My Camping/Photography Equipment
14 July 2017
A couple of years ago I purchased some lightweight camping equipment and had every intention of doing some overnight camping/photography trips. This never really happened, only initially making a couple of trips. Even when I came to Skye last year I never got round to making any camping trips, however that all changed recently with An Overnight Camp On The Table.
My overnight stay on The Table ignited the burner for me to want to do more, so a couple of days ago I headed through Glen Sligachan and camped overnight on Sgurr na Stri, which arguably has one of the best views on Skye, looking down on Loch Coruisk and across to the Cuillin Ridge (article to follow).
The purpose of this article is to share with you the main items of my camping equipment, the photographic gear I will be taking with me, and the reasons behind my choices. Below is a photograph of my main camping/photographic equipment, with details of the items below.
- Rucksack - Osprey Atmos AG 65. This is a recent purchase, as my previous rucksack (a cheap Karrimor model) wasn't up to the job. I have only used it once so far, a couple of days ago on my Sgurr na Stri overnight camp, so can't really it yet, however will update this section in due course.
- Tent - Wild Country Zephyros 2 Lite (now discontinued). I purchased this tent upon recommendation by another photographer as one that was reasonably lightweight. It comes in at around 1.4kg, which is pretty light for a two man tent, however to be honest, it isn't really suitable for two people. I can get myself and my rucksack into the tent, it certainly wouldn't comfortably accommodate two people even with the rucksack(s) left outside.
- Mattress - Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite. The NeoAir XLite was another recommendation, initially by the same photographer who recommended the tent. I also did a fair bit of research before making the purchase, as it certainly isn't cheap, however I am so glad I did. Although heavier than the classic foam rollup mat, this mattress takes up a lot less room and actually only weighs 340g. It is extremely comfortable, not noisy at all (if you read some reviews), and would say definitely helps in terms of warmth, due to its reflective ThermaCapture technology.
- Sleeping bag - Alpkit PipeDream 400. The PipeDream 400 is a three season down sleeping bag, weighing only 865g, and stuffs down pretty small; an ideal choice when you also have to pack camera gear into your rucksack. So far this has performed very well, leaving me feeling very comfortable, however I haven't tried it in temperatures below zero (it apparently has a sleep limit of -6℃).
- Pillow - NEMO Fillo Luxury Pillow. This item really is a luxury, especially when you consider the fact that it costs £50. Again, another recommendation after watching a video from photographer and YouTube vlogger, Thomas Heaton. I have tried a few different inflatable pillows during my various camping trips (usually cycling ones), however they have always come up way short in terms of comfort due to their smaller size. This one however, is not too far from the size of a regular pillow which you will have on your bed, actually packs up pretty small into its own internal stuff sack. I have only used it once, on my Sgurr na Stri trip, however I am extremely impressed with it - a massive step up from what I have used previously. There is of course a trade off in terms of weight and pack size, as it weighs 340g, whereas my last one weighed a mere 39g. However, at the moment I am willing to sacrifice some luxury over weight.
- Sleeping bag liner - Rab Silk Sleeping Bag Liner. A sleeping bag liner not only helps to keep the inside of your sleeping bag clean, it also gives you that little extra bit of warmth. I had previously used cotton liners, however doing some research on lighter weight/smaller pack size ones, I discovered that silk can actually be a little bit warmer compared to cotton ones. So as a fan of Rab gear I purchased on of theirs. It certainly packs down smaller than my cotton one, and is a number of grams lighter.
- Camera - Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is my main camera at the moment, so is of course the choice of camera to take with me on camping/photography trips.
- Wide angle zoom lens - I have a choice of Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II wide angle zoom lenses, with the 16-35 being 210g lighter than the 24-70, so may well be my preferred choice. However, which of these two lenses I choose to take with me will be based on the location I will be going to and the shots I have in mind. Canon also have the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS which is 205 grams lighter than my f/2.8, and 15 grams lighter than my 16-35, so may be a possible purchase in the future.
- Short telephoto zoom lens - This type of lens is very handy as it helps you pick out the smaller details in the landscape, something which I have been doing a fair bit of more recently. My lens of choice for this is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L, the non IS version. The non IS version is almost 400g lighter than the IS version, is an incredibly sharp lens, and have only wished I had the IS version a few times when handholding the camera.
