Backpack Basics: Gear for a Day Outdoors

Backpack Basics: Gear for a Day Outdoors

With July coming to an end, summer in the North East is in full swing and what better time to get out and shoot than the present. Whether you are shooting portraits or landscapes, in the daylight or under the stars, sometimes the best way to stay motivated and make sure you are having fun with your photography is to keep things simple. While I don’t go bare-bones with one camera and a lens, if I am out adventuring, chasing a sunset, or on a day trip hiking through the forest, I like to keep my gear minimal. While each piece of equipment has various uses, here is a look into my camera bag and different ways you can use each piece of equipment.


Let's start off with taking a look at camera bodies. While it has changed over the years, currently my go-to body is a Nikon D750. I have had this camera for about six months now and so far it has performed great. I have used it in scenarios varying from weddings to surf sessions, and if I am heading out for a day of adventure and shooting it most definitely comes along. This camera performs well under low light and is capable of shooting fast enough frames per second to capture the most fast-paced action as it unfolds in front of you. I love the price point of this camera. While it is more expensive than your average entry level DSLR, it doesn’t completely break the bank. Which is nice especially when you are bringing your gear into an area that could potentially be harmful or dangerous for your camera. I take every precautionary step to ensure the safety of my equipment including protecting my camera a with a rubber case from easyCover. But if something was to happen to the camera, you will not be left in debt or with a camera that could take serious saving to replace. I also use a Mieke battery grip, to add some extra battery life to my camera. The battery grip includes a wireless trigger which can be nice when you are shooting long exposures or self-portraits.

Depending on the situation, sometimes I will bring my Nikon D7000 along for the ride. Aside from this camera's notorious autofocus problem, there is something that I love about it. If I’m looking to get that little bit of extra zoom, the crop frame sensor is a good way to cheat. Also, it freezes action tremendously well at 1/8000s. The D7000 is a solid, rugged camera and it makes a great extra body to throw in your camera bag. I have had this camera for awhile and while I don’t use it as often as I used to, I just can’t seem to part with it.


While the lenses I use definitely change for each shoot or trip, on an average day of shooting I have several that I always have in my bag. To keep it basic, I always bring a 50mm f/1.8. This lens works great for shooting portraits or whenever you want a wide depth of field. It can work as a landscape lens in some situations or be used for capturing lifestyle images. Another lens that I like to bring is a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. While this lens is made for DX sensors, I still love using it. The D750 has the option to shoot full frame or crop frame, and when using this lens I set it to crop frame. I mostly use this lens for shooting under the stars. At f/2.8 it can really open up and let in some light and amazing detail. The wide angle of this lens can be great for capturing lifestyle images and really make you feel as if you are in the moment. While there is some distortion around the edges, personally I don’t find it too distracting. The last lens that I bring with me is a Nikon Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 ED VR2. I can’t say enough about this lens. I truly love it. It is amazingly sharp and at f/2.8 the depth of field is beautiful. The image stabilization does wonders when shooting a moving subject. The lens is weather sealed and rugged with a detachable, rotatable tripod collar that is very useful. While a longer lens would be nice at times when shooting surfing or a subject that is far away, I can always throw it on my D7000 and get a little extra zoom. This lens is truly a jack of all trades and I have used it for shooting everything from landscapes to portraits, all with crystal clear results.


The speedlight that stays in my bag for almost every adventure is a Yongnuo YN-568EX. For right around $100 you can’t beat this speedlight in my opinion. Pared with the Yongnuo YN-622N Wireless Flash Trigger, this setup can be a fun way to add some light to your subject. I also bring a Vello light bouncer to soften the light. While I don’t always use the speedlight, it can be a great way to add some backlight, brighten a subject, or just add another element to your photo. On a side note, while I don’t always bring it with me, I have a Impact Quikbox Softbox with Shoe Mount Flash Bracket (24 x 24”) that does a great job of diffusing light and is awesome when shooting portraits. While it's a little to large to fit in a backpack, it does fold flat, is light, and can be carried quite easily. Having a portable softbox that you can bring anywhere with ease can add a nice element to your work. Having beautiful diffused light outside of the studio can be a game changer when it comes to lighting a portrait. I always make sure to throw in an extra pack of batteries in case I run out of power.

Tripods and Light Stands

Having a good tripod is always essential. I carry a Manfrotto with a quick release head. While it's an older model, it is sturdy and easily adjustable. I also carry an Impact light stand for my speedlight. It’s light and durable and can easily be strapped to a backpack.


