If you’re passionate about photography and travel, you’ll understand why drones are revolutionizing the world. These modern gadgets allow you to take “bird’s-eye” pictures of infinite paradises all over the planet. They offer a different perspective from pictures taken from the ground. Forget about climbing dangerous peaks or tall buildings to shoot breathtaking panoramas. For those who love to make videos and documentaries about their travels, drones open a new range of possibilities and video techniques.
A few years ago, when the first commercial drones hit the market, they were heavy, bulky and expensive. Today’s models are designed to be lightweight, compact and even more affordable. There are many models out there, and finding the right one will depend on your needs.
For long-term travel, look for a drone that is solid, well-constructed and easy to carry. Water-resistance might be a good factor in certain situations, too. Keep in mind that the final price will depend on, among other factors, the built-in camera. Some basic models will do the job, but don’t expect the best photo quality. On the other hand, the most advanced drones have great autonomy and take professional pictures.
So, which is the best drone for backpacking and hiking? There are many options with many different features. Don’t worry, though; you don’t have to spend hours comparing models, reviews and prices. I’ve created a list with the best models, so just take a look!
THE 10 BEST DRONES FOR BACKPACKING:
DJI MAVIC 2 PRO
WEIGHT: 31.9 oz
CAMERA: 20 MP
VIDEO: 4 K, Full HD
RANGE: 8 km
FLYING TIME: 31 min
PROS: Compact, high quality
“Portability and high-performance”
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is, for many, the best drone for travel, hiking and adventure sports. Why? It offers great video and photo performance while having one of the smallest and most compact designs on the list. You can easily pack it in your backpack without it taking up much room. If we’re talking about autonomy and range, it outranks other models, too. You can fly it for over half an hour and send it eight kilometers away. That’s pretty awesome!
It’s equipped with the best features, like an automated flight mode, return-to-home functionality, obstacle avoidance and others. It’s the perfect tool for nature lovers and travelers who want to take great shots while keeping their backpacks compact and light. However, if you’re looking for professional photo quality, keep in mind that other drones have better built-in cameras.
DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO
WEIGHT: 3.1 pounds
CAMERA: 20 MP
VIDEO: H. 264 4 K
RANGE: 5 km
FLYING TIME: 30 min
PROS: Awesome photography
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro is meant to take professional photos and videos. Remember when I said that some drones have better cameras than the Maverick does? I was talking about the Phantom 4 Pro. You can send it into the air and get almost the same photo quality as shooting with your digital reflex.
The built-in camera is equipped with a 20 MP sensor, H. 264 4 K and full HD video recording modes, as well as other useful features. It recognizes subjects, follows them and captures them. It also uses a gesture mode to take selfies without a remote control, avoids obstacles and can follow a route you’ve drawn on the screen while keeping its altitude locked. These are just a few of its features, but there are others. That’s why it takes a while to learn to use it to its fullest.
On the downside, because it has so many features, the Phantom 4 Pro is bigger than other models. Keep this in mind if you’re planning a long trip, because it’s not light either. However, if you’re going to the outdoors for a few days and want to take great videos and pictures, it would be hard to beat the Phantom Pro 4 in quality.
DJI PHANTOM 3 PRO
WEIGHT: 2.8 pounds
CAMERA: 12 MP
VIDEO: UHD 4K
RANGE: 5 km
FLYING TIME: 23 min
PROS: Good value for the money
The Phantom 3 Pro has been on the market for a while because it’s a popular and reliable drone. It’s equipped with a great camera, intuitive flight controls, a vision positioning system that allows for stable flight indoors and a Live HD view. It’s one of the best options for first-timers, as it features a beginner mode to help you learn how to use it in a safe area.
Today, DJI is creating new models with awesome upgrades, so the Phantom 3 isn’t the most featured drone anymore. However, it’s still a great choice and you can get it for a reasonable price. It’s one of the best deals on the list! The only drawback is its size. It’s not really compact and you’ll need a special case or backpack for transport, so it may not be the best option for long-term travel.
AUTEL ROBOTICS EVO 2
WEIGHT: 1.9 pounds
CAMERA: 48 MP
RANGE: 9 km
FLYING TIME: 40 min
PROS: Modern features, compact, awesome images and video
“First 8K drone on the planet”
The Autel Robotics EVO 2 is a modern, ultralight, and compact drone. It features a 48 MP built-in camera, and, believe it or not, it can shoot 8K video. It includes 12 vision sensors, 2 sonar sensors, and 2 LED landing lights, so the aircraft will easily avoid any obstacle.
Besides its amazing image quality, this drone is really easy to fly, it has a rechargeable battery that provides up to 40 minutes of flight time when fully charged, and you can fly it up to 9 km away, which is a great transmission range.
