Testing out a new chest rig…

A couple weeks ago I went on a short hike in the Superstitions with my camera gear.  For the first time in a long time, I carried my ridiculously heavy tripod out into the field.  Carrying the D300 along with a couple of lenses AND the tripod adds a lot of weight to the pack and can make it awkward to carry.  I also hate carrying the camera in the backpack just because of access issues.  This normally results in me carrying the camera through the entire hike.  I like to have my hands free when hiking, it’s part of the reason I can’t seem to make myself use trekking poles.  So, last week I decided to fix this situation and try some ideas I had.

A quick stop at the REI got me what I needed (some of the stuff I already had) and I was set up to test a new camera rig.

testing the new chest rig


I picked up a LowePro Top Loading Camera Case from REI.  I had to find something that would have quick access D-rings at the top corners of the case or it wouldn’t work (I also made sure the case had a rain cover).  I then added a couple of ultra-light carabiners to my GeigerRig RIG1600 at the shoulder straps.  Then, to connect the camera case to the carabiners I used lighweight S-biners.  These gave me a little wiggle room with the location of the case and set the top-load flap at a good height for access.  The S-biners come in a large variety of sizes so you can customize the hang of the chest rig to fit your sizing.

This setup worked great all weekend.  The only problem I had with it is the incessant chirping of the metal on metal as I hiked.  But that was easily resolved with a little duct-tape where the two biners rub together.  After that, it was perfect.  I found the LowePro case on sale and I already had the biners so the whole rig only cost me about $20 to set up.  You can buy camera chest rigs from manufacturers but most run $80 and up.

This worked great for me, fit my camera well, allowed me a hands-free hike with quick access to my camera on the trail.  It is also really fast and easy to take on and off when you need to remove the pack.  Now I just need to figure out an easier way to strap my tripod for quicker access.  The only problem I ran in to with this was not being able to see my feet on technical terrain.  That is easily resolved by merely unclipping one side of the camera case.

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Dave Creech is a successful business owner and entrepreneur based in Phoenix, Arizona. He shares his personal story and lifelong passion for travel and rugged outdoor adventure through his blog at WildernessDave.com. David’s focus has been on trip stories, gear reviews, Wilderness Medicine and a series of articles aimed at introducing Yoga to hikers and backpackers as a path to staying fit, healthy and injury free.



  1. Ooooh, I’ve been wanting to do something similar. Super cool!

    • Beth,

      Me too! I don’t know why it took so long to get here. I had tried a couple of other half-assed solutions that sucked, but they led to this. I just didn’t like some of the other strap clips coming out…I don’t like my heavy DSLR hanging off of one side and exposed to the elements. I’d rather have it in a case that rests balanced with the overall load. This worked beautifully!

  2. Great idea!

  3. Dave, I like the idea. Perhaps swap the carabiners out for some paracord braided up to attach the case to your s-biners. Would probably give you a little weight savings, still could be quick to attach/detach, give some extra cordage if needed, and also get rid of your clinky noise without having to ductape your carabiners. A good diy set up for sure!

    • Chris,

      I had thought about that but I’m still no good with parachord projects. Besides, these binders weight next to nothing. The weight savings would be imperceptible. It could be a good project though.

  4. I’ve been using a large Tenba pack that has worked very well for day trips. Did a few modifications for more options on tripod hauling that worked well but still, all that gear is heavy. Even when I try to pare it down to the body, tripod, and one lens, by the time you add it water, food, and 1st aid… sheesh! I like your mods though. Gives me more ideas to noodle on.

    • No two ways about it, Val. Carrying a DSLR and gear to use it us a hell of a load to carry. It’s just a matter of finding and easy, comfortable, balanced way to carry that allows easy access in the field.

  5. That’s an awful lot of gear just to carry your, umm.. gear! Carrying a DSLR and lenses is tricky, no two ways about it. I love the Capture camera mount system that clips right onto my backpack’s shoulder strap. It has quick release and can carry even a full-size DSLR even though I prefer a fourth-thirds GF2 for weight. Definitely worth checking out if you can pick just one lens and go with that, or live with having the other lenses in your main pack. If you want to be hands on with all your camera gear at any time then it’s much harder. What about a Ribz front pack? Enjoyed the write up, loved the biners and duct tape!

    • Brian,

      I have looked at the Capture mount system (saw your review) but the two problems I have with it is that a) it sets all the weight to one side and I don’t like that, and b) the camera is exposed (to bushes, trees, cacti, rain, etc.) I needed something more protective of my gear. And though I do like to trim weight where I can, I don’t worry too much about it day hiking. Besides, I’m still carrying a 5lb tripod…the added weight for the chest rig is only 8oz.

      I have thought about converting a RIBZ front pack into a camera carry. For a while I thought that might be my answer. If they want to send me one I’d be happy to explore that as an option. I would still need to add padding to the interior for the camera.

  6. ITW makes some non-metal carabiners that I like. I have a couple of their Grimloc locking d-rings. I like the quick release, and that they attach to webbing, and that they don’t set off metal detectors when I fly.


    • Rich,

      Those would be good options too. I might have gone with the plastic carabiners if I didn’t already have UL biners here.

      • I went with the plastic ones because I wanted one to easily attach to the straps. I was also going to uses it to modify our stroller to prevent the straps that held in the car seat from falling on the ground when they were unhooked. Instead the kid grew out of the car seat and it became moot.

  7. sasidhar says:

    Amazing setup. I use kata 215 lighttri it has belt straps to go around torso.

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