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Thread: Backpacking

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2006



    I need some advice. I'm planning some trips for LF landscapes. My first will be to Big Bend and after that, out to the canyons and Rocky Mountains. I am trying to put together a backpack to tote my gear into the hard to reach places. I would like to be able to do at least 5 to 7 miles a day - perhaps more. Not planning on camping so these will all be day hikes.

    I'm a big guy and in decent shape. I picked up a Lowpro Trecker AV and loaded it with the gear I think I will need. My camera is a light weight Toyo CF. My lenses include a 90 mm Super Angulon, a 150mm Caltar II-N, a 210mm APO Symmar and 270mm Tele-Arton.

    I have a set of filters, dark cloth, Pentax Spot Meter and a light weight carbon tripod. For media, I have a Quickload holder and quickloads and 6 film holders for B&W film.

    By the time I add water and a few other essentials any prudent hiker would carry, the load weighs a ton. What really makes it bad is that the pack is downright uncomfortable! My other concern is that the empty pack is quite heavy.

    I have a good quality ultra light camping pack with a frame and on-board water bladder. Can a pack such as this be used? Can my equipment be protected in such a pack? From camping and hiking experience, I think that the pack frame is the key. I have carried far heavier loads in the past with this pack - no problem.

    I'm sure that most of the weight is related to the glass. Am I trying to pack in too many or the wrong lenses?

    I know I am asking a bunch of questions - sorry! Any help or advice from those with experience will be welcomed. I want to enjoy the experience not be saying "never again" as I try and make it back to civilization.

    J V McLure

  2. #2

    Re: Backpacking

    I wouldn't worry about protecting your gear in a proper backpack if you give it a bit of thought. It may take longer to access your gear, but a true hiking pack with a frame and suspension system will let you carry larger loads comfortably, as you know. I'm sure there are lighter lens options--80XL, choosing one or the other of the 150 and the 210, relying on cropping to duplicate the 270, etc. I doubt you would miss one or two of the lenses if you left them at home. But there may be easier ways to shave weight.

    I found it very helpful once to accurately weigh everything I was carrying. It's very instructive because then you can see exactly what is accounting for the significant chunks of weight, and work to reduce the weight of those items. Especially with overnight gear, there are usually a few items that account for most of the weight: pack, sleep system, tent, cooking gear. A lighter tent saves a lot more weight than cutting off the toothbrush handle. Weighing everything would help you decide if lightening your photo payload would be more efficient than shaving weight in other areas--a still-lighter pack is going to cost less than an 80XL, for example. If it were me, I would use my lightweight rain anorak (one of those essentials) as a darkcloth. My real darkcloth probably weighs a pound or more, so that's the difference between the Super-Angulon and the 80XL right there. I would leave the film holders at home and bring some ACROS Quickloads instead. That could be another lens right there. If I knew there was clear water along the trail I would not carry my whole daily ration of water but rather refill on the fly, and I would use Aqua Mira chlorine dioxide purification drops rather than a heavy water filter. Consider using two bicycle water bottles, one fastened to each pack strap with a loop of shock cord. These may be lighter and easier to refill along the way than your hydration bladder.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Mount Horeb, WI

    Re: Backpacking


    I have been using a Kelty Redwing 3100 pack. You can usually get them for about $70 when they are on sale at REI or other outlets. I am able to carry my 4X5, 6 or 7 lenses, Readyload holder, light meter, film, food, water, raingear, and other miscellaneous "stuff." It's comfortable on my back (I'm 6' tall) and I'll go all day putting on anywhere from 5 to 10 miles with it on my back. For me it's a nice pack for my 4x5. Jim

  4. #4
    Geert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005

    Re: Backpacking

    I returned last week from a trip in France, Massif des Ecrins, and carried the 4x5 kit in a Lowepro PhotoTrekker AW II. I only conducted day trips in the mountains.

    It could just hold:
    - the field camera, 6 P-filters, darkcloth, cable releases
    - 120mm Angulon
    - 210mm Sinaron S
    - 8 filmholders
    - spotmeter
    - some misc. stuff (viewfinder, loupe, field repair kit...) packed in small Eagle Creek Cubes

    I had almost no room left for some snacks and fruits. The 2 liter water pack fitted in the front pouch. A light tripod was fixed on the outside.

    For some serious trekking, I'd advise a larger pack, but it was very comfortable.

    Regarding the choice of lenses I took along from my large selection I have, I did not regret taking only a 120mm and 210mm lens. They were perfect for the job.


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Backpacking

    For multi-mile hikes the photo-packs don't hack it. Bring your photo equipment to an outdoor equipment store and try a few good packs.

    Get Acros or TMX and leave your six filmholders at home.

    Stick with your current lenses for day hikes; you would save at most about 2 lb.

    I carry a 3 lb Toho, readyloads, Pentax Spotmeter, three filters, CF tripod, 1 lb head and four lenses. The lenses and case weigh five pounds, which I am able to tolerate since my other gear is very light. I could shave two pounds off of the lenses, but they do double duty as 5x7 lenses.

  6. #6
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: Backpacking

    This is a sketch of what i'd do based on climbing experience (which also requires backpacking with too much heavy stuff in your bag).

