Shoot smarter in the woods with the best photography gadgets for camping

Ah, summertime. School is out, the heat is up, and the days are long. It’s the perfect time to head outdoors, find a patch of relatively level and rock-free ground, pitch a tent, and open up that can of beans. When it comes to camping, there are plenty of essential items you won’t want to forget, but once you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to think about how you’re going to document the trip. Here are the best camera accessories for camping, to help you remember the adventure in style.

Whether you’re heading out on a month-long backpacking excursion or simply taking the family to local campground for the weekend, you likely don’t want to be bogged down with too much camera gear. You could always stick with your smartphone, but if you want to up your photography game and move to a real camera, we’d recommend looking at a compact mirrorless model (perhaps one of our personal favorites?). These cameras offer a great balance between image quality and size — especially when paired with the right lens — and are therefore perfect for camping. Once you’ve got the camera figured out, take a look below for some ideas on how to spice up your camping trip with a few accessories.

Benro BK10 ($25)
Benro BK10 Tripod
Benro

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best, and the age-old tripod continues to be one of the easiest camera accessories you can use to improve your photography. When it comes to camping, however, it can be temping to leave the tripod at home — after all, who wants to carry the extra weight? This sentiment is understandable, but there’s an even better solution: The Benro BK10.

The BK10 is a compact tripod that, on first glance, doesn’t look drastically different from other models currently on the market. At just over half a pound and measuring less than 9-inches long when folded, it will easily pack alongside your other gear. However, hidden within its minuscule frame are a wealth of features not normally found on such a small tripod.

While a standard 1/4-inch screw allows you to easily attach a mirrorless camera or lightweight DSLR, the BK10 also includes adapters for both GoPro cameras and smartphones. What’s more, the center column can extend to an impressive 41.3 inches, converting the tripod into a selfie stick — it even features a built-in remote button. Now you can capture long exposures of the stars, group portraits around the campfire, and videos on the trail all with the same device.

At under $30, the BK10 isn’t built to be the sturdiest device. It can only support cameras weighing up to 2.2 pounds, so larger DSLR users are out of luck. And while it offers good reach when being used as a selfie stick, only a fraction of its total length can safely be used while in regular tripod mode, as the small footprint can only provide so much stability. Still, the Benro BK10 is an effective solution for getting group photos with a variety of cameras in a variety of situations. If you’re looking for additional recommendations, we’ve put together a list of the best tripods currently available.

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Lowepro Flipside Trek 250 AW ($119)
Lowepro Flipside Trek

Another simple yet important camera accessory is the bag that will hold all of your gear and protect it from the elements. When it comes to the great outdoors, there’s no telling how many threats you and your gear may face, whether it be bad weather or bears. While the Lowepro Flipside Trek series of backpacks will do little to fend off an enraged grizzly, it will at least help you endure bad weather.

Lowepro makes three versions of the Flipside Trek: The 250 AW, 350 AW, and 450 AW. The one that works best for you depends on how much gear you need to carry, but we reccomend the smallest of the three. The 250 AW has enough room for a mirrorless camera or compact DSLR, plus one or two additional lenses (depending on lens size). The upper compartment also has plenty of room for equally important items — namely, snacks. And should you encounter a freak rainstorm, just pull out the built-in waterproof cover.

Like Lowepro’s other Flipside bags, the camera compartment on the Flipside Trek is accessible from the back, so it can’t be opened while the pack is against your back. You can access your gear without removing the bag, however, by swinging it around on the hip belt to your front. And if you set the bag down on the ground to open it, the surface that normally touches your back will remain off the ground, helping to keep you clean and dry.

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LensCoat RainCoat RS Medium ($60)
LensCoat RainCoat RS Medium camera rain cover

On the topic of weather protection, a rain cover for your camera is never a bad idea. The chances of needing one in the summer are slim, but this is the type of camera accessory that every outdoor photographer should keep in their bag. While we singled out the LensCoat RainCoat here (we like its design and multiple colors and camouflage patterns you can choose from) there are many others on the market. The medium size listed here can handle cameras and lens combinations up to 15 inches long, which is probably enough for most users, but LensCoat also makes a 21-inch version for $70 and a 10-inch one for $50.

If you don’t get out to shoot all that often but want to make sure you are ready for a little rain when you do, you can save money with with the Op/Tech Rainsleeve. Essentially a plastic bag for your camera, the Rainsleeve is designed for limited use and likely won’t hold up to repeated wear and tear. However, you do get two of them in a package for under $10.

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DJI Osmo Mobile 2 ($129)
DJI Osmo Mobile 2 Ronin S

DJI may be better known for its drones, but the same gimbal technology that stabilizes the company’s high-flying cameras can be put to equally effective use on the ground. The Osmo Mobile 2 is the simplified follow-up to the original Osmo Mobile, and is essentially a three-axis gimbal with a handle attached. It features a mount that can support just about any smartphone, producing super-smooth video from the imaging device that everyone on your camping trip already has. It even allows for vertical video orientation, so all your Snapchat and Instagram stories will look perfect.

However, the Osmo Mobile isn’t just about stabilizing video. With the DJI Go app, you’ll gain access to a world of imaging opportunities, including time-lapse photography, automated panning, and even object tracking.

At $129, this is one of the most affordable gimbals on the market, but it can make your next adventure video look like a professional production.

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Light Painting Brushes Starter Kit ($99)
Light Painting Brushes
Light Painting Brushes

Light painting and light writing is the process of using a flashlight, or other source, to create words and shapes in the air. It works by using a long exposure at night, so that the entire path of the light is captured by the camera. It’s fun to experiment with light painting using any old light source — including the screen on your phone — but for greater control, look to Light Painting Brushes.

The aptly-named company produces a variety of accessories to maximize your creativity, all of which connect to virtually any flashlight thanks to a universal adapter. The “Light Writers” produce a point of light perfect for midair calligraphy, while the lightsaber-like “Swords” can make broad, artistic strokes. Both come in multiple colors, too. We’ve listed the Starter Kit ($99) here, which includes both a fiber optic brush and a flashlight, but all of the items can also be purchased individually.

Light painting can be anything from a neat party trick to a serious artistic endeavor, but one thing that makes it great for camping is that it offers everyone a chance to actually participate in creating a photo, even after the sun goes down. It’s a hands-on creative process that’s great for the whole family.

Light Painting Brushes

DJI Spark ($399)
DJI Spark best drones under $500

Okay, so the DJI Spark isn’t so much a camera accessory as it is, well, an entire camera. But this downsized, simplified drone makes aerial photography and video more approachable than ever, and it’s not just because of the $399 price. The Spark is loaded with features that make using it simple and intuitive, including an integrated two-axis gimbal for smooth and level footage, as well as an obstacle avoidance system that’s designed keep you out of the trees.

You can also operate the drone controller-free — no smartphone or gamepad-style device required (though you can use those, too). Simply hold the Spark at arm’s length and give the camera time to scan your face. Once it recognizes you as human being and senses it’s safe to fly, it will rev up the propellers and take off. All you you need to do now hold your hand in front of the drone and it will follow your every command, moving wherever you move your hand. You can even make a picture frame shape with your thumbs and forefingers to prompt the drone to snap a photo.

The Spark isn’t the smallest drone out there, but its robust feature set and longer, 16-minute flight time easily makes up for its frame, which is large compared to the ZeroTech Dobby, Hover Camera Passport, Yuneec Breeze, and other like-minded drones.

Per usual, it’s a good idea to check with the park or campground you’re staying at before you launch a drone. Some locations have no restrictions, while others may prohibit the flying of drones completely.

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