We’ve all been there before. You’re doing a lot of walking or hiking and your camera is annoyingly swinging by your neck. Your neck is agitated and sweaty so you remove your camera from your neck and decide to hold it. But now you have a death grip on the camera because there is no lifeline if it escapes your hand. So once your hand gets tired, you put it back on your neck. Then we start from the top again, rinse and repeat!
I’ve spent a long time trying to find a comfortable neck strap for my DSLR. The straps that come with new cameras are decent in quality, but severely lacking in comfort. My standard Canon strap felt a bit rough around the edges and it dug into my neck with a heavy lens. I’ve tried fabric and foam straps, and those resulted in a sweaty neck, and eventually, a sweaty strap. The camera swinging from your neck doesn’t go away with different neck strap materials. All of these issues are true for walking around, but they are amplified much further with hiking and backpacking.
(If you’re a backpacker, check out our article on The Essential Backpacking Photography Accessories.)
HIKING WITH A NECK STRAP
When you’re out in the wilderness, a neck strapped camera is one of the most annoying experiences. Walking uphill or downhill on rocky and uneven terrain, your camera swings in almost every direction your strap allows it to. This is a big risk to your camera if you are doing any close proximity hiking near boulders or trees. Your camera can easily swing into something that can cause damage to your camera. I’ve also become frustrated with my camera bumping into my own ribs while I hike. When hiking, you already have backpack which robs your back and shoulders of any ventilation. Adding a wide DSLR neck strap is the last thing that hikers and backpackers want.
With the inherent issues of a neck strap, it’s clear that the solution to this issue does not involve a neck strap at all. We’ve become so accustomed to neck straps being the standard that we aren’t quick to seek other methods. You are supplied one when you get your new camera and it’s a simple solution that doesn’t require the camera to live in your hand. This is certainly not the best solution for camera carrying, especially for those on the move.
I will say, for short walks with a camera, a neck strap is probably the simplest solution. That is, if you don’t want to carry your camera the entire time in your hand.
What about across body slings, holsters, and harnesses?
Body slings are basically long neck straps. Instead of making your neck sore, they will make one shoulder sore at a time. This is great for more casual shooting, but have the same issues of swinging and fatiguing when hiking. Anyone who recommends a body sling for hiking, has not experienced a long hike with one. A body sling is arguably much worse for hiking, as you limit mobility if you need to use a backpack on top of the camera strap. Backpackers especially, stay away from shoulder slings! These are certainly not the best solution here.
The BlackRapid Backpack Camera Sling is a bit different, as it connects to your backpack. This takes the load off a single shoulder, but doesn’t really solve the swinging issue when not hand held. Still not the most elegant solution. We can do better!
Camera holsters and harnesses that don’t rest on your neck or a single shoulder are much more ergonomic. But these are typically very bulky. The last thing I want to deal with during a sweaty hike is a bulky harness attached to me. Remember that all these types of fabric straps will likely be soaked with sweat. Hiking and backpacking require something better! You and your camera deserve better.
THEN CAME THE CAPTURE CLIP
The Capture Clip by Peak Design quickly became one of my favorite camera accessories of all time since my purchase in 2017. I am using the aluminum v2 CapturePRO Clip design, and with over three years of heavy use, it still functions perfectly. I’ve taken this on pretty much every backpacking and camping trip in the last three years and its traveled great distances on my backpacks. If you have not heard of the Capture Clip yet let’s go over how it works and talk about why you may never use a neck strap again.
HOW IT WORKS
The Capture Clip is a quick release system that is designed to be mounted on a strap. The strap commonly being a backpack strap, waist belt, or any other strap that you have easy access to when on the go.
First, the Capture Clip is attached onto a strap, in my case a backpack strap. The new v3 Capture Clip clamps on straps up to 2.5 inches in width. I personally like the width of my older v2 design that allows straps up to 3” wide, as this helps with my wide backpacking backpack straps. There are two bolts on either side of the Capture Clip that sandwich your backpack strap between the two clip plates. The clamping screws are then snug down fairly right. Attach The Peak Design quick release plate is attached to your camera’s tripod mounting hold, and the install is done! When you slide your camera into the Capture Clip it latches in place, and is not removable unless you press down on the quick release button. Now your camera can quickly mount and be removed from your backpack strap.
