The Best Drones for Backpacking and Hiking

Introduction

Smartphones might be portable and good enough for capturing scenic views during backpacking trips, but they cannot capture the true essence of landscapes because of their limited field of view. Drones aka quadcopters have proven to be a great hiking tool and allow backpackers to take stunning aerial photos and film breathtaking videos from a unique perspective.  Advancements in technology have resulted in compact gadgets at affordable prices, which is why hiking and drone piloting are gaining popularity the world over.

Things to Consider When Buying a Drone for Backpacking/Hiking

Portability/Weight

Lightweight, compact and portable gear are what most backpackers want for their weeks-long trips in the wild. Portability might not be such an issue if you are planning on one-day hiking trips, but it’s an important factor to consider when backpacking and staying outdoors for days on end. 

Drones normally weigh between 0.5-3 pounds and their weight depends on several factors, including build quality/construction materials, battery capacity, gimbal, camera, and other advanced features/modules. As a general rule of thumb, more features and better build quality means heavier drones, which are more resistant to different environmental factors such as wind but are heavier and less portable. 

However, considering camera kits can weigh around 30 pounds when packed, a 5-pound drone is actually not that bad. It all comes down to your own requirements and the weight you are willing to carry, but it’s not difficult to find quality drones that weigh around 2 pounds and offer a great balance between portability, durability, and features.

Camera

A great camera and stabilization can mean all the difference between poor and beautiful shots of your adventures. While 4K shooting has become the default option in premium drones, backpackers and hikers should choose a drone with at least a 1080p camera.

Not all drones come with a built-in camera so you may need to consider the additional costs of buying a camera separately. If you already own a GoPro camera, you can get away with buying a camera-less drone and save some money. A 3-axis gimbal still remains a necessity if you want blur-free pictures and stable recording.

Battery Life and Transmission Range

Portability/weight is usually directly proportional to battery life/flying time. You’d have to find a good balance between the two according to your own budget and requirements. Consider drones with at least 15 minutes of flight time, which is usually a representation of the maximum time a drone can fly in ideal conditions and weather. 

Manufacturers show transmission range (how far the drone can stay connected with the controller) in miles/kilometers. However, just like battery timing, this number also reflects the range in perfect/ideal conditions i.e. no winds, minimum payload, slow speed and no obstacles in between.

Trees and other obstacles can significantly affect the transmission range so it’s better to buy a drone with a decent transmission range in the first place. You probably won’t be flying a drone too far away from yourself in the jungle. A transmission range of at least 2 kilometers ensures stable connection and stutter-free live streaming to the controller/mobile device.

Advanced Features

Features like autonomous and GPS-assisted flight, point-of-interest, altitude hold, return-to-home, and predefined flight path are common in almost all high-end and many mid-range drones. These features make it a lot easier to fly and control the drone and help you take stunning shots without much effort. You may also like to have a look at some important safety tips before attempting to fly any UAV/Drone/quadcopter.

Our Picks for the Best Drones for Backpacking and Hiking

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

DJI Mavic Pro (Fly More Combo)

DJI Spark (Fly More Combo)

DJI Mavic Air

Parrot Anafi (Base Model)

Holy Stone HS100

DJI Mavic Pro (Fly More Combo)

With a flight time of up to 27 minutes and transmission range of up to 4.3 miles / 7KM, DJI Mavic Pro is a feature-packed drone for experienced backpackers and drone enthusiasts. The Fly More Combo kit includes all the extra stuff backpackers need for long outdoor trips, including 3 batteries, 2 extra propellers, a power bank adapter, charging hub and a shoulder bag. 

The best thing about Mavic Pro from backpackers’ perspective is that it folds down into a small and very portable drone while still offering almost all the bells and whistles of premium drones. Weighing less than 750 grams /1.64 pounds, the drone is pretty easy to move around and carry. The reasonably priced drone offers a great balance between portability, flight time and transmission range, which makes it a great option for outdoor adventures.

