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Few things in life are more satisfying than exploring the world on foot when backpacking or camping.
After enough outdoor experiences sans a camera, you’ve decided to invest in a drone. It must be portable, lightweight, rugged, and ready for travel.
What are the top options on the market?
Here are the best drones for backpacking and camping:
- DJI Mini 3 Pro
- Autel Robotics EVO Nano+
- DJI Mavic Mini
- Potensic Atom SE
- DJI Mini 2
- Syma X500
- DJI Mavic Air 2S
- Holy Stone HS720
Are you ready to get camping?
This guide will provide detailed reviews on each drone, including specs and pricing, and a buyer’s guide to help you choose the drone right for your next camping adventure.
1. DJI Mini 3 Pro #
Dimensions: 251 x 362 x 70 mm unfolded with propellersWeight: Under 249 gMax Range: 10 kmMax Altitude: 4,000 mMax Speed: 16 m/s in Sport ModeMax Flying Time: 47 mins (only with Intelligent Flight Battery Plus)Camera: 1/1.3-inch CMOS
✅ Pros #
- Lightweight frame, so you can skip registering the drone
- Incredible image quality at 48 MP
- Tri-directional obstacle avoidance for safety when camping
- Great default battery life, with the option to increase it to 47 minutes
- Foldable, portable, and ready for travel
❌ Cons #
- It only has APAS 4.0
- Its video transmission system is also out of date
The DJI Mini 3 Pro shares a lot of specs with a drone that’s later on this list, the Mini 2. However, it’s newer and packed with more features campers want.
For one, it’s remarkably lightweight, so you won’t have to register your drone. If local laws allow more leniency when flying a drone under 250 grams, you can do more with the Mini 3 Pro.
DJI revamped the Mini 3 Pro from the OG Mini 3, making it more aerodynamic and increasing the size of the props. Nevertheless, this drone still folds.
With its standard Intelligent Flight Battery, you can fly the Mini 3 Pro for 34 minutes. If you upgrade to the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus, you can up the time to 47 minutes.
That’s an impressive battery life!
The Mini 3 Pro’s 1/1.3-inch CMOS camera shoots in 48 MP quality, which is about the best you can ask for from DJI.
It’s adept at shooting by day and night, although you probably can’t legally fly your drone at night in most countries.
The video quality is 4K HDR or 1080p at 120 fps and 4K at 60 fps. D-Cinelike Color enriches your videos with a jaw-droppingly good color profile.
One of the biggest issues with older Mini drones was the lack of any type of obstacle avoidance.
This kept the price reasonable, but when flying in mountainous or forested regions like you will, you need some sort of safety feature.
The Mini 3 Pro includes tri-directional obstacle sensing and APAS 4.0. That edition of APAS is outdated by today’s standards, but it further bolsters the drone’s obstacle avoidance.
The DJI O3 video transmission system also isn’t the newest, but it can send 1080p video quality at 30 fps 12 kilometers away.
The drone’s rotating gimbal lets it switch between vertical or horizontal videos and photos, and you can also use the full suite of Intelligent Flight Modes for tracking, zooming, or wide-angle photography.
2. Autel Robotics EVO Nano+ #
Dimensions: 260 x 325 x 55 mm unfoldedWeight: 249 gMax Range: 10 km Max Altitude: 4,000 mMax Speed: 13 m/s in Sport ModeMax Flying Time: 28 minsCamera: 1/1.28-inch CMOS
✅ Pros #
- Light enough that you don’t have to register it
- Has the best camera quality on this list
- It can record voices or nature sounds
- It has advanced obstacle avoidance for safer travels
❌ Cons #
- Its battery life isn’t great
Autel Robotics produces many great drones, but for camping and backpacking purposes, the EVO Nano+ reigns supreme. It weighs just under the 250-gram threshold for registration.
The camera quality will blow you away. The EVO Nano+’s camera has a 1/1.28-inch CMOS sensor with 50 MP image quality. That’s better than the Mini 3 Pro, even!
