How to use you camera on the mountains
How to carry your camera on the mountains

As someone who always carries a camera, people often approach me during climbing trips, wondering if bringing a camera is a good idea. In response, I always answer with an enthusiastic YES! It’s truly worth it to bring your camera along. The photographs captured often yield astonishing results. One particular scene comes to mind, where four climbers and a crow were braving strong gusts of wind just below the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I almost forgot my camera in the tent that day, but luckily, I quickly dashed back to retrieve it at the very last moment. The stunning shot I managed to capture was well worth the extra effort. While there is already a plethora of information available on the internet regarding outdoor camera usage, much of it does not specifically cater to the harsh conditions present when taking cameras up mountains. These conditions are significantly more severe compared to what the internet articles presume. Therefore, the insights shared in this article reflect solely my personal opinion.

Capturing the breathtaking beauty and unique experiences of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a desire shared by many adventurers. Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or a casual snapshooter, knowing how to effectively use your camera on Kilimanjaro can make a significant difference in the quality of your photos and the preservation of your equipment. In this guide, we’ll explore essential tips and techniques for camera use on Kilimanjaro, including the choice between point-and-shoot cameras and SLRs, how to carry your camera, considerations for cold weather use, battery management, handling moisture, and maximizing your camera’s potential in various conditions.

I will provide a detailed description of what has proven successful for me throughout the past two decades of capturing outdoor photographs, which includes six climbing adventures to East African mountains without ever encountering a camera failure.

Point and Shoot vs. SLR

A point and shoot camera is characterized by being lightweight, making it convenient to carry around and more affordable compared to a single lense reflex (SLR) camera, which tends to be bulky, heavy, and pricey. The majority of individuals I know prefer using point and shoot cameras as they are often considered the most suitable choice. Personally, I opt for a Nikon SLR camera equipped with a versatile zoom lens (and occasionally a tripod) because it grants me greater flexibility in capturing the precise photo I desire. The discussion surrounding this topic seems to be ceaseless, spanning across the vast expanses of the internet. For further details regarding this matter, a simple search on Google will provide you with ample information.

When deciding which type of camera to bring on your Kilimanjaro adventure, consider the advantages and limitations of both point-and-shoot cameras and SLRs. Point-and-shoot cameras are compact, lightweight, and easy to use, making them ideal for casual photographers or those prioritizing convenience. They often have built-in zoom lenses and automatic settings, making them suitable for capturing quick snapshots without much technical knowledge.

On the other hand, SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras offer greater versatility and image quality for enthusiasts and professionals. With interchangeable lenses, manual controls, and advanced features, SLRs provide more creative control over exposure, focus, and composition. They excel in low-light conditions and allow for more artistic expression through techniques like depth of field manipulation and long exposure photography.

Consider your skill level, photography goals, and willingness to carry additional weight when choosing between a point-and-shoot camera and an SLR for your Kilimanjaro expedition.

How to Carry Your Camera

Carrying a point and shoot camera is effortless due to its compact size, which allows it to conveniently fit in a pocket. However, to ensure added protection and accessibility, I highly recommend using a small camera case that can be attached to the shoulder strap of a backpack. This way, the camera remains within easy reach for quick usage and remains separated from clothing, minimizing the risk of potential moisture damage. In the case of a larger SLR camera, I sometimes prefer to store it inside my backpack to shield it from potential harm. However, most of the time, I opt to hang the camera on the hip belt of my backpack. Although this allows for quick access, it can become slightly bothersome when navigating more complex terrains. Another option commonly observed with SLR cameras is to suspend them between the shoulder straps, placing the camera directly in front of you. While this approach may not offer the same level of comfort, it is worth experimenting with various methods to determine the most suitable arrangement for your needs.

Properly carrying your camera on Kilimanjaro is essential for both convenience and protection. While hiking, consider using a sturdy camera bag or backpack with padded compartments to securely store your gear and distribute weight evenly. Look for bags designed specifically for outdoor use, featuring weather-resistant materials and adjustable straps for comfort.

