Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities. It gets you closer to nature and away from people. You also might find yourself encountering some really cool stuff that you wouldn’t see in the big city or monotonous suburb. For such occurrences, a good action camera can capture it, so you can show it to everyone back home. Action cameras usually include better image stabilization and more outdoorsy features, like IP certification, than regular cameras, so they can survive the rigors of a tough march.
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GoPro is the gold standard of action cameras, but there are some other competitors in the space that are worthy of consideration. Insta360 and DJI are two of GoPro’s biggest competitors and there are some budget alternatives as well. We’ll cover those and more in this list of great action cameras for hiking.
Best action camera for hiking: Our peak picks
GoPro Hero 12 Black
1. Best action camera for hiking overall
The latest GoPro with the most features
$350 $399 Save $49
The GoPro Hero 12 is the latest Hero model from GoPro. It includes better battery life from its predecessors, 5.3K video shooting, and waterproofing to help it work well in the wild.
- Include’s GoPro’s excellent image stabilization
- Shoots video at up to 5.3K 60 FPS with a 27MP photo shooter
- Waterproof, which is great if you’re taking it into nature
- You may want to invest in a second battery for longer excursions
- It’s quite expensive
Let’s start with the most obvious choice, which is the GoPro Hero 12. It’s GoPro’s latest flagship model, and it has all GoPro’s most modern features.
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Improvements from prior generations include a better menu system and improved battery life while maintaining GoPro’s excellent image stabilization and 5.3K video shooting. It’s not a massive change over the Hero 11, but for a few extra bucks, you get something that helps fix issues with the prior model.
That said, the battery life is better, but it really depends on how you use it. It’s rated for 70 minutes of continuous shooting at 5.3K and 60 FPS or 155 minutes of continuous recording at 1080p and 30 FPS. So, if you’re going on a longer hike, you may want to invest in a second battery or at least a good battery bank to recharge on the go. Other than that, and its high price tag, it’s the obvious choice in this segment.
GoPro Hero 11 Black
2. Next best action camera for hiking
A little older, but still good
$299 $349 Save $50
The GoPro Hero 11 isn’t the latest model anymore, but you can usually save a few dollars and the differences aren’t that vast. You lose out on battery life improvements from the Hero 12, but you still get most of the same features for less cost.
- 5.3K, 60FPS video shooting is still available
- GoPro’s excellent image stabilization is also still here
- Waterproof, which is good for outdoor use
- Misses out on the improvements made to the Hero 12
- You’ll still probably want a battery bank or second battery
For a little less money, you can get almost the same product with the GoPro Hero 11. It has the same core features, including 5.3K video recording, waterproofing, GoPro’s HyperSmooth image stabilization, and a 27MP shooter that takes surprisingly good photos considering its size.
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The only thing you really miss out on is the improved battery life and menu system from the Hero 12. For that, you can typically get the Hero 11 for $50 less than the Hero 12, which isn’t a bad deal. It can record 61 minutes of 5.3K video at 60 FPS and 137 minutes of 1080p video at 30 FPS before you need to start looking for a charger.
While not the best, it’s only a few minutes off its newer sibling, so you’re not getting a huge downgrade if you go with the older model. That said, we still recommend getting a power bank or a second battery for longer hikes, so you can be sure to have enough battery to handle everything.
GoPro Hero 9 Black
3. Best budget GoPro action camera for hiking
The GoPro Hero 9 was released in 2020, so it’s no spring chicken. However, it’s still great at what it does and can be had for less than the most modern GoPros on the market today.
- HyperSmooth image stabilization is still great, even on older models
- 5K video shooting at 30 FPS or 4K shooting at 60 FPS
- Can do livestreaming at 1080p
- Doesn’t have the latest GoPro features
- Low light performance could be better
It’s nice to see that older GoPros are still on the market and the GoPro Hero 9 is no exception. It doesn’t have the latest stuff like most modern GoPros, but it still retains a lot of the things that make GoPros good, such as HyperSmooth image stabilization.
