Best Travel Drones in 2020 | In-Depth Backpackers Review
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Looking for the best travel drone to film your next adventure? In this blog, we review our Top 7 Travel Drones of 2020 including the DJI Spark, DJI Mavic Mini, RYZE Tello, and more. We are experienced travelers and know the value that our drone has brought to footage of our own backpacking and hiking trips. Picture quality, affordability, flight time, weight, and battery life are reviewed for each drone in this blog post to make your decision easy for which travel drone is best for you.
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What to look for in a travel drone
Purchasing a drone is a big decision. If you are an outdoor enthusiast like us, then you likely know that money doesn’t grow on trees! We weighed all the options when purchasing our travel drone and want to make sure you have all the info you need as a fellow adventurer to make your investment worthwhile. When looking for a drone that fits your adventure style, it is important to weigh various factors. Things to think about include the size and weight, flight time, range, photo and video quality, stabilization, carrying case, controller type, and of course price.
Size and weight
The overall size of your drone is super important when traveling. Anyone who has been on a hiking trip or long backpacking adventure knows that every little ounce counts when you’re carrying it on your back. Think about how much extra weight you are willing to carry in your pack in order to get the shots you want. That will influence which type of drone suits you best.
The amount of time your drone will stay in the air until you have to land it is important to think about depending on where you are going to use it. If you only want to capture 5 minutes of every trip, then one of the cheaper travel drones listed may be good for you. If you want 15 minutes of footage from various points throughout the day, then you may need to invest in a little higher quality option
The flight range is the distance you can fly your drone before you lose connection with it from your controller. The further this is the more variety of angles and perspectives you will be able to get. For us, we don’t need the distance to be too much further than 2km since we are not expert drone photographers anyways and mainly want to capture the immediate scene around us. For more experienced flyers, you may want to splurge for a longer range.
Photo and video quality
The quality of your photos is important, especially if you want your aerial pictures to come out clean in various lighting conditions. Anything below 12 megapixels may look grainy compared to what you are used to shooting on your modern-day smartphone.
A gimbal was one of the more important factors when we were considering our drone due to the fact that we wanted to shoot the majority of our scenes outdoors (where there is usually wind). If you go with a drone that doesn’t have a gimbal, then any wind at all is going to make for shaky footage. If you only want to fly in windless conditions or are not worried about stable footage, then one of the cheaper drones below would be fine for you! When we were on Vancouver Island, we definitely needed some good stability for the windy ocean conditions all around us.
This is, of course, one of the main factors when considering buying any product. However, if you are making an investment in a drone, make sure you are always keeping in mind the end result that you want your footage to look like. It’s important to not make price the only factor in this situation as if you buy the cheapest option but then don’t ever use it because it’s not producing the quality you want for your travel videos, then it won’t be worthwhile for you.
Another important factor for travelers is the carrying case. As you will likely be backpacking or storing your drone in a bag, it’s important that it fits and also won’t get damaged. Check if the drone you want comes with a proper travel case or not!
Finally, controller type was a big factor for us when deciding on a travel drone. We wanted one that could be controlled by a phone or remote control so we had the option not to bring the bulky remote if it was going to weigh down our pack. Surprisingly, not all drones can be controlled by phone only.
Top 7 Travel Drones of 2020 Reviewed
We’ve broken down the top 7 travel drones of 2020 using the factors of weight, flight time, range, photo and video quality, stabilization, carrying case, controller type, and price so you can decide for yourself which one fits your adventure style best. Read more details on each drone below.
Best affordable travel drone for cinematic footage
The DJI Spark is the best bang for your buck if you are looking to get cinematic footage at a reasonably affordable price for a drone. The fact that it can be controlled with only your phone and is easily stored makes it for a top low-budget travel drone that includes stable footage with a built-in gimbal. Although the footage is only 1080p, that is still full HD and unless you are going to be doing post-production video editing that requires a lot of zooming in, then 1080p is perfect for what you need. Check out our video here to see unedited DJI Spark footage and see if it's the kind of quality you're looking for. We also got a ton of great drone footage with the spark during our Namibia adventures.
Phone-only control option
Lightweight and quiet in the air
Sturdy and easy to fly
Comes with a great carrying case that fits well in a backpack
1080p video max
Does not fold like the newest DJI models
Since it was launched in 2017, it's possible DJI will discontinue the model as new drones come out in 2020. It would be a shame though in our opinion!
Best value foldable mini drone
Similar to the Spark, the DJI Mavic Mini is great for cinematic footage at a compact size. The difference here is that the Mavic Mini can fold even smaller than the Spark, however, that means that it is a bit less sturdy to the moving parts. It also cannot be controlled by only your phone, making it bulkier to store in your backpack when you have to bring both the drone and remote together. It is newer than the Spark though and has 2.7K video capability if you are a higher-level video editor and are in desire of that.
Longest flight time for small drones
Can only be controlled with remote
A little more expensive than DJI Spark
No carrying case included
Best drone for GoPro compatibility
This drone is intriguing for backpackers due to the fact that you use your own GoPro as the camera. If you are ok with storing a bit more weight on your trip and don’t want to invest in another camera outside of your GoPro, then this could be a good option for you. However, keep in mind it is very large to carry around on hikes and camping trips.
Uses the GoPro as its camera (which many outdoor enthusiasts already have)
Gets great cinematic shots with wide-angle GoPro lens and gimbal
Backpack for carrying included
Only works with GoPro cameras
Heavy and large
Needs its own full backpack for carrying
Best mini drone for professionals
The Mavic Air is an engineering feat like we have not seen yet in the drone industry. In terms of size, foldability, cinematic footage, and professional features, this drone is unmatched for travelers and backpackers. The only downside is that it is extremely expensive. If you’ve had drones before or want to splurge and go for the top mini drone out there, then choose the Mavic Air. It is a next-level drone.
4K ultra-HD video
Great flight time
Can only be controlled with remote