Shooting From The Saddle Vol. 02: Bikepacking Photography Gear

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What’s the best gear to capture great bikepacking photos? Here are bikepacking photography gear lists and insights from six noteworthy photographers …

In the first installment of Shooting From the Saddle we asked six fantastic photographers to impart their uncanny photographic wisdom via several bike photography tips. In Volume 02, each photographer provided their gear list, more great bikepacking photos, and insight into their choice of gear. To find out more about each photographer, check out Volume 1.

Devon Balet @devonbalet

Devon Balet Bike Photography Gear

“My gear changes depending on the length of the ride, really.

For most of my commercial or editorial photo shoots I will use my Canon 5dmkiii with a large array of lenses. I recently invested in a micro 4/3 system for my bikepacking and longer ride shoots. The Olympus O-MD E-M1. With it I have a 17mm 1.8, 45mm 1.8, 40-150, pancake 15mm and 7mm. I am able to fit the entire setup into a single compact camera bag that I will typically carry on my back. I would like to look into other carrying options, but I am usually riding rough single track, so keeping the camera on my back is the safest option.

Devon Balet Bike Photography Gear

Chasing around the Honey Stinger mountain bike team for a weekend of team camp, I go with my compact micro 4/3 set up. Long rides and higher speeds demand lower weights. Recently the team joined for the 2015 installment in Fruita, Colorado. The weekend was full of lots of great riding, camping, beers and lawn games. Luckily there was only one crash to speak of and Sam’s face took the brunt of it, saving his brand new bike from any scratches or impact.

The micro 4/3 system allows me to carry a camera body and four lenses that weighs less than my full sized camera and one lens. Not only that, it is extremely compact saving room in your bags. The image quality from the Olympus has been great and the two 1.8 lenses are super sharp. This camera has proved to not be fast enough for high action, so I keep it to shoot bikepacking.”

  • Devon Balet Bike Photography Gear
  • Devon Balet Bike Photography Gear
  • Devon Balet Bike Photography Gear

Cass Gilbert @whileoutriding

Cass Gilbert Bikepacking Photography Gear

“I tour with a full frame Canon 6D DLSR. Given it’s brick-like weight and proportions, it’s not a camera I’d recommend to everyone.

The body alone tips the scales at almost 750g. Factor in a few lenses, and my camera gear soon weighs far more than anything else I carry.

Cass Gilbert Bikepacking Photography Gear

Check out Cass’ post about his nomadic digital darkroom.

However, it’s hard to quibble about its image quality, especially in low light. Its battery life is excellent, which is particularly beneficial in the backcountry.and there’s a full frame ‘look’ that I really like. Although I often begrudge lugging it around, I rarely begrudge the images its capable of capturing. To me, it’s worth it. 

  • Cass Gilbert Bikepacking Photography Gear
  • Cass Gilbert Bikepacking Photography Gear
  • Cass Gilbert Bikepacking Photography Gear

This said, if I was starting afresh and looking for more than a high end compact camera, I’d be considering Fuji, Sony and Olympus’ latest range of mirrorless models, any of which are nigh on perfect for bikepacking photographers. If you’re aiming to broaden your photographic horizons, mirrorless cameras offer all the creative control and lens options of a DSLR, without most of the heft and space. 

As for lenses, I have a tiny, Canon 40mm 2.8 pancake lens that lives on the camera most of the time. I find it offers a very natural look, perhaps because its field of view is closest to what the human eye sees. Being a prime, it’s fast enough to isolate subjects from their background particularly well; I find it well suited to street photography, situational portraits and detail shots. I also tend to carry a wide angle prime – a 24mm 2.8 – which I enjoy using for shots of empty dirt roads, as well as big panoramas and interiors. 

As awkward as it is to carry, perhaps my favourite lens is my 70-200mm f4, though I’ll only haul around if I’m travelling in a group. It’s perfect for compressing the kind of massive mountain landscapes I love to explore. Add in a rider, and it helps convey a real sense of magnitude that’s hard to achieve without a long lens.”

Matt Hage @hagephoto

Bike Photography Gear - Matt Hage

“Obviously weight and bulk is a primary concern for photographing backpacking trips.