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Unlike the two previous models on the list, this one has 5K video at 30 FPS or 4K video at 60FPS, which we suspect is the more popular setting. The pictures it takes with its 20 MP shooter are also pretty good.
What is surprising, however, is the battery life. Despite being an older model, the Hero 9 actually gets good battery life. It does 1080p at 30 FPS for 140 continuous minutes, which is slightly better than the Hero 11. At its price point, it’s a pretty decent little deal and a good way to get into a GoPro without spending over $100 more on the newest models.
4. Best 360-degree action camera for hiking
Nature is beautiful everywhere, not just in front of you
$405 $427 Save $22
The Insta360 X3 was a departure from previous models with lots of improvements across the board. It’s still at, or at least toward, the top of the list for the best 360-degree camera, and it’s great for hiking.
- You can take it up to 33 feet underwater
- 4K shooting if you’re using one lens
- Very good 360-degree video capture
- You’ll want to carry a power bank
- More expensive than any GoPro on our list
The Insta360 X3 is a transition away from GoPro on our list today and into full-fledged 360-degree cameras. The Insta360 X3 is about as good as it gets and comes with enough bells and whistles to impress almost anybody.
The Insta360 X3 is the successor to the One X2, but, for this model, the company has decided to change things up and remove “One” from the branding.
That includes relatively good low light performance, at least compared to older models of the X-series. It also has a 72MP shooter to take high resolution photos. Like all the other action cameras on the list, the battery life is okay, but you’ll want to pack something to top it up if you’re going on a longer hike or hiking over a couple of days. It’s rated at 81 minutes of video capture at 4K, which isn’t bad, but it’s not spectacular either.
The real nice part is that it’s waterproof up to 33 feet, so you can take it underwater and get some awesome 360-degree video there as well. It can do almost anything, but you’ll feel it in your wallet.
AKASO Brave 7 LE
5. Best budget action camera for hiking
A good place to start for beginners
The AKASO Brave 7 LE is a camera that, among other things, boasts a lower overall price point than virtually any of its mainstream competitors. Fortunately, you get a lot for an action camera under $200.
- Very good value for the money
- Battery life is decent if the video resolution is lower
- IPX7 water resistance means it works great on the trails
- Video and image capture resolution a step behind mainstream competitors
- Only does 30FPS at 4K, so you’ll likely want to do 1080p for smoother capture
The AKASO Brave 7 LE is an excellent budget action camera. It’s smaller than many of its more expensive competitors while maintaining reasonable battery life. You’ll get a better battery by shooting at 1080p or lower, which we recommend you do. While the camera can do 4K, it’s only at 30 FPS, so the lower resolutions open up smoother video capture options.
The performance is quite reasonable, especially when you consider that it is less than $200 when it’s not on sale. Yes, it’s missing some of the big features from competitors, like 5.3K video. However, at its price point, it’s difficult to complain about the features it lacks when compared to a product that is north of double the price.
That’s the real benefit to the Brave 7 LE. You get a competent, waterproof camera that can still do good 1080p video, and you don’t have to spend $300 or more to do it.
DJI Osmo Action 4
6. Best GoPro alternative action camera for hiking
Sometimes it’s okay to choose column B
The DJI Osmo Action 4 is a worthy competitor to the GoPro franchise. It shoots high quality 4K video at up to 120 FPS, can exist at temperatures as low as negative 20C, and includes three stabilization modes for smoother video.
- 4K 120 FPS is more than adequate for video capture
- Can also capture in 10-bit and D-Log for better editing
- Surprisingly great low-light performance
- Battery life isn’t the best
- Other than low light performance, it’s not terribly different from the Action 3
DJI is arguably better known for its lineup of high quality consumer drones, but the company also makes an excellent action camera. The DJI Osmo Action 4 is one such example. This little guy can trade blows with the best GoPros, so which one you like more is ultimately a matter of taste.
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The DJI Osmo Action 4 can do 4K video at 120 FPS, record in D-Log and 10-bit video, and it is rated to survive in the cold at up to negative 20C, which is -4F, in case you were curious. It’s also waterproof, so it’s definitely ready for the trail. Along with that, it has some of the best low light camera performance of any camera on this list, and that’s a very good distinction for DJI.
