- Feb 4, 2019 at 10:09 pm #3576753
I’m a photographer and an ultralight backpacker – but I haven’t combined the two into one on many ocassions – but I’m being hired now to go backpacking and take photos…
The last time I tried to bring all the camera gear and my normal kit – it was too much for my pack – I currently use an old Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus.
In addition to my normal kit which totals around 10 pounds with a bear canister, I’m trying to pack:
two camera bodies, two lenses, tripod, light stand, flash, spare batteries
So I’m looking for recommendations on a lightweight pack that can carry additional weight comfortably for my upcoming trips.
Any suggestions are greatly appreciated – let me know if you need more info to provide a better recommendation.
Thanks!Feb 4, 2019 at 10:19 pm #3576755idesterBPL Member
@doug-iLocale: The CascadesFeb 5, 2019 at 12:03 am #3576777Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
How much weight are you planning on carrying? If you’re going to carry 30# or more, I suggest the Seek Outside Gila or Divide depending on how much volume you need. If you are carrying under 30# and don’t need tons of volume then something like the SWD Long Haul 50 is a nice choice.
The Seek Outside packs come in X21 (210d face fabric) and X42 (420d face fabric).
You can get the SWD packs in a variety of fabrics including Dyneema XFeb 5, 2019 at 12:54 am #3576781Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
There’s a video-blogger named Dixie who makes great hiking videos on youtube. Her channel is called Homemade Wanderlust. She uses a Zpacks Arc Haul. I’m not sure what kind of camera equipment she has, though. I think it’s actually fancy stuff you can get for your phone, plus it looks like she has a drone and maybe a go-pro. You might try to look for her and see what camera equipment she uses and if I’m right about it mostly being really small stuff, you should see how amazing her videos are. I mean she captured a close-up of a crab spider grabbing a mosquito. This might offer you the potential to consider lightening up your camera gear.Feb 5, 2019 at 1:33 am #3576792Jay DBPL Member
This won’t help you with your backpack, but when backpacking with my camera gear, I pack it into a Tenba bag insert (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KT7G9UY) with most of the dividers removed. It fits a full frame DSLR (no grip) with 24-70 lens attached, a 16-35 and a 70-200 (f/4), and I use two Lee square filter wallets (which take up a lot of space). Instead of the wallets, It’ll fit a flash plus your second body (no lens), and all your other bits…allen wrenches for tripod, batteries, memory cards can fill around the other gear or into the small pouch in the lid. It’s great for keeping your kit organized in your backpack without dumping everything into a dry bag to bang around.
If you plan to shoot while hiking and don’t want your camera to be in your pack, you can use the Peak Design clip (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07818LB9D) to attach it to your shoulder strap for quick release access. It does use a proprietary plate (Arca compatible). Then you can fit more gear into the Tenba case.Feb 5, 2019 at 12:25 pm #3576853Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
A second for for the Elemental Horizons Aquillo. Might even fit into the Kalais at 62 liters, depending on the size of your kit.Feb 5, 2019 at 4:26 pm #3576895Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
+ 1 to Jay’s comment.
With two Full Frame bodies, pro lenses, tripod, ball head, lightstand, flash plus etc you probably have > 20 lbs of camera gear.
I would look at some of the circa 3 pound panel-style climbing packs from Osprey, Arcteryx, Marmot and others with zipper entries, for example the Marmot Graviton. With the wrap around zippers, you could access the insert without disturbing your other gear. If you have a 3 or 4 figure CF tripod+ballhead, when not in use you might be more comfortable too stashing it inside your pack rather than hanging off the outside.
If you are doing landscapes, I assume there will be times where your camera is mounted on the tripod, and you are carrying the tripod around over your shoulder, while at the same time wearing the pack. So the pack’s stability and a center of gravity close to your body would be important as well as multiple points of entry into your pack.
I think Galen Rowell and others have written about their own minimalist pro photo backcountry kits which usually involves use of one or two prime lenses.
