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The best cameras for hiking and backpacking in 2021

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 (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 are weather-sealed and let you choose your own lenses, but they tend to be bulkier and heavier. Mirrorless cameras are light and fast, but you don’t get an optical viewfinder. Compact cameras and bridge cameras 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, 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

(Image credit: Olympus)

1. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

The best all-around camera for hiking, a highly capable mirrorless shooter

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

Lightweight and weatherproof
Multiple useful shooting modes
Excellent stabilization
 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. 

(Image credit: Panasonic)

2. Panasonic Lumix FZ2500

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

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

Really strong image quality
Impressive burst modes
Great video control
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.

(Image credit: Nikon)

3. Nikon D3500

A terrific beginner’s DSLR, easy to use but with potential for great hiking shots

Camera type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | ISO range: 100 to 25,600 | Weather sealing: No | Weight: 415g

Terrific value
Good kit lens
Useful guide modes
No weather sealing

Nikon’s D3000 line consists of probably the best beginner DSLRs ever. In terms of image quality, control, ease of use and value for money, nothing else is quite matching them at the moment. The D3500 is the latest and greatest in the series – lightweight enough to compare to a mirrorless camera, equipped with tutorial guide modes, and housing an APS-C sensor that produces fantastic images.

Another feather in the Nikon camera’s cap is that its 18-55mm kit lens (a type of zoom tends to come standard with beginner DSLRs) is one of the best around, meaning you can get away without upgrading immediately. If you want to learn the ropes of photography while out on your hikes, this is a tremendous buy. Just be aware that it isn’t weather sealed. 

(Image credit: DJI)

4. DJI Pocket 2

Best for stabilized video, this is a great camera for hiking vloggers

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

Incredible video stabilisation
Literally pocketable
Image noise issues
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.

(Image credit: Olympus)

5. Olympus Tough TG-6

A waterproof wonder, this is the best tough camera for hiking, without a doubt

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

Superb toughness
Optical zoom lens
Only 12MP resolution
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. 

Best cameras for hiking: GoPro Hero 9

(Image credit: GoPro)

6. GoPro Hero9 Black

The best action camera for hiking, this flagship model impresses yet again

Camera type: Action camera | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch | Megapixels: 20MP | Lens: About 16mm equivalent | ISO range: 100-3200 | Weather sealing: Full waterproofing | Weight: 158g

Class-leading stabilisation
Synergises well with phone
Pricey
And mods cost extra

You probably don’t need us to tell you what a GoPro is. But the Hero9 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 5K video from a camera of this size. 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 the 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 Hero8 Black, or an alternative like the DJI Osmo Action.

Best cameras for hiking: Sony A7 II

(Image credit: Sony)

7. Sony A7 II

An older model from one of the best full-frame systems ever made

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

Fantastic value for money
High-quality full-frame sensor
No 4K
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. 

(Image credit: Insta360)

8. Insta360 Go 2

A wearable hiking camera, great for creating time-lapses and video clips of your hikes

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

Light, and easy to mount
Good 2K resolution
Battery not great
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. 

(Image credit: Nikon)

9. Nikon Z50

Great handling and speedy shooting add up to a formidable mirrorless camera for hiking

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

Lightweight and high-quality
Shoots fast
300-shot battery
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, the newest APS-C camera in the Z series, with a retro-styled body. 

Best cameras for hiking: Sigma fp

(Image credit: Sigma)

10. Sigma fp

Full-frame in a lightweight body, this hiking camera offers the best of both worlds

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

Superb pocketable design
Full-frame sensor
Only one SD card slot
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, 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. 

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