Further, the camera includes an autofocus system, an f/1.9 aperture, and an RYYB color filter array to bring out more of the depth of the beautiful natural world around you.
The three-axis gimbal produces steady footage.
Memorialize your adventures with SkyPortrait, an automated selfie mode.
Track your friends as they climb, swim, or run using Dynamic Track 2.1, or try the automated modes Orbit, Rocket, Flick, and Fade Away.
What if you hear an interesting animal or bird in the distance? If you have your smartphone and the Autel Sky app, you can record sounds and voices through the EVO Nano+!
Of course, you’ve got to have obstacle avoidance. The EVO Nano+ uses an advanced system with three-way binocular vision sensors so you can fly with fewer worries of crashing into that cliff or tree.
The EVO Nano+ is available in four colors: Deep Space Gray, Autel Orange, Blazing Red, or Arctic White.
3. DJI Mavic Mini #
Dimensions: 245 x 289 x 55 mm unfolded with propellersWeight: 249 gMax Range: 10 kmMax Altitude: 3,000 mMax Speed: 13 m/s in Sport ModeMax Flying Time: 30 minsCamera: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
✅ Pros #
- You don’t have to register it since it’s under 250 grams
- It folds so you can travel with it
- It’s inexpensive
- It has a camera gimbal for stable footage
❌ Cons #
- It’s no longer produced
- Its image quality is just okay
- No obstacle avoidance
For under $500, the DJI Mavic Mini is an exceptional choice for camping and backpacking as long as you don’t mind that it’s older and won’t have every cutting-edge feature from this brand.
Like all the drones we’ve looked at so far, the Mavic Mini is lightweight at under 250 grams.
Due to this drone’s weight, you could fly under laxer laws, which is always a plus! Further, the Mavic Mini folds and can easily stash in your backpack or travel bag.
The 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor produces 12 MP images and 2.7K HD videos.
I told you, this drone lacks the cutting-edge features seen in today’s Mavic Series drones since it came out in late 2019.
That makes this drone quite old by today’s standard, but its image and video quality is okay for beginners.
At least the Mavic Mini has a three-axis motorized gimbal to maintain the quality and clarity of your footage.
Its 30-minute flight time isn’t anything to write home about, but when you consider how old this drone is, it’s impressive that it can fly as long as most average drones today.
The battery is an ultra-light 100 grams.
The Mavic Mini lacks a dedicated obstacle avoidance system, so you must be careful when operating it.
However, it does have landing sensors, a light for flying in dim conditions, and a battery alert, so it’s not entirely bereft of safety features.
4. Potensic Atom SE #
Dimensions: 210 x 152 x 58 mm unfoldedWeight: 245 gMax Range: 4 kmMax Altitude: 4 kmMax Speed: 16 m/sMax Flying Time: 62 minsCamera: 4K HD
✅ Pros #
- Lightweight so you can enjoy relaxed drone laws
- Awesome video quality
- It can fly for over an hour with two batteries
- EIS keeps your footage stable
- The camera is adjustable
❌ Cons #
- The image quality isn’t great
- It lacks an obstacle avoidance system
Light enough that it doesn’t require registration and foldable, the Potensic Atom SE is another great pick as you plan your next outdoor getaway.
Capture more memories during your adventures with a camera that produces 12 MP images and 4K HD videos at 30 fps thanks to the Sony 4K sensor.
The FOV camera is adjustable and has ShakeVanish, Potensic’s electronic image stabilization feature.
Why wait until you get home to update everyone on social media on your adventures when you can transmit video footage on the go with the Atom SE?
It can transmit video at 4 kilometers. That’s not as great as DJI’s video transmission system, but it’s passable.
Toggle between Sport, Normal, and Video Modes with adjustable speeds that match your comfort level as a pilot. The drone’s GPS modes let you launch this drone and have it return to you automatically.
The drone uses a 2500 mAh battery that enables it to fly for 31 minutes. Double the time with two batteries but beware that you’ll increase your drone weight.
You’ll also have to spring for the second battery, as only one is included if you buy a standard kit.
Read our full review of the Atom SE here!
