Walking and Camping Tips from the Landscape Photographer

Big Agnes Tent Laugavegur Hike Camping

Even ignoring picture taking – which is a fun method to begin an article on a picture taking blog! – I’ve always loved hiking, camping, and being in the great outdoors. A number of my favorite memories are through times when I left the camera in my backpack or at home and just went exploring.

Although I actually certainly don’t spend every day on a trail, I do rise at least a few hundred kilometers each year and camp frequently while I’m out there (both car and tent). And, while landscape photography is usually my goal, it’s hard to prevent picking up some general walking and camping tips along the way. That’s why I’m writing this article. Whether your goal is photography or not, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful for your own hiking and camping trips in the future.

Table of Contents

1 . Wear layers in cold weather

One of the most important things for protection and comfort is to use the right clothes while you are hiking, especially in cold weather. Following a lot of trial and error – mainly error – I’ve found a setup that works really well and is adjustable in different climate conditions.

The important thing will be layers . That’s what I didn’t realize early on. If it was chilly out, I would wear the biggest puffy jacket that I had, but I was always unhappy – either too very hot, too cold, or too wet. (And I’m referring to hiking, not standing still from your camera, where a huge jacket isn’t a bad thing. )

Here’s the particular layering system that I make use of and recommend instead. These are listed in order from the closest to your body to the furthermost away:

  • Thin base layer t shirt made of merino wool
  • Light to moderate mid-layer made of wool or even fleece
  • Insulated mid-layer, using synthetic padding
  • (Optional) an additional insulated mid-layer, made of down
  • Hard-shell external layer to prevent wind and rain – ideally with “pit zips” to help in-take heat

The order of the components here is important. Wool stays remarkably warm when wet. Synthetic insulation stays somewhat warm, but not as much. Plus goose down – regardless of being very warm or else – gets quite cold when wet. That’s the reason why I recommend ordering your levels wool > synthetics > down. If you’re allergic to wool or find it itching, you can go with a synthetic bottom layer at the expense of less warmth when wet, and a bit more smell.

Ultimately, the purpose of this technique is to make it easy to control heat and moisture. Since there are so many layers, you can easily unzip or remove any extra supplies during uphill climbs, after that put them back on when you’re not exerting yourself as much.

Wear layers of clothing during a camping and hiking trip
My famous 5-layer zip.

2 . Bring a spare bag for organization

It’s pretty common, at least for me, to create more gear on a road trip than I actually need upon any individual hike. This means I’m constantly swapping gear out and in of my backpack – things like a water filtration system, camp stove, food, free clothes, and various camera accessories.  

Rather than depart all these things lying about in my trunk, I’ve found it’s helpful to bring along an extra bag for organization. Just before a hike, I just evaluate what I need and don’t need, and I’ll organize the “don’t needs” within the spare bag.

Since I started doing that, I’ve found that I depart more unnecessary items at the rear of, carry a lighter back pack, and also lose my spare gear much less often. (It’s easy for something left inside your trunk to slide close to and get lost under a seat nearby if you’re not careful. )

3. Match your rest to the sun

As a night owl, this tip is a bit unpleasant for me to suggest, but I have found that my camping trips go much more smoothly when I modify my plan to wake up shortly just before sunrise. There are a few reasons why I prefer this over my typical schedule, but the biggest you are simply the temperature.  

Even in cold weather, I don’t mind camping out, because I’ll just pack up with extra sleeping luggage or blankets to stay warm. The real problem is handling heat swings . If the temperature changes rapidly, your nice cold-weather sleeping bag will turn into a brutally hot sauna. I’m great sleeper and sometimes do not wake up in cases like this until I have a pounding headache and are way past dehydrated.

The biggest cause of temperatures swings is sunrise. The greenhouse effect from the sunlight shining in a car or even tent may seem pleasant on a cold day, but it really can be really annoying. Indem, waking up before sunrise is definitely my recommendation. Plus, that way, you get to spend more time doing sunrise photography ! It’s a win-win.