Alternatively, you may opt for a camera harness or holster system that allows you to keep your camera easily accessible while keeping your hands free during the ascent. These systems typically attach to your backpack straps or belt and provide quick-draw access to your camera when a photo opportunity arises.

Whichever method you choose, ensure your camera is adequately protected from moisture, dust, and impact while remaining easily accessible for spontaneous shooting.

Cold Weather Camera Use

One of the most commonly believed misconceptions about using cameras in the mountains is that digital cameras don’t function in cold temperatures. However, based on personal experience, I have never come across a camera that fails to operate in the cold. In fact, the operating range for most electronics extends well below the temperatures typically encountered in mountainous regions. Therefore, you can rest assured that your camera will continue to function properly. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that certain components of your camera may be slightly less effective in extremely cold weather. If you are planning a trip to Denali, please continue reading; if not, you may skip to the next section. Severe cold temperatures can directly impact certain non-essential parts of a camera, as well as indirectly affect other components. For instance, the LCD screen on the back of a camera can freeze or exhibit erratic behavior in low temperatures, rendering it unreliable. Therefore, it is advisable to opt for a camera equipped with a viewfinder, allowing you to accurately frame and capture photos. However, even an eyepiece viewfinder can pose challenges in very cold and dry conditions. During a previous expedition to the Alaska Range, I encountered the coldest temperatures I have ever experienced, resulting in fogging of the viewfinder whenever I held the camera up to my eye due to the moisture generated by my body. It is highly unlikely that you will encounter such extreme conditions, but it’s important to note that cameras are better suited for cold weather than extreme heat. On hot, sunny days, avoid leaving your camera inside a car. Moving on to another aspect, let’s discuss the issue of batteries. The challenges most people face with their cameras in cold weather are indirectly related to the temperature, and can be easily avoided by following a few simple guidelines. This leads us to another common misconception surrounding cameras in cold weather. Many individuals believe that keeping their camera in their jacket will keep it warm. While this may work well for water bottles, it is not recommended for cameras. Imagine a person wearing glasses who enters a warm room after being outside in the cold. Their glasses fog up, and the same can happen to a camera when placed back into a warm jacket. Therefore, as long as the weather outside is dry, it is advisable to keep your camera outside. The true enemy of cameras is not the cold itself but rather sudden temperature changes. This moisture issue also applies to the inside of your tent, which can become quite damp. To mitigate this, I personally store my camera in my backpack, outside of the tent at night, and securely attached to my backpack during the day while I am on the move.

High Altitudes and extreme temperature

Mount Kilimanjaro’s high altitude and extreme temperatures present unique challenges for camera operation, especially in cold weather conditions. Cold temperatures can drain battery life, cause LCD screens to freeze, and affect the performance of moving parts in your camera.

To mitigate these risks, consider keeping your camera and batteries warm by storing them close to your body in an insulated pouch or pocket. Avoid exposing your camera to sudden temperature changes and minimize the time spent outside in extreme cold.

Additionally, familiarize yourself with your camera’s cold weather performance specifications and invest in weather-sealed equipment if possible. Keep spare batteries warm by storing them in a separate insulated container and swap them out regularly to ensure uninterrupted power supply.

By taking precautions and understanding the impact of cold weather on your camera, you can continue capturing stunning images throughout your Kilimanjaro journey.


