The best cameras for hiking and backpacking in 2023

Best cameras for hiking - woman sitting on mountain looking at her Sony camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best cameras for hiking mean thinking about more than just which produces the sharpest images. A camera you’re going to carry while trekking over hills and rivers – potentially for hours – needs to have a fair few qualities. 

It should be reasonably light, for one. Everyone has a different threshold for the amount of weight they’re willing to carry, but no matter who you are, you’re going to notice the weight of something around your neck for hours while you’re physically active. Even if you’re storing the camera in one of the best camera backpacks (opens in new tab) (which is a good idea for hiking) its weight will be a factor.

There are other things to think about, depending on the kind of hikes you want to do and the kind of subjects you want to photograph. If you’re on the lookout for birds and wildlife, then a camera with a long lens (or the capacity to equip one) and fast autofocus will be a good idea.  

Also, what kind of conditions do you plan to hike in? A camera that can cope with rain is a good idea wherever you’re going, but maybe you want to go further and get something completely waterproof!

There are lots of different types of cameras worth your time for hiking, each with advantages and disadvantages. DSLRs (opens in new tab) are weather-sealed and let you choose your own lenses, but they tend to be bulkier and heavier. Mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) are light and fast, but you don’t get an optical viewfinder. Compact cameras (opens in new tab) and bridge cameras (opens in new tab) are useful as they have everything you need in a single package, but they generally have smaller sensors, meaning they can struggle in low light. There are also action cameras (opens in new tab), which are fully waterproof and so light as to be wearable – but again, there’s the small sensor issue.

We’ve put together a list of ten cameras including all different types to help you pick the one that’s right for you. We’ve focused on including cameras we think provide great value for money, so there’s a mix of older and newer models on this list.

The best cameras for hiking in 2023

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(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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The best all-around camera for hiking, a highly capable mirrorless shooter

Specifications

Camera type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.4MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
ISO range: 200-6,400 (exp. Low-25,600)
Weather sealing: Yes
Weight: 414g

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and weatherproof
+
Multiple useful shooting modes
+
Excellent stabilization

Reasons to avoid

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 Middling battery life 

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is one of the best enthusiast mirrorless cameras around, and is a perfect choice for hiking. Some photographers disdain Micro Four Thirds cameras for their relatively small sensors, but they’re missing out on a raft of features that lets you create in all different situations. The E-M5 III can do loads. It can blend multiple shots together in camera to create a super-high-resolution image, it can shoot at 30fps using Olympus’s Pro Capture mode, which actually starts the burst before you fully depress the shutter button. 

It’s weather-sealed, light enough to carry for hours, and thanks to the Micro Four Thirds lens mount, you have a huge number of lenses to choose from. While the battery life is a little limited, the camera can charge via USB, so bring a power bank and a cable on your hike, and you’re in business. 

Read our full Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III review

(Image credit: Panasonic)
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2. Panasonic Lumix FZ2500

An all-in-one hiking camera with a powerful zoom lens

Specifications

Camera type: Bridge
Sensor: 1-inch
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-480mm (equiv) f/2.8-4.5
ISO range: 100-12,800 (exp. 80-25,600)
Weather sealing: No
Weight: 966g

Reasons to buy

+
Really strong image quality
+
Impressive burst modes
+
Great video control
+
Good for close-ups of wildlife

Reasons to avoid

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No weather sealing

Bridge cameras are affordable, easy to use, and tend to have big zoom lenses that give you loads of options when you’re out on your hike. The Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 (FZ2000 outside of the US) is a really solid choice; its 24-480mm equivalent lens gives you loads of flexibility, and having the powerful burst mode that can capture images at up to 12fps, or up to 30fps at reduced resolution, makes it highly capable for capturing images of birds and wildlife.

The FZ2500 comes at a great price – the only real drawback is the lack of weather-sealing, which means you have to be careful in the rain. A good option can be to pick up one of the best rain covers for a camera (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
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Best for stabilized video, this is a great camera for hiking vloggers

Specifications

Camera type: Gimbal camera
Sensor: 1/1.7 inch
Megapixels: 64MP
Lens: 20mm equivalent
ISO range: 100-6400
Weather sealing: No (waterproof case sold separately)
Weight: 117g

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible video stabilisation
+
Literally pocketable

Reasons to avoid

-
Image noise issues
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Can get hot when shooting 4K

When vlogging on the move, one of the trickiest challenges is producing smooth, stable footage that isn’t too jerky. Sure, you could buy a dedicated gimbal stabiliser for a camera, but there’s also the option to get two-in-one and pick up a gimbal camera! The DJI Pocket 2 may be tiny and affordable, but it’s also capable of producing silky-smooth video in motion thanks to its built-in 3-axis stabilisation system. If you plan on producing short videos or vlogs of your hikes, the DJI Pocket 2 is a perfect choice. Its 20mm equivalent lens is wide enough to take in the most impressive of vistas, and it really does produce videos (and stills!) of excellent quality, especially for its size.

