Hands Free Carrying Products For the Active Photographer

One piece of gear a photographer needs while hiking or on an assignment is a camera carrying system... this can be a holster, a vest or a strap to which your DSLR can be affixed without swinging or swaying away from the body.  If you're hiking and climbing, you really need your camera to be accessible yet secure.... but perhaps you don't want to be fitted with an extensive strapping system that makes you feel like you're in a straight jacket or have your camera in your backpack, which is tedious to get in and out.  Here are two items I swear by:

-Black Rapid Strap (for Women) - this is my default camera strap.  I pretty much leave it attached to my Canon at all times.  This strap is made specifically for women to fit comfortably across the chest and is my most enjoyable accessory.   The comfort factor is remarkable. I use it for almost all my on-location shoots where I don't need to worry about having one hand free to control dangle while squatting, walking and moving around.

It connects to the camera's tripod mount hole but is so easy to take on or off there is no need to stress if you need to use a tripod.... you can do both! it has clasps that prevent swing and can be adjusted to hang behind, in front or on your hip. But if you're jogging through the woods or climbing a mountain, you'll want to wear a clip or harness that adheres your camera to the body (I'll discuss these below).  With the Black Rapid strap, I ended the torment of my DSLR's neck strap and will never go back. Here's Black Rapid's product overview video of the women's strap.  Black Rapid has plenty of straps for the guys, too, of course!

Here's an example of a woman at work with her Black Rapid Strap:


-Peak Design LTD  makes a great DSLR Capture Camera Clip.  The Capture Camera Clip is for those hard core outings in which you must absolutely be hands free but need to access your camera constantly or at a moment's notice.  Like, for example, if you're hiking through the fiordland on the stunning four day hike on Milford Track in New Zealand.   This is a great option if you want to be hands free and active...no annoying camera neck strap, no swinging camera that can bang up against rocks if you're climbing or dip into the ocean if you're shooting from that angle (this would happen with the Black Rapid, although you can shorten the length of the Black Rapid).

It's minus a harness so it's less cumbersome and can be securely attached to your belt, backpack straps, etc., so that it fits tightly against your body.  I use it for hiking, climbing and work in which I don't want my camera to dangle.  It also attaches using the camera's tripod mount hole but it isn't as effortless as with the Black Rapid (you'll need a coin, key or screwdriver to tighten the plate in the tripod mount) so if you're planning on a lot of tripod use, this might get annoying.   However, this product is very secure and the release system is virtually fool proof.  It won't just slip out of the clip, you must push a release button.

Here's an overview video of this fantastic product:


Now the Cotton Carrier's Camera Vest sounds like a great product and I love the concept, but there are concerns.   First the good news:  

PROs: The vest itself is centered  in the center of your chest so you don't need to worry about having more weight on one side or the other, and the vest is very comfortable.  You can wear a jacket over it with the front open a little to access your camera, or wear the vest over your coat if you need to zip up and keep warm.

CONs: The plate screws into the tripod mount hole and if you need to use a tripod, this will DEFINITELY be a pain.  There is an Allen Key included for assembly and you certainly can fix and unfix the mount to and from your camera if you are, for example, in the mountains and see a shot that you must have using a tripod (night/evening, waterfall or HDR shots in particular).  But it will be cumbersome. Hopefully your travel buddy will be patient while you make the necessary adjustments.  

Also, Cotton Carrier issues a disclaimer on its website warning that while the Allen key secures the Cotton Carrier Camera Hub, they "strongly recommend" using a thread locker (LocTite 425) for added security so your mount does not come dislodged from the camera and, well, your camera doesn't crash to the ground.  They also say "You must make sure this is REALLY TIGHT! Recheck frequently!"  Yikes.

Since Cotton Carrier itself raises concerns over the security of your camera in the mount, I cannot recommend this product, although the concept is perfect.  I have read reviews which say the hub does work itself loose with usage and yet others from users who never mention such a problem.  

The answer may be to use the Peak Design LTD  Capture Camera Clip, and mount it in the middle strap if your backpack has one that fits vertically across the chest.  Aside from this, I'm waiting to find the perfect combination of the Cotton Carrior Camera Vest design with the Peak Design Capture Camera Clip's security.

There are belt holsters available, as well as holsters with slings that cross diagonally across the chest, but in my opinion, the Black Rapid straps and Peak Design Camara Capture Clip will give you want you need and more.