Backpacking with a 600MM Lens


Mar 25, 2023
I'm curious if anyone has spent time backpacking with a super telephoto lens. Last fall I finally bit the bullet and bought a 200-600MM lens. It was a task in itself finding the right daypack for the lens. I feel as if I would be asking for trouble lugging it along for any extended trip. But what about an overnight backpack? I get the feeling that the only way to have piece of mind, would be to check the weather for rain, and if all is clear, to keep it handy on a body/shoulder strap for the duration of the trip. But then that brings up the annoyance of it banging & swinging around as you hike.

I also purchased a 16-35mm wide angle lens. I plan to take this along with me much more often than the telephoto. Any tips, tidbits or hacks for transporting lenses & camera gear in a backpack are welcome.


Mar 28, 2012
I no longer hike with a dslr, but when I did (with a modest zoom, whatever was the kit lens for the D90) I just kept it in a lightweight dry bag when in my pack and that worked well, I just padded it with leftover clothing. when carrying it, I used one of those chest straps to keep it from penduluming out in front of me every time I bent over, that worked pretty well. in the end, besides the weight, it was that sand that got me (in the Utah desert). not only was the d90 not weather sealed but the zoom lens got grindy after not that many trips.

I now carry a good point-and-shoot and keep it in a pelican case when I'm not using it!

600mm sounds challenging but of course lots of fun, good luck!


Oct 30, 2016
Used to carry a 70-200 and 24-70. Would just wrap the unused one in a puffy coat in my backpack. Other was on the cam and tripod mounted, and I’d just use it like a walking stick of sorts. Lenses and body were waterproof.

It’s a lot of extra weight and hassle, and odds of things working out so you come home with a shot making it worthwhile are slim unless you are constantly going out. I may haul something up a mountain on a day hike but thats about it anymore.

Anyway - puffy coat worked well for shock absorption. If the gear isn’t weatherproof I guess you are going to be limited to sure-thing nice days.


"Because it's there."
Feb 15, 2020
@travel2walk might have some tips for you - I know he brings some photo equipment on trips. (Though probably nothing as big as a telephoto lens.)

Personally I just use my phone on any hike more than a few miles. It's fantastic for scenery/landscape, but very lacking for wildlife. Too much hassle-to-reward for my taste, but I've definitely missed some potentially cool shots.

I love when others carry their fancy camera gear out though, so I can enjoy their photos! :D


Mar 3, 2013
Used to carry a 70 - 150 on mine, found it was fine for any shots. If wanted closer would process them. Now all I carry is a small camera.... always better than a phone one.


Sep 28, 2018
A 200-600 is way too big for any long backpacking trips IMHO. If you're going for a single night and just a few miles from the car, (or sadistic) I may take it, otherwise I wouldn't consider it. The 16 - 35 will get the most "grand scene" landscape photos and night sky images one could want. Given the quality of today's cell phone cameras, I'd be tempted to use that for the longer photos you need/want. I've found out I detest having the 100-400 on my camera as I hike/walk. It's too heavy, sways, and even though it is capable of "locking" mine wouldn't stay locked because it's too heavy and big while it swings back and forth. I don't think you'd like your 200-600 jingling off your neck when hiking with a 40 lb pack. A strap to your chest doodad likely wouldn't work for a lens that big and heavy as well. The idea of a drybag in the backpack is a good idea though in case weather sneaks up and you do decide to take it (or any other lens/camera/electronic schtuff)

I usually day hike in the mountains or desert, and don't even bother with my 100-400 because it's too big, heavy and awkward in my daypack. If I'm going someplace I know for sure I'd use it and it's 6 - 8 miles or less, I _may_ bring it. Otherwise, I use my 135mm prime. (which is my primary lens anyway as I tend to "see" longer, and more intimate images)

And definitely pay attention to changing lenses properly if you're in the desert - particularly if you have a mirrorless camera. Might want to bring a rocket blower.