Sunrise photo of a mountain with alpenglow
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 70mm, ISO 100, 1/30, f/16. 0

4. Don’t ignore your feet

If you’re doing long hikes and carrying a heavy backpack – whether full of camera equipment or just more hiking equipment – it’s easy to screw up your feet. Blisters, bumps, and hot spots can be painful a sufficient amount of to slow you down and make the hike much less enjoyable.

I’ve found that will two things help more than anything else. Number one: remember to trim your toenails. Should go without stating, but if you don’t do it ahead of time, you’ll regret it. Number two: wear the toe sock liner.

Toe-Sock-Liners
Not creepy at all.

Bottom sock liners have got to be one of the weirdest looking products I’ve ever seen, yet it’s astonishing how well they work at preventing blisters. I wear these under a tough pair of wool hiking socks, and I haven’t a new single blister on any hike in the last two years.

To illustrate the situation, the most intense hike I have ever done was a 9-day, 100-mile/160 kilometer trek through Iceland. My backpack started at about 40 pounds (18 kilos), although it grew lighter as I ate more of our food. Did I obtain a blister during the 17 mile (27 kilometer) hike over the first day of the journey? Nope. Did I obtain a blister on my “off day” staying near camping, carrying a much lighter backpack, and only walking a few mls? Yes. Because that was the one day of the hike that I decided not to wear the feet sock liners.

I hope I don’t need to tell you it, but I’m not really affiliated with any toe sock liner company. I don’t even know what brand mine are. But you owe it to yourself to get a pair – and trim your toe nails – if you tend to obtain blisters while hiking. Those two things essentially resolved the problem for me, and I think they’ll seriously help most hikers in a similar situation.

5. Find out a non-refrigerated meal program

I am a bit of a foodie, so I’d rather not eat just protein bars, trail blend, and packaged snacks all day. But I also don’t want to weigh down my package with cooking equipment, a range, and butane, when I’d rather use that weight to pack a spare camera lens instead.

My solution has been to figure out some really good meals I can make with ingredients that don’t need to be refrigerated or cooked. My staples are:

  • Honey
  • Loaf of bread
  • Butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Pre-made baked goods (i. e., coffee cake, muffins, banana bread)
  • Saltine crackers
  • Canned tuna
  • Individual mayo and relish packs
  • Clean cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh cucumbers
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Canned chicken breast
  • Precooked rice
  • Cajun seasoning and other spices
  • Pickles
  • Muesli
  • Powdered milk
  • Dried fruits

That should get you started. It’s not going to let you make anything gourmet, but there are a lot of decent foods possible with these ingredients, plus none of them require a fire or boiled water. And, of course , all these ingredients can keep for a number of days without refrigeration.

The rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables may seem just like a bad idea because they consider a lot and have the potential in order to spoil, but it’s much less of a problem than you might think. Nothing I listed will go bad quickly if it is kept in saran wrap or a sealed plastic bag. And even though the fruits and veggies consider a lot per calorie, that’s mainly because of their high water content, so you can think of them like an more water bottle. But you can normally eat them earlier within the hike if you prefer.

Of course , the real essential is to sort out your preferred excellent recipes and meals on your own to get your favorite staples. Hopefully this list is a good starting point.

6. Group a towel when vehicle camping

For those who don’t go vehicle camping very often, it may seem like a towel would be low among the list of priorities. But I’ve found just the opposite to be accurate.

If you’re washing your hands before eating meals, a towel is a big help. If it rains unexpectedly in your hike, and you get back to the car drenched, a towel is going to be your best friend. And if a person didn’t tighten the cover to your pickle jar, and yes it spilled over the rest of your meal supply… um, that one is not as flattering. But these have happened to me prior to, and a towel saved the afternoon.

Even if you don’t expect to need a towel, the universe will conspire to place you in a situation where you do. I don’t make the rules, that is just how things are. Douglas Adams was right – a towel is about the most massively useful thing a good interstellar hitchhiker can have.

