We have a marketing campaign starting at work in a while that revolves around what staff have in their camera bags. Here is my bag and gear that I pack to take along for day hikes into the mountains. Of course I don’t hike with all of it but most of it will go with me to Banff and Yoho National Park this summer.
Manfrotto Off Road 30 L Hiker Backpack. Last year we spent hiking through the backcountry of Banff National Park. This year we are spending part of it hiking the Alpine Circuit of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Later this summer we will hike almost 25 kilometers to three different alpine tea houses so my wife can drink tea. Doing that much hiking means that I want a backpack that is comfortable. With it’s external frame and hip belt, this bag does a pretty good job of carrying the camera and other gear that I want to take on longer day hikes.
The pack is packed and tossed in the back of the car. I keep the Ricoh WG-4 in the front seat with me in case something interesting happens on the road. When we get set up in a campsite or a trailhead, I evaluate what lenses and gear that I will want and then what gear I will carry. At that point it often comes down to three lenses, the 18-135mm and the 70-300mm but I like having the 35mm and 28mm lenses for the trip. I have long wanted a longer zoom lens but the SIgma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens is too big and heavy and my wife also shoots Olympus and has the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 75-300mm F4.8 – 6.7 II Lens which is equivalent to the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary and less than a quarter of the weight. Actually since she is carrying it in her bag, it weighs nothing.
- Pentax K-3: I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II but the larger sensor and increased dynamic range of my Pentax means it will be the camera that I carry on those hikes. I normally always have my grip on my camera but when climbing in the mountains, shedding weight is a big deal so it gets left at home.
- Two 64 GB Lexar Platinum Cards. Two 32gb Sandisk SD Cards as backup.
- Three Extra Batteries: That is excessive for most hikes but we like to stay at unpowered campgrounds because I find they have less partying. While the washroom in the campground has power, it often has a powerbar full of cell phones being charged on it at all times. I will probably pick up another two for this year.
- Pentax SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR: Over the last two years of hiking I have seen countless tourists carry and be frustrated with their 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on mountain hikes because it is too long to capture the views on winding trails or take in the views on mountain passes. Sometimes your best option (especially in good light) is a more versatile walk around lens.
- Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for Pentax: Last year I watched people try to take selfies of The Boss (the alpha grizzly bear in Banff) with a cell phone. That bear even eats other bears and has been hit by a train and just shrugged it off. I prefer to not risk my life for a shot so I use this lens to keep some distance between myself and things that see me as dinner.
- Pentax smc DA 35mm: Sometime during the trip I will head into Banff one evening and want to take some photos of the township or take some nice portraits of the family. I am always torn over bringing this or the Pentax smc DA 50mm but on a APS-C camera, 50mm is often too long for street photography or if I am in a restaurant. I lose a half stop of light with this lens but I get more shots in the end. I really need to upgrade to the Sigma 35mm f1.4.
- Pentax D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro: Many of you love macro photography. I am not one of them and only bought this lens because of peer pressure. My wife however loves macro with a passion so sometime on a trip I will find myself laying down and taking a photo of a flower and hating every single moment of it. I just hope I don’t get bitten by something.
- I won’t take it hiking with me but I will bring along my Pentax-M 28mm f2.8 lens. It is manual focus but ideal for taking late night shots of the stars and the Milky Way. The bad part of this lens is that I have to be awake in the middle of the night to use it.
- Nalgene Water Bottle: For obvious reasons. If it is a really hot day, I will also bring my Swell Water Bottle. You have no idea how amazing cold water tastes on a long mountain hike. Why two bottles? I have gotten sick then last two times I have had water out of a “pristine” mountain glacier stream.
- Gerber Scout Knife: Last year a male wolf came into our campsite and sniffed my head through the tent. The wolf was between my axe and myself and all I had was this knife. I like to think that if it came down to it I could have defended my kids with it but I have watched The Grey and know it would probably have won. Luckily the wolf hadn’t watched The Grey and went back into the woods.
- Adidas Saskatchewan Roughriders Receiving gloves: I had some lightweight Nike jogging gloves for hiking but these are tackified in the fingers and palms giving you a firm grip on your camera. If they are good enough to make the game winning catch, they are good enough for me to hang on to my camera. They have been one of my best purchases of 2017.
- Niteize Carabineer light. I have one of these on all of my camera bags. If we are out too late or something goes wrong, I want to be able to be seen in the dark. I also have one on my all black dog so I can see her at night. It’s another one of those things that brought all sorts of people by our campsite who had children that wanted to check out the “blinking dog”.
- Panasonic HX-WA02 Camcorder: If I am going to shoot some video in the backcountry, I use this. For this summer, I plan to upgrade to a Nikon Keymission 80 camera which is both lighter and smaller but has some really great features for hikers.
- 52-Inch Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod: For taller photographers, there seems to be only two alternatives. The one is to carry a medium duty tripod so it is tall enough or carry a lightweight tripod on the trail and have to crouch over or kneel down when using it. I prefer to crouch down.
- Primus Classic Stove and Fuel: I carry one of this with me on cooler days and long hikes. There is nothing better than stopping on a long hike and a cool day and cooking up a box of Three Cheese Kraft Dinner. To save space, I toss the box and keep it in a zip lock bag. It is the same amount of food as the the macaroni and cheese MREs but is about 15% the cost.
- Clif Bars: They are easy to eat on the trail, give you a boost, and are edible even if not my favorite thing in the world.
- Mess Kit: It’s not the best quality mess kit out there but it is lightweight and can cook the above mentioned Kraft Dinner. Since contracting giardia twice in Banff over the years, I tend to boil up some water during that time. If we are eating near a creek, I tend to boil the water up, pour it in the Nalgene and then put the entire bottle back in the glacier water to cool it back down.
- Nikon 10×25 binoculars: I have found myself hiking through alpine meadows that are frequented by grizzly bears. Scouting it out works for me. It saved me big time last year as I was able to see a grizzly feeding right in the middle of a trail I was about to walk down.
- Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera: I look at this two ways. It’s an addition camera battery and there times when I want a waterproof camera that can take high resolution files. With the carbineer, I keep it clipped to the front of my pack.
- Business Cards: I don’t know why but everywhere we went in Banff and Yoho National Parks people wanted to meet, pet, and take selfies or family portraits with my dog. This generally led to them wanting to email me the photo or stay in contact with them. I gave out a ton of personal business cards and got some photos back of strangers with my dog. Some said it was the highlight of their trip. I don’t get it at all.
- Magellan eXplorist 110: There isn’t a lot of cell coverage once you leave the highways in the National Parks. I have needed a GPS before but it is nice to check to know how much farther we have to go. The last thing I do when I leave work on a trip is pick up a pack of Energizer Lithium batteries. There are devices you want to have the best batteries on the market in them. This is one of them.
- Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies. This guide book is broken into multiple different books. The big book is used at home for deciding on which hikes we want to go on. Then we take the smaller and lighter trail guides which have the trail maps in them on the hike. If there is one book that I recommend every hiker owns, it is this one.
- A Lighter: I get asked by friends if I have an alternative fire starting method like some fire steel or maybe a bow and rope to make fire without a lighter. The answer is no. I just carry another lighter. I have never understood the principle of backing up a really effective method of starting a fire with a far less effective one.