5. DJI Mini 2 #
Dimensions: 245 x 289 x 56 mm unfolded with propellersWeight: Under 249 gMax Range: 10 kmMax Altitude: 4,000 mMax Speed: 16 m/s in Sport ModeMax Flying Time: 31 minsCamera: 1/2.3-inch CMOS
✅ Pros #
- Very inexpensive, so if something happens to it, it’s not the end of the world
- You don’t have to register it
- You should be able to take advantage of relaxed drone laws
- It has good wind resistance
- It can fly for at least 30 minutes
❌ Cons #
- Doesn’t have the best camera quality, but it is an older model
- Has outdated OcuSync
- It lacks obstacle avoidance sensors, something you want when camping
Earlier, I recommended the Mini Pro 3, a top-of-the-line DJI creation for camping and backpacking.
However, I could see how some inexperienced pilots might be reticent to take out a new drone like the Mini 3 Pro when in the wilderness, even if the drone isn’t that expensive.
If you also share in that trepidation, the Mini 2 is a good compromise. It’s an ultra-lightweight entry in the Mini Series, clocking in at under 249 grams.
You can skip the registration before your big adventure and fly closer to crowds with this drone (however, always check your local laws).
The Mini 2 flies for 31 minutes. That’s about average but should suffice for single-day backpacking excursions and short camping trips.
The drone has Level 5 wind resistance, which means it can withstand winds up to 38 kph at 4,000 meters.
This isn’t the greatest wind resistance among DJI drones, let alone consumer drones. However, for the Mini 2’s age, it suffices.
Although older, the OcuSync 2.0 video transmission system lets you send HD video 10 kilometers away, so you don’t have to feel completely disconnected when camping.
Its camera with 1/2.3-inch CMOS features a three-axis stabilizing gimbal to preserve the clarity of your videos and photos. Expect 4K video quality at 30 fps and 12 MP image quality.
If you’re still on the fence, one of the best reasons to pick up the Mini 2 is its Intelligent Flight Modes, from Panoramas to QuickShots.
You can use automated flight paths and take immersive footage even if you’re an inexperienced pilot!
6. Syma X500 #
Dimensions: 14.17 x 11.81 x 2.76 inWeight: 205 gMax Range: 350 mMax Altitude: 10,000 ftMax Speed: N/AMax Flying Time: 25 minsCamera: HD
✅ Pros #
- Inexpensive enough that you don’t have to stress if the drone doesn’t survive your camping trip
- Has a good 4K camera with an adjustable lens
- Has fun automated flight modes
❌ Cons #
- It doesn’t have any obstacle avoidance sensors or safety features besides auto RTH
- It lacks a gimbal
Are you looking for a beginner-friendly budget pick to go backpacking or camping? You’ve found it in the Syma X500.
This drone retails for under $200, making it the least expensive we’ve looked at so far.
That alone should increase your peace of mind when flying, as you won’t be out that much money if your drone gets dinged up.
Its 4K camera with a FOV wide-angle lens is adjustable between 90 and 120 degrees. You can transmit footage at what Syma claims is 10,000 feet but is assuredly less than that.
The range of intelligent features makes the X500 worth considering. It has GPS functionality for auto RTH, which is always handy when flying your drone in new horizons.
You can create custom flight paths, set up a Point of Interest, use follow-me, take selfies based on your hand gestures, or have the X500 fly circularly automatically.
7. DJI Mavic Air 2S #
Dimensions: 183 x 254 x 77 mm unfoldedWeight: 595 gMax Range: 7.5 miMax Altitude: 5,000 mMax Speed: 19 m/s in Sport ModeMax Flying Time: 31 minsCamera: 1-inch CMOS
✅ Pros #
- It has a good image and video quality
- It’s lightweight enough that you don’t have to bother registering it
- It includes DJI’s Intelligent Flight Modes for max functionality
- It has ADB-S and advanced obstacle avoidance
❌ Cons #
- It doesn’t have the latest APAS obstacle detection
The last DJI drone on this list is the esteemed Air 2S.