Key features and specifications

  • Foldable, lightweight and portable
  • Up to 4.3 miles / 7KM transmission range
  • Up to 27 minutes of flight time
  • 4K camera, 3-axis gimbal
  • Advanced features and Intelligent flight modes (Active Track, Tap Fly, Return to Home, etc.)
  • The advanced obstacle avoidance system
  • GPS and GLONASS

DJI Spark (Fly More Combo)

DJI Spark is a budget option for backpackers who want all the basic covered without having to spend a ton of money (you can also buy the base model for a lot less). Dubbed as a selfie drone, this highly portable drone works well for backpackers who want a portable device that helps them seize the moment. Simple control, quick launch and simple sharing along with DJI signature features and intelligent flight controls make this drone an excellent option for beginners.

Key features and specifications

  • 2-axis mechanical gimbal
  • 12MP Camera, 1/2.3” CMOS sensor, 1080p recording
  • Up to 16 minutes of flight time
  • Up to 2 KM transmission range
  • Autonomous flight, return to home and more intelligent flight modes
  • Quick Launch from hands
  • Take-off weight just 300 grams / 0.66 pound
  • GPS and GLONASS

DJI Mavic Air

This foldable and lightweight drone comes with most of the bells and whistles of premium drones and is also priced reasonably. This portable yet powerful drone for backpackers and hikers includes a 4K camera, advanced obstacle avoidance system, intelligent flight modes and a variety of DJI signature features.

It’s so portable you may even be able to fit it inside a jacket pocket. Its arms fold flush against the chassis for better protection, while the primary camera is also recessed for the same reason. The remote controller is foldable too, allowing you to easily carry the whole package inside a backpack. You can also purchase the Fly More Combo that includes three batteries for more flight time.

Key features and specifications

  • Ultraportable and lightweight 
  • 4K video, 12MP Camera
  • 3-axis gimbal
  • Up to 21 minutes flying time
  • Up to 1.25 miles / 2KM transmission range
  • Foldable, ergonomic and low-profile design
  • Foldable remote controller
  • ActiveTrack technology (16 selectable subjects)
  • Advanced obstacle avoidance system and smart flight modes
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • Launch and control using hand gestures
  • Slo-mo video, 1080p @120fps
  • HDR photos

Parrot Anafi (Base Model)

Anafi by the French drone maker is another great option that offers a great balance between price and features. The 4K HDR camera (21MP) with 2.8X lossless zoom is packed inside an ultra-compact body, making it one of the most portable 4K drones. A flight time of up to 25 minutes, embedded AI and automated flight modes make it easier to shoot breathtaking photos and videos. The 180-degree tilt gimbal allows taking low-angle shots, which is not possible with most drones in this price range.

Key features and specifications

  • Up to 25 minutes of flight time
  • Up to 4KM / 2.5 miles transmission range
  • 4K 21 MP camera, 2.8X lossless zoom
  • 180-degree tilt gimbal, 3-axis stabilized
  • Ultra-portable and compact; weighs only 0.7 pound/320 grams
  • USB-C charging
  • Artificial intelligence and smart flight modes
  • 3-second unfolding

Holy Stone HS100

Holy Stone might not be among the most popular drone manufacturers, but it does offer excellent value for the money. The HS100 offers excellent features at a reasonable price, including 1080p wide-angle camera (120-degree FOV), GPS-assisted flight and some advanced features such as return to home and follow me. A flight time of up to 15 minutes is decent in this price, but a transmission range of only 500 meters means you have to keep it closer to yourself than other drones discussed before.

Being a relatively inexpensive camera drone, it does not come with advanced obstacle avoidance system so you also got to be careful when flying this drone (and almost all other drones in this price range).

Key features and specifications

  • 1080p wide-angle camera with 120-degree Field of View
  • GPS-enabled, auto return, and mart flight modes
  • Quick launch, one-key take-off, and landing
  • Up to 15 minutes of flight time
  • Transmission range up to 500 meters (unobstructed)
  • Fairly portable @ 700 grams / 1.5 pounds