The Nikon D810 kit outlined below is as light as we go while still being able to produce high quality work. Plus the D810 is a great camera for making crisp night pictures at camp, especially when paired with the 50mm f1.4 lens. The lightweight carbon tripod lets me setup for long exposures or astrophotography.

Photo Gear for Bikepacking (Multi-day)

  • Nikon D810 Camera
  • Nikon 16mm f2.8 lens
  • Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens
  • Nikon 24-120mm f4 lens
  • Nikon SB-900 flash
  • Pocket Wizard Radio Triggers
  • Memory Cards & Batteries
  • Light Carbon Tripod w/Ball Head
  • Flask Fine Añejo Tequila

Photo Gear for Singletrack Ride (Day Outing)

  • Nikon D4 Camera
  • Nikon 20mm f2.8 lens
  • Nikon 24-70 f2.8 lens
  • Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens
  • Nikon SB-900 flash
  • Pocket Wizard Radio Triggers
  • Clamp or Small Tripod for Flash
  • Portable Softbox for Flash
  • Memory Cards & Batteries
  • Vodka Pocket Shot
  • 8 oz Red Bull

It’s different when out for a day shooting riding action. The priority is put on camera speed, both focus tracking and frame rate. The Nikon D4 excels at both. When the riders we’re out with ‘go big’, we want to be able to capture that, no excuses. It’s also necessary to be able to focus track when a rider is racing towards the camera.

  • Bike Photography Gear - Matt Hage
  • Bike Photography Gear - Matt Hage
  • Bike Photography Gear - Matt Hage

I’m always carrying a pack of some sort and a lot of the photo gear goes on my back. Lenses are packed in neoprene pouches for extra protection in case of a mishap (yep, I’ve took a couple diggers while carrying a camera pack). Camera and lens usually go in the pack for day riding, but I carry them in a chest pouch for backpacking. I’m not shy about distributing the weight among our team; most riders are stoked for the training weight.”

Gabriel Amadeus Tiller @gabrielamadeus

Bikepacking Photos

“I like to keep it pretty simple. No fancy bags. Just lenses and body. And even those ain’t that nice since I like to break things.

Bikepacking Photography Gear

Nikon D7100 – A great camera so far, but much like the Adobe Suite I feel like I’m only using 20% of its capability. I had the entry level D5100 before this which was also a great camera. In my opinion lenses are so much more important than the body, and your feet are so much more important than any gear. Photography is about moving around and finding good composition, not the latest technology. 

Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 Prime – This is my favorite lens. It’s small, light, and takes fantastic photos. Someday soon I’ll splurge on the 1.4.

Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8 Prime

Nikkor 55-200mm Zoom

Tokina 12-24 Wide angle

UV filters for each lens! – I’m always losing lens caps or crashing, having a filter protecting the lens is a no-brainer for me. 

  • Bikepacking Photography Gear
  • Bikepacking Photography Gear
  • Bikepacking Photography Gear

Peak Designs Capture Camera Clip – Hands down my favorite piece of camera gear. This allows for quick, reliable access to my camera while riding. I can grab and re-attach without fumbling or looking, and grab action shots or wildlife that would otherwise have been missed. Right now I’m riding with a backpack because I like having my camera on the shoulder strap, but I’m working on figuring out a better solution for attaching the clip and ditching the backpack. 

Ultra Pod II mini tripod – Super handy lightweight tripod, I’d love to use it more but rarely have the time to set up shots when I’m the trail. It’s stable, collapsible, and can be strapped to branches or railings with the included velcro strap. 

Eye-Fi Card – Being able to transfer photos to my phone on the road is invaluable. Which this card does, but it’s a huge pain to set up and customer service is abysmal. I just picked up the Nikon Wireless dongle but haven’t set it up yet.”

NOTE: Cover photo is by Gabe

Matt McLoone @frankton

Bikepacking Photography Gear List

“It was a long time coming, but during the GDMBR, I finally got fed up with the size and weight of my Canon Kit (5DII 35mm F/1.4, 50 F1.2, and 135 F/2).

