The Best Drones for Hiking and Travel in 2020

best drone for hiking

There’s nothing better than stepping out into the great outdoors for a hike. 

In the past, I’ve covered tips for taking your drone traveling and reviewed the best compact/foldable drones, but today I wanted to help you choose the best drone for hiking adventures.

I’m going to go through all the features you need to look out for in a good hiking drone then will choose my top three drones that will work the best for hiking. 

Our Picks: Best Drone for Hiking

1. Best Choice: DJI Mavic Air 2

2. Budget Pick: DJI Mavic Mini

3. Upgrade Pick: Autel EVO 2


Buying Guide: What Features Do the Best Hiking Drones Have? 

Choosing the right drone for hiking can be a difficult task because there are so many options available nowadays. Drones can be expensive, and you want to make sure you’re getting the best drone you can for your budget.  

Years ago, choosing a drone was relatively simple as there weren’t that many options available. Today, however, we’re overwhelmed with product choice. More and more brands are creating professional quality drone without the professional price tag

Below, I’ve highlighted specific drone features you should be looking for if you’re planning to take your drone hiking or backpacking.

Durability 

It’s never a bad thing to want a durable drone, but when you’re outdoors and are at the mercy of the elements, you definitely want something that can handle itself in windy and wild conditions. You’ll also want a drone that can fly at higher altitudes as many drones have a limit to how high they can fly. 

It’s useful to purchase a drone that can take a few bumps and scrapes along the way too. I’m not saying you should be careless with your drone, but if you’re taking your drone hiking, it’s bound to get a couple of scratches here and there. 

A mechanical 3-way gimbal will also work better if you’re flying your drone in very windy conditions as it works as a better stabilizer. You should never take a drone out in the rain, but having a drone that’s water-resistant always makes for a better hiking companion too. If you’re going hiking, store your drone in a water-resistant backpack and ensure the drone you buy has spare parts you can easily purchase such as propellers.  

Weight/Size

If there’s one thing us hikers are all too aware of, it’s the size and weight of every single item that goes in our packs, because trust me, when you’re halfway up a mountain, you can feel each ounce of excess weight and quickly realize what is and isn’t essential.

If you purchase a lightweight hiking drone, you’re likely not going to regret every single step you take on an incline. Foldable drones are a great option because they fold into a small, compact rectangle which is easy to pack up. 

Image Quality 

What’s the point in trekking miles with your drone into the wild only to get mediocre shots?

Not much… right? Which is why your image quality needs to be on point.

Nowadays you can’t really go wrong with image quality as many drone manufacturers are striving to be the best.

Nevertheless, you should still be vigilant. 

Many people look for megapixels when deciding if a camera is worth its salt. However, it’s actually the image sensor that sets the better drones apart from the lesser quality ones. If you have no real intention of blowing your pictures up for large wall prints, don’t spend too much time agonizing over the megapixels. 

Look for a camera that also has HDR (high dynamic range) so that your colors will pop in all situations. 

Nowadays, I personally won’t settle for video quality less than 1080p HD at 30fps. And don’t worry, most drones will have that and more… even the cheap ones like the Mavic Mini. 

Battery Life 

One of the great things about hiking is escaping from the everyday comforts of life. However, that means that you won’t be able to charge your drone on demand. 

So, make sure you look for a drone that has a solid battery life (at least 20 minutes of flight time each battery) and preferably interchangeable batteries so you can take spares along with you. This would be especially useful if you’re planning on doing some overnight hiking trips. 

Follow Me Flying Mode

One of the MAJOR pros of taking a drone hiking is that you can get those Instagram-worthy, professional-looking action shots that look like they’ve come straight out of a Nat Geo documentary. 

If you want to take drone pictures of yourself at the moment, I recommend buying a drone that has a follow-me mode or active track, so it can follow you scrambling over a mountain ridge or wading through a river. 

Obstacle Avoidance 

Obstacle avoidance is extremely important and the chances are, if you’re hiking, you’re going to be surrounded by jagged peaks, lots of rocks, trees, and even water – all things that you don’t want your drone to be crashing into.

That’s why I strongly recommend using a drone that has some kind of obstacle avoidance to stop it from colliding with anything, or, at the very minimum, fly the drone in open areas with no obstacles. 


Reviews: The Top 5 Drones for Hiking & Backpacking

Considering all the factors I’ve mentioned above, I’ve curated a list of the best hiking drones for this summer (and winter too – if you’re into that). 

DJI Mavic Air 2

The Mavic Air 2 shoots seamless 4k 60fps videos and 8K Hyperlapse, has great color contrast and is a durable piece of kit. It also takes huge 48MP stills meaning you can showcase your hiking aerials in large print format at home or in the office. 

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Weighing just 570g, the foldable drone packs effortlessly into a carry case that fits in small hiking daypacks or into side pouches of larger backpacks and can be operated using the DJI Fly app on your phone (which you do have to attach to the controller). It also has the longest range on the market: 6.2 miles (10 km)

It comes with Spotlight, Active Track, and POI which follows and focuses on subjects such as yourself, others, or even wildlife. It can also track up to  15 subjects at a time, so, if you’re hiking with friends it can keep you all in the shot. An upgrade from the original Mavic Air, it has a much longer battery life of 34 minutes. It’s also cheaper than its predecessor. 

