Tips, Tips, and More Tips

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I often get asked by many of my friends, "how much gear should I take when taking an extended back-country trip?"

It has been through trial and error that I can now say that I have the back-country "thing" down to a science. One of the most important questions you should ask yourself is "what do I want to photograph?" This is very important since it will dictate how much camera gear to take.

Many years ago I used to pack everything that my backpack would hold. After several injuries and surgeries I gave up carrying 120+ pounds to the back-country. Today I plan in advance what I'm going to photograph and take only that equipment that will allow me to photograph my subject.

My favorite lenses for scenics are the Maxxum, 17-35mm 3.5, 28 -70mm 2.8, and 80- 200mm 2.8 with a 1.4 extender. This focal range allows me to cover any landscape from wide-angle vistas to isolated images within the wide-angle scene. I pack two Maxxum 9000 bodies without motor drives because they are light and allow me to get 39 exposures per roll. Depending on the length of the trip, I may take as many as 20 rolls of Velvia. I also take a Tiffen polarizer, warming, neutral density, and split neutral density filters. My gear is completed when I pack a Gitzo 320 tripod with a Foba Ball Head.

David crossing river
© Andy Sorensen

For wildlife I only take two lenses along with two camera bodies. They are the 28-70mm 2.8 and 300mm 2.8 along with a 1.4 and 2x extenders. This gives me a pretty good range for just about any animal. The two bodies are the Maxxum 9xi. Here the film doubles to 40 rolls and of course "have tripod will travel." This completes my back-country camera gear. As a precaution, I pack all my gear in zip-lock bags to prevent them from getting wet in case of a rainstorm.

My camping gear consists of the lightest gear I can afford and the food is always dried. Gear for a two week trip usually weighs about 30 pounds. Below is a list of my camping gear.

Custom made 6700 cubic inch backpack 6.2 lbs.
North Face Tadpole tent 3.2 lbs.
Western Mountaineering sleeping bag 2.5 lbs
Therm-a-Rest'r Lite sleeping pad 10 oz.
MSR Whisperlight 14 oz. without fuel
Titanium Cookware Pot 3 oz.
Titanium Fork and Spoon 1 oz.
First Aid Kit 2 lbs.
PUR Hiker Water Filter 11.4 oz.
2 Water Bottles 2 oz.
Rain Pancho 10 oz.
Dry food for seven days 6 lbs.
Approximate Weigh 23 lbs.

The clothing must be warm and capable of eliminating moisture. Don't forget to take a parka to break the wind and also act as a raincoat. Boots should fit comfortably and give your ankles support and socks should keep your feet dry. I recommend REI as an excellent source of finding all your outdoor camping needs. You can reach them by calling 1-800- 426-4840 or visiting their web site at

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