Best lens for backpacking?


Dec 30, 2015
I have an old Cannon Rebel T1 that I tote along because the quality is much better than my phone. I have several backpacking trips coming this summer and want to know what lens would be best to capture those wide mountain range shots and alpine lakes. I would assume I want a wide angle but i know so little I could be wrong. I have been looking at this one because it's not crazy expensive but better than the stock lens I have. Budget is important.
Wide angle lenses tend to be pretty expensive. One piece of advice I've heard about wide angle lenses is that while they do allow one to capture a very wide field of view, this isn't really their best purpose. They also take some time getting used to shooting. I think of wide angle as kind of a special purpose lens, so if I take that out with me I'm usually carrying another lens in addition. Typically I just a 50mm prime lens hiking. Now, I don't have a full frame sensor, so it's actually equivalent to a 75mm. So you see this is actually somewhat "zoomed" in. But it works very well. Prime lenses can capture very sharp images, and I think canon makes a nice 50mm prime 1.8/f for around $100. It will take some work to setup shots however, since you will need to be far away from your subject matter. This usually isn't a problem in the wilderness since hiking all day long on a trail presents one with many opportunities for viewing features from afar.

This is just my two cents, and I am just an amateur so collect more advice before making a decision. Since you have a kit lens, try playing around with it at different lengths--use it at its widest settings one day, and another day use it only at 50mm, and go from there. :)
It really comes down to what you are willing to carry.

For an all-around lens, it's a game of compromises. Ultra-wides are great but if you've never shot with one before I wouldn't bring it as my only lens.

I actually think Canon's kit lenses are pretty good for this purpose. They are lighter and somewhat disposable. In fact, I have an extra one kicking around that I'd let go for cheap.
For Canon, 10-22 is their best non-L (not pro) wide angle lens that is not a prime. Haven't used the one you linked.

If you have the money, lenses are the best place to invest it. I have sold lenses for the same amount I paid for them after owning them nearly ten years...

edit: just noticed you weren't sure if wide angle was really what you'd want to lug around. When I only want to hassle with a single lens, I take a 24-70. Wide enough on one end, with a little bit of 'zoom' on the other. Not the best at either one but all around good enough so you don't have to carry ten pounds across three lenses.

24-105 is also really useful for the same reason. I regret having sold it. On a budget there are a lot of options that cover similar range.
10mm is a bit wide unless you really need to have WIDE shots. On my little Sony, I have a 16-70mm lens, and somewhere in that range for a crop sensor is very good. Much as I love primes, I almost never take them backpacking as it causes me to miss too many shots. The versatility of a zoom is a very good thing when you have just ONE lens and will be taking a variety of shots while on the move.

I have a Sigma zoom and a couple primes, and they're pretty nice. This (or something with a similar focal length range) is something I'd take a close look at if it's in your budget.

To be brutally honest, the kit lenses that come with Canons and Nikons are plenty workable in my opinion. And that stock setup you have is going to be plenty better than a phone! You would be doing just fine to not worry about getting a new lens yet and just focus on learning your new camera.
I like the 10-18 that you've posted, it replaced the 10-22 I had when it died. The 10-18 is a tad sharper on the edges, but the lack of zoom to 22, and the slowness is a serious drawback imo.

I bought the prime 24mm pancake, and I rarely take it off these days. Prime takes some getting used to, but I really dig it.
I like the Sony A6000. The kit lens is pretty wide at 16 - 50mm. It is a kit lens however and you won't get top end optical quality. That's said, the A6000 will blow your old Canon away. Maybe buy the body only and get a nice lens to go with it.
I have used the crop series Canon cameras for around 15 years now. Started with the kit lens and quickly moved to the 10-22 which is one of the best landscape lenses around. It is easy to get a good background and still have an interesting foreground object, all in focus. The corners become a bit painterly but it does not subtract from the image imo.

I also take the Canon 60mm macro lens and find it indispensable for both closeup work, portraits and an occasional longer view. That thing is super sharp and contrasty from corner to corner.

The good thing about glass is you take it with you to the next camera body if you stay with the same format so its not so bad spending a bit on that as it is good for decades of hard, constant work.
What i have been shooting now is the 18-55mm. That's what was given to me on the camera.
I don't think you need a wider angle lens than the 18 you already have, but if you really want to spend money :)

I have a NIkon and don't know about Canon, but I really like the 18-105 (~25-150 in 35mm) that I have on my D5100. If I were you, I would be looking for something like that for 1 hiking/backpacking lens. Sometimes it is nice to have a little more "reach" than the 55mm you have. It sounds like there is a 24-105mm for Canon.

You should also check out Sigma and Tamron lens.
What i have been shooting now is the 18-55mm. That's what was given to me on the camera.

That sounds like the kit lens. It is okay when you use f/8 but I found it mediocre when trying to capture a wide landscape, like a canyon or as you want, an entire lake. 18mm would be a nice focal length on a full frame but it is too close to normal on a crop sensor imo. The 10mm of the lens you are looking at and the lens I like to use equals out to 16mm on the 35mm format. I know there is very little distortion with the Canon 10-22, a bit of barrel on the wide end and bit of pincushion on the long end but minimal. I use DXO Optics to process my RAW file and that program takes out that distortion anyway. I don't know what kind of distortion the less expensive 10-18 might have or any other aberrations. If Dan likes it then it sounds pretty good.
on my Nikon, I used the 24-70mm f2.8 lens. It's a heavy beast, but a super sweet lens.
Since I have my Sony A6000 as hiking and backpacking camera, I simply use this one with the kit lens and the Sony 10-18mm.
Anyway, I was pretty impressed with the Sony kit lens when it comes to lava shots. In many cases there was not a super big difference.
the Canon 16-35 f/4 IS is a pretty fantastic lens.

I just upgraded from my Nikon D610 recently to a Sony A7r. Not only did i upgrade image quality a ton, but i saved weight and space, as the A7r is quite a bit smaller. I use a Nikon 14-24 right now as my wide angle, but am selling that next month to get lighter
What i have been shooting now is the 18-55mm. That's what was given to me on the camera.

That is a good stating point. 18 mm is just "wide" enough most times, but I'd want a bit more reach at the long end. For a long time, my one lens solution was an 18-105mm.

But then, photography became the 'focus" of my trips, and I soon was carrying 3 lens' ! A 10- 24mm, a 17-55mm and a 70-300mm.

It all depends on what your trying to shoot.
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