6 Reasons to Bring a Camera into the Backcountry

January 29, 2016

by Richard Forbes
6 Reasons to Bring a Camera into the Backcountry

You spend time outdoors.  You think it’s beautiful.  Maybe you want to show friends and family what you’ve been up to all this time, maybe you want to remember what it all looked like. But you’ve got a question:

Is it a good idea to bring a camera into the backcountry?

Short answer—Yes. But only if you accept that it might break.  Here are some reasons why you should bring one along:

Reason #1: You'll come back with photos

This is pretty simple.  If you don’t bring a camera, you won’t get the shot.  And, if you want the shot more than you need your camera to be safe, bringing a camera is a good idea.  You can buy a DSLR and keep it safe at home, or spend years lugging it around the world and get shots like these:

Reason #2 - It'll make your friends love you

The more trips you bring your camera on, the more you and your friends will be able to revisit past memories when you're stuck at home in the middle of the work week.  One Active Junky tester took his camera on a 10-day packrafting and canyoneering and made a documentary out of it.  Even if your trip lasts only a few days, the photos will last forever.

Reason #3 - You'll get to show people what you do all the time

You’re constantly heading out on various trips, and you have no good way to describe what you did.  You can try to explain it: “over the weekend, I dragged my skis up the side of this mountain and then skied back down.” Truthfully, it’s a lot easier if you can just show them a photo.

Reason #4 - It'll teach you exactly how to use your camera

When your fingers barely work because you're too cold, you're not going to want to think about how to use your camera.  First, you'll want to make sure you still have fingers, and second, you don't want your camera out in the cold for too long, either.  Same goes for night photography and shooting in inclement weather.  The climate rarely cooperates in the backcountry, so you'll get very good, very fast, at getting your shot and then getting back to staying warm and dry.

Reason #5 - Camera gear is training weight

If you're not convinced that it's worth lugging a camera and extra gear out into the wild just for the photos, ask yourself this: Have you ever wanted to be faster, fitter or more comfortable in the backcountry?  Maybe you should consider training weight.  It's even better if it's actually useful (i.e. camera gear).  And if you take your training weight on every trip, then, well, you’re always training for the next trip!

Reason #6 - It might change the way you see the world

When you decide to stop being afraid of bringing your camera with you, no matter where you go, you'll find endless opportunities for photography.  Maybe you used to ignore your camera, thinking, "There's nothing to photograph around here."  But wandering around new places (Active Junky recommends South America by bus, New Zealand by tiny car or Colorado by foot) with a camera lets you see that everything is an opportunity for artistic expression. 

One Important Point Before We Go:

Let's be clear - there is risk when you follow this advice.  You will probably break or lose gear.  We’ve broken a wide angle lens after dropping it down the infamous Red Gully on Crestone Peak (a 14er) and had to resort to a homemade tilt shift lens.  We’ve lost our favorite lens somewhere along the 401 Trail in Crested Butte during an extremely late season mountain bike ride.  Though these scenarios weren’t ideal, sometimes, it's a price you might have to pay.

We just happen to think it’s well worth the risk.


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