This essentially mounts our camera the same way our backpacks and belts mount. They move with us and are not free to swing around wherever they please as with a neck strap. This also shifts the weight of the camera onto our shoulders with a backpack mount or onto our hips with the belt mount. The weight distributes over a larger area than just our neck, so you don’t feel the weight of your camera as much. Our neck no longer the sole bearer of our cameras weight.
Though this Capture Clip solves almost every problem on our list, there is still one problem that we need to solve. I feel somewhat naked when I’m out in the mountains and I remove my strapless camera from the Capture Clip with no lifeline at all. This takes us back to the death grip issue. A lifeline is needed in case the camera were to be in a precarious position or slip from your hands. I can’t stand even the thought of taking images with my camera over a steep ledge with no strap at all. And I don’t want to be limited in the photos I can take. I like to take these precautions that otherwise could mean damage or loss of my prized camera gear.
Thus, the last addition to the ideal hiking and backpacking carrying system is a lightweight hand strap, such as this. Instead of keeping the neck strap on which is very bulky in comparison and not useful with a Capture Clip, a hand strap provides a simple and lightweight solution. Every time I remove my camera from the Capture Clip, I always put my hand through the hand strap first. Now if the camera were to somehow slip from my hand, it will still be tethered to me with the hand strap. Peak Design also offers a wrist strap here.
HAND STRAP BONUS
Peak Design has been offering quick release solutions that don’t stop with the Capture Clip. There is also a quick release solution for hand straps available! The Peak Design Anchor Links have been a very convenient addition to my camera setup. You can use any hand strap you want. Simply attach the plastic female anchor link to your strap. Then add the link to your camera strap mount and you have a simple, functional quick release strap. These are available on Amazon, and they come with all peak design straps, including neck straps.
I love the Anchor Links so much, I made a dedicated review of them!
I use this quick release whenever my camera is on a tripod and my hand strap is waving around in the wind causing camera shake. If you are not convinced that you will never use a neck strap again, the quick links can be used for a neck strap as well. You will be able to switch from your neck strap to your hand strap quickly, and ready to use the Capture Clip in a few seconds.
WHAT DID WE SOLVE
Now, let’s list out the problems that we solved with our new carrying system. This consists of the Capture Clip, a simple hand strap, and some anchor links.
- Neck aches, neck sweat, and neck agitation are all removed from the equation with a Capture Clip. Your neck can experience freedom! When hiking and backpacking, you are already aching and sweating everywhere. We really don’t need to add more to that.
- Goodbye to camera neck swing. Not only does neck swing result in the aches mentioned above, but it can also swing into yourself and other objects in the wilderness. This can result in damage to your gear, and be very uncomfortable for you. Now our cameras will move with us.
- We removed the bulk of having a long neck strap around the camera. Now our camera only has a quick release plate and a simple hand strap.
- Neck straps would limit us in camera placement due to the strap length if you wanted the security of the strap on your neck. With a hand strap, we can keep our camera lifeline attached and your camera can go anywhere your hand goes.
- No need to death grip the camera when taking a break from the sweaty neck strap. Our camera can still be tethered to us with the hand strap.
- We can easily switch between a hand strap, neck strap, and no strap with the Peak Design anchor links.
The absolute star of the show here is the Capture Clip. This is the smallest product that offers massive convenience for anyone with a backpack or belt. Peak Design has went further to add convenience with the Anchor Links. They have created an invaluable platform of convenience products at this point. Any photography product that helps solve real problems and make photography more enjoyable have 100% of my support. The more comfort and convenience we have with our gear, the more likely we are to get out there and keep shooting.
I hope this article helped all my fellow hikers and backpackers that are looking for the best camera carrying system. This applies to anyone looking for a more convenient way to take photos on the move. Happy shooting!