Read our full DJI Pocket 2 review

(Image credit: James Artaius)
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A waterproof wonder, this is the best tough camera for hiking, without a doubt

Specifications

Camera type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 12MP
Lens: 25-100mm equivalent
ISO range: 100-12,800
Weather sealing: Full waterproofing
Weight: 253g

Reasons to buy

+
Superb toughness
+
Optical zoom lens

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 12MP resolution
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No full manual control

Weather-sealing is all well and good, but some hikers might want a camera that’s going to survive being fully submerged in the River Clyde, or their river of choice. For that, you want to look at tough cameras, and the Olympus Tough TG-6 is, for our money, the best one you can get right now. It has a high-quality zoom lens that covers a range equivalent to 25-100mm, which gives you impressive shooting flexibility. It’s waterproof, shockproof, crushproof and freezeproof – stick it in the snow at the top of Ben Nevis in the dead of winter, and it’ll probably survive. Image quality is also decent, with useful extra modes such as the macro-oriented Microscope Mode. 

Read our full Olympus Tough TG-6 review

A photo of the GoPro Hero 11 Black

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)
The best action camera for hiking, this flagship model impresses yet again

Specifications

Camera type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/1.9-inch
Megapixels: 27MP
Lens: About 12mm equivalent
ISO range: 100-6400
Weather sealing: Full waterproofing
Weight: 154g

Reasons to buy

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Class-leading stabilization
+
Synergises well with phone
+
Easily mounted on helmet or harness

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
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Mods cost extra

You probably don’t need us to tell you what a GoPro is. But the Hero11 Black has a few features you might not be familiar with that make it a great hiking camera – class-leading stabilization for video, amazing smartphone connectivity via the GoPro app, and astonishingly good 5.3K video from a camera of this size. This 2022 edition also boasts a larger, squarer sensor than its predecessors, making it better suited to shooting vertical video for TikTok. It’s also modular, and can be upgraded with extra parts like the Max Lens Mod, which provides an ultra-wide lens with a 155˚ field of view, and improves stabilization. Of course, this does add another chunk of change onto an already hefty price tag – if you feel you perhaps don’t need all the latest bells and whistles, try a previous GoPro like the Hero9 Black (opens in new tab) or a budget action camera (opens in new tab).

Read our full GoPro Hero11 Black review

Best cameras for hiking: Sony A7 II

(Image credit: Sony)
An older model from one of the best full-frame systems ever made

Specifications

Camera type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 24.3MP
Lens mount: Sony FE
ISO range: 50–25,600
Weather sealing: No
Weight: 556g

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic value for money
+
High-quality full-frame sensor

Reasons to avoid

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No 4K
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Only 5fps burst shooting

When buying a camera, it always pays to keep an eye on older models for a chance to score a bargain. The Sony A7 II, for instance, was a great camera on release, and it’s still a great camera today. A full-frame camera of this quality for less than a four-figure price is not to be sniffed at! It’s light enough to be a capable hiking camera, but will still produce professional-grade images and videos in gorgeous quality. It’s lacking a few modern features that may be deal-breakers for some users – there’s no 4K video, and the burst shooting tops out at a modest 5fps. But if these are acceptable losses for you, the A7 II is a near-unbeatable value proposition, and will make for an incredible hiking camera. 

Read our full Sony A7 II review

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
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A wearable hiking camera, great for creating time-lapses and video clips of your hikes

Specifications

Camera type: Action camera
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch
Megapixels: 9MP
Lens: About 11mm equivalent
ISO range: 100-3200
Weather sealing: Full waterproofing
Weight: 27g

Reasons to buy

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Light, and easy to mount
+
Good 2K resolution

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery not great
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Only 9MP stills

Wearable cameras may not have been quite the revolution that some companies were predicting, but there’s still a niche interest in them. Hiking is something that particularly suits a wearable camera, as they allow you to create time-lapses or video clips of your adventures without having to stop and compose shots. The Insta360 Go 2 will achieve this perfectly; at 27g, it’s light enough to be clipped onto a strap or shirt and forgotten about, but capable of producing great-looking 2K video, with impressive stabilisation. The inclusions of a 1/4-inch tripod thread also makes it easy to use the camera with a selfie stick or similar, further expanding your options. 

