I spent last weekend on an urban hiking trip. This meant sleeping in a hotel and eating in restaurants. While not exactly roughing it, I still had to carry my camera gear on day-long walks. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada was our location.
The purpose was to experience conservation areas within city boundaries, so most of the time we were in either forests or grasslands. It's taken me years to learn the painful No. 1 travel lesson that lighter is better. Life has been much better since buying into the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera system. No aching back or sore shoulder muscles at the end of a long day.
I have a small physique and a few weakened original factory parts from years of wear and tear as a professional photographer. I've long said that you can do anything you want to your body for the first half of your life; the second half is payback time. So I travel light — with far less equipment than the average pro or enthusiast photographer. I've learned that just as important as what you have is what you do with what you have.
When I'm on a true safari or lengthy wilderness trip I usually wear my Orvis fly fishing vest ($140) to tote my gear. With about 30 pockets, it almost fills the bill for me. It actually functions as my office away from home, and is perfect for keeping everything together when travelling. But it's uncomfortable when the weather is hot. And it can be a bit of a nuisance with my wrists rubbing against the lens-filled lower pockets as I walk for long periods of time.
So I've gone even simpler and lower tech. For my last hike I replaced the vest with a small nylon backpack ($34) and a nylon waistpouch/fannypack ($25). The latter held 2 lenses, a Polarizer filter, extra camera battery, sunglasses and reading glasses in their own cases, notepad and 2 pens inside a ziplock bag. Each lens was also in a medium ziplock bag for protection against scratches and rain. The backpack carried a rain jacket, my wallet and some toiletries.
My hiking equipment:
* Olympus OMD EM-1 body
* Zuiko 9-18mm f4-5.6 lens
* Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 lens
* Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 lens
* POL filter
* Sirui T-1204X tripod
Extra equipment left in the hotel:
* spare OMD EM-5 body
* Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens for available light interiors
* Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens, also for available light
* Zuiko 75-300mm f4.8-6.7, in case I needed it
* battery charger
Note that MFT lenses require a 2X factor to equal a full format focal length field of view.
eg. 17mm lens = 34mm full format focal length
The canopy provided by trees is dark enough to require a tripod, especially for longer exposures that go hand in hand with stopped down f-stops for maximum depth of field. That combination together with a low ISO generally allows best image quality.
For most of the walks I kept my camera on the tripod, with legs extended while cradling it in the crook of my arm. Pointed downward, the tripod is almost weightless and allows easy passage through dense bush.