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We're a team of guides, adventurers, climbers, and hikers who all share a passion for writing. Our combined experience allows us to create engaging and authoritative content to spread our love of the outdoors to any audience.

Choosing the Best Travel Camera for Adventuring

This isn’t just a camera buying guide; it’s better. In this guide, we won’t be focusing on specific models as much as how to choose the best travel camera for you. It’s our goal to help you navigate the plethora of options by explaining common camera specs and their various applications in certain scenarios and aspects of adventuring. 

So, let’s dive straight in and look at the most common camera features.

Best Travel Camera Features and Specs

Manual Settings

If you want to hone your skills as a professional adventure/travel photographer, choose a camera with full manual settings. You’ll have a wide range of options when it comes to what you can photograph if you’re able to adjust all the camera’s settings.

Canon camera taking picture
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Having control over your camera’s ISO (light sensitivity), shutter speed, and aperture settings can truly separate a good shot from a great one. With a fully manual camera, you’ll be able to practice taking the same photo over and over again, each time with slightly different settings. This way, not only will you be able to grow as a photographer, but you’ll also be able to develop your personal style. Do you prefer photos that are dark and moody, or light and airy? Recognizing this and controlling it from the get-go with your camera’s settings will save you tons of editing time. 

Adventure Focus: This feature will benefit almost any type of adventure – from landscapes and hiking to colorful climbing and kayaking shots.

Zoom Range/ In-Camera Lens Capability

Non-traveling photographers have the luxury of being able to store and haul around a multitude of different lenses. However, we adventuring photographers don’t have space in our luggage to store anything other than the essentials!

Camera lens in mountains
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Adventure photographers already have enough gear to lug around; bulky, pricey zoom and macro lenses don’t easily jam into a backpack that’s already bursting at the seams. Therefore, having a camera with a built-in zoom will make it easier to photograph landscapes, wildlife, and people. But remember, the farther the zoom, the bulkier the lens. Choose your camera’s zoom distance based on what you think you’ll be photographing the most. For portraits and up-close shots, you may not need to zoom. Of course, choose a travel camera case that is large enough to accommodate the size of your camera body and lens (if detachable) to keep it safe from harm!

Adventure Focus: Fine-tuning your zoom capability will allow you to capture stellar shots from your favorite sports. Perhaps zooming in enough to catch a climbing buddy pulling off a tough, crimpy move 100ft away (just make sure you’re not supposed to be on belay!), or zooming in on a cool mountain feature during a hiking trip.

Megapixels & Sensors

We need a basic understanding of how megapixels and sensors work together and to be aware of the ‘megapixel myth’ to choose the best travel camera. Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work and broken down the science of megapixels and how it relates to your personal photography style.

Basically, 1-megapixel cameras take photos that have one million pixels of information in them. 8 megapixels means eight million pixels of information. The myth is that the higher the megapixels are, the better the camera and image quality. This isn’t always the case. It won’t matter if your camera has 24 megapixels if the sensor on the camera is cropped (1-inch sensors are considered small) since the sensor is the piece that’s actually storing all those megapixels and transferring them onto your image. 

old school camera
Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash

Sensors consist of millions of photosites that record what is being seen through the lens, so size matters. For context, an iPhone 11 sensor size is around ½ inch and 12 megapixels. The image looks clear on the screen but loses quality when cropped or blown up for printing purposes. So now we know that larger sensors with high megapixel counts produce the best quality of photographs.

There are two main situations where you absolutely shouldn’t compromise and opt for the full-frame sensor over the crop. The first is if you are looking to sell prints. The second is if you aren’t carrying around several lenses and will need to crop photos. 35mm full-frame sensors are the gold standard when it comes to camera sensors. 

Choose RAW over JPEG

Shooting in RAW format saves the image without any internal modifications, unlike JPEG. Cameras that shoot in JPEG apply sharpening modifications to the image before compressing them to save. On the other hand, with cameras that shoot in RAW mode, the image is saved without any processing. The result is that the RAW image file stores a ton of color data that you would otherwise lose.

ice cave
Photo by Sean Pierce on Unsplash

At first glance, the extra processing that JPEG images go through can trick you. In fact, the software enhances the image to look sharper before you even upload it to your computer! However, for JPEG files to remain a sustainable size, the true image quality will always be compromised. RAW images are stored without enhancements and can use all their storage availability on the features that matter to you. What’s more, they can be edited more precisely. Not all cameras shoot in RAW mode, so select this type of camera if you want some extra leeway when editing your photos later on. 

Adventure Focus: Colorful landscape shots benefit tremendously from RAW shooting. Backpacking, hiking, and picturesque water sports are, therefore, prime activities for this capability. But remember, investing in RAW and learning how to harness its benefits will never detract from your adventure shots for any sport.