    I wouldn't go crazy trying to eliminate weight from the photo gear. Opt for light gear when reasonable, and eliminate what you don't need, but accept the rest. That's what you're going out for, so know it's going to weigh a bunch. Then eliminate weight elsewhere. You can backpack comfortably with less than half the crap most backpackers bring, even without going the "ultralight" route without real tents, etc..

    Forget changes of clothes (besides socks), that kind of thing. One pot. Lightweight stove. Lightweight food whenever practical. Lightweight modern tent that isn't overbuilt for the conditions (no need for a 4 season mountaineering tent in July, unless you're climbing Denali).

    Finally, know you're going to suffer a bit on the approach, but not the rest of the time. Bring a light daypack so you can get around happily after you've set up your campsite. In this case, it's more important for the daypack to be photo-friendly than the big pack.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Aurora, Colorado

    Re: Backpacking

    Take a close look at I suspect Bruce can set you up with exactly what you need.


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    St. Louis, Missouri

    Re: Backpacking

    J V,
    Heavy is relative! 20 years ago I carried 75 lbs all over the Southwest and didn’t think anything of it. The last two hikes I’ve taken have only been 3 or 4 miles with 55 lbs and I thought I was dying. Of course, the trails are steeper now than they used to be. Anyway, I’ve cut around 20 lbs from my load and am anxious to get out and see how I handle that but I won’t be able to get out soon unfortunately.

    I would suggest a trial run with what you have. Go down to the hill country North of San Antonio for example and tromp around a bit. Also, for a day hike, carrying your tripod mounted camera over your shoulder seams easier for me than having everything in or on your pack.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Santa Clarita, CA

    Re: Backpacking

    I too am a backpacking photographer. During the time I shot with a 35mm camera and throughout the first year of large format (4x5) I used a large Lowepro backpack (I don't recall which one). I was able to store all of my gear for dayhikes, but it was really a non-starter for overnight, as there was no ideal way for it to handle a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, etc. along with my camera, lenses and film. In addition, the Lowepro backpack was not overly comfortable.

    Dissatisfied with the Lowepro set up, as a first step I purchased from Bruce at a Kelty backpack, backer board, camera case and lens cases. It turns out that the Kelty backpack was a much more efficient use of space, considerably more comfortable and lighter than the Lowepro. As a result I sold the Lowepro, and continue to use the backpack and accessories purchased from Bruce, who is simply wonderful to work with. The camera case and lens cases adds relatively little weight, yet helps to insure that my camera and lenses will be kept safe while hiking. Photobackpacker helped me solve the day hike issue.

    There remained, however, the unresolved issue of multi day hiking. Although I ultimately did not purchase a second backpack from Photobackpacker to solve this problem, they nevertheless assisted me in determining my needs. Photobackpacker now sells 2 Granite Gear backpacks - at the time I was in the market they only sold one. Nevertheless, I learned from their website what I needed - a comfortable backpack large enough to hold all photo equipment, camping equipment and food. Paramount in my decision was purchasing a pack that was large and front loading, so that I could get to my camera and lenses.

    I ultimately purchased a Gregory Baltoro. Its regular price is mid-way between the 3 Granite Gear packs sold by Photobackpacker. It's heavier than the 2 Granite Gear packs, but has a reputation for being very comfortable. With my pack, I am able to comfortably carry everything I need to be out for 3 days: all photo equipment, food, a tent, sleeping bag and pad, water and additional clothing. Is my backpack perfect? No. But it meets my camping needs. I will be going out Friday through Sunday and will be hiking at altitude (10,000 feet). My load is pretty heavy because of choices I make in terms of what I choose to take with me; but it serves my needs.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited by Rick Russell; 31-Jul-2007 at 08:45. Reason: Mistake made re weight comparison of backpacks.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Boulder, CO

    Re: Backpacking

    Go ahead and use the camping pack you already have, providing it has a well designed hip belt. The key to carrying heavy loads comfortably over long distances is to carry the load on your hips, not on your back.

    As for the equipment you are carrying, it doesn't seem excessive to me, and it really doesn't weigh all that much. If you find after a few outings that you aren't using something, go ahead and eliminate it.

    Here's what I do to protect my equipment: I wrap the camera in the dark cloth (or in my fleece jacket, which sometimes serves as a dark cloth). Lenses are wrapped in Domke wraps, film holders have their own little case, and quick loads & Polaroids reside in a Rubbermaid container. My spot meter lives in its little leather case, and filters are stacked together and put in one of the pack's pockets.

    A few quick tips on packing your pack: If you have a typical internal frame pack, there is probably a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom; this is a good place for a jacket or anything that is bulky but light weight. Above the sleeping bag compartment, put heavier items (i.e. lenses) low and toward your back. I strap my tripod on the side of the pack (or sometimes the back) with the head down (to keep the weight low). In dusty conditions (Moab) and wet conditions (Tetons in the afternoon) consider putting everything in its own ziplock bag. I always carry a large, heavy duty trash bag; in the event of a storm, you can take cover, and cover the whole pack with the trash bag. Although they aren't a bad idea, I've found that pack rain covers have limited effectiveness in a real downpour

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