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full size DSLR on trail
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Rick Beaty
(reeock) - F

Locale: New England
full size DSLR on trail on 04/27/2012 13:51:07 MDT Print View

Taking my Canon 5D out with three lenses. Ive been futzing for years about the best and most efficient and accessible way to carry it and still feel like I haven't got it right.

What do you do when you carry a full size DSLR backpacking? Carry it in the skull of your pack? Around your neck? in a case attached to your sternum strap?

I want to find the best way to carry it without compromising my hiking enjoyment or having it banging up against me attached to myself when not in use.

also, any light weight tips on lens storage would be greatly appreciated.


Chad Mason

Locale: Arizona
full size DSLR on trail on 04/27/2012 14:00:27 MDT Print View

I always keep my camera in a small camera bag that I got at REI and strap it to the top of my pack. I strap my carbon fiber tripod to the back of the pack. As for lenses, I usually only bring my 10-22mm.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: full size DSLR on trail on 04/27/2012 14:20:07 MDT Print View

If I had to carry a full size camera on the trail, I would put it in one of these bags from Think Tank, attached to the suspension system of my pack in the front:

That way it is handy and protected at the same time. Not sure about the extra lenses - I'd probably put them in a bag inside the top of my pack, so they are accessible when I stop. Of course you could attach lens pouches to your hip belt, but that starts to get a little ridiculous, I think. (That's how I carry stuff at work, but I go backpacking to get away from work....)

The other option is a good non-slip strap like the Upstrap, carried over one shoulder with the camera facing inward (i.e. backwards) so the lens hangs straight down rather than sticking out. Again, that's how I carry stuff at work, and it's great -- very accessible -- but zero protection.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"full size DSLR on trail" on 04/27/2012 14:28:17 MDT Print View


I own a Nikon D7000, so slightly more compact than your 5D, but a Lowepro Toploader 45AW case worn on my chest works very well for this camera. I throw on my 35mm lens and it fits inside this case nicely. I removed the provided shoulder strap to the Lowepro case and attach one tiny NiteIze S-biner to each side, which is then clipped on to the D-ring on the shoulder straps of my ULA Ohm pack. When I want to shoot I just reach up towards the center of my chest and pull out the camera, shoot, then drop it back in and keep moving. This is very intuitive and balances out well with the weight of my pack. I remove the strap from my camera when carried this way, and just tether a small piece of cord from my camera body to my case in the event I drop it.

I picked up a small padded dry bag from SealLine called the Storm Sack (medium), this carries my extra wide angle lens as well as my memory cards, lens cloth, duster, spare batteries, etc. in a tiny cuben stuff sack. I can roll the top and clip this to the outside of my pack or just throw it in the rear pocket or inside on top, real simple and lightweight.

This may not be the lightest or the most robust, but it does provide minimum protection from weather and bumps on the trail, as well as keep the camera accessible in front of me so I can shoot and keep hiking relatively unimpeded.

Good luck. Enjoyed your website btw.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: full size DSLR on trail on 04/27/2012 14:31:06 MDT Print View

Lots of compromises...

Protecting a DSLR from dust and rain is my challenge. I found a 3 liter plastic box with locks and rubber seal at Storables that is 9.2oz/260g that fits my Nikon D5000 with a short zoom and room to spare, so I can store other electronics with it. A little bubble wrap or a Zing! camera case makes a pretty good combo. It does take up some room in my pack at 9"x7"5". I wouldn't go kayaking with it, but the seals are good enough for rain. See

Sistema Plastics 3 liter box

But it is in the pack that way and getting a quick shot off means taking the pack off and getting it out, and fiddle, fiddle, fiddle. I got a waterproof point and shoot that can ride in a shirt pocket for quick shots from the trail. Rain, sweat, dirt and bumps bother it not, but it isn't a DSLR.