I always wanted something smaller and more rugged. So I finally had the nerve to dump it and trade it in for a Leica. I have always been a fan of the Leica Rangefinder system and since I already owned a substantial amount of Canon gear, the entry to the M system wasn’t that terrible. So I now shoot with the Leica system and am very pleased by its quality; both image and construction. The idea of a manual focus rangefinder camera, brings me back to the basics. I feel more aware and careful about the images that I take.

  • Leica M240
  • Voigtlander 28mm f/2
  • Zeiss 35mm f/2
  • Leica 50mm f/2
  • Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8
  • Bag Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar bag
  • Bikepacking with a Leica
  • Bikepacking with a Leica
  • Bikepacking with a Leica

My current Lens setup for touring will most likely center around the 35mm and 75mm lenses. I feel that these two lenses complement my style the best. Having a nice 35mm frame for most of my images and then the 75 tele to isolate subjects.”

Brett Ziegler @bziegler

Bikepacking Photography Gear List

“So far my go to kit for these trips has been a Canon 5d mk II, 24mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.8.

These two lenses pretty much cover the spectrum of the majority of shots I take while out riding. The 24mm 1.4 is epic and one of the best investments I have made in my camera gear. It is fast, sharp, and the wide angle is wonderful for riding shots and nature. Although a longer focal length might be nice in certain situations,  the size, weight and image quality of the 85mm 1.8 makes it perfect for long journeys. Using the Prime lenses can help cut down on weight, not to mention the faster apertures allow for more versatility, wether you want shallower depth of field or to shoot in less light. And all it takes is a few steps in either direction to turn that fixed focal length into a zoom.

  • Canon 5d mk II
  • 24mm 1.4
  • 85mm 1.8
  • Swift Industries Paloma Handelbar Bag w/ Stainless steel mount

Bikepacking Photography Gear List

In terms of using these lenses I like to mix it up and not always use the focal length as one might think. If there is enough room, awide scenic shots, with the rider being a small part of the frame, are wonderful to take with the longer focal length. The compression between foreground is background can do wonders for making an image more dramatic. At times when the 24 feels just a bit too wide, I can be sure to get the image tack sharp and shoot with a crop in mind that I can do later  while processing the images, I like to think of this as the poor mans zoom. 

  • Bikepacking Photography Gear List
  • Bikepacking Photography Gear List
  • Bikepacking Photography Gear List

I have also recently picked up a Fuji X-Pro 1 with a 18mm f2 (28mm equivalent) to help try to cut down weight for rides, with the hopes of adding the 60mm f2.4 (90mm equivalent) in the near future. The camera is surprisingly light, especially compared to the Canon DLSR and although is does sport a smaller sensor, the image quality is still wonderful. Once the set up is complete, this will definitely become my go to set up for long journeys.”


  • hagusch

    Thanks for these articles, I haven’t really read about this kind of photography anywhere else.
    It is surprising to see how I could find myself in a lot of the gear choices, however I feel like one of my favourite features hasn’t really been mentioned by anyone, which is weather sealing.
    I took it as a nice to have, just in case thing, when I bought my camera for last years trip around the Baltic Sea, but it has opened up so many new interesting perspectives and opportunities along the way, that I see it as big a step forward for my photography as my first prime lens.

  • Logan

    Thanks Jan. I haven’t been too concerned with weather sealing and have always contained my 6d in a fairly weather proof bag. Somehow it withstood some pretty significant moisture throughout Africa, a sandstorm in Morocco, and a lot of other fouled bikepacking trips. Same with my x100, although my manual switch stopped working on it. It would be nice to not worry about keeping it safe all the time though!

  • Saul_Wright

    Fantastic article. Thanks.

  • Raimon Escapa

    Pretty useful post, thanks! I used to bike tour with a Canon 400d DSLR but there was s point in which I realized I was taking more photos with my cellphone than with my camera. Now I’m doing a world tour with a compact camera. I started with a Fuji x20 that broke down beacuse of the moisture in rainy China (could not replace it because their costumer service sucks) and now I have a Canon Powershot G7 with which I’m pretty happy about its small size and its so light lens. You can check out my pics here:

  • Logan

    Thanks Saul!

  • Logan

    Nice, good to hear, Raimon. Thanks for sharing!

