Managing a large camera on a hike can be a pain. Big SLR cameras with long lenses are such a hassle that I often opt to leave them behind when heading outdoors. The KEYHOLE Hands-Free Camera Harness, a $30 item made by Backcountry Solutions (backcountrysolutions.com), offers a remedy. The system creates a simple attachment point that allows a hiker to prop a camera facing down on his chest.
The product, made for hiking, snowshoeing, and careful biking, includes a nylon webbing harness and a "keyhole" plate. To set it up, weave the harness's plastic buckles into your backpack shoulder straps, then screw the small included knob into your camera’s tripod mount. That knob fits into a slot on the harness plate, which leaves your SLR hanging free and pointing down.
In my test, a camera sat securely on my chest, ready for quick use on a hike. When the moment struck, my camera was easily removed and righted to eye level for shot taking.
As opposed to slinging a camera strap over my shoulder--as I usually do--the KEYHOLE product made my camera more manageable. Clipping the harness to your backpack straps is a small hassle, but once in place, the setup is solid.
A bonus: Because it's connected to your backpack, the KEYHOLE can take some camera weight off your neck and distribute it to your shoulders.
The one issue I had was with a bigger lens. When mounted on the harness, the large lens made my camera swing sideways so that the lens would not point straight down. The solution was in shortening the camera neck strap, which stays in place as you hike, to keep the camera body from rotating.
Backcountry Solutions touts accessibility, camera protection, comfort, and simplicity with its KEYHOLE design. For hikers facing the common what-to-do-with-my-camera problem, the company's low-cost product is worth looking into.
--Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.