When you take your family on an adventure, it’s important to bring the right camera, and there are times when a smartphone just doesn’t cut it. An action camera can be a great investment, because it’s designed to be durable and go places you’d never dare bring a smartphone. The best cameras for adventure travel come with a range of accessories that allow you to securely attach the action cam to almost anything—helmets, handlebars, strollers, surfboards or even your pet dog. They are the go-to gadget for families that want to capture the best pictures and videos of hikes, snorkel tours, ATV rides and other family activities. There are a lot of different action cams from which to choose; here’s our list of the best cameras for adventure travel.
1. GoPro Hero8
Most experts agree that GoPro Hero8 is at the top of the list of the best adventure travel cameras. If you want great 4K video and image quality and a load of cool features, this camera won’t disappoint. Excellent image stabilization ensures you get clear video coverage of all your family’s travel adventures. The livestream option allows you to share those adventures directly on social media, too. The user-friendly GoPro app makes it easy to edit pictures on a smartphone and share your videos and pictures with family and friends. Overall, it’s a great action camera for experts and beginners who don’t mind paying for higher quality. Note: If the newest GoPro model is out of your price range, the GoPro Hero7 is also a great camera.
2. GoPro Max
Whether you’re riding a roller coaster, visiting a theme park, or going on safari, the GoPro Max will capture every thrilling travel adventure. GoPro’s most expensive action camera has two fish-eye lenses that offer 5.6K 360-degree video recording. After the video is recorded, the software lets you reframe the video and choose where the camera is looking before it converts the file to standard 2D. The upside is you almost never miss a shot. The main downsides are a loss in video quality from converting the 360-degree video to 2D and extra editing time. GoPro Max provides excellent audio recording and has built-in mounting fingers. It also produces super smooth time lapse video with a stabilization feature called TimeWarp. In a nutshell, if you like the sound of reframing a video after it’s shot, this is one of the best action cameras available.
3. Akaso V50 Elite
If you’re looking for a lower-priced action camera capable of delivering high quality 4K 60fps video and excellent 20 mp jpg and raw images, the Akaso V50 Elite is a good choice. It comes with two batteries, a dual battery charger, a trusty tripod thread and many different mounts, so you can attach it to just about anything. It has a wide-angle lens with 8X digital zoom, a two-inch touch screen, a remote and voice control. There’s also an app that lets you connect the camera to your phone, to preview and share content to social media. The biggest downside to this camera is that it’s not natively waterproof—it comes with a waterproof case for water-based adventure travel. All in all, the Akaso V50 Elite is one of the best budget-friendly cameras for adventure travel.
Related: Best Cameras for Vacation
4. DJI Osmo Action
DJI is well-known for producing excellent aerial drone cameras and the new DJI Osmo Action is the company’s first action camera. This camera gives GoPro a run for its money producing smooth, high quality 4K 60fps video and 12 mp still images. While it has many of the same features as GoPro models, you can’t livestream from this camera, the wide-angle lens is not quite as wide as GoPro and the Osmo’s Mimo app is a little more limited. What sets this camera apart is two full-color screens: a selfie screen on the front and a 2.25-inch touchscreen on the back. The additional screen makes it one of the best action cameras for teenagers and others who like to shoot adventure travel selfie sequences or those who like to vlog.
5. Garmin Virb Ultra 30
Families who enjoy mountain biking and downhill skiing particularly appreciate the features of the Garmin Virb Ultra 30. This camera is voice controlled, easy to use, lightweight, and the built-in 3-axis image stabilization produces great 4K 30fps video. The microphone and the touchscreen display are fully functional through the waterproof case. The Wi-Fi connection and the accompanying app are both well-designed, and the Virb Ultra 30 allows the option to live-stream direct to YouTube. G-Metrix™ technology is unique to this action camera. This technology records speed, altitude, G-force and heart rate (if the user wears a compatible heart rate monitor). This is one of the best cameras for those who want to record the fine details of their travel adventure.