There are lots of reasons to consider this drone for your camping trips, such as its 1-inch sensor that can produce 4K video at 60 fps or 5.4K video at 30 fps.
The 20 MP image quality is nothing to sleep on, either!
The camera boasts clear colors and a strong dynamic range whether shooting at night or by day. The color range is also supported by a 10-bit D-Log M color profile with a billion colors.
DJI O3 video transmission with four antennas supports 1080p video transfers at a distance of 12 kilometers.
The range of shooting features is extensive, with options like Panorama, Hyperlapse, ActiveTrack 4.0, Point of Interest 3.0, Spotlight 2.0, and MasterShots.
If you get too carried away with all the awesome photography features, don’t fret, as the Air 2S has APAS 4.0 obstacle detection.
Again, this isn’t the latest version of APAS, but with backward, forward, downward, and upward obstacle sensing, it’s still great.
On top of that, the Air 2S is also equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast data. ADS-B helps you avoid aircraft.
8. Holy Stone HS720 #
Dimensions: 336 x 370 x 56 mm unfoldedWeight: 460 gMax Range: 1,000 mMax Altitude: 3,000 ftMax Speed: 44 mphMax Flying Time: 26 minsCamera: 4K UHD
✅ Pros #
- Inexpensive and foldable
- Has great camera quality for the price
- Has a stabilizing shock absorption holder
- Includes a carrying bag
❌ Cons #
- It weighs over 250 grams, so you’ll have to register it
Although it’s the heaviest drone on this list, the Holy Stone HS720 is still a good pick. It’s ultra-durable with brushless motors and a sturdy frame. It even folds when not in use.
The 4K UHD camera belies this drone’s price, which is under $300. Producing images in 3840×2160 resolution, the camera features a lens you can adjust 90 degrees and a shock absorption holder.
Is this quite as good as a gimbal? No, but it’s better than nothing for preventing vibrations from ruining your shot.
The FPV transmission system at 5 GHz might not allow you to transmit your footage over a long range, but it’s an adequate feature for the price.
GPS and Optical Flow Positioning keep your drone in one piece even if you lose signal, which can happen a lot out in the wilderness.
This drone is also beginner-friendly with features like Altitude Hold, single-key takeoffs and landings, Electric Fence (a geofencing feature), and emergency stops.
Fly for 26 minutes, which is about average, and store your drone in the included carrying bag when you’re done.
Best drones for backpacking and camping – Buyer’s guide #
Now that you’ve seen our selection of the best backpacking and camping drones, it’s time to choose one. This buyer’s guide will help you do it by presenting a list of considerations.
Sub-250-gram drones are all the rage, especially for travelers and nomads who need a lightweight, portable drone for their adventures.
Every drone reviewed in this guide is under 250 grams, with the exception of the Holy Stone HS720.
This is beneficial for you in many ways. As I’ve made clear, you won’t have to register your drone with the FAA or another agency.
You might also be able to take advantage of relaxed drone laws to fly and shoot nearer buildings and people.
You’re also lightening your load when traveling, which is a major consideration when carrying a backpack for hours per day!
Also lending a drone better portability is whether it can fold.
Many of the drones discussed above can, shrinking them down even further and protecting propellers and other fragile parts from damage.
That said, if your drone has a carry case, which some of them on the list do, use it rather than tossing the drone in your backpack as is.
This will safeguard it from damage.
Battery life #
It’s not like you have many sources of electricity when camping, if any at all. Even still, you’ll probably want to use the power to charge your smartphone or laptop, not necessarily your drone.
A longer flight time allows you to go more time between charges.
Camera quality #
No one wants to take blurry, fuzzy photos of once-in-a-lifetime sights! You want amazing clarity.
DJI drones will offer that, but you do have to be selective.
Some older models only shoot in 12 MP, which isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. The EVO Nano+ has the best image quality of all I reviewed, so keep that in mind.
Transmission range #
This isn’t the end-all, be-all, but a good transmission range is beneficial, as you can send your live videos and photos on the go before you get home.