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DSLR Quick Access While Hiking
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Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
DSLR Quick Access While Hiking on 11/28/2009 09:38:51 MST Print View

How/Where do you carry your DSLR while hiking to have it available for a quick shot?

The ease and availability of a P&S (Canon S90 for instance) in a hipbelt pocket makes for a lot of easy grab-shots on the trail.

How do you make that happen with a comparatively huge bulky camera?


Alan Little
(AlanL) - F

Locale: Bavarian & Austrian Alps
Also a "belt pouch" on 11/28/2009 09:45:46 MST Print View

I carry my Olympus E-410 - lovely little camera, acquired very cheaply in an end of range sale just after the even (fractionally) lighter E-420 came out - in a Lowepro pouch on my trouser belt or rucksack hip belt (trouser belt is safer). I find the weight doesn't bother me, and it's to the side, out of the way and not swinging around.

I've also tried clipping it in more of a chest pouch position to my shoulder straps, which also carries ok, but it's more of a hassle with getting the pack on/off and a more obstructive position when scrambling.

EIther way these are fine-weather carries. The Lowepro pouch is reasonably shower resistant but I wouldn't contemplate trusting it in any real weather. Then it's into the pack, in a dry bag.

howard chen
(gmg4life) - F

Locale: East Bay
dslr location on 11/28/2009 11:31:03 MST Print View

I tend to just carry mine wrapped around my hand or in front of me.. I'm a fair weather hiker so I don't really have to worry too much about the rain and stuff.. The only thing I worry about is the dust on my lenses so I just leave the lens cap on.. but I wish there was some kind of carrier that was really comfortable and still would provide quick access.

Dylan Walker
(DylanWalker) - F
Answer on 12/08/2009 00:57:52 MST Print View

In my search for the same answer, I came across a clever idea of attaching a small (as small as will fit your DSLR) pouch to the chest or waist strap. I've yet to find a nice bag, but love the idea. I ended up having to put my camera in my pack on my last trip out due to bad weather. Missed a lot of great shots due to laziness.

Erick Panger
(eggs) - MLife

Locale: Mid Life
My setup on 12/28/2009 08:29:22 MST Print View

I have a padded bag that fits my Nikon D90. I hang this from the side of my pack with some shock cord and buckles. The shock cord allows me to reach back and bring the bag forward to retrieve the camera without having to drop my pack. If it is going to be wet I put the camera in a dry bag and then put the whole thing in this other bag. The camera does not come out as often when it's raining obviously.

Works well and keeps the camera out of the way until needed.

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE: "DSLR Quick Access While Hiking" on 12/28/2009 12:29:32 MST Print View

This isn't ultralight but it's a nice balance between lightweight, durable, easy access.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: DSLR Quick Access While Hiking on 12/28/2009 12:44:14 MST Print View

I think that is THE big reason why so many walkers take a P&S rather than a DSLR. So far no-one seems to have a GOOD solution.


David Carbiener
(HikingDave) - F

Locale: Northern California
DSLR quick access on 12/28/2009 14:20:25 MST Print View

The camera I use is not a DSLR but is the same size as one. I put a carabineer on my strap that secures the top of my pack, and hook my camera strap through that. The camera is essentially hanging around my neck but is supported by the backpack. It is not actually on my neck. My sternum strap holds the camera against my chest while hiking. I have very little camera movement. When it rains I have to take the camera off me and store it in my pack in a dry bag. This method has provided me very quick access to the camera while backpacking. It does expose the camera to the elements though.
Camera set up while on the JMT.

Edited by HikingDave on 12/28/2009 14:21:35 MST.

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE: "DSLR Quick Access While Hiking" on 12/28/2009 14:24:03 MST Print View

I agree with Roger that a truly ultralight way to carry a DSLR which provides both "adequate protection" for the camera and reasonable "access" to the photographer has yet to be developed. But I disagree, with there not being a "good" solution. I think what is "good" is highly dependent upon our own perspectives and trip objectives.

In my opinion, carrying a DSLR while hiking is divergent from the philosophies most of us have here at BPL. Yet many here do so since we are not just hikers, but are involved in many activities which meld well with lightweight hiking.

