Monday, July 24, 2017


As I start planning for my new trip I have to look back at my last big trip and re-examine everything I did.  My trip to Alaska in 2012 was only 34 days, this new trip will last much longer and involve much more diverse terrain.
Getting weather predictions for a 34 day ride to Alaska in the summer is pretty easy.  There was only one country border to cross, even though I crossed the Canadian border a few times, and it is pretty easy for American citizens.  On my new trip I will be crossing lots of borders with various degrees of difficulties and requirements.

As I keep reflecting back on my trip, one of the issues that keeps popping up is how much I carried and what I will need to carry this time.  The selection of what to include as part of my kit is made more difficult due to the changes in weather, altitude, terrain and the duration of the trip.  The "how to" pack everything on a motorcycle also complicates things, as everyone knows, space on a motorcycle is limited. Another major issue is the carrying capacity of the motorcycle while at the same time keeping in mind that weight is a killer when adventuring off road.  Below is my Yamaha Super Tenere when I rode to Alaska.

I definitely do not want to be like the riders below.

As the start date counts down I will be making a series of post discussing my preparation and the various pieces of equipment I will be taking.  On this post I will be talking about cameras and supporting equipment.

During my Alaska trip I carried a Canon T3i 35mm DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) with two lens for the camera and a small Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 point and shoot camera in my tank bag.  Sometimes I would hang the small camera around my neck and inside my jacket so I could pull it out fast and photograph something even while riding like the photos below.  I know, it's not safe but I only do it when I'm alone on the road.  I did manage to break the Sony's back screen and even though I could still use it, I discarded the camera after the trip.

For high-quality photos, there’s no substitute for a DSLR camera. The biggest problem with DSLR's is they are susceptible to being damaged due to vibration and dust specially while changing the lens, and the bulky size makes them difficult to store on the bike. I have been spending a lot of time researching cameras to find out what would be the best compromise between quality and weight.

I'm a photographer and for my photography business I use two Canon 7D's, a full frame Canon 6D and my trusty Canon T3i that I took to Alaska.  For last year's trip to Alaska with my wife in an RV I bought a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS because of the 65x telephoto lens which is equivalent to 21-1365mm SLR lens.

The SX60 is a great camera when you need to take photos from very far as the photos below show.  The sequence of photos below were taken from the top of a mountain in the Alyeska ski resort in Girdwood, Alaska.  I believe on the last photo I actually used 2x digital zoom combined with the 65x telephoto zoom.

Having a great zoom range is not very important when you want to take photos of landscapes as it compacts the image, in fact a wide angle lens is much more useful to expand the surrounding landscape.  The long telephoto lens only comes in handy when you have wildlife to photograph or you can't get near a location but you still want a closeup.  A long telephoto lens is also useful when you want to take candid photos of people without them knowing.

You might be asking yourself now, why am I mentioning all these specs? and that's because I wish one camera could do everything, unfortunately that's never the case, there's always compromises.  The 7D is a very rugged camera used by professional photographers and I'm sure it would be able to withstand the trip and the harsh conditions but it weighs 860 g (1.90 lb) without a lens.

Below is the weight of the Canon cameras I own:
EOS 7D 860 g (1.90 lb) Body only
EOS 6D 770 g (1.70 lb) Body only
XS60 650 g (1.43 lb) with 65x lens
T3i 570 g (1.26 lb) Body only

These are two new Canon cameras I'm considering:
SL2 453 g (1.00 lb) Body only
M6 343 g (0.76 lb) Body only

Since weight is very important as mentioned at the top, I'm now considering two new cameras.  The SL2 is probably the smallest and lightest Canon SLR on the market and the M6 is one of the lightest mirrorless cameras.  The SL2 is almost half the weight of the 7D and the M6 is even lighter.  All these cameras accept the EF-S lens format except for the 6D and the XS60.  Since I own quite a few EF-S lens I will stay with Canon, if I were to buy from a different manufacturer it would entail buying all new lens.  So it all comes down to weight and lenses.  I'm leaning into buying the M6 and pairing it with my 10-22mm lens, a great wide-angle lens allowing me to capture landscapes like the ones below.

I am considering taking the XS60 for the amazing 65x zoom but it's heavy and bulky, would probably take too much space in my tank bag and definitely could not be hung around my neck.  It's also not waterproof but I envision needing a camera for when it's raining or for the occasional dip in the ocean. I might take one of my telephoto lens for whatever camera I end up buying but that means swapping lens, not the ideal when you need to get something fast and certainly not good when in dusty conditions.  The ideal would be a small waterproof camera with a very good telephoto to complement the DSLR I will end up taking but I don't think that camera has been invented.

Camera equipment can be very expensive and the more you carry the greater the risk of damage and theft, however with a little bit of planning these challenges can be overcome.  A DSLR will reward you with stunning photos, much better than anything a point and shoot camera can capture.  Hopefully I will find a solution to these issues because one of my main objectives on this trip is to carry as little and be as light as possible but still be able to capture the stunning scenery I plan to ride.

More to follow as I continue to research.


  1. Weight and space, two of the things that make touring by motorcycle a challenge. Lucky for me, I am not a photographer and have found my Lumix point and shoot suitable for my needs (though I have to admit I would love a longer optical zoom sometimes ... but those are shots I just have to leave behind.) I am looking forward to hear what you decide.

    1. There are some really good point and shoot cameras but there's always compromises. Like you say, a long zoom would be nice but that stops them from being waterproof. Another compromise is the very weak flash in small cameras. Having a zoom almost all the times makes them not have a wide-angle as well.

  2. What to pack sound like it will be a difficult decision. Do you also have to decide what will fit in a carry on or checked luggage to get to your initial destination?

    The zoom on that RV picture is incredible.

    1. Ha ha, no, I will leave my garage fully packed and ready for the long haul ;-)
      Yea, the Canon SX60 has an amazing zoom, only the Nikon Coolpix P900 has more zoom at 83x optical zoom (24-2000mm equivalent) but the wide part starts at 24mm while thwe Canon starts at 21mm which makes a big difference when you are at close quarters and want as wide as possible.

  3. That photo of the bike with air travel luggage is hilarious!
    Believe me, I know about packing too much and not enough.
    I'm just learning to use Steve's Canon EOS. I used to use a 35mm back in the day, but I have only used pocket digital cameras for the last 10 years. The specs are over my head! But I don't imagine I'll need that kind of zoom. I'm looking forward to learning. Maybe watching you I'll pick something up, huh?

    1. Some people just pack way too much on their bikes :-)
      There are some really nice pocket cameras but few have all the required options of zoom, wide angle, waterproof and ruggedness