Milky Way with a tiny human in the foreground
Searching the cosmos for a towel.

7. Hold your backpack high

I’ve found that a lot of people don’t wear their backpacks properly, particularly if they don’t hike frequently or don’t tend to carry really heavy loads. The biggest issue is wearing it too low.

Ideally, the backpack should transfer most of its weight onto your cool bones, which means the waistline strap needs to sit higher  above your waist than you might think. To visualize the right place, imagine wearing a belt. When the backpack’s waist strap could be the same height as your belt, it’s probably too low.

The goal is to have your pack relax on three main points: each hip bones, and then the little of your back. If you do this, you’ll transfer most of the bodyweight of the backpack onto your skeletal system rather than your muscles, which is much easier to carry in the long run. If you tend to have a sharp pain on the outside of your thigh while trekking, a low backpack is almost definitely the cause.

Backpacking the Laugavegur in Iceland with the Gregory Baltoro 65
That long hike I talked about earlier. Wearing your backpack correctly goes a long way toward a better hike!

8. Leave the windows down

This is a mistake that a lot of car campers make once, but very few make two times: Don’t leave the windows closed if you’re sleeping in your car!

Really dont want to sugarcoat this. A person exhale water when you sleep. That water gets just about everywhere. It’s gross and uncomfortable to wake up in a car that’s dripping wet. It is even worse if the temperature is definitely below freezing, at which point your whole car will turn into an ice sculpture. Avoid at all costs!

Even yet in extremely cold weather, I always crack a window or skylight at least slightly. Just a narrow opening will let the car circulate air and make things much more pleasant. Yes, it will get cold somewhat sooner, but it was going to get just as cold with the windows up anyway. This technique ends up being a lot nicer in the long run.

Needless to say, you don’t need to completely roll down the windows and let in a cold breeze. Any quantity of additional circulation helps.

9. Give your location to a friend

Camping and hiking are safer now than ever, and if you’re going somewhere particularly dangerous, I’m sure you’re already doing things like notifying park rangers or even carrying a satellite phone on your trip. But even if you’re just about to do some casual hikes in a National Park, try to make sure that at least one reliable person knows where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

As a photographer, I sometimes find that I spend more time on a hike than I intend, so I don’t want anyone calling for a search helicopter if I’m just gone an additional few hours. But if it’s past the 24 hour mark since I was meant to return, I want there to be someone who knows.

Twice in my life, I’ve been in a scary situation while hiking, where I wasn’t sure if I’d have to improvise an overnight stay on the trail in cold weather. I managed to get back to my car both times, but even so, I was really glad that people knew both times when I was supposed to come back. Thankfully, those situations turned out well, however they could have been much worse if no one knew where I was. Perhaps in desperation I would have tried to push myself too hard and get in an even more risky situation; as it was, I felt much more comfortable knowing I had people keeping track of me.  

I now have a satellite phone, and there are also personal locator beacons available for pretty reasonable prices, which I recommend to anyone who does a lot of hiking. But even then, you never know what particular emergency situation will arise. Perchance you hit your head or lost your backpack somehow, and therefore are incapable of sending the emergency message. It’s important to have the backup of a trusted friend or family member no matter what.

Hiking and camping photography
NIKON D800E + 14-24mm f/2. 8 @ 14mm, ISO 100, 8/10, f/11. 0

Conclusion

I hope you received these tips helpful and did not mind that they strayed tiny from the usual photography topics I write about! Although In my opinion they’re quite relevant towards photographers, too – specially if you shoot a lot of landscapes and travel to more , the burkha locations.

Ill also emphasize that We are not an expert compared to others hikers out there, and I will just speaking from the experience. These tips only a blank canvas the surface, and every hiker We have met has had their own solutions they rely upon in other situations. If you have tips of your own for hiking or fishing, let us know in the comments , I’d love to hear!

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