This Friday I am headed to the Wind River Range in Wyoming with my brother for some backpacking and light class 3/4 climbing. This thread is meant to document my preparation, what-to-bring decisions, and ultimately my experience and a few photos. Starting this thread will at least be fun for me, and hopefully will help others considering what camera gear to take with them and how to pack it all.
First about the Wind Rivers: From afar they are not nearly as dramatic as the Tetons to the Northwest. But it is a significantly larger range with higher peaks, much longer approach hikes, and far fewer people. It takes 10-15 miles of hiking just to get into the range. But because the trailhead elevations are higher, the elevation gain isn’t quite as much as other places like the Tetons or Sierras. The two trailheads we are starting from are at ~8000 and ~9250 feet (in comparison, Jenny Lake, the typical starting point for many Teton climbs, is under 6800 feet). The current plan is to go in twice: First in for 2 nights, back out to regroup and spend one night in a hotel, then back in for 4 nights at a different trailhead. These plans tend to change based on weather and other conditions, so we’ll see… In September the weather should be highs in the 60’s, lows in the 30’s. There is of course a high standard deviation in those figures. Could be 80, could be a foot of snow that won’t melt until next spring.
My brother and I have been planning this for months, but not in earnest until the last several weeks. We have been many places together, including climbing most of the peaks in the Tetons, several mountains in Washington and a few in Colorado and Alaska. So although this is somewhat second nature to us, for me this one is different because it is the first time I’m taking a MF camera with me (hence this thread). I debated and waffled back and forth about bringing this gear, since I also have a Sony a7r. In the end I decided to bring both. Here is my current plan related to camera gear:
40hr-w, 60xl, 90hr-sw
Sony FE 35mm (weighs almost nothing), Leica 90 f/2
Other Misc Camera stuff:
Clik small chest pouch for a7r and both lenses
Sync cord & spare
(2) hex wrenches for tripod and baseplates
(4) 32g CF cards
(4) 32g SD cards
72mm polarizer w/ step rings (for the Alpa)
72mm Hoya 64 PROND filter
CF for 60xl
55mm polarizer w step rings (for the Sony)
Leica Disto E7500i
(4) Phase One batteries
(4) Sony batteries
If my Galen Rowell Photoflex chest pouch wasn’t so frayed and on its last legs, I would take that because I like it better than the Clik; it is lighter and I can see my feet better with the Rowell design.
I won’t bore you with the backpacking gear (unless someone posts that they want to know).
It will be interesting to see how much of this drops off my list after the first 2-night trip. We should start a poll to see who thinks the Alpa will still be in my pack for the second trip! Near as I can tell, all-in I’m at about 22 lbs of camera gear, and about 50 lbs for everything. The reason for bringing both cameras is basically because I’m lazy. If I have one camera and it is stowed in the backpack, I will stop to photograph very infrequently because it is too much work, and I don’t want to hold up my brother unless there is a stellar photo opportunity. So I need an easily accessible camera, preferably in a chest pouch. The a7r is relative light, and it is so good that I consider it a back up for the MF. That leaves me with why bring the MF? It adds ~ 11 pounds to my back and marginally better photos. The answer (for now!) is I just love the way I shoot with a tech camera. Plus, the opportunity to come back with that kind of detail from a place that rarely sees a camera of this quality has me excited. However, despite my love of photography, I love the mountains more. So if the camera limits my ability to travel where I want to go, I will leave it behind without a second thought.
BTW, I am still debating between the Arca Swiss D4 and my RRS BH-40, which is so much smaller and lighter (3/4 of a pound lighter). Because I often shift-stitch two images together, I’m bringing the ground glass for composition. I made my own masks for 54x40, 76x54 (max V-shift) and 90x40 (max H-shift) formats. I like the ground glass better than live view because I can see the whole stitched image at once, and because battery power will be precious. What does all this have to do with tripod heads? Well, with the ground glass a standard ballhead like the BH-40 won’t be as annoying as it is when doing the shoot-review-reposition-shoot-repeat dance. I can do that with a Cube or D4, but I go crazy “nudging” a ballhead around blind. The thing I will really miss on the D4 though is the very accurate bubble levels. The ones on the STC are often too high to see, and frankly not as accurate. I could use the one built into the IQ180. Hmm…
The second big debate I can’t seem to get out of is which backpack. Here’s where I put Guy to shame: I won’t begin to tell you how many camera bags and backpacks I have. Let’s just say I have all three F-Stop bags (Loka, Tilopa BC, Satori), along with just about every brand of internal frame backpack you can think of. We’ll just leave it at that, ok? I’ve had stuff strewn all over the floor for weeks now going back and forth. At this point my wife can't wait for me to leave!
I’m stuck between two very different approaches: A Boreas Lost Coast 60 and the F-Stop Satori. The Satori is supposed to be 62L, while the Boreas is 60. But I can fit a lot more into the Boreas because it has a top skirt that is very adjustable (marvelous pack BTW). I was a bit disappointed when the Satori showed up; I thought it would be bigger, but it isn't much bigger than the Tilopa BC. I have to strap the tent to the bottom of the Satori, and even then it is very tight, to the point of me worrying a bit about the Alpa lenses as the ICU gets stressed and deformed. Either way the Alpa will go in the F-Stop Small Pro ICU. Obviously the F-Stop is designed for cameras, so would be easier to deal with in most situations since I can just drop the pack and unzip the back panel for instant access. However, with the F-Stop I have to drag the whole pack around when I’m shooting and moving 20 feet one way or the other, while with the Boreas I just pull out the ICU from the top and carry that around. Decisions, decisions…
Anyway, more to come. I will update this as I go, then include a webpage link to the SPOT tracker so anyone really bored can see where I am going.
Feel free to debate along with me if you like. One test I will do in the next few days is to remove everything that is not essential, then put the pack on and feel the difference. I’ll do that with and without the Alpa stuff.