Alongside all this equipment, I also carry a GoPro Hero 4. Having a GoPro handy is great. Sometimes if I am shooting surfing, I will pass off the GoPro to one of the surfers and let them shoot photos from the water or take video clips if we are working on an edit. It's also great for shooting behind-the-scenes footage, B-roll or time-lapse. The GoPro app connects directly to my iPhone and I can view and edit photos on my phone. Aside from a Nikon battery charger, the only other thing I keep in my bag with me is a few rolls of film and a Yashica T4 super (weatherproof). A few months ago, I read Austin Rogers' article, “Get Thee to a Goodwill: How Buying a 35mm Point and Shoot Will Change Your Photography.” I won’t lie, I’m addicted to shooting with this point-and-shoot and it really has changed the way I take photographs. Give Rogers' article a read and I’m sure it will change yours as well.

Wherever you are, my goal is to encourage you to get out and shoot. While I believe you can certainly get by with a lot less gear than everything I mentioned, my point is to just talk about the basic equipment that I can fit in my backpack and show some examples of how it can be used. No matter what you shoot, getting out and shooting more, using new equipment, and changing the way you think about taking photos will help you to become a better photographer.

If you are out shooting for the day what are your go-to basics? Feel free to share any tips and advice you have about the equipment you use.

Michael Brown's picture

Michael Brown is a freelance photographer based on the east coast, with a wide variety of photo, video and graphic design experience.

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That seems awfully heavy for a trek outdoors. My D800 and 2 lenses does me in after a few hours in the heat, let alone a tripod, stand, 3 lenses (heavy lenses) potentially 2 bodies and a speedlight. If you can pull it off kudos to you, I'm supposed to be in my "prime" in strength/energy at 18 and I can't even do it.

It's certainly not the lightest, but a bag with some support straps on the chest and around your waist will do wonders for your back. Plus most of the time I have one of the bodies plus a 70-200 around my neck so that disperses weight a little bit.

Please, don't ever carry a D750 with a 70-200 around your neck. That'll ruin you. Shoulder!!!

I don't know what a D750 with a 70-200 weighs, but I spent a day with two cameras: Canon 5D Mk III with a 100-400 f4.5-5.6L lens and a Canon F-1N with 28m f2.8. Using a shoulder harness instead of neck straps wasn't a pain in the neck.

Then you'll think I am crazy. 7d2 grip with 2 bats. 400mm, Tamron 70-300, 50mm 1.8, Sigma 18-35, Rokinon 14mm, Manfrotto Carbon Fiber tripod, 5-7 Cliff bars and 2L of water. All in a Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L. On every hike I am out early in the morning to late at night. So I'll shoot everything. Crazy i know.

In my flipside I can squeeze in a D800 gripped, 14-24mm 24-70mm, 3lt tripod, long exposure trigger, extra battery, small accessories and a couple filters and I can walk around the city streets, I hiked Angels Landing in March with just a gripped d800, and 14-24mm and It was too much.

I honestly I just think I am a freak lol but its my everyday load out. But I am thinking of get rid of the 70-300 and the 400 and just buy the 100-400L II. Missing the 70-100 range I am ok with I can just step back a few feet

Funny, i just spent five 12 hour days running around the stub hub center in LA with a D4 w/70-200 f/2.8, and a D4S strapped to a 200-400 f/4, . . . wasn't too heavy for me

Easycover, softbox, and yongnuo links don't work.
Possibly others, but those are the 3 I tried...

Nikon weather sealing is a joke compared to Pentax. If you're the outdoorsy type of photographer you need a Pentax. I have washed my Pentax in the sink after it got muddy, used it under torrential rain and accidentally dropped it into a swimming pool. The camera is perfectly fine.

You might be confused with Nikon's weather sealing and Pentax's weather proofing. They are different, Nikon can is just RESISTANT but NOT INVULNERABLE to sand, water, and humidity.

There are prett specific tests done to differentiate water resistance from waterproof. Its called IP (Ingress Protection) Code. Wikipedia has a very good article on it. I really wish all manufacturers submitted their equipment for true IP Code testing.

I wish Nikon finally got serious about weather sealing. If Pentax can do it then it can't be that complicated? I dream of a Pentax with Nikon sensor.

Well, then Pentax should just buy their sensors from Sony ;)

And their processors from Nikon.

Went back and read the article on that Mieke battery grip. Seems like an excellent and well reviewed product. Do they currently make a corresponding model for the D810? That is primarily what I hike with, and a good non-Nikon (price!) grip would be great. Thanks!

This is a major reason I switched to my a7. Add in the 35/2.8, 55/1.8, Minolta 100/2, and its a tiny kit. Love the weight and size savings. Can carry more water now (an extra warlterbottle takes the space and weight). M4/3 would be even better.

it's a 120 degrees in my neck of the woods in summer... you wont see me backpacking with much other than cold ones.

This is what it's come to? Bring a camera, lenses, tripod, lights and light stands for a day outdoors. This is like, generic content factory 101. Why is this helpful? Or informational? Crowdsourced content huh?

How about some food/water too :)