GOPRO KARMA + GOPRO
WEIGHT: 2.2 pounds
RANGE: 1 km
FLYING TIME: 20 min
PROS: GoPro compatible
CONS: Strong fish-eye
“For adventure travel”
The GoPro Karma is a great option for adventurers and GoPro lovers. It’s solid, compact and easy to use. You can get the drone only and attach your GoPro camera or buy it with the last GoPro 6 included. This type of camera is great for outdoor sports and adventure travel. The GoPro 6 takes pretty good photos and videos, but you can attach newer models too. The drone is easy to fly, uses a stabilizer system and features a nice controller with a high-quality touch display. You don’t need to use your smartphone.
There are a few downsides. The fish-eye effect is too strong for my liking, and it’s not equipped with most advanced flying features. However, it has a compact size, records great videos and is built to withstand hard landings.
RUKO F11 GIM
WEIGHT: 20.6 oz
CAMERA: 12 MP
VIDEO: 4K HD
RANGE: 1.5 km
FLYING TIME: 56 min
PROS: Price, gimbal stabilization
CONS: Not many extra features
“Great value for the money”
The Ruko F11 Gim is definitely a good value for the money. You don’t need a radio controller – just your smartphone – to fly it. This helps you pack lighter and makes the Ruko one of the best options for travelers.
Overall, it’s a great drone: it comes with a 12 MP sensor and 4K video mode, as well as auto-return function, GPS positioning and a tracking feature. It comes with two intelligent batteries, and each battery can provide up to 28 minutes of fight time, which makes 56 minutes in total.
If you want a kick-ass drone at a very reasonable price, the Ruko F11 Gim might be your option.
YUNEEC BREEZE 4K
WEIGHT: 0.84 pounds
VIDEO: 4K Ultra HD
RANGE: 100 m
FLYING TIME: 12 min
PROS: Price, lightweight
CONS: Short hover time, range
“Compact and lightweight”
The Yuneec Breeze is very popular among travelers because it’s compact, lightweight and easy to use. It has a great built-in camera that allows you to capture impressive video and photos. You don’t need a controller, just your smartphone, and it’s ultralight, making it one of the best companions for long-term adventures.
Overall, it’s a great drone at a fantastic price. Just keep in mind that the flying range and hover time are quite limited.
DJI MAVIC MINI 2
WEIGHT: 0.55 pounds
CAMERA: 12 MP
VIDEO: 4 K
RANGE: 10 km
FLYING TIME: 31 min
PROS: Compact, lightweight
“Lightweight mini drone”
The DJI Mavic Mini 2 is the next revolution in drones. Actually, it’s a mini drone! If you’re looking for the lightest and most compact drone, look no further. The Mavic Mini will take up almost no room in your backpack and it weighs only 0.55 pounds. However, don’t let its size fool you; the built-in camera shoots great photos and great video at 4 K.
It features a 3-axis motorized gimbal stabilization system and intelligent flight controls. At 31 minutes, the hover time is not bad at all. Overall, it’s a fantastic drone at an affordable price.
BUDGET HIKING DRONES:
FORCE 1 F100
WEIGHT: 3.1 pounds
RANGE: 500 m
FLYING TIME: 15 min
CONS: Need a GoPro, heavy
The Force 1 F100 is a great option for those who don’t want to break the bank. Attach a “GoPro-like” camera to the mount and it’s ready to go. The drone is very easy to use and has decent stability for its price. However, keep in mind that it’s a budget drone, so don’t expect the best performance.
PARROT AR 2.0
WEIGHT: 0.9 pounds
VIDEO: 720p HD
RANGE: 50 m
FLYING TIME: 12 min
CONS: Camera, range
“Basic drone with camera”
The Parrot Ar 2.0 is an inexpensive drone that can easily be controlled from your smartphone, taking decent – but not stunning – photos and videos. It’s compact and super easy to use. It comes with a few basic features, including automatic piloting, which makes take-off and landing easy. If you want good photos, though, this isn’t your best choice.
OTHER ITEMS YOU MIGHT LIKE:
GOPRO 8 BLACK
The GoPro Hero 8 Black will be helpful on your next adventure. It’s the most powerful and easy-to-use GoPro ever.
It features a 12 MP sensor, a 4K60 video mode, voice control and a touch display. If you like snorkeling and scuba diving, you can take it down to 10 meters without a housing. It’s one of the most featured action cameras on the market!
Although some people think of drones as though they were toys, the truth is, they aren’t. Drones are serious devices that can cause damage. That’s why it’s important to follow the regulations of the country you are visiting to ensure a safe experience. Irresponsible use by some pilots has led to the banning of drones in some national parks. In some cases, incorrect use of these devices can lead to serious fines or even jail time.