6. Olympus TG-Tracker
If your family is really rough on cameras or you participate in cold weather sports like downhill skiing, the Olympus TG-Tracker could be your perfect camera. It looks like a funky small old school video camera and it’s really tough. This camera is drop-proof up to 6.5 feet, crush-proof up to 220 pounds, freeze-proof to 14-degrees Fahrenheit, and waterproof to depths of 100 feet without a separate housing. The TG-Tracker has an ultra-wide 204-degree lens and it’s capable of recording high definition 4K 30fps video, but the maximum photo resolution is lower than most action cameras at only 8 mp. A flip out 3.8-inch screen makes it easy to see what you’re shooting and the camera’s LED headlight is helpful when you’re using it at night. It also has five built-in sensors that let you track G-force, altitude, water depth, GPS location, temperature and direction. The TG-Tracker is one of the best action cameras for rugged extreme temperature adventure travel.
Related: 11 Best Camcorders for Families
7. Akaso EK7000 Pro
This low-priced camera shoots high quality 4K 25fps video and 16 mp jpg images, and is a good choice for first-time action camera users. The Akaso EK7000 Pro has many of the same features as the more costly Akaso V50 Elite. The main differences are that it shoots video and images in a slightly lower resolution, there is no digital zoom lens and the camera lacks a voice control feature. The Akaso EK7000 Pro comes with two batteries, a tripod thread, a remote, a two-inch touch screen and many different mounts. Like other Akaso cameras, it’s not natively waterproof, but inside the waterproof case, it can be used for dives up to 131 feet. Used properly with the case, it’s one of the best budget action cameras for families who enjoy snorkeling and other underwater adventure travel.
8. Dragon Touch Vision 3 Pro
If you’re traveling with teens or tweens who want their very own action camera, the Dragon Touch Vision 3 Pro could fit the bill. You get a lot of camera for a very low price. This camera has a 170-degree wide-angle, 4X zoom lens and it produces good quality 4K 30fps video and 16 mp photos. There’s a 2-inch touch screen, a wireless remote and the camera is Wi-Fi enabled, so you can transfer photos and videos to your phone and share them on social media. The camera’s waterproof case lets you use it for diving, snorkeling, surfing and other water-based adventures. Overall, the Vision 3 Pro is one of the best adventure travel cameras under $55.
9. Ourlife Kids Camera
Little kids have big adventures and they love recording them. The Ourlife Kids Camera is designed for budding photographers and videographers ages 4 and up. This durable camera is easy to use, comes in kid-friendly colors, and it produces 8 mp photos and good quality 1080p 30fps video with sound. The camera comes with a timer function, a rotatable lens for selfies, automatic face detection, light correction functions, and a color screen. The 8GB memory card lets kids record continuously for up to two hours. The camera has a waterproof case, so it can be used in a swimming pool or on a beach vacation. With the mounting kit, it can be attached to a bicycle, a tripod or a selfie stick. Kids can have fun creating special effects with seven video filters and 12 photo frames. All in all, the Ourlife Kids Action Camera is one of the best kids cameras for adventure travel.
Related: Best Travel Cameras for Kids
10. AKAMATE Kids Action Camera
The AKAMATE Kids Action Camera comes with a 32GB Micro SD card that can hold up to 300 minutes of 1080p 30fps video or 20,000 5 mp photos. The rechargeable battery can support about 150 minutes of continuous recording. A waterproof case means kids can use it for all their favorite watersports – swimming, snorkeling, diving, surfing and more. One of the best features of this camera is that it has a traditional action camera mounting system that makes it possible to securely mount it to almost anything – including bicycle helmets, handlebars and skateboards.
The camera has five different photo frame effects for kids to experiment with and three electronic games to play with. It should be noted that many users consider the games to be a negative feature. Some children get distracted with the games and forget to use the camera to take pictures and express their creativity. Other than that, the AKAMATE Kids Action camera is an excellent choice for young adventurers.
Debbie Olsen is a gutsy granny who has snorkeled with whale sharks, hiked the Camino de Santiago and summited three peaks in the Canadian Rockies. She and her husband, Greg, live in Alberta, Canada. They have four adult children and 3.5 grandchildren. Debbie is an award-winning writer and photographer and a national bestselling author. She writes for many publications including Westjet Magazine, the Calgary Herald, Canadian Geographic, TravelAge West and more. Follow Debbie’s adventures on Wander Woman Travel Magazine.
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