- Spare memory cards - I always have two or three spare compact flash cards with me, as there is always the chance that you will fill one up, and of course one may fail at the wrong moment.
- Filters - I have various photographic filters from ND grads to solid ND's and a polariser, so choose which filters to take with me based on the location I am going to, and the type of shots I want to capture.
- Cable release - For me, a must have accessory, as it helps to eliminate camera shake.
- Spare batteries - Whenever I am out with my camera, I always make sure I have at lease one spare battery (usually two), as you never know how long one will last (especially if you use live view a lot).
- Map - For Skye, I own two Harveys walkers map, as they cover a smaller area so show a lot of detail, and are also waterproof. Even if I know an area well I like to have a map with me, as it helps with navigation in certain circumstances, and also helps to identify particular mountains/ridges etc.
- Compass - Again, even if I know an area well, it is useful to have a compass with you, both in terms of general navigation, and can also help to identify particular mountains/ridges etc. when used in conjunction with a map.
- Phone charger - I will usually bring this charger with me. It wraps around my iPhone like a regular case and gives a full charge in a shot space of time.
- High powered light - The Exposure Joystick is actually from my bicycle, however provides 300 lumens of light. The unit is rechargeable with no interchangeable batteries, so I only take this along on single night trips.
- Head torch - Here I have a Black Diamond head torch, which provides somewhere between 200 and 300 lumens of light. For me, a head torch is an essential item to take along, as of course you need to be able to see where you are going when out and about in the dark.
- Spare batteries - These ones are for the head torch.
- Camping food - If I am going to be out for a decent length of time, even if it is just an overnight stay, I will take some food with me, whether it be in the form of sandwiches, chocolate bars etc. Depending on what I am going to be doing in terms of exertion required to get to the location, I may take along some Adventure Food. Depending on which one(s) I bring with me (some require only cold water adding, and some require hot water adding), I may also need to take my stove along.
- Cooking kit - Here I have a very simple, reasonably light weight, one person kit which includes a small pot and mug.
- Gas - If I need to heat up water whether it be for my Adventure Food or simply a cuppa, I will bring along a small gas canister.
- Stove - MSR Micro Rocket Gas Canister Stove. I purchased this stove due to its small size and light weight (73g).
- Cutlery - Alpkit FlatIron Knife-Fork-Spoon set. Very lightweight knife, fork and spoon set made from titanium.
- Stove windshield - Vango windshield. Almost a necessity when using a camping stove in breezy conditions, as it helps to stop any wind from blowing the flame from your stove around or out.
Update (20/07/17): I had previously been looking at purchasing a Jetboil cooking system, however was slightly put off by the price (£80 - £120). After posting a link to this article on my Facebook page, I had a comment from Seán Kerr, a fellow photographer and someone who also enjoys combining camping with photography. Seán mentioned he had a Jetboil system, so after a wee chat with him and doing some more research, I decided to bite the bullet and purchased myself a MicroMo; which although is not their lightest product, fills my needs better over the lighter Flash Lite. The main thing for me here is the weight savings, where this system will replace the above cooking kit, stove and windshield, and comparing both setups with a 100g fuel canister I am saving 108g in weight. There should also be a long term cost saving, as Jetboil state their system is more efficient than others, meaning the gas should last longer. A couple of other reasons for the purchase is that when using their Jetpower fuel, the system should operate in lower temperatures, and the cooking time is a lot quicker. I only took delivery of my MicroMo yesterday, so did a quick test with a regular fuel canister, and the boil time was very quick indeed. You can read an article I have written on the MicroMo here.
The photography equipment above is stored in a f-stop internal camera unit which normally sits inside my main camera backpack.
The other main item missing from the photograph above, is of course a tripod, which I always take with me, however was used to take the photograph. I use a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod with Arca Swiss ballhead, which combined do not exactly make a light weight set up, however they go well together and work for me. Currently I simply carry this by hand, as I am not keen on carrying it on the side of the rucksack, as it causes an imbalance in weight.
Finally, there are certain items which are not in the photograph above which I will take along with me, depending on certain circumstances. These could range from a change of certain items of clothing, to cold weather sleeping wear and toiletries.