  • Evan

    This is a very interesting and informative article. I’m just getting into bikepacking but have been into photography, backpacking and riding for years. I am a little surprised at the camera/lens selections that are used by those in the article. They are mostly big, heavy cameras that are fine for professionals or if the primary purpose of your trip is photography but probably overkill for most people. I can’t imagine trying to carry all that gear on a bike. There are alternatives that give nearly the same picture quality (under most circumstances) but are much, much more compact and lightweight. I think for most people, a premium compact camera like the Sony RX100 or Canon G1X is perfect–more camera than they will ever need. They are small and light but still have fast lenses and decent-sized sensors that give great picture quality. A logical next step up for the enthusiast level photographer is a mirrorless micro 4/3 camera–larger sensors with great photo quality and a wide range of fast, lightweight and sharp lenses. Devon Balet mentions the OM-D E-M1. That’s a great camera, but it’s also one of the largest and heaviest micro 4/3 cameras. I use the Panasonic GM-1 (a micro 4/3 camera) that is tiny (RX100 sized). I can take the GM-1, a couple lenses, filters and batteries and still only have 16-24 oz of photo gear in my pack. It’s perfect for bikepacking. If you’re selling your work, going for poster-sized prints or need to take fast action shots, a DSLR is likely the right camera. Otherwise, there are probably better choices for 99% of us. I have a Canon DSLR that sits at home on the shelf 95% of the time because I’m not willing to accept the trade-off of 2-3x the size and weight for photos that are maybe 5% better (given how I use them). I’m not being critical of others choices and I realize the contributors were just explaining what they use and why. I’m just giving my perspective and suggesting some alternatives that might work for the rest of us.

  • Logan

    Thanks Evan. A few of the contributors are in fact professional and others are semi-professional, so my guess is that file quality is key when the end result is a catalog or magazine. I thought that both Devon and Brett provided some pretty good alternatives to smaller systems that produce good images. I also carry either a Canon 6d or a Fuji X100. With those 2 cameras I have found the file quality to be superb.

  • Jiri

    Thanks for the nice article! I would be very interested in the camera storage during the journey. I have seen that Matt uses a backpack, others are using a handlebar bag.

    I have my camera and lenses stored in the handlebar bag, but we started to ride more offroad recently and the handlebar bag is shaking like crazy. I am little afraid, that the camera gear suffers because of it.

    Where do you carry your camera?


  • Nick Kovacs

    Wow, that’s some heavyweight gear you are packing. We use Canon 5D3 in our studio, most ofter with the 85 1.8. I dread the thought of carrying either of these while bikepacking. I’ve looked and tried a few of the “tough cameras” but the image quality is no better than an iphone image. Perhaps the Canon X might be a good one to try…

  • (Logan)

    Sorry, missed this comment, Jiri. We are actually working on a post about camera storage options… more soon.

  • (Logan)

    The G3X? I am a total camera nerd, so, unfortunately, I can spend a lot of time perusing specs…!

  • Jiri

    Thanks for the replay. I am looking forward to that article.

  • Joel Masson

    Me too.

  • Their Only Portrait

    Hola Logan, let me know if you ever want to show a different approach to this subject… I’ll be adding a 7″ parabolic umbrella to my next trip’s setup ;) Saludos, Federico

  • Pit

    Hi Jiri (and Logan), did you ever find a good solution for carrying the camera gear. I have tried the handlebar bag and found it too bouncy too. Now I am using a Lowepro backpack with side access to the camera which is better for the camera but nobody likes carrying a a heavy backpack when riding. I am now thinking about taking some weight out of the backpack by putting 2 lenses in “bartender” bags. I have also experimented with a waist pack, which might work for some. I would love to read that follow up article. Was that posted? Did I miss it?

  • Stephen Poole

    Agreed re bulk! Earlier this year I took a GM5 plus a few small lenses to the Indian Himalayas, and carried the camera + 12-32 lens in the Revelate front pocket. It survived fine despite some abominable surfaces, and the location was very handy. It’s not much if any bigger than an RX100, and FWIW I’ve found it much less frustrating to use. It fits most chest pockets I have too.

  • David Negreiro

    what is that seatpack setup on the cover photo? Did they push it back with an old seatpost?

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