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Best Camcorders for the Outdoors

Last updated on 06/16/2011

Summer is about to hit full swing. The great outdoors demand a worthwhile camcorder, so take a look at the models below. They can withstand a weekend at the state park and beyond.

Kodak PlaySport Zx5
Tougher, Faster, Better
Not only is Kodak’s Playsport Zx5 the most durable pocket camcorder out there, it also captures the best movies of any video stick out there. The Zx5 is waterproof to 10 feet, shockproof to 5 feet, and dustproof to boot. It’s also fun and easy to use, thanks to a streamlined, no-nonsense interface and a handful of fun effects and filters that you can add to the video. Audio quality is pretty solid, the 5-megapixel still photos are surprisingly sharp, and low-light performance is admirable for the class. For under $150, this is a hard one to ignore.
GoPro HD Helmet HERO
Helmet-Mounted HD Fun
Extreme-sports enthusiasts already know about this one, but for those of you who don’t, the GoPro HD Helmet HERO is the camcorder of choice for thrill-seekers everywhere, from mountain climbers and white-water kayakers to snowboarders, skateboarders, and skydivers. This helmet-mountable camcorder shoots in a bunch of formats, including 1080p and 960p (standard aspect ratio) formats with great results. It can survive down to 180 feet underwater and withstand some abuse on land as well. This kit comes with everything necessary to mount on your dome, but the camera also works with other GoPro mounts, like those for bike handlebars or surfboards. It costs a chunk more than a pocket camcorder, but also withstands greater abuse. Happy rafting.
[Read our full Sony Handycam HDR-CX130 Review] If a gentle hike followed by a fire-side pale ale is more your speed, pick up a traditional camcorder like the Sony Handycam CX130. It shoots good-enough 1080p video, certainly beyond the standards of the smaller, ruggedized camcorders on this page, and sports an impressive 30x optical zoom, great for filming wildlife (birds, elk, black squirrels, etc.) from across a meadow, or what have you. This model records exclusively to media cards; also check the CX160, which has 16GB of built-in flash memory, and the XR160, which comes equipped with a big and bulky hard disk.