Weatherproofing

Some cameras are better than others at withstanding exposure to the elements. If you’re choosing a hiking camera or a camera for rock climbing, don’t compromise weatherproofing quality. The best adventure and travel camera is going to be able to hold up even through potentially years of random spells of dust and moisture. Look for the term “weather-sealed” when shopping for the best travel camera. 

water resistant minolta
Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

Get a Tripod

Not necessarily a camera buying tip, but definitely something you won’t regret. Your camera will need to be as still as possible in low-light situations, for example, when photographing subjects with only the light of the moon or campfire. Even the best image stabilization technology can’t beat the sturdiness of a tripod. Tripods are easy to strap to a backpack, reasonably priced, and definitely the superior option over balancing your camera on a rock or between tree branches. This accessory will enhance the qualities of the best travel camera and help you get those jaw-dropping shots. 

camera taking landscape photo
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Go Big or Go Home?

I have a general rule when it comes to buying equipment. If I’m not making money with a piece of equipment, I don’t spend too much money buying it. This translates to: if you aren’t selling photos or striving to be known for your work as a professional photographer, go for a cheaper, decent option that’s fully manual and weatherproof. If this is you and you’re just seeking to capture the moment, then a basic, affordable camera will work just fine. After all, the saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words,” became a cliche long before modern-day, super sharp cameras came out!

On the other hand, if you are looking to make money off your photos in any way (selling photos, building a social media following), take the camera-choosing process seriously and follow our tips. Once you have your camera, all you need to do is choose your next adventure destination and start snapping pictures!

*Written by BestDraft contributor Morgan Wilder.

Best Hiking Trails for Summer Backpackers

The United States is home to some of the world’s most diverse landscapes and best hiking trails. Every single region offers its own bounty of spectacular scenery, weather conditions, and unique challenges. But sometimes, the hardest challenge is just picking where to go! 

But we’ve got you covered; we’ve found the top hiking vacations around the country and put together your go-to guide for summer backpacking. Whether you’ve got wanderlust for snow-topped mountain views, desert heat, a tropical oasis, or wild Appalachian ponies, there’s a backpacking trip that’s perfect for you.

Glacier National Park – North Circle Loop

  • Where: Northwestern Montana
  • Length: 52 miles, strenuous
  • When to go: July-September 
  • Average Summer Temperatures: Lows: mid-30s Fahrenheit, Highs: mid-70s
Glacier National Park
Photo by Sam Solomon on Unsplash

Why Visit

This loop trail is one of the most scenic and best hiking trails in America. Expect breathtaking mountain scenes, lakes, waterfalls, active glaciers, and abundant wildlife. You’ll get to walk along 11 miles of the Highline Trail, famous both for being Glacier National Park’s most beautiful trail and for its views along the Garden Wall. The 0.25 mile stretch along the Garden Wall offers stunning views along a narrow 6-8 foot wide cliffside ledge; don’t worry, there’s a safety cable to hold onto.

Logistics

Be sure to review Glacier National Park’s trip planning resources. You’ll find maps, current trail conditions, permitting information, and park safety. Pay special attention to the permitting information; you’ll need to get your permit in person the day before your backpacking trip actually starts. 

Difficulty 

This is a strenuous hike with 12,000 feet in elevation gain. Therefore, we recommend you take 5-7 days to complete the loop. 

100 Mile Wilderness

  • Where: Monson, Maine
  • Length: 100 Miles, strenuous
  • When to Go: Late June- Early August (Early June is black fly season while August brings lots of traffic)
  • Average Summer Temperatures: Lows: mid-50s Fahrenheit, Highs: upper-70s
100 Mile wilderness
Photo by Joseph Holihan on Unsplash

Why Visit 

The 100 Mile Wilderness is the northernmost section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). This stretch of wilderness takes you through tunnels of tight pines where you may run into moose, berry bogs, craggy ridges, and jaw-dropping scenery. 

It runs from Monson, Maine, to the base of Mt. Katahdin, which is the finish line of the 2,179-mile-long AT for northbound thru-hikers. There are no places to resupply along the 100-mile long stretch, which means hikers must have enough food to last the entire 100 miles (we recommend 12 days’ worth to be on the safe side). For this reason, it’s often touted as the most challenging section of the AT and one of the best hiking vacations in the northeast. 

Logistics

This hiking vacation will take a lot of preparation as there is no trailhead or parking lot at the southern point of the trail. If you’re heading northbound, you’ll need to set up a private shuttle or hitchhike to the trail’s starting point. If you prefer to walk south, you’ll have to pay for parking and get a shuttle back up to your vehicle once you’re finished backpacking. Check out this local’s guide to a successful hiking vacation. 

Difficulty 

This is a strenuous backpacking trip. Therefore, make sure you’re comfortable with the distance and remoteness before embarking on your adventure. 

Paria Canyon – White House to Lee’s Ferry

  • Where: Utah/ Arizona border
  • Length: 38 miles, moderate
  • When to Go: April – June
  • Average Summer Temperatures:  Lows: low 40s-60s Fahrenheit, Highs: mid-60s-80s
Paria Canyon
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Why Visit

This is an incredibly unique and not overly difficult early summer hiking vacation – you’ll lose 1,130 feet in elevation total. Backpacking the Paria Canyon involves meandering along the Paria riverbed through two giant walls of breathtaking Navajo sandstone. Along the way, you’ll experience stunning rock formations and feel like a modern-day Indiana Jones as you explore the canyon’s twists and turns. 

