Equipment Reviews for the Traveler/Outdoors Person
This page is dedicated to our review of equipment used by the traveler and outdoors person. The equipment was either purchased or donated by the vendor for our review but in either case; we have actually used and tested the equipment
Choosing the Right Backpack
Choosing the correct backpack can be a very difficult decision because of the variety of packs available.
The first thing we need to discuss is the difference between a Backpack and a Rucksack. Simply put a backpack is a bag that can be carried on one’s back with shoulder straps. A Rucksack can also be carried on ones back but is more commonly made out of canvas and is used in the military or for outdoor recreation. Vendors use the terms backpack and rucksack interchangeably when labeling their products. Historically a rucksack was a large bag made out of canvas with a large deep main compartment with little internal compartments. The name “rucksack” comes from the German word “Rücken” which translates to back and the word “Sack” which means bag. From our point of view, the basic difference is a backpack has multiple compartments/pouches. Meanwhile a rucksack has few compartments and usually one very large compartment.
Our advice: go with the Rucksack from a reputable vendor. The reason is simple is always better and a Rucksack is usually more rugged. Another reason is it is possible to forget what equipment and supplies you have when you have a bunch of pockets.
The next thing to do is ensure you have a water bladder and a spot to store a water bottle. Remember you can survive a lot longer without food but not water. On average a human being can survive without food for approximately 14 days. However, you will only last 3 days without water. Also keep in mind these numbers change based on climate and location.
Also make sure the pack you choose is comfortable for you. We also recommend the pack has waist straps for support. This means you need to read the reviews and you try the pack on before purchasing.
Last, have more than one pack: one for day trips/hikes and one for long hauls. Again both should have the same options referenced above. There is no sense in carrying a large rucksack for a simple day hike.
Since starting this website and traveling across the country, we have been asked numerous times what cameras are we using to take the photos posted on our site and on social media. To be clear, we are no camera experts and will always recommend you look at online reviews and consult experts when you start to spend significant money for photography equipment. But based on trial and error and our experiences, you need to consider a few basic things.
First, lighting is everything in photography. Second, what are you trying to photograph? Let’s look at lighting and it’s importance. To take a good photo you must have sufficient light. Without light there is no photo. The pros go in-depth to discuss the three basic camera settings: aperture, ISO and shutter speed (referred to as the "exposure triangle"). All three address light in one fashion or another. Simply put, aperture is the size of your lease opening, ISO is the camera settings sensitivity to light, and shutter speed is the amount of time your camera shutter is open and exposing the frame to light. Since we are no experts, we look for autofocus cameras with good beginner settings. Autofocus modes handles the lighting settings for you.
For our camera selections, we look more closely at what we are trying to photograph. Here is what we mean. You want a camera that can take photos at a high resolution (megapixel) and the higher, the better. We recommend at least 15 megapixel or higher. You also want a camera that can focus quickly and take good clear photos of moving target in what is called “sport“ or “birdwatching“ modes. This is important when trying to take a photo of say wildlife running. You also want a camera with a decent zoom and we recommend at least at least 70 MM which equals approximately 4 times larger. The higher the zoom, the better chances of getting closeups without exposing yourself to dangers of getting too close to wildlife. And last, if you want underwater photos, the camera of course needs to be waterproof (we recommend the waterproofing be safe at least at 50 feet).
Considering all the above factors, we recommend an autofocus camera with a high resolution, a fast processor for quick, clear photos, and a strong zoom. As for waterproof cameras, you are probably going to have to buy at least a second camera which is waterproof with a limited zoom. Listed below are the cameras we use and we will review the abilities of each of them.
(The Cannon Zoom)
We chose this camera because of its quickness to take photographs and video. This is a fairly new camera from Cannon and the cost is around $300. The camera fits in the palm of your hand and is used as a monocular (using one eye). The camera can be used with one hand with practice and has three fixed focus settings: 100 MM, 400 MM, and 800 MM. The camera uses a micro SD card for photo/video storage which is sold separately. The camera as one photo button and one video button for quick use. The camera has a rechargeable, non-removable battery but you need to buy a USB-C wall plug because it doesn’t come with one. Battery life is about 2 hours but if you turn it off after each use, we have never had the camera die on us. This camera can take fast photographs at 12 megapixel which we wish was higher. But because the camera has an immediate power-up and fixed focus, you have incredible zoom ability. The downside of this camera is if it’s cloudy, rainy, or dark, leave it at home. There is no flash and it simply will not take good photos or video when it’s overcast or dark. You can download a free Cannon App which easily allows you to download photos to your smartphone.