Top-loading cases like the LowePro TLZ-1 are about 9oz and can be rigged to hang from your shoulder straps. I think that gives the best combination of protection and accessibility, but it does complicate getting your pack on and off and decreases ventilation. You do get a usable case for travel and city use too. You can get a stand-alone harness for the case as well. The TLZ Mini just fits a D5000 with a 18-55mm zoom and is 6.3oz/180g; it has just two d-rings for mounting. What you need is a rig that is like two sternum straps with snap hooks on each end. They can be clipped to the camera case and to your pack shoulder straps if it has sternum strap sliders or daisy chains. With a snap buckle in the middle, you can release just one side and get your pack on an off. You could rig four straps with the large case to help with bouncing, compromising on the added complexity, weight and cost. I've seen some contraptions using light shock cord and snap hooks on the bottom to help the bouncing issues--- not hard to make. You can run the shock cord through the d-rings or the belt loop if your case has one. It will still move, but there's no free lunch there methinks.

I've tried quick release gizmos that can hang on a belt and use a mount threaded to the tripod mount on the camera, but it really leaves the camera out in harm's way of dirt, brush and falls.

The best way is to have a porter, who can also carry your tripod and the cold beer too ;)

Round or rectangular plastic cases with seals like the one above make for cheap protection for your lenses.

Edited by dwambaugh on 04/27/2012 14:35:40 MDT.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: full size DSLR on trail on 04/27/2012 14:32:55 MDT Print View

I'm interested in this as well. I only recently started using a DSLR and so far have just been using a Lowepro toploader with it strapped diagonally across my chest, but I'm not really happy with that setup. I'm planning on trying it out the same way Eugene does in this pic.

I sometimes carry one extra lens and store it in a Lowepro lens case. See here. I usually just attach that to my hipbelt, which works well for me. Pic #5 on that site shows the attachment tab.

Mike In Socal
(rcmike) - MLife

Locale: California
Cotton Carrier System on 04/27/2012 14:38:33 MDT Print View

Check out the Cotton Carrier System for additional options for carrying your DSLR.

Cotton Carrier web site.

Here is a review on Digital Photography School
DPS Review


rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 04/27/2012 14:52:17 MDT Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 17:49:22 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Cotton Carrier System on 04/27/2012 14:52:33 MDT Print View

The Cotton Carrier system works VERY well. My husband has had one for nearly 2 years - it made a big difference in carrying/using his cameras while hiking.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: full size DSLR on trail on 04/27/2012 15:22:26 MDT Print View

That is a good photo of Rog's Tamrac case.

The original poster was using a Canon 5D, so this suggests that he may be a scenic panorama shooter. Therefore, he needs the ability to get the camera out for shooting within a minute or so. This Tamrac case photo would be usable for that quick. The only thing is that some of us are clumsy when we can't see our feet. Personally, I have tripped over things when the case is riding on my belly that way, but maybe it is only me.

I use a Canon 7D, which is about the same size, but with a longer lens for wildlife. Since wildlife is not patient, I need to be able to whip the thing out in just a few seconds. So, the case that I use is a LowePro case very similar to the Tamrac case, but longer. I carry it on a shoulder strap over one shoulder and my neck, so it rides over my right front pants pocket. That keeps it out of the way to see my feet, so that helps me. The top flap on LowePro is hinged the other way (so that it flops forward), and I bypass the zipper with a Velcro strap, which makes it quicker. Or, I can zip it up to maintain the All-Weather standard for stream crossings and such.

The problem with LowePro case is that it is heavy, and that hits the heart of anybody on BPL. Mine is effective (I've used it this way for years), but I really needed to cut the weight. Just within the last month or so, I have purchased another case by Kata, but I haven't done more than test it. The Kata case came with an excellent shoulder strap. Unfortunately, it was too heavy with metal fittings and such. I replaced it with a thinner strap that is still more than adequate, and I replaced the shoulder pad with something lighter. That saved me something like 9 or 10 ounces, which is a big deal.

The scenic shooter may keep the camera body mounted with a standard panorama lens, and those tend to be shorter. Since I shoot wildlife, the longer lens must be mounted 99% of the time. I can drop a short lens on for getting a wildflower, but then I immediately shift back to the wildlife lens.

So, a lot depends on what kind of a shooter you are and how much camera weight you plan on carrying. I need a case that is good enough that I can trip and fall flat on my face on the trail, and the camera is still protected. I've tested that.


Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Hip/waist bag/belt for me on 04/27/2012 15:55:19 MDT Print View

Not sure what to do with a beast like a 5D but I carry a Nikon D90 with 35mm prime attached in a small padded Kata #433 case hung from a seperate waist belt. This bag also holds spare batteries, filters, and IR remote. A small zoom is kept in a Lowepro lens case on the same belt. Each case has a custom rain cover.

I prefer this method since I can easily dump my pack trailside and still have all my camera kit with me when I want to make a quick peak scramble or just for security when taking a break.

I moved to this carry style after using the kit attached to my pack harness as the hassle of getting in/out of it all was just too much. And with the kit supported on my waist I don't feel the weight so much either. I can slide the cases around the belt too for more comfort and better balance depending on the terrain.

Edited by rmjapan on 04/27/2012 16:16:14 MDT.

steven franchuk
Re: Hip/waist bag/belt for me on 04/27/2012 21:01:43 MDT Print View

I have tried carrying my 5D in a case attached to my pack waist belt. I would not recommend it. It ended up dragging that side of the belt down. It wasn't much but it was noticeable distracting.

I have since adapted the case to attach to my shoulder straps like several other posts above. Works much better and it is balanced.

Rick Beaty
(reeock) - F

Locale: New England
flopping around on 04/28/2012 07:52:34 MDT Print View

do you find the camera flopping around much when attached to shoulder strap d-rings?

I tend not to need a longer lense.I

my top loader doesn't have a rain fly either. guess I should get a beer one

Yuri R
(Yazon) - F
Yea, DSLR=weight, but... on 05/01/2012 22:15:39 MDT Print View

I took a 5lb setup ( full frame body + 1 lens) and just placed in the main compartment of the bag wrapped in my fleece. It was a pain to get it out, so mostly asked my partner to get it out and hand it to me for the shot then put back, but at least i didn't carry any extra bags for it.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: full size DSLR on trail on 05/02/2012 21:15:47 MDT Print View

If we are talking on the trail. Clip camera on the 1/4 socket to either your shoulder strap or hip belt with neck loop, around your neck for super quick access. Yes, you will have to make the clip and modify your pack to keep camera from sliding down shoulder strap. For protection a very simple waterproofed silnylon bag with draw cord. Add silicon rubber to seams as generally sil nylon bags are NOT waterproof along the seems. Lens cleaner waist pocket. Spare battery etc zip lock bag top pocket or side pocket/mesh pocket.

You may have to do some crude sewing on the sil nylon bag to make it smaller to keep it from "blowing" around. Attach loop of its fabric or draw cord through the same 1/4 thread clip used on camera. You can use a standard webbing slider as is used on your pack shoulder straps already. To keep it in place a very lightweight nylon cord on a prussic is tied generally to the pack in whichever method you prefer and adjusted to your liking. This allows placement from near the top of your shoulder, annoying, in your face, to around your hip depending on what type of pack and pack modifications you do.

IF off trail, where I tend to spend a lot of my time, depending on how thick the brush, I may or may not have it clipped on my person. If its thick brush you are NOT taking pictures anyways. Don't kid yourself. Same thing for when its raining, drizzling, or snowing. Stores in top pocket. Side pocket sometimes in mesh inside ziplock inside waterproof bag.

I also generally only take one lens. If I had to take two. I would put the second inside bubble wrap inside a ziplock bag in side mesh pocket or top pocket. That is the lightest option. Can't beat bubble wrap. The small bubbles that is.

All said and done total "protection" is under 2oz's. Well under.

BUBBLE wrap is far superior to anything else you can carry for same weight. Gee I wonder why shippers use it... Just maybe they know something...???

Don't reinvent the wheel guys.

PS. I have taken 4x5 and 5x7 B*W film cameras into the mountains as well. I was a novice at the time and the pictures stank generally speaking, couple keepers, but it taught me many valuable lessons. A DSLR or 4/3's cameras are miniscule in comparison.

PPS. I carry my WATER on the opposite side as the camera to balance the load. OR when carrying a tripod.