For example, I'm more of a fisherman and photographer than a thru-hiker. However, my targeted areas are more often backcountry streams and lakes than the road side varieties. Therefore, I minimize pack weight to enable me to more comfortably carry my DSLR setup and my fly fishing gear.

Having said all this, I'm very excited to see more capable cameras entering the market which are improving the balance between optical quality and control with physical size (e.g. the u4/3 cameras). I look forward to the day when I can obtain the image quality I prefer, and not have to take the weight penalty to do so.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
DSLR Quick Access While Hiking on 12/28/2009 14:51:46 MST Print View

Many thru-hikers I saw on the PCT this year carried their SLRs in a camera bag attached to their hipbelt strap (it was usually just big enough for the camera) or carried a fannypack style camera case that they wore just above their hipbelt. These are all good solutions, but most camera cases weigh 10oz or more.

However, all you really need is some sort of bag/stuff sack that can attach to the front of your pack, be it the sternum strap or shoulder strap or hip belt (or a combination of these mounting points). For thru-hiking the PCT this year, I experimented with a bunch of bags to carry my HD camcorder and found things that would have worked though perhaps not as ideally as I wanted. But then I got lucky and found online a large size Op/Tech lens/filter pouch that only weighed 3.2oz that would just fit my camcorder. I modified it by sewing an elastic strap to the bottom half. I carried it by clipping it to the D-Ring on my shoulder strap and the added elastic strap on the bottom held the lowerhalf to the shoulder strap so it wouldn't move. The case was padded and it kept most of the rain water out (ziplock was still necessary though) and thus seemed ideal. It worked out really well and my camcorder survived the entire PCT without a scratch.

So, if you keep an open mind and keep looking, I'm sure you'll eventually find something lightweight to fit the shape of your SLR.

Edited by Miner on 12/28/2009 14:56:01 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: DSLR quick access on 12/28/2009 15:32:26 MST Print View

Hi David

I can see what you mean, but some questions please:

How do you take your pack off without getting tangled up with the camera strap?

Do you find the camera bounces around at all?

Does the camera get sweaty against your chest?

I am asking because I would love to buy a DSLR but cannot see how to carry it effectively. At present I use a high-end DSC carried in a pouch on my pack shoulder strap.


David Carbiener
(HikingDave) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: DSLR quick access on 12/28/2009 17:01:46 MST Print View


I no longer use the pack you see in the above picture, but I still use the same set up. I now use an ULA Catalyst (lightening my load!). I still have the carabineer secured to the collar strap where my camera strap goes.

To take off my pack I must first disconnect my sternum strap, next remove the camera strap from the carabineer, disconnect my hip belt and then take off the backpack. If I don’t disconnect the camera strap from the carabineer I will have a camera hitting me in my neck. I know this because I have forgotten some times! When I disconnect the camera strap from the carabineer it is completely separate from the backpack and rests around my neck. It’s not a perfect system but it works very well for me.

The camera bounces very little because the sternum strap is holding it against my chest. If I bend over the camera would hang with the sternum strap being the pivot point. The angle of the camera strap behind me also helps keep the tension towards my body.

I have not had any problems with sweat on the camera. That could be because of the shirt I wear, my low perspiration, or a combination of both.

My camera is not a high end DSLR so I do not mind exposing it to the elements. If I had a very expensive camera I might not carry it this way because I would be afraid of trail dust and possibly getting hit by bushes, twigs, branches, rocks, or falling into water from a misguided river crossing!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
more DSLR on 01/10/2010 21:49:57 MST Print View

David, that photo almost looks like Banner Peak.

There is another thread around here where I describe the padded camera holsters that I find practical. I think my oldest one is about 13 years old now, made by SunDog, which has probably gone out of business. The newer one is LowePro, and you can't beat them for effectiveness.

Last summer, I was doing a trip with maybe 18 pounds of conventional backpack gear in my pack, plus maybe 10 pounds of camera gear in the holster strapped over my neck and shoulder.


David Carbiener
(HikingDave) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: more DSLR on 01/11/2010 09:13:57 MST Print View

Yes it is Banner Peak with Thousand Island Lake. JMT trip of 2008.