When it comes to obstacle avoidance, the Mavic Air 2’s APAS 3.0 can automatically avoid obstacles and figure out a way to bypass them when flying forward and backward.

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DJI Mavic Mini

The Mavic Mini was a newcomer to the drone market at the back end of last year and was released as a successor to the DJI spark.

For me this is one of the best drones for backpacking or hiking because it has all the features a beginner to intermediate drone pilot would want with a weight of less than 250g, making it the perfect drone for hiking, climbing, backcountry skiing – basically any outdoor pursuit. 

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Its weight also makes it ideal for traveling with because many countries now require you to register your drone with the governing agency for aviation if it weighs over 250g (i.e., the CAA in the UK and the FAA in the US) even if you’re a tourist.

If you’re a hiker on a budget and want to capture some amazing aerial shots, you can’t do much better than the Mavic Mini drone. It features a 1/2.3” sensor camera capable of 2.7 K videos and 12 MP photos. Mavic Mini packs a 2400 mAh battery that allows offers you 30 minute flying time. The range extends to 4km and it boasts a 3-axis gimbal to help in those windy mountainous terrains.

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Autel EVO II Drone Series

Autel has really managed to seriously disrupt the personal drone market with its Evo 2 drone. 

The Evo 2 could be the market’s best drone for hiking pictures and videos thanks to its impressive 8k resolution camera with built-in HDR. 

It’s foldable and is currently the only 8K drone on the market. Add this to their lossless zoom of 4x and we could be on to a winner. 

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The Evo 2 series drone has three options available; the Evo 2, the Evo 2 Pro and the Evo 2 Dual. Although the pro version only has a 6k resolution rather than the 8k option it boasts a 1” Sony IMX383 camera sensor; one of the best sensors on the drone market. 

The Evo 2 drone is foldable and has a range of 9km with a maximum flight time of 40 minutes meaning you’ll come back from your hike with heaps of footage not just from the places you visited, but the surrounding areas too. 

So, does the Evo 2 actually have a downside? 

Well, to be honest, it’s not cheap and it’s heavier than the other drones featured on this top three with a takeoff weight of 1.127kg1.192kg. However, if budget isn’t an issue this is one of my personal favorite camera drones for hiking. 

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Runner Up: Skydio 2

Skydio 2 is a great drone for hikers because it ticks several boxes, and, unlike other manufacturers, who tend to use plastic to make parts for drones, Skydio uses magnesium, which can be a little heavier but provides a lot more durability – perfect for those outdoor environments. 

Another great feature is that the batteries can be charged with a USB-C cable, so if you bring a portable charger on your adventures, you can potentially charge your drone in the wild. 

skydio 2

Skydio 2 has a range of up to 3.5km. You can use the app to control the drone (without the controller) but it connects via wifi to your phone, so you won’t be able to fly it very far.  and its battery life will usually get you around 20 minutes of flight time. However, it’s also got excellent obstacle avoidance and a 3 axis gimbal with some of the most steady footage we’ve seen. 

In terms of image quality, the drone has an impressive Sony IMX577 1/ 2.3” CMOS sensor that takes 12MP stills and shoots videos in up to 4k 60fps. The HDR is a little lackluster, however. 

The drone, however, is not foldable, yet is still pretty compact, especially if you store it in Skydio case which also fits in some spare batteries. Unfolded, it’s around the size of the original Mavic Pro – perhaps a little smaller, so not huge by any means. 

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Runner Up: Parrot Anafi

Though the Anafi is missing one major feature that I prefer to have on my drones, I decided to include it as a bit of a runner up in these reviews. 

The camera on the Parrot Anafi shoots terrific 4k and allows for crisp stills that you could easily blow up and show off in any of the rooms in your house. 

It has a flight time of 25 minutes making it comparable with other foldable drones on the market and will allow for plenty of footage on your adventures. 

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I also think that the controller-less feature is perfect for hikers. You can operate the drone directly from your smartphone saving you a few extra grams and it’s a cheaper alternative to the Mavic Air 2.

So what’s it missing?

Obstacle avoidance. The French-based drone manufacturer said to Drone Life that it had to factor in several features when producing the Anafi and claimed that, for many drone pilots, obstacle avoidance wasn’t as important as features such as camera spec.

Subsequently, it’s been dubbed the DJI competitor that’s blind as a bat – bit of a shame really considering so many drone manufacturers have this technology built-in alongside a great camera system. 

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The Verdict

So, out of the hiking drones I picked out for you above, which one should you go for?

Well, some of that depends on your specific needs.

I think Mavic Air 2 is a great choice for most people for its affordable price, long battery life and control range, 4K camera, and DJI’s latest tracking technology.

If tracking and obstacle avoidance are the most important things to you, then you should go with Skydio 2.

I personally own the Mavic Air and I can’t fault it. Though if I was looking to buy a new toy in the coming months I’d check out the Autel EVO II Pro

If you’re on a budget and just want a cheap, yet high-quality mini drone for hiking then the Mavic Mini will likely be a good ally. 

What about taking your drone out on activities other than hikes?

Take them along. All the drones I selected today are compact; you could take them on all kinds of adventures like mountain biking, road cycling, or surfing. If you’re a traveler you can go backpacking with these drones and will easily be able to store them. If you’re a winter sports enthusiast take your drone with you on the slopes too. 

I hope this article helps you to decide on which drone to buy for your hiking adventures. When you make your purchase, be sure to let us know what model you bought in the comments below. 

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