatures are rising. The waterfalls and rivers are flowing. Hikers and backpackers are starting to hit the trails, and the outdoor magazines are publishing their gear lists of recommended items to bring along.
When I head out on an overnight backpacking trip, I leave with the priority of photos in mind. The heavy photography equipment means that I have to live by the light is right mantra. What I take on my journey can be just as important as what I end up not taking. Here is my list of gear that I just can’t live without:
- Pack – F-Stop Gear Satori (5lb 8oz)
- Tent – Black Diamond Bipod Bivy (1lb 13oz)
- Sleeping Bag – The North Face Hightail (2lbs)
- Sleeping Pad – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir (13oz)
This is easily the best backpack for adventure/nature photography. A bold statement, but I challenge anyone to find a better system. At 58 liters, this is the largest expedition backpack that F-Stop makes.
Their packs are designed with an internal camera unit (ICU) that makes customizing the room that I wish to commit to my gear very simple. I use the medium size ICU which holds my gear perfectly. I could probably downgrade to the smallest size, but if I do find myself with extra room in the ICU, I use it for storing food. The pack is back-loading, meaning that when laying it down in the mud, none of that gets transfered back onto me after I’m done shooting.
At first, I was hesitant of going with a bivy as my main shelter. The major flaw being that if it rains or snows, I have little to no space to store my photo equipment. I solved this by carrying a simple emergency blanket in my pack. If it’s dry, the blanket provides an extra barrier between my bivy, my sleeping pad, and the ground. In case of rain or snow, I store my photography gear with me in the bivy , and cover my pack with the blanket outside, holding it down with rocks.
The bivy is a bit cramped for space, making sleeping on my side a bit difficult, but the bug net provides me a full view of the night sky, and the small amount of space and weight it takes up easily outweighs any cons.
Weight was my primary concern when choosing this bag. At only 2 lbs, the Hightail is rated down to 15° F and I have even spent a few nights comfortably sleeping in the single digits. It packs down to a little less than one foot tall and eight inches wide making it one of the larger items in my pack, though I have yet to find a sleeping bag at this rating that packs to a smaller size.
This is the lightest, and surprisingly also the most comfortable sleeping pad I have tried. Despite only being 13 ounces, the pad is still 2.5 inches thick and is extremely comfortable. It packs down to just slightly bigger than a soda can, and I attach it in a side pocket of my pack leaving room on the front for jackets and other items that I may need more quickly.
- Body – Canon 5D Mark II (1lb 13oz)
- Wide Angle Lens – 17-40mm f/4L (1lb 2oz)
- Zoom Lens – 70-200mm f/4L IS (1lb 11oz )
- Tripod – Gorillapod (8oz)
- Memory Cards – SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB (3oz)
- Extras – A remote shutter for long exposures and night photography, cleaning cloth, and 2 spare batteries
The 5D is the perfect photography for landscape and adventure photography. The full-frame sensor is excellent when shooting wide scenes and the high ISO performance is some of the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve also been using the live view considerably more lately with manual focus, which, in my opinion, allows for sharper photos. When I’m shooting action, I do wish that I had a much faster frame rate, as the 3.9 fps can sometimes allow me to miss a few shots in between. I hope to buy a Canon 1D Mark IV at some point in the future for action shots.
Not only is this lens a few ounces lighter than the newer 16-35 f/2.8, but it is considerably cheaper, and I believe every bit as sharp. Even the distortion at the wider angles isn’t that noticeable and easily fixed with a Photoshop preset. I use this lens for the majority of shots that I take and it is the only lens that I take with me on summit days or hikes where weight becomes absolutely essential.
As much as I would love to carry a 70-200 f/2.8, this thing is a beast! It’s pushing six pounds and is bigger than the f/4 lens, as well. I love the f/4 as well though. I believe that the IS that Canon offers on this lens easily offsets the extra aperture stop and the extra four pounds is easily appreciated when hauling 50 pounds of gear into the mountains.
I don’t carry a full tripod on backpacking trips. As light as my carbon fiber tripod is, it is still 4lbs, and thus, too heavy, not to mention very bulky. The Gorillapod has the ability to wrap around trees and conform to any shape for awkward positioning. I have found that it’s even sturdy enough for shooting star trails. The only thing I miss out on by not bringing my tripod, is shooting from a higher perspective, but with a little creativity and a well-placed tree branch, the Gorillapod will work even for this.
I always bring three 16GB cards with me and often people ask why I use such high storage on a single card, implying that it’s a risk for losing data. Perhaps, but I’ve never had a problem shooting SanDisk. My cards have taken falls, and I’ve even sent on through a washing cycle at home, only to have it still going strong afterwards. I’m more scared of running out of storage and having to keep up with 12 4GB cards than I am of losing data. I also use these memory cards because they are tested to work down to -13°F and to say they are fast is an understatement. Shooting RAW bursts are easy to handle and usually don’t need to buffer until around 20 shots in.
The total amount of weight here is over 16lbs. Already a lot to carry for miles at a time. Just wait until clothing and food is added in part two of my gear list next week.