It’s not to say that other cameras are unusable, but if you shoot in the dark often, you’ll definitely want to put this near the top of your short list. Like most action cameras, the battery isn’t great, but that’s essentially true of all of these little cameras. Carry a battery pack and you’ll be fine.
DJI Osmo Pocket 3
7. Best vlogging camera for hiking
For the vlogger in all of us
The DJI Osmo Pocket 3 is an enticing option for the vlogging hikers out there. It lacks the water resistance of competitors, but it makes up for by being very versatile with its moving, gimbal-style head.
- 3-axis stabilization makes footage quite smooth
- Records at up to 4K and 120FPS
- The high-tech head can track you and keep you center frame
- Gadzooks, this thing is expensive
- Not waterproof
The DJI Osmo Pocket 3 is a bit different from the other cameras on the list. This one is a vlogging camera rather than an action camera, and that has some pros and cons. On the plus side, it shoots great video with 3-axis stabilization, 4K 120 FPS video capture, and some neat ergonomics.
DJI’s miniature gimbal camera makes a triumphant return in 2023, this time packing a 1-inch sensor and a much larger display.
On the other hand, it’s a lot more fragile than any of the action cameras listed above, even the budget-oriented AKASO, and it lacks waterproofing. Thus, it depends on what kind of content you want to create. If you’re just vlogging on some local trails, you can probably get away with this. The gimbal head is extremely versatile and can keep your head in the center of the shot all by itself.
However, if you’re going somewhere out in the wilderness, we might recommend something with a waterproof rating and fewer moving parts. That said, the Pocket 3 is very expensive, but it’s among the best vlogging cameras.
Or, just use your smartphone
Smartphones aren’t far off from action cameras In fact, most modern Android and Apple flagships have built-in stabilization, up to 8K video capture, good cameras, and pack larger batteries than a standard action camera. You can find mounts, selfie sticks, and other accessories to recreate most of the same experience as an action camera without spending a lot of money on a whole new device.
It’s not a one-to-one comparison. For example, few smartphones can survive underwater excursions up to 33 feet, like several of the action cameras listed above. So there is some give and take. However, if you’re low on funds, you can pick up some stuff for your phone and let it do the work instead.
The bottom line: What are the best action cameras for hiking?
Well, the easy answer is one of the several GoPros available. The Hero 9, Hero 11, and Hero 12 represent the best that GoPro offers at varying price points. The Hero 12 almost certainly has all the features someone is looking for when it comes to this kind of stuff, so that’s where we recommend people start. It does everything, it’s competitively priced versus other high-end cameras, and GoPro is a name people recognize.
GoPro Hero 12 Black
$349 $399 Save $50
That said, DJI has a winner on its hands with the Action 4 and the Pocket 3 as well. The Pocket 3 might only be good for lighter trailblazing, but the Action 4 is every bit as good as its GoPro counterpart. Those on a budget can try out the AKASO to get a taste of the action camera experience or just a modern smartphone if money is too tight. Of course, we can’t forget about the Insta360 X3 for fans of 360-degree video.
How did we choose these items?
Like most of our lists, we leaned heavily on the experience of our comrades. Pocket-lint’s own Luke Baker reviewed most of the cameras above, so his expertise was requested during the making of the list. From there, it was just making sure we found the latest and greatest stuff from the brands that are best known for their action cameras. From there, everything else just fell into place.
What is an action camera?
Action cameras are cameras designed for use in taking immersive action shots. You’ve likely seen people attach them to their bikes, skateboards, or even dogs, and you get the first-person POV of what that person (or dog) is seeing or doing. Such cameras are usually waterproof and ruggedly designed to withstand abuse, since they’re usually at the center of the action.
Can action cameras also take pictures?
Yes, every action camera, at least on this list, can take pictures as well as videos. In fact, some of them are quite adept at it, including the ones from GoPro and DJI.