Do you also need to carry a laptop?Feb 5, 2019 at 4:28 pm #3576896Paul WegemannBPL Member
@peweg8Locale: Western Colorado
Tim, instead of a new pack, have you considered going with a chest pack? I have a Lowepro toploader chest harness that nicely accommodates any of the various sizes of camera bags I sometimes take when my trips are more photo oriented. A chest pack keeps your gear handy and also balances the load better IMO.Feb 5, 2019 at 5:50 pm #3576915Nathan ColemanBPL Member
We (Seek Outside) designed our Exposure pack with backpacking photography in mind. It may be a better fit than the Gila or Divide that were mentioned above. Photographers seem to prefer panel loader zippered entry for fast access to F-stop cases.Feb 5, 2019 at 7:24 pm #3576939
Thanks, putting that on the list to consider!
Probably looking 30 pounds ish base weight with camera gear – maybe pushing toward 35 (all that work to get below 10…. only to explode it with gear!!!)
I’ll check her out. Not much of an option for going lighter on gear with what/how I shoot (I’m photographing couples in the backcountry and how I shoot pushes specific gear – I may go mirrorless soon, but even that won’t shed much weight in the end)
Thanks! I actually use the peak designs to carry a camera clipped to my strap – and funny enough this caused me more pain than the extra weight in the pack itself – it was PERFECT for grabbing photos as I hiked – and I have a lens pouch I put one lens onto the waist belt for quick access as well
My current pack is so lightweight that the added weight on the should and waist straps wrecked my shoulders.
That was my initial thought was maybe an Osprey – I had one pre-ulralight and it was pretty good on heavy loads, but it terribly encouraged carrying heavier loads lol – but, that’s good insight, I’m not at all familiar with anything made in the last 5-7 years.
I actually photography people/couples/weddings – so the tripod is only for nightime milky way photos of couples – almost not worth bringing because it’s literally only 2-5 frames in the final delivery. No laptop, and yes, two primes… well, one prime and one minor zoom right now.
Do you have any brands of chest packs you recommend? In my mind, they get massively in the way, but if it carried stuff without being a problem, I’d be into it. I think in real use, I’ll have my camera and one lense on a shoulder strap, and a spare lense in a waist pouch – so then it’s packing my tripod, light stand, flash, spare camera body and batteries somewhere – which ok if that’s on the pack and in a chest pack.
Rad – gonna go check out your stuff right now!
Cheers ya’ll – I really appreciate the help!!!!Feb 6, 2019 at 4:35 pm #3577163Paul WegemannBPL Member
@peweg8Locale: Western Colorado
Tim, all my bags are Lowepro, either Toploader, or Nova series. I actually prefer the Nova bags a bit more as, depending on the model, they are wider and I can fit a camera and spare lens, or two. With the Toploader harness though, you can get pretty creative with almost anything you want to hang off your chest. I try to keep to lower profile bags so they don’t block my view.Feb 9, 2019 at 11:46 am #3577628Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Dartmoor, Devon
I drone on about this interminably, but I’m a great fan of the Aarn bodypack concept.
This is an integrated system which counterbalances the load on your back with front pockets that transfer their weight to your hipbelt. This means that your center of balance is unchanged, so your gait is natural and you have virtually no weight at all on your shoulders and spine. It makes for a much less painful experience when carrying any significant load.
Aarn produces front pockets designed for photographers, keeping your gear instantly accessible. They have a US distributor: https://www.aarn-usa.com/
Here’s a review by a photographer:Feb 9, 2019 at 1:32 pm #3577630James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
This is one case where Jeff may be correct. I bring a larger full bodied Pentax DSLR sometimes. I use a larger front pack to carry it. Though this doesn’t really help with carrying things, it provides a place to put most of the stuff needed: Memory sticks, batteries, a few lens options (55mm-100mm, 100mm-300mm, a couple ring doublers, cleaners, etc.) The tripod goes on the pack.