Read our full Insta360 Go 2 review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
The modern way to shoot all-immersive video single-handed

Specifications

Camera type: 360 camera
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Megapixels: 16.6MP
Lens: Two lenses offering 360° coverage
ISO range: 400-6400
Weight: 163g

Reasons to buy

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Shoot a 360° view 
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Can shoot yourself commentating and everything you see in one shot
+
Waterproof

Reasons to avoid

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Requires an 'invisible' selfie stick
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Footage needs editing to make a presentable video

If you have watched the BBC's series of well-known hikers taking you them on their walks (such as Winter Walks, and Yorkshire Walks), you will know the advantage of using a 360 camera . Using this specialist camera on a stick, you can record everything around you - and then later cut between shots of ourself and your companions - to everything that you see (and even what was behind you). The secret is cameras like the GoPro Max use two camera lenses that each give over 180° view - and which when combined to give you this all-round vision.

The app lets you edit clips from 360 footage pretty much seamlessly, meaning you can get great images no matter where the camera is pointed, and swap effortlessly between them. As we noted in our full review, the Max also has impressive specs elsewhere – with a six-mic setup, its highly credible vlogging camera, and the 1600mAh battery means you'll have enough charge for a day's shooting.

Read our full GoPro Max review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Digital Camera World / Louise Carey)
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Great handling and speedy shooting add up to a formidable mirrorless camera for hiking

Specifications

Camera type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 20.9MP
Lens mount: Nikon Z
ISO range: 100-51,200 (exp. 100-204,800)
Weather sealing: Yes (light)
Weight: 395g

Reasons to buy

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Lightweight and high-quality
+
Shoots fast

Reasons to avoid

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300-shot battery
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Weather sealing not comprehensive

While the flagship models of the Nikon Z series may be too pricey for most hiking photographers, the Nikon Z50 may be a perfect way into the series. It’s an APS-C camera, unlike its full-frame stablemates, and much more affordable than the big boys. Despite this, it can still use all the Nikon Z-mount lenses (with a crop factor caused by the smaller sensor) so you still get a lot of the good stuff of the system. With 11fps burst shooting and a slim form factor, the Nikon Z50 is a highly capable camera for hiking, and its 20.9MP sensor will produce gorgeous images. It is weather-sealed, though not as comprehensively as more expensive cameras; it can handle light drizzle, but if you’re expecting a torrential downpour, consider a rain cover. We’ll also soon be reviewing the Nikon Z fc (opens in new tab), the newest APS-C camera in the Z series, with a retro-styled body. 

Read our full Nikon Z50 review

best cheap full frame camera

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
Full-frame in a lightweight body, this hiking camera offers the best of both worlds

Specifications

Camera type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 24.6MP
Lens mount: L-mount
ISO range: 100-25,600 (exp. 6-102,400)
Weather sealing: Yes
Weight: 422g

Reasons to buy

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Superb pocketable design
+
Full-frame sensor

Reasons to avoid

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Only one SD card slot
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AF can be janky

This boxy, pocket-sized bit of brutalism couldn’t possibly be a full-frame camera, could it? Yes, it absolutely could, and the small, functional design of the Sigma fp makes it a perfect choice for hikers who want to shoot with a good-sized sensor. Having full-frame at your disposal gives you much more dynamic range and improves your images in challenging lighting conditions. Capturing detail in highlights and shadows becomes much easier! The Sigma fp is a really affordable route into full-frame, and having the L-mount gives you access to loads of great Leica lenses.

There is a newer Sigma fp L, (opens in new tab) which ups the resolution to a whopping 61MP. But we reckon the initial Sigma fp represents better value for money as a hiking camera. Unless you’re planning on making huge prints, its 24.6MP will be plenty. 

Read our full Sigma fp review

Read more:
Best travel camera
Best cameras for wildlife (opens in new tab)
Best selfie cameras (opens in new tab)
Best YouTube cameras (opens in new tab)
Best cameras for beginners (opens in new tab)

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Jon spent years at IPC Media writing features, news, reviews and other photography content for publications such as Amateur Photographer and What Digital Camera in both print and digital form. With his additional experience for outlets like Photomonitor, this makes Jon one of our go-to specialists when it comes to all aspects of photography, from cameras and action cameras to lenses and memory cards, flash diffusers and triggers, batteries and memory cards, selfie sticks and gimbals, and much more besides.  


An NCTJ-qualified journalist, he has also contributed to Shortlist, The Skinny, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, The Guardian, Trusted Reviews, CreativeBLOQ, and probably quite a few others I’ve forgotten.