Your camera should not encounter any issues when exposed to cold temperatures, however, the batteries may be affected. Although batteries do not lose their power in cold weather, they are not as efficient in releasing their full capacity. However, once the battery warms up, it will function normally again. It is important to note that older metal hydride and nickel cadmium batteries do not perform well in cold weather. Fortunately, battery technology has been rapidly advancing, which has greatly benefited digital cameras. Most new camera batteries are Lithium ion, which are suitable for use in the cold. If your camera uses AA or AAA batteries, it is recommended to invest in the more expensive lithium ion batteries. These batteries have a longer lifespan and will ultimately save you money in the long term. To prevent your camera from losing battery power on important days such as summit day, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the duration of your batteries’ charge. Personally, with my Nikon SLR, I can confidently take numerous photos and spend a considerable amount of time reviewing them without running out of battery power on trips lasting up to three weeks, assuming normal temperatures. On expeditions such as Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Meru, Rwenzori Mountains, Table mountains in Capetown or Ol Doinyo lengai, I always carry two extra batteries as a precaution, but for other trips, I rarely need an additional one. I have never encountered a situation where my batteries have depleted using this system, although it may vary depending on the camera. It is advisable to estimate the number of photos your camera can capture on a single battery, and subtract around 30% to account for cold weather conditions.

Battery management and monitoring

Battery management is crucial when using your camera on Kilimanjaro, where power sources may be limited, and cold weather can diminish battery life. To maximize battery performance, start with fully charged batteries and carry extras to ensure uninterrupted shooting.

Keep spare batteries warm by storing them close to your body or in insulated pouches to prevent premature drainage in cold temperatures. Consider investing in high-capacity rechargeable batteries or portable solar chargers for extended trips where access to power outlets may be limited.

Monitor battery levels regularly and conserve power by minimizing the use of power-hungry features like the LCD screen or flash. When not in use, turn off your camera to preserve battery life and avoid unnecessary drain.

By planning ahead and managing your batteries effectively, you can ensure your camera remains powered throughout your Kilimanjaro adventure, ready to capture every memorable moment.


In inclement weather, such as early spring in the Cascades, I refrain from bringing my camera along. While it is doubtful that moisture will completely destroy the camera, there is still a potential risk. To combat this, I recommend storing your camera in a plastic bag when it’s raining. Additionally, it may be wise to forgo any photo sessions during such conditions, as the resulting pictures might not be of the highest quality. To further protect your camera, it is advisable to consider the areas with the highest moisture levels and keep your camera away from those spots. For instance, when in wet climates, I store my camera within the confines of my tent, whereas in Alaska, I opt to keep it outside. In the unfortunate event that your camera does become wet, promptly remove the battery and refrain from using it for the remainder of your trip. Swiftly attempt to dry it out by leaving it in a sunny or moderately warm area, taking caution to avoid excessive heat. While there may be anecdotes of individuals resorting to oven-drying their electronics, I strongly discourage such methods. I recently received an amusing email from a fellow guide who, after mistakenly cooking his phone in the oven, lost all his data. It is important to note that heat poses a significant threat to electronic devices, including cameras.

Moisture poses a significant threat to camera equipment on Kilimanjaro, where sudden rain showers, snowfall, and high humidity levels are common. Protect your camera from moisture damage by using weather-sealed gear, waterproof camera covers, or dry bags during inclement weather.

When not in use, store your camera and accessories in a moisture-resistant camera bag or waterproof container to prevent water ingress. Keep silica gel packets or moisture-absorbing pouches inside your camera bag to reduce humidity and prevent condensation buildup.

If your camera does get wet, dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth and avoid exposing it to extreme heat sources, which can cause further damage. Remove batteries and memory cards and allow them to dry separately before reinserting them into your camera.

By taking proactive measures to safeguard your camera against moisture, you can prolong its lifespan and ensure reliable performance in challenging environmental conditions.

Camera Use

The primary aspect to consider when carrying a camera in the mountains is making full use of it. One advantageous feature of capturing digital photographs is that there is no additional cost incurred when taking more pictures. Although taking a larger quantity of photos on a particular trip will not automatically result in better pictures, consistently capturing a good number of images will lead to two significant outcomes. Firstly, it will expedite your understanding of what techniques and approaches yield high-quality photographs, and secondly, if photographing becomes a reflex action throughout the day or during a climb, you are less likely to miss out on extraordinary photographic opportunities, many of which are fleeting in nature. So, don’t hesitate to snap away!

