It wasn't always like this. Several years ago while visiting the Eastern Sierra, I decided to take a hike above the little town of Big Pine, up to a glacier. The trail starts at 8000 feet, and goes up up up from there. In my excitement, I made the mistake of taking a backpack with all of my camera gear, and a very nice but heavy tripod. Even though it was a cold November day, I worked up quite a sweat on that hike. It was so unnecessary to take that much gear, especially since I didn't even use half of it.
Moving forward, I think I'm a little smarter about camera and gear choices. When I'm out riding my bike and want to bring a camera I use a small point and shoot, or my GoPro HD (more about that in another post). And now when I go on a hike, I take my Sony NEX3. The NEX3 is smaller than my Canon DSLR's, but has the same size APS-C sensor. It will shoot both RAW and .jpg, has an image stabilizer, and a very nice screen. While the NEX3 is larger than most point and shoots, it's still the perfect camera for me when hiking.
During our latest visit to the Moro Bay area we had a chance to go to Montana De Oro, a beautiful State Park just south of Morro Bay. There is an area that you need to park and walk a bit to get to, but it's worth the effort. Leaving the parking area, the hike is down a narrow path with high brush on both sides, and it's downhill. The path is over a mile long before you get to see the rugged cliffs and waves breaking on the rocks below.
Once we reached our destination, I couldn't have been more please with my NEX3. Sure, it would have been nice to have a large selection of lens and other goodies, but then again I didn't have to lug all of that stuff back up the hill to the car.
There I am, with my Sony NEX3. You can see how small it is in my hands. Fortunately, I can use a high enough ISO to get a shutter speed that will freeze action and reduce blur, and still have a very clean image (meaning low or no noise). It doesn't hurt to have an image stabilizer either! Traveling so light allows me to concentrate on the scenery and not the gear.
So, beside sharing how I like to go light on the gear, what else am I driving at? How about making use of the gear you have, and not being too worried about having the biggest or the best. I only have 1 lens for my NEX3, an 18-55mm mid range zoom. So, if I need to get closer to something, I use my feet and walk up to it. Same thing if I need to get a wider angle, I start walking. The other thing I do is crop an image to make my subject appear larger. Now, if you really want to spend money on gear, that's ok too. As I already mentioned, I have several cameras myself. Just do it because you like the stuff, not with the misunderstanding that a new camera will make you a better photographer.
The camera is just a tool. It's the photographers vision that makes a great image. But, there are many tools to choose from, and as the title of this posts states - the best camera is the one you have with you. So, choose wisely!
** Photo credits - all of the photos in this post were taken by my lovely wife Aggie!