Gear for the Trail....

Started Mar 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
John Iversen
John Iversen Contributing Member • Posts: 817
Re: Gear for the Trail....

The following is the result of long experimentation and many, many miles walking (30% trail, 70% no trail/bush trekking).  I could never find a photo backpack that really fit correctly or worked for me.  And it seems like if the word “photographic” gets added to it the price doubles.  And they were all heavy.

So just a plain jane smallish daypack for me . . .

The heart of my carrying system is a standard Cotton Carrier chest rig combined with a Quechua Forclaz 25 Ultralight daypack.  Once the straps and rigging have been adjusted, the two do not bind, chafe, or otherwise conflict with each other or your range of movement going over rough terrain.

Here’s a nice advertising pic of the Quechua; mine doesn’t look anything like that anymore (high mileage), but is still weatherproof!  By the way, the 25 stands for 25 litre capacity and it weighs in at 850 grams (13.6) ounces which is crazy light.

Note that the top flap is also a nice sized pocket and the pack has two almost full length, roomy slash pockets to either side.  Note also the black stripe running running the length of the center of the back of the pack.  That is a full length zipper weathersealed with some kind of silicon rubber flaps (that’s the black) which means you can lay the pack down and unzip the whole thing, which means immediate access to all your gear instead of digging down layer by layer from the top.  This is an absolute winner for carrying a ruck when photo gear is involved.

But that is by no means the whole system if you do a lot of backcountry walking.

Ok . . . the list:

Photographic -

  • E-30 plus either 50-200mmSWD with 1.4 teleconverter or 12-60mm rides on the Cotton Carrier, choice of lens depending on what I’m primarily shooting that day.
  • A second E-30 with the other of the two lenses mentioned above rides in the ruck.
  • A Manfrotto 190 CXPRO4 carbon tripod is strapped to the back of the ruck using the bungee rigging built into it.  Sometimes I just take along my ancient but sturdy Slik monopod instead.
  • The 7-14mm rides in the left outside slash pocket.
  • Spare batteries, lens cleaning stuff, filters ride in the top flap pocket.

Other Necessary Gear –

  • Two 1 liter alloy water bottles, but the following part is critical -  I bought a pair of insulation sleeves which are made to fit the water bottles exactly – basically cordura shells padded with 8mm closed cell foam insulation.  This means that you can put the bottles however you like with camera gear, and they provide protective padding against abrasion or impact.  Works beautifully.  My usual setup is to put one bottle in the right hand outside slash pocket, and the other across the bottom of the pack along with a medium/small first aid kit that is also in a padded pouch.  Together, they make a great base for the other body and lens.
  • A small hand pumped hightech water purifying filter for the evil lurking in the clearest of waters.  I’ve no great urge to get dysentery, giardiasis, or liver flukes – just to name a few, but a liter of water is a kilogram of weight.  The filtering unit weighs a whole lot less.  In country where water is available to filter, I usually carry only one liter.
  • A 15”x15” folding sitting pad.  I made it out of a chunk of 3/8” closed cell backpacking sleeping pad which I cut into 3” strips and then taped together with indoor-outdoor carpet tape (way better than duct tape) so that it folds up accordion style into a 1 ½’ x 3” x 15” packet.  More padding for stuff in the ruck; you can fold it up or unfold it to suit the load. You may get a chuckle out of the idea of a sitting pad, but try sitting for several hours on 150 degree Centi desert sand or on 8 degree Centi sopping wet Irish bog ground  while wildlife shooting.
  • Lensatic compass and appropriate maps.  If you think you can rely on a GPS unit or a cellphone to save your lost butt you’ve a good chance of ending up DOA.
  • High protein, high fat food.  Dry salami, cheese, nuts.  And a couple pieces of fruit.  A few energy bars for emergency – if I get caught out overnight.
  • Weather gear, depending on climate and forecast.
  • Spare pair of boot socks . . . more nice padding.
  • If I’m going out into some waaay back country I add a little emergency signaling and shelter kit.

How it all adds up:

  • The full kit of camera gear weighs 12 ½ pounds. If I forego the second body and the 7-14mm, it drops down to 9 ½ pounds. If I also forego the tripod it drops to 5 ½ pounds.
  • Depending on conditions and choices, the rest of the stuff will weigh 6 - 10 1/2 pounds including food and water.
  • So you’re looking at a dead minimum load of 11 ½ pounds, and a max of 23 pounds.  If you really plan ahead, its likely that you will end up using a dozen variations on the theme. 
  • However, all are definitely manageable for day hiking, and manageable also over difficult terrain, though your progress will be slower.


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"Shoot with what you got"

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