If there’s one thing I love about summer, it’s hiking above treeline. Nothing brings me quite the same joy as going on long mountain rambles, piecing together alpine ridge traverses and frolicking in the high tundra. Give me a light pack, minimal camera gear, a pair of trekking poles and miles of open terrain and I’m a happy guy.
Even better are short multi-day trips that let you sleep up in the high country. This means you’re right there in the middle of the good light when it happens, instead of watching it from below when you’re hiking back to the car or driving home. There’s incredible freedom and serenity from hiking through the late evening and then picking out an ideal camp spot on some ridge that overlooks the valley below, and then waking up to first light with no one else around.
Now that summer is here, I’ve been getting out as much as my schedule allows. Here are a few photos from recent trips during the past couple weeks. All were shot with the Fuji X-T1, which I’m loving as a hiking and backpacking camera. It reminds me of my early days when I’d hike with my all manual Nikon FM2. They’re about the same size and they have a similar feel.
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Lenses: My lightweight hiking setup usually includes a wide angle, a small normal lens and a zoom. My typical Fuji kit would be the XF 14mm, 27mm and 55-200mm. I’ve also been trying the brand new Fuji XF 18-135mm lens, which is what I used to shoot the photo above. It’s offers a pretty usable zoom range in a single lens, and even though it’s not super fast, it offers very good image stabilization.
During times when I take my Nikon gear, I’ll go with the 24mm f/2.8, the 50mm f/1.8 or 85mm f/1.8 and sometimes the AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens, which is an awesome lens for the backcountry. Not only is it light, the 5 stops of VR let you shoot pretty slow shutter speed without a tripod.
Either way, this kind of setup gives me a wide range of focal lengths for shooting wide vistas, close action, landscapes and distant details.
Backpacks: For day trips, my default pack is the Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW. It carries great and holds any of the above camera combinations, as well as extra food, water, clothing, etc… If I’m going super light, I’ll take the Lowepro Flipside Sport 10L AW. This tiny pack has just enough room for a small hydration bladder, a couple of extra layers and snacks, as well as a body and 2-3 lenses.
For overnight trips, that’s when I’ll go for one of my larger Osprey packs like the Talon 33, and either carry the camera around my neck/shoulder by the strap or else use a chest/waist pouch. My longtime favorite is the old Photoflex Galen Rowell Chest Pouch, which is sadly no longer made. ClickElite has a couple of models, as do Lowepro and Tamrac. My first holster bag ever was a Tamrac zoom and it worked pretty well.
I hope you’ve been getting out as much as possible in the outdoors as well this summer!