Mikhail Kozhevnikov

Locale: Russia
backpack on 05/03/2012 03:30:16 MDT Print View

I've taken the 'special backpack' route and use f-stop backpack that accommodates special camera units (they call'em ICU) of different sizes to match your setup.

With photography being my primary goal on tracks I've come to this backpack from number of alternative solutions (from chest pouches that turned chest backpack sized anchors) to photo-only backpacks that would hold nothing else except for camera gear (most of what's on the market nowadays).
You can check this for some pics and comments (not my article, no).

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
naked on 05/03/2012 09:23:21 MDT Print View

I've done trips with my D90 and the 50 prime, and I just carry it open with my oem sling over my neck and one arm, under the backpack straps, and the camera on my chest. I can pick it up, take off the cap and get a shot in very little time and the camera is light on the chest. I carry a gallon ziplock to stash the rig in afterward or in the event of some "weather". The 35 prime is a better call, I think, btw.

Since the D90 is very power efficient, I can go for a full week with hundreds of frames on a freshly charged battery and so I only bring the one. I also bring a micro folding tripod for balancing on rocks or strapping to branches, the mini IR remote controller, lens pen and some lens-cleaning wet wipes.

I'd prefer a light, purpose-built, chest bag for the camera but my searches last year were fruitless for one I loved.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: naked on 05/03/2012 14:20:06 MDT Print View

I admit, I do this often, but my neck becomes very cramped from the weight. I find I simply carry the camera in my hand and switch hands when on trail. It also depends on how fast I am moving as well. If I am booking, trying to get somewhere, the camera is on top of my backpack or side mesh pocket and not on my chest strap or waist belt at all. It gets in the way and I sweat a lot. IF there is a great pic, its a great excuse to stop. Rarely are they decent pictures when on approach in a valley. Also I probably already have a 100 of such plantlife already. Now if its a plant in perfect light, STOP, dump der pack and click away.

Jacob D
(JacobD) - F

Locale: North Bay
Re: full size DSLR on trail on 05/12/2012 22:15:59 MDT Print View

Rick, did you come up with a plan yet?

I've carried my 5D a few times. My usual routine involved using a Black Rapid R-Strap, put on after my backpack. Depending on the pack I would use a small ball-bungee to secure the r-strap to my pack strap.

This was neither optimal or lightweight, but worked 'ok' and keeps the camera accessible (also eliminates dropping it). I would keep a second lens in the top of my pack, changing lenses was a PITA of course.

I think a chest pack is the better way to go, but alas I swore off hiking with my 5D for a lighter/compact camera. Life is good now :)

david delabaere

Locale: Northern VA
my experience on 05/22/2012 11:25:30 MDT Print View

For hiking and having easy and quick access in general I've found that
the cotton carrier is my best bet for the heavier gear, while the peak capture for lighter gear (smaller lens, no grip).

Now I'd like to find a way to lighten the cotton carrier.

Compared to having used (items that allow me to take pictures quickly without taking off my pack, and not hanging off my neck)
lowepro primus
lowepro toploader
lowepro slingshot
lowepro street and field gear ??
kata 3n1
spyder holster
optech dual harness (the most comfortable out of them all, but would need to attach camera so it wouldn't swing while moving).
black rapid straps (single and dual configurations).

for smaller lens, use or make hip pockets with waterproof bags and lined with bubblewrap for protection.
for camera storage, I use clothes and a drybag.

herrey john
(clifton) - F
SLR on 05/23/2012 03:53:24 MDT Print View

Well A full-frame digital SLR is a digital single-lens reaction camera (DSLR) fixed with an picture antenna that is the similar size as a 35 mm (36×24 mm) motion picture border.
Get more here

Edited by clifton on 05/26/2012 08:31:41 MDT.

Nick DeBarmore
(nicodebarmore) - F
crucial: camera strap + less gear on 05/29/2012 20:26:45 MDT Print View

My quick thoughts on full size DSLR in the field..

Your camera must be accessible or you will be less likely to take photos.
Tripod is essential for great landscapes.

Solution: BlackRapid camera sling strap
I wear the camera on this and actually put it on weaved through my pack straps. Fiddle with it and you'll figure it out. It places the camera down by your hip and you can rig it so that the weight of the camera is transferred to your pack straps instead of your neck.