Enjoy your photographing experience on the mountain

Finally, make the most of your camera’s capabilities on Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, Mount Kenya, Rwenzori, Ol Doinyo Lengai or anywhere in the world by experimenting with different settings and techniques to capture the beauty of your surroundings. Adjust exposure settings to compensate for changing light conditions, use manual focus to ensure sharpness, and experiment with composition to create compelling images.

Take advantage of the unique perspectives and natural features of the landscape, from sweeping panoramas to intricate details, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your shots. Incorporate elements like foreground interest, leading lines, and dynamic lighting to add visual interest to your photographs.

Above all, remember to enjoy the experience of photographing Mount Kilimanjaro and the incredible journey it represents. Whether you’re documenting your personal achievement or capturing the natural wonders of the mountain, your camera is a tool for storytelling and preserving memories that will last a lifetime.

Best Camera settings for Kilimanjaro

When trekking on Mount Kilimanjaro, adjusting your camera settings appropriately can help you capture the stunning scenery and memorable moments effectively. Here are some recommended camera settings to consider for your Kilimanjaro trek:

  1. ISO: Start with a low ISO setting (e.g., ISO 100 or 200) to maintain image quality and reduce noise in well-lit conditions. Increase the ISO gradually if you encounter low light situations, such as early mornings or late evenings, but be cautious to avoid excessive noise.
  2. Aperture: Choose a moderate aperture (e.g., f/8 to f/11) to ensure a wide depth of field and sharp focus throughout your images. This setting is ideal for capturing expansive landscapes and group shots of fellow trekkers while maintaining clarity from foreground to background.
  3. Shutter Speed: Adjust the shutter speed based on the amount of available light and the desired effect for your photos. For stationary subjects and landscapes, use a slower shutter speed (e.g., 1/125 or slower) to capture detail and motion blur. Increase the shutter speed (e.g., 1/500 or faster) for fast-moving subjects or to freeze action.
  4. White Balance: Set the white balance according to the prevailing light conditions to ensure accurate color reproduction in your photos. Use the auto white balance (AWB) setting for convenience, or manually adjust the white balance based on the lighting environment (e.g., daylight, cloudy, or shade).
  5. Exposure Compensation: Use exposure compensation to adjust the brightness of your photos, particularly in high-contrast lighting situations. Increase exposure compensation (+1 or +2) to brighten shadows and reveal detail in darker areas, or decrease exposure compensation (-1 or -2) to prevent overexposure and preserve highlight detail.
  6. Focus Mode: Select the appropriate focus mode based on your subject and shooting conditions. For landscapes and stationary subjects, use single-shot autofocus (AF-S) to achieve precise focus. If photographing moving subjects or action shots, switch to continuous autofocus (AF-C) to track and maintain focus on the subject as it moves.
  7. Image Quality: Choose the highest quality setting (e.g., RAW or JPEG Fine) to capture detailed, high-resolution images with ample post-processing flexibility. RAW files retain more information and allow for greater control over exposure, color, and contrast adjustments during editing.
  8. Drive Mode: Experiment with different drive modes to capture a variety of scenes and moments during your trek. Use single-shot mode for individual shots with precise timing, continuous shooting mode for capturing action sequences or moving subjects, and self-timer mode for group photos or self-portraits.
  9. Stabilization: If your camera or lens features image stabilization (IS) or vibration reduction (VR), enable this function to reduce camera shake and blur caused by hand movement, especially in low light or when using slower shutter speeds.
  10. Custom Presets: Consider creating custom presets or settings tailored to Kilimanjaro’s unique lighting and environmental conditions. Save these presets for quick access and consistency throughout your trek, ensuring optimal performance and efficiency when capturing photos.

By adjusting your camera settings according to the recommendations above, you can enhance your photography experience on Mount Kilimanjaro and capture breathtaking images that preserve the beauty and adventure of your trekking journey.

Related articles


About Author



Leave a Reply