All models on this list include safety features. Most models, even those designed for short-distance flights, include GPS and automatic Return-to-Home functionalities. This is one of the most important features to consider. If the drone gets out of signal or eventually runs low on battery power, it will start its own way back to the take-off point and land.
LICENSING AND REGULATIONS
There are two situations in which you’d fly a drone:
FLYING FOR FUN:
If this is the case, the requirements are much less strict. However, you’ll have to follow the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, and other countries’ rules if you are traveling.
The basic requirements might change depending on the country. In the U.S.A. they are:
- Fly at or below 400 feet
- Keep your drone within sight
- Never fly near other aircraft
- Never fly over people
- Never fly over stadiums or sporting events, or close to airports
- Never fly near emergency response efforts like fires
- Never fly while under the influence
- Respect airspace requirements
FLYING FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES:
If you’re planning to fly your drone to work on commercial videos and film productions, and thereby make money, you’ll need to pass an FAA test and get a certification.
This is a serious thing, so make sure you follow all the rules. Avoid fines and never put other people’s safety at risk! In addition to all the regulations, realize that certain places, like national parks in the United States, have banned the use of drones within their air space. If in doubt, ask for permission from the local authorities before you send your drone into the air.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A TRAVEL DRONE:
Size is important. Most travelers and hikers appreciate a small, lightweight kit that fits into their backpacks. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a small device that has all the features of a large one, but most manufacturers are working hard on that matter, and new compact models offer awesome possibilities. If you’re looking for something small and portable, make sure it has decent camera and video functions.
Like size and portability, weight is important. For long-term travelers, adding a few kilos to your backpack can be a challenge. However, some advanced models are amazingly light, weighing less than 500 grams.
Most advanced models include a radio controller, which is usually easy to use and reliable. They offer the best flying experiences. They also provide a higher range, reaching up to 7,000 meters in some cases. On the downside, having a controller means adding more weight and space to your backpack. Other models are controlled from your smartphone. They use a wireless connection between the drone and the smartphone, and the operating distance tends to be quite a bit shorter.
Camera quality is a key factor, especially if you like photography and video. Some models are able to shoot at 20 MP and record video at 4K Full HD. Although most manufacturers include built-in cameras, some drones require an external one, such as GoPro-like cameras.
Most built-in cameras offer 90- to 180-degree fish-eye angles, allowing you to capture a wide field angle of vision. On the other hand, most basic models, costing around $200-$300, include very basic cameras.
Stability will depend on the quality (and usually the price) of the drone. A drone uses a GPS system to maintain a fixed position and make corrections if the wind moves it. In addition, the drone’s control plate stabilizes it in the air. When the wind blows the drone away, it adjusts the propeller motor’s power independently to compensate for the external forces and maintain the desired position.
Keep in mind that most basic models can’t fly for too long. If you want to use them for a long time, bring along multiple spares or carry a portable charger. However, top-end drones are able to fly for as long as 30 minutes, which isn’t bad at all.
Buying a drone to send it 10 meters away and take a selfie might be alright for some people. However, most users want to take awesome aerial shots and videos. Basic models allow the user to control them from a 50- to 150-meter distance, while pro models can be controlled from around 1000 to 7000 meters away. That’s a great range!
If you’re going to pilot a drone for the first time, intelligent flight functions might be a lot of help. While flying a drone isn’t difficult and you’ll learn pretty quickly, taking photos and videos while trying to fly and keeping position is another thing. Fortunately, advanced models can assist you with autonomous video functions.
Other functions, like an obstacle-sensing system, will prevent the drone from hitting anything if you get too close to certain obstacles.
CAN I BRING MY TRAVEL DRONE ON A PLANE?
Generally speaking, you should be able to go through airport controls and embark with your drone without much trouble. However, you must comply with regulations and follow a few recommendations.
Most airlines allow you to bring only one carry-on bag on the plane, so you must figure out how to pack everything in one bag. Drones use LiPo batteries, which the IATA considers to be dangerous goods. Thus, their transport must meet the following basic safety requirements.
Never keep your batteries in your checked-in luggage; they must always go with you. They must be charged at less than 30% of their capacity. You can carry only a limited number of batteries with you. This number can vary from one company to another, though it’s usually two or three batteries per traveler.
If you comply with these recommendations, you shouldn’t have any problems when embarking on your next flight.
WHICH ARE THE BEST BACKPACKING DRONES?
If you still have doubts, let me give you a few recommendations. If you’re looking for the best quality/size balance, the PJI Maverick is a great choice. Someone looking for the best photo and video quality should take a look at the Phantom 4 Pro. If you want an inexpensive drone with amazing performance, the Ehang Ghost 2.0 VR might be your best option.
Have you enjoyed The Best Drones for Hiking? Leave a comment!
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.