Jun 10, 2020
I usually carry 3 lenses with me on my backpacking trips. I've got a 28-75, 17-28, and a 70-300. So I may not have much help on the 600mm end. But I will carry the camera on a peak design capture clip and then I combined the Peak Design Field Pouch with a fanny pack strap that I wear around my waist. Depending on the hike I'll either put the 17-28 or 70-300 in the field pouch for easy access and allows me to change lenses without ever taking the camera off the capture clip and can switch lenses without ever stopping. The third lens I'll keep in a small Tenba BYOB camera case inside my backpack.

For bad weather I've also got some other items I will use. I have the Peak Design camera shell cover which keeps rain off the camera if it isn't raining very hard. Same thing goes for the Peak Design Field pouch. The material is waterproof but if is raining somewhat hard I'll throw everything in my pack. I do have a Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack but even with that I have a nylofume pack liner that I will put the camera gear in just in case.


Jun 11, 2017
I wouldn't take it. Take a 70-200 with a 1.4 extender on an APS-C mirrorless camera and you're gold w/o the weight and stress of carrying a super lens. Unless you're in an area with exceptional wildlife, you won't really use it much anyway.

ETA What @ImNotDedYet says. I eventually sold my 100-400 because it was just too darn heavy. Canon has a beautiful 100-400 that's really light and I bought it instead. Nice images, under $600 as compared to the $2600k for the other. Much shorter and easy to carry.
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May 16, 2016
I hike with a full frame Sony and a 24-105 on a Peak Designs clip. I could not imagine that setup with my 100-400 and a 200-600 would probably be impossible given weight and size. The only reason I can see for carrying a long lens is wildlife. I'm considering having the 100-400 in my pack for a trip to Yellowstone this summer but not sure how much use it would get. Maybe the bears will come close enough for a photo but not so close that I crap myself :)


I lava it!!!
Jan 19, 2012
I only backpack with my Sony A6000 and the 16-55mm kit lens. Once in a while, I will bring the 24-240m lens if it's a trip where I can expect a bit of wildlife.
But usually, I want to keep it lightweight, and my old Sony body with the small kit lens is just perfect.


May 19, 2012
I had a Sony DSC-RX10 III, with a 20MP CMOS sensor, 4K video, and a sweet 24-600 equivalent F2.4 Zeiss lens, all in a little over 2 lbs. The lens was amazing, sharp and accurate. I would still be using it if I didn't give it to my son.


Sep 22, 2016
I had a Sony DSC-RX10 III, with a 20MP CMOS sensor, 4K video, and a sweet 24-600 equivalent F2.4 Zeiss lens, all in a little over 2 lbs. The lens was amazing, sharp and accurate. I would still be using it if I didn't give it to my son.
A friend bought one of those after owning several "serious" DSLR's and lenses. He's quite impressed with it, as am I after viewing his images.


Mar 1, 2018
@travel2walk might have some tips for you - I know he brings some photo equipment on trips. (Though probably nothing as big as a telephoto lens.)

Personally I just use my phone on any hike more than a few miles. It's fantastic for scenery/landscape, but very lacking for wildlife. Too much hassle-to-reward for my taste, but I've definitely missed some potentially cool shots.

I love when others carry their fancy camera gear out though, so I can enjoy their photos! :D
The biggest lens I have is a 70-300mm Tamron for the a7 series. The setup I've found the most useful is the zpack utility pouch that attaches on my chest (they made a padded version at one point for cameras). It is made out dyneema and I always have a spare gallon ziplock if it gets bad. My default lens is a 20mm G 1.8. Both fits in the utility pouch easily. Though, I don't know if the utility pack would be big enough for a 600mm lens.

I really appreciates the zoom of the 300mm when I have it, in a chance encounter with animals. Though, they've got to decide to hang around long enough for me to change the lens. There were definitely times (as TheMountainRabbit knows, that I was in too rough a shape to take the effort to take it out). I'm on the borderline of whether to bring it or not, but I'm only a novice photographer/videographer. Especially with phones starting to having zoom too. As others have said, I'm more inclined to bring it if I expect wildlife.
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