Logistics

Riverbed hiking comes with two crucial considerations:

  • First, you’ll have to cross the river dozens of times, so plan accordingly.
  • Second, Flash flooding in the canyon is dangerous and most likely to happen between July and September. 

Make sure you check Paria Canyon weather before your trip. If there is a chance of rain, call the Ranger Station to make sure they think it’s safe to hike. Additionally, check all permitting and camping information as soon as you start planning this backpacking trip. Carve out 4-5 days for backpacking, depending on your fitness level. 

Difficulty

This hiking vacation is moderate. You’ll experience minimal elevation changes. However, warm and dry weather should play a role in your planning, especially if you’re unaccustomed to hiking in these conditions.  

Grayson Highlands State Park

  • Where: Blue Ridge Highlands, Virginia
  • Length: 22.5 miles, strenuous
  • When to Go: Spring through Autumn
  • Average Summer Temperature: Lows: low 60s Fahrenheit, Highs: upper 70s
Grayson Highlands State Park
Image by Eric Dobson from Pixabay

Why Visit

Roaming along the Appalachian Trail over balds resembling the Scottish Highlands while passing by wild ponies calmly eating their fill: does it get any more magical? 

Although there are plenty of options for hiking the Grayson Highlands, we recommend exploring the 3-day, 2-night route we call the Massie Gap Loop. This loop will take you up and over Mount Rogers, Virginia’s highest peak. Moderate temperatures make this hiking vacation feasible anytime from the spring to fall. 

Logistics

Be prepared to pay the parking fee at Massie Gap trailhead and file a camping plan at the park office. As the directions for this particular adventure are a little more complicated, we suggest the following itinerary, and remember that the best hiking trails often take a little more planning! 

  • Park in the Backpacker’s lot
  • Begin the hike on the Appalachian Blue Spur Trail until you reach the Appalachian Trail, where you’ll head south. 
  • Two miles past Virginia’s highest peak, Mount Rogers, take a right onto Mount Rogers Trail, down to Virginia State Route 603. 
  • Cross the road to take Fairwood Valley Trail; you should come to Old Orchard Trail in a mile – follow this until you reach the AT again, where you’ll go South. 
  • You’ll come back to the Appalachian Blue Spur Trail two miles past Wise Shelter, which will take you back to the parking lot! 

Keep in mind, this is a suggested itinerary and is no replacement for your own good preparation. You still need to utilize the park map and read up on general park information to plan your trip, prepare your route, and decide where to camp. 

One final note, don’t let the blue skies fool you! The Southeast is notorious for its daily summertime thunderstorms that seem to come from nowhere. Also, bring a few layers of moisture-wicking clothing as the Grayson Highland winds can be quite chilly, even in the summer! 

Difficulty

This portion of the Appalachian Trail is considered strenuous. Therefore, plan for rugged terrain and steep elevation changes. 

Kalalau Trail

  • Where: Kauai, Hawaii
  • Length: 22 miles, moderate
  • When to Go: May – September
  • Average Summer Temperature: Lows: low-60s Fahrenheit, Highs: mid-70s
Kalalau Trail
Photo by malte on Unsplash

Why Visit

The rugged out-and-back Kalalau Trail is the only way hikers can access the world-renowned Na Pali Coast and “one of the world’s most beautiful beaches,” Kalalau Beach. The trail to get there is lush, dense, strenuous, and by far one of the best hiking trails in the country. It starts (and ends) at sea level, but a 5,000-foot elevation gain over the 22 miles makes this a formidable hike. This is undoubtedly a hiking vacation to put on the bucket list! 

Logistics

Most hikers, from average to expert experience, can make it all the way to the beach (11 miles) in a day. The length of the trip just depends on how many nights you want to camp on the beach. 

Camping on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches does not come easy. Permits are available 30 days in advance but can sell out in minutes, so be prepared to be flexible about the dates of your backpacking trip since it might take a few tries to snag a permit. If you are parking a vehicle, you’ll need a permit for that too. 

The weather in the summertime is essentially perfect, but always check the forecast to be on the safe side. If there’s rain in the forecast, there could be a chance of flash flooding at one of the river crossings. 

Difficulty

This hike’s difficulty is generally considered to be moderate. However, proper preparation and safe hiking practices are just as important as physical fitness to ensure a successful and fun adventure. 

Wrapping Up

Now that you know some of the best hiking trails in the country, all you have to do is choose where you’ll adventure next! 

As always, remember to prepare and be as safe as possible by checking the weather, wearing appropriate clothing, and knowing how to hike safely at your destination. Use our beginner’s guide to backcountry hiking as a resource when you decide which one of these awesome summer backpacking destinations is perfect for you. Have fun out there! 

*This article was written by BestDraft contributor Morgan Wilder.