So why get this camera? If you want a small yet powerful camera to carry around your neck, take quick photos with an above-average zoom, and not worry about focusing, this camera is a must. We carry it everywhere.
(The Cannon Powershot 540 HS)
We chose this camera because of its overall use as a point and shoot camera. This camera is a solid unit for beginner to intermediate photographers. There are several settings on this camera to allow you to get incredible photos. The main dial settings we use are Auto, Creative Shot, and Sports (or birdwatching). The camera also packs an amazing 50X Zoom which allows for extreme close photos from significant distances to the target. Creative shot allows you to use the zoom and when you take a photo, it automatically creates 6 different photo versions for you by automatically adjusting zoom, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. In this setting the camera does the work for you.
This camera from Cannon is considered a zoom-first camera and the cost is around $300. The camera uses a SD card for photo/video storage which is sold separately. The camera has a rechargeable, removable battery and comes with a wall charger. Battery life is about 4-6 hours but has an auto-shutdown feature. This camera can take fast photographs at 20 megapixel which is more than sufficient. This camera is not waterproof but is very lightweight. There is no downside for this camera and of the four we use, this is by far the best overall camera. You can download a free Cannon App which easily allows you to download photos to your smartphone.
So why get this camera? If you want a lightweight yet powerful camera to carry around your neck, take professional looking yet quick photos with an incredible zoom, this camera is a must. We carry it everywhere.
(The Nikon Coolpix P1000)
We chose this camera because of its ability to take long-range photos and the fact its a point and shoot camera. That means you can get ridiculously closeup photos and the camera will auto-focus for you. This camera is not for beginner photographers. There are several dial and internal settings on this camera to allow you to get incredible photos but the settings can be complicated for beginners. The camera packs an out of this world zoom of 3000 MM. We have taken decent closeup photos with this camera at well over one mile away.
This camera from Nikon is considered a one of the best super-zoom point and shoot cameras but the cost is a little hefty at $800 to $1,000. The camera uses a SD card for photo/video storage which is sold separately. The camera has a rechargeable, removable battery and comes with a wall charger. Battery life is about 4-6 hours but has an auto-shutdown feature. This camera can take great quality and fast photographs at 16 megapixel, which is more than sufficient. This camera is not waterproof. There is two major downsides with this camera: price and it’s very heavy. You can download a free Nikon App which easily allows you to download photos to your smartphone.
So why get this camera? We use this camera at locations like national parks to take photographs of wildlife that you don’t want to get close to, like bears, elk, and moose. This camera can do everything the Cannon Powershot 540HS does and more. What makes this camera standout above all others is the super zoom. If you choose this camera, you will need to invest in a tripod or monopod to help steady the camera when using the super zoom.
(The Fuji XP120 Waterproof Camera)
We chose this camera because of its waterproof to 50 feet and it has a fair zoom. You can buy GoPro cameras but none have the ability to zoom and be used as a normal digital camera.
This camera from Fuji will cost anywhere from $250 to $400. The camera uses a SD card for photo/video storage which is sold separately. The camera has a rechargeable, removable battery and comes with a wall charger. Battery life is about 4-6 hours but has an auto-shutdown feature. This camera can take fast photographs at 16 megapixel which is more than sufficient. This camera is waterproof up to 50 feet and is very lightweight. You can download a free Fuji-film App which easily allows you to download photos to your smartphone.
So why get this camera? This is the camera we use when on a boat, kayak, or canoe; basically when around water. The camera has a fair zoom which is better than most action cameras and you can still use this camera as a normal point and shoot camera on adventures around water.
So for those who text or messenger me about the cameras we use to take the photos on this website/app, now you know.