The lid on the case opens up counter-intuitively… the hinge is on the front and opens towards the front leaving a nice tray to set items while swapping out parts. Very handy. This is hard to find, as I remember. I spent about a week looking for one and finally found one at the old Ritz camera shop. There is a strap around the back of my neck that is annoying with the extra 10-15 pounds of weight, but not too bad. I’ve often thought I should just mod it to clip to the pack but never did. There is a couple clips on the bottom I added to eliminate sway when I am hiking, so it works pretty well. (I think it is an old LowePro but there is no name on it, it has gone through a couple SLR/DSLR’s… Yashika, Cannon Rebel and Pentax SLR, Pentax 1000, Pentax D10 – interchangeable lenses.)
Anyway, Most of your gear can be usually condensed down to one or two bodies and a pair of lenses with some expander rings. Most of the camera stuff (90%) I did was with the one D10 and the two lenses. Sometimes the wide angle was used for other stuff, but mostly it was wrapped in my pack. I kind-of gave up about 25 years ago when my back was giving out (several bad disks…) and couldn’t carry the extra 20 pounds through the hills.Feb 9, 2019 at 2:28 pm #3577635CARLOS C.BPL Member
@lamboyLocale: Mid Atlantic
Another thing to consider is the attachment capabilities. The seek outside packs have many lashing points as well as other features that could even allow you to strap on a camera specific bag to it. That could make it very easy for you to stop. Drop the backpack and take only the camera bag for a quick jaunt and can come back and reconnect easily.Feb 9, 2019 at 7:24 pm #3577667ChrisBPL Member
The better heavy-hauling UL packs out there that I can think of would probably be Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs. My dad overloaded his a bit with crazy stuff for a trek we did (electric razor included.. yeesh) and definitely complained about the weight a bit but never complained about the pack itself being uncomfortable. I only tried it on once or twice with his load but I can say for sure it performed better with a lot of weight than my Mariposa ever did. I kinda hear the same from other folks too.
From more personal experience I’ve always been happy with Granite Gear’s packs. I’ve used both the Lutsen and the Crown2 series for some heavier hauls and both performed quite well, the Lutsen in particular since it’s a bit more robust (but probably couldn’t be considered UL. Used with a baseweight of ~12lbs hauling around over a gallon of water, no complaints). Bonus points for being reasonably priced.Feb 9, 2019 at 8:26 pm #3577682Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
I couldn’t carry 30lbs comfortably in my HMG Porter. I realize pack fit is different on everyone but I wasn’t a fan of the suspension at all. I tried several load hauler packs and the Seek Outside was the clear winner for me. For lighter loads I use a SWD Long Haul.Feb 10, 2019 at 10:13 pm #3577807D MBPL Member
@farwalkerLocale: What, ME worry?
I have the Seek Outside Divide. Can’t say enough how awesome this pack is for comfort with higher weight loads. So far I’ve carried it for a year now, mostly on the PCT and AZT going heavy 30 pounds, (light carries are 25 pounds) and even with the bear can weight and extra warm gear for the Sierra it was incredibly comfortable. Packed correctly it helped me not die during several falls. :-0 Balance is everything in dicey situations and this pack rocks. By northern CA I was even not using the belt half of the time cinched tight, the shoulder straps are so comfortable. I discovered for me my breathing was better on long climbs if I just loosened the belt just to keep it on, but that is me….guess I became a belly breather! :-)Feb 11, 2019 at 12:36 am #3577832Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
After owning two of REI’s UL packs over 5 years I switched to the Osprey EXOS 58 and am very happy I did. It is the most comfortable backpack I’ve owned for 3 season use. Plus it is made of fairly durable fabric.
On occasion (1st few days) I have comfortably carried loads up to 35 lbs. with no problems. I love the comfort of the mesh trampoline back panel and I store my closed cell foam sit pad behind it when hiking. Usually I have aftermarket side pockets on it for gear I may need quickly like water treatment, toilet kit, potty kit and first aid kit.
