My go-to gear hauler is a customized Osprey Kode 32 with a Trekpak organizer insert - it’s bomber! Its ski-carry system even doubles as a tripod holder.
Buy weather-sealed gear
Nowadays, camera manufacturers understand that not all photographers are safely locked away in a hermetically sealed studio all day. We like to get out there, revel in the outdoors, and drag ourselves (and our gear) through the muck. When shopping for a camera, be sure to choose a weather-sealed camera body with comparable lenses. It may seem a little pricey at first, but in the long run your camera will have a much longer lifespan.
Make sure you have a padded bag
A padded organization system added to an Osprey Kode 32 backpack will help protect your camera gear. Having a padded organization system for your lenses and accessories is necessary when crashing around in the backcountry. Keep in mind that easy/organized access for speedy lens changes can make difference between getting the shot or regretting the day. My go-to gear hauler is a customized Osprey Kode 32 with a Trekpak organizer insert - it’s bomber! It has just enough capacity to take your personal gear and a handful of key photography accessories out for a day of shooting, and the ski-carry system can pull double-duty as a tripod carrier. The Osprey Kode 32‘s ski-carry systems doubles as a tripod holder.
Use inner bags to keep everything organized
If you’re heading out for a multi-day adventure, consider compartmentalizing your gear by using smaller, padded blocks. By ‘bricking’ your gear, you distribute the weight in your pack while maximizing your storage capacity. My go to bag for internal organization is the Clik Elite Traveler paired with a neoprene lens case. But I’ve spent countless hours researching and trying different combinations of bags/inserts. It might take some time to figure out what works best for you, but the right system is well worth it.
Upgrade your strap
You can’t take any photos if your camera is in the pack. In order to use your equipment in precarious situations, I found it’s best to upgrade your camera strap to something more secure. The Black Rapid Sport is my strap of choice - it keeps my camera close even when I’m jugging lines 300 feet off the deck.
Plan out your shoot ahead of time
Gear is heavy and seems to get inexplicably heavier at elevation. While it’s impossible to plan for every frame, try to get a sense of what you are really getting after that day. Select your main subject and pack your gear based upon it. Decide if you’re going super-wide or telephoto. Do you really need bring that 100mm prime or can you allow your 70-200 to pull double duty? Remember, saving energy is the best way to keep both you and your gear safe.
Learn to deal with wind
Extreme wind has been both a blessing and a curse on so many shoots. On one side of the coin, we’re given the opportunity to capture wispy clouds and blowing sand as it rips across the landscape. On the other, changing lenses or securing a tripod is often impossible if there is no shelter in site. The solution: change lenses under your jacket. It may take a little practice, but going through the trouble of swapping lenses beneath a layer of Gore-Tex is better than filling your camera body up with debris. As for the tripod, secure your hefty camera bag to it for added stability. For bonus points, equalize your tripod using cordage and a snow or rock anchor to secure your three-legged system.
Prepare for wet weather
Ironically, the worst weather typically makes for the most magical light. But what if your camera isn’t weather sealed? There are plenty of accessories on the market to waterproof your camera, but unless you plan on submerging it, you can probably get away with just cutting a hole in a freezer bag and shooting through that. Also: your lens hood isn’t just for protection from sun flare, it also works great for keeping the elements off your prize glass.
Clean your lens - gently
More often than not, using your clothes to clean or dry your sensitive glass is a sure way to send it into early retirement. The delicate coatings on your lens are prone to scratching. Using an actual lens-cleaning cloth is key to keeping your optics clear. Remember to remove any heavy particulates from the lens before wiping by using an air puffer. They are light, small and can be a game changer when shooting in sandy or dusty locations. I prefer the Foto Tech Deluxe Dust Blower. At less than 2 oz., you won’t even notice it’s in your pack.
Never store wet gear
Even if your gear is weather sealed, it’s not immune from fungal growth. To prevent your lenses from becoming expensive petri dishes, dry them off as much as possible before packing them back up. Then, toss a handful of moisture-absorbing silica packets in your camera bag. They are a cheap/free solution to extending the life of your gear.
Keep your camera cold when it’s cold out
You may be tempted to put your camera under your jacket just to warm it up a bit. This may cause unwanted condensation to form, rendering your camera useless for quite some time. Also, falling snow will have a tendency to melt on a warm camera, making it more of a chore to clean compared to frozen snow.
Protect it from heat in the summer
The average camera has a high-end temperature rating of about 115*F. Leave your black, heat-absorbing camera baking in the sun, and the internal temps can far exceed this limit and damage sensitive camera and lens components. When setting up for a time lapse in extreme temps, you may want to cover the camera with a protective towel while it fires away. Also limit the use of the Live View option while shooting to minimize heat produced from your LCD and camera sensor.
All things considered, your camera gear is pretty tough. When the conditions get harsh, don’t be afraid to take it out of the bag.
Dan Holz is staff photographer here at Osprey Packs. When he's not skinning up a mountain or jumaring up a cliff to take some amazing photos, you can find him hanging with his wife and daughter, homebrewing beer, or checking out a local bluegrass show. Check out Dan's website at http://www.danholzphotography.com