I have a Gitzo carbon fiber travelers tripod that I can draw from the side of my pack without removing it.

graduated ND filters are handheld and kept in a velcro pocket on my zip off pants

Finally, a quality 24-70mm range lens will cover most situations. If you need to go wider, stitch it in post and if you need more focal length...well...I suppose you can crop. I generally only do telephoto landscape when I am with my vehicle.

You can read a BUNCH more about photography and backpacking at my website...


Nico DeBarmore Dot Com
Philmont Photos Dot Com

Edited by nicodebarmore on 05/29/2012 20:32:07 MDT.

Bill Heiser
(bheiser1) - F
The Capture Clip may be what you're looking for on 07/07/2012 22:37:17 MDT Print View

I used to carry my DSLR in a LowePro bag over my neck (or over my pack) and hanging on my chest. That wasn't optimal (to say the least). I've recently started using a Capture Clip by Peak Design. So far, so good ...

I'm using it with a lighter camera (Nikon D5100) but it may work for you with your full size DSLR.

For weather/dust protection I carry a neoprene case I can slip over the camera and still attach it to the clip.

Tracy Grounds
(tracygrounds) - F

Locale: Indiana, USA
DSLR on 07/08/2012 11:10:51 MDT Print View

Have you looked into some of the lightweight military gear with MOLLE attachments?

If you look at companies like Maxpedition, Condor Outdoors, or Voodoo tactical you can get a backpack that has MOLLE webbing, then get different pouches for the camera and lenses which can attach via this method. I prefer Maxpedition because you can get it in a variety of colors, there are items specific to photo, and the material is bulletproof.

Tracy Grounds

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: full size DSLR on trail on 07/08/2012 12:23:07 MDT Print View

I have used Lock and Lock food storage boxes for camera storage in my pack. I wouldn't want to guaranty one against full immersion with expensive gear, but I'm confident about rain and dust protection. They make long ones for pasta storage that you might be able to use for long lens storage. The small round ones definitely work for short lenses. They are the lightest option I have found for hard-sided waterproof containers.

For basic protection the Zing line of camera covers are light and protect against bumps. I have used a Zing cover on my camera along with a Lock and Lock box. Domke makes some simple padded wraps that will protect anything.

But the problem I have with hauling a DSLR is deciding whether to keep in im my pack, or out where I can rap off a shot without having to stop, unload, shoot and pack it up again. It is an easier decision on a day hike and good weather. There are lots of chest pack arrangements that use top-loader camera bags--- Lowepro makes a bunch. Some come with harnesses and most have D-rings that you can make quick connects to your backpack shoulder straps, which also takes the weight off your neck. Quick attach buckles can be snapped onto the slider webbing for a sternum strap, and then used with a side release buckle and snap hooks. The top loader bags can be used for storage in your pack or carried "up front" as conditions and your needs permit. Bouncing is proportional to the amount of hardware and connections you can tolerate.

OP/TECH USA makes this arrangment to go directly to the camera, but it could be adapted to a top loader bag with D-rings. It will bounce.
OP/TECH USA camera straps

Edited by dwambaugh on 07/08/2012 12:23:49 MDT.

Chris Alexander

Locale: USA
5D on the PCT on 09/14/2012 17:29:15 MDT Print View

I've been carrying a 5D with 24-105L lens my entire Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. Just 250 miles left to go. I'm using a Think Tank Holster 20 on my pack's hip belt. It's worked well, and provides good rain protection with the included rain cover.

I've been posting photos the whole way at, and you can also view photos of me wearing the Think Tank holster there.

Chris (Shutterbug)

Edited by alexandec on 09/14/2012 17:34:53 MDT.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
camera on the front? on 09/24/2012 19:41:04 MDT Print View

Others, too mention:

Edited by rambler on 09/24/2012 19:43:49 MDT.

Mike In Socal
(rcmike) - MLife

Locale: California
Cotton Carrier on 09/24/2012 20:10:39 MDT Print View

I just bought the Cotton Carrier Strapshot. I haven't tested it yet but it looks promising.