If you need to carry a closed cell foam sleeping pad like a Z-Rest there are straps on the bottom of the pack for this. The lid is detachable for a bit lighter weight if you don’t need the space. There is a permanent flap beneath it to close the top of the pack in this event.Feb 11, 2019 at 1:30 am #3577841Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
Tim Halberg your name looks really familiar. Are you in Santa Barbara or are you just famous in general?
Speaking of Osprey, when I first hiked the PCT I was terrified of the desert so I would fill up 5.5 liters of water and try to keep it full. It was so heavy and my back was killing me. Plus I didn’t exactly have all ultralight gear. In Ague Dulce I went to REI and got an Osprey Aura 65 that weighed a little over 4lbs. But man was it way more comfortable with those 5.5 liters of water. It was like night and day.
I have been hiking around town with barbell plates in my ZPacks Arc Blast. 25lbs of plates plus some of my gear wasn’t uncomfortable in my pack, although my hips are a bit sore from the hip belt. Something digs into me on the hip belt. I could probably add another 10lbs and not feel like the pack is struggling, although I might struggle.Feb 11, 2019 at 10:51 am #3577882AaronBPL Member
ULA Camino maybe? Around 3 pounds, panel loader, rated at 35 lbsFeb 11, 2019 at 6:32 pm #3577917
You all are awesome and I’ve got more homework now – but at least I have direction and hope.
I think I need a sturdier backpack for this either way…
But, as much as I was anti the idea originally, I’m kinda curious about maybe chest carrying some gear – I’ll look into that option as well.
Diane – my UL Mentor was Paul C in Santa Barbara – I lived there from college through getting married. I started my photography business there as well. Now we’re up north.Feb 11, 2019 at 9:13 pm #3577944Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Dartmoor, Devon
If you’re going to chest carry you really do need to look at the Aarn bodypacks I mentioned above. This is something I’ve been playing with for years, and his overall concept is objectively superior to the alternatives. I have some reservations about the detailed implementations (Aarn does tend to over-engineer things) so I’m prototyping my own version. But the overall concept is much the best on the market and well worth checking out.Feb 12, 2019 at 2:29 pm #3578051AaronBPL Member
I’ve lugged a single camera body, a couple lenses and other photo gear in a venerable early design Osprey Aether 60 (2002 version?). It was about 3.5 lbs (before modification and ditching the lid). I still have that pack, and if I was going to haul heavier or bulkier loads again, I’d probably go back to it. I haven’t tried any of Osprey’s more recent designs, but they still appear well made. I was starting to think there was some conspiracy, because they seemed totally ubiquitous at REI at one point, but apparently they’re still independently owned (unlike say Arc’Teryx, who were once partially owned by REI). Backpack shopping is one category where it’s still nice to walk into a brick and mortar and try stuff on. There’s a lot of good brands out there, and most of them are lighter than they used to be.
I mentioned the ULA Camino because I can see the benefit of using a panel loader for hiking photography after dealing with various top loaders. There’s a reason most dedicated photo packs are panel loaders. The Camino is also wide enough to carry a bear canister horizontal, which is rare. I haven’t tried one, but I have used a Circuit, and ULA is a solid choice in the “heavy duty lightweight” category. The bells and whistles to weight ratio is pretty well dialed in. They don’t use NASA level fabrics like HMG or Zpacks, but at least the durability of ULA materials is time tested by now. Trying a ULA pack before you buy is more tricky. Down Works in Santa Cruz (located in former home of Osprey) is one of the few retail shops I’ve seen that stocks ULA gear.Feb 13, 2019 at 2:15 pm #3578248David ChenaultBPL Member
@davecLocale: Queen City, MT
The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor is worth considering if the top zip works for you. Better load carriage than most Osprey packs and certainly better than GGear.Feb 19, 2019 at 4:25 pm #3579342Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Find an old Jansport external frame. Great for hauling tripods! Back in the day when I had a 4×5 or monster 6×6 kit, it was the only way to go.
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