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Monday, October 30, 2017

Hands-On with Backcountry Solutions Keyhole Harness

A hands-free carrying solution for the photographer on the go

Want to carry your camera (or binoculars) on your next hiking or biking adventure but worrying about camera swing and need your hands for bike handles or trekking poles? The Keyhole Harness is a hands-free carry system consisting of a harness, a plate that can attach to the harness or something else, and knob to screw into the camera's tripod mount. It can be used alone with the complete harness system or the "keyhole" plate and it's attaching straps can detached from the harness and use on your own backpack (if it has the one-inch straps running down the shoulder straps). A full product description and images can be found at

A need for this type of carrying system was born from a recent adventure in Wales involving backpacks and bicycles, and trying to carry a camera at the ready for use while using these other two items (see here and here).

For this review, the set up was used in several different ways. For the first trial, it was used as the harness with a full frame body and no battery grip attached. After a couple false starts and frustrating moments getting everything adjusted comfortably, a decent fit was found and I was able to walk, hold the dog's leash, and shoot one handed when I desired. With this product, it is important to take the time to get a proper fit adjustment on the harness and it will greatly increase the comfort while wearing with the weight of a camera (or binoculars) attached. Ideally, get another person to help you. 

The harness does come equipped with adjustable straps on the shoulders that can be attached to the camera (or binoculars) in lieu of a strap. I prefer to use my own camera straps so i can easily remove the camera, hand it off to someone else, swap out with a differerent one (or because I'm simply too lazy to remove camera straps and reattach them later). Using my own strap and the full harness, with the strap work cross body, it was found that having the camera not hanging, the strap would easily slip off my shoulder. Enter the attachments on the harness shoulder. Just attaching one clip to the side of the camera strap that was on the shoulder, the slippage problem was eliminated. And there was plenty of play to allow for the camera to move easily from plate to use. 

The second outing, the harness was used with the same full frame camera but with a battery grip. The extra weight on the camera body caused the plate to sag such that the hood of the lens would hit my leg while walking, causing, on occasion the camera to unhook itself from the plate. Since the camera's strap was kept on the camera, and worn cross body, some of this was remedied by adjusting the strap to pull the camera at an angle so the lens did not hang straight down but rather sat at an angle. A taller person would probably not have this problem to begin with. 

The third use was utilizing just the plate and straps attached to the plate. While not a use of this product that is described in its literature, it was attempted as an additional use to increase the versatility of the product. The plate and straps were removed from the harness and attached to the vertical straps of a photography utility belt when using multiple cameras. 

The plate straps attached easily to the belt and was effective in transferring the weight of the camera from the shoulders to the hips and keeping one camera out of the way of the other two. Since the plate straps have their own buckles it was simple to get the belt on and off with this attached. It was a very simple process to shift the camera to a desired location on the hips my simply adjusting the plate's straps, relocating the attachment point to different vertical webs (on the belt), or simply shifting the belt. Additionally, with the plate's straps having their own buckles, the belt was an easy-on, easy-off solution. 

The final trial was the full harness system on a bicycle. This by far was the smoothest use of this product. The contraption was still rather bouncy, so I cinched the camera's strap more tightly and secured it using the built on attachment on the harness. This eliminated the tendency of the camera to bounce and minimize the risk of it bouncing out of the keyhole bracket. 

Everything work exactly as it should. The only issue was the tendency for the end of the lens to bounce slightly on the bicycle seat while riding up hills. This is quite probably more of a problem of physical size of the user rather than the product itself. Leaning forward decreases the distance between torso and bike saddle, which isn't already large on a smaller person. Again, a taller person would have a lot more room to work with.

One problem that manifested was that of the knob in the tripod mount to loosening and falling off. It only actually fell off one time and after backtracking a half mile of beach, I was diligent in checking it regularly.
This is a problem that has occurred in other products that use the tripod mount as a method of attachment as well. Another company corrected this with the addition of a small rubber gasket between the attachment surface and the camera to increase the tension on tightening. The knob on the Keyhole Harness would benefit from such an addition. 

Aside from that fixable issue, this is a great product that works well for the photographer on the move, whether hiking with a dog or trekking poles or bicycling. There is a large degree of versitility built in to the componants of this harness system that can be used in many different ways. The Keyhole Harness will keep your camera from swinging around, bashing into rocks or other items, bouncing off bicycle parts, yet at the ready to shoot quickly and reattach quickly to continue moving. 

The Keyhole Harness is available from the website link above and from other retail sites. The product sample used for this review was generously provided by Backcountry Solutions.

About Backcountry Solutions:
"All of our products are made in the U.S.A., more specifically in Colorado. We manufacture our products in the Rocky Mountain foothills and then we bring them home to our little town of Tabernash where everything is inspected and packaged. In Tabernash, at an elevation of 8500', we have plenty of opportunities to test our gear, whether to photograph 13000' snow capped mountains or to use the binoculars to get a better view of a baby moose feeding on the nearby willows. Where ever you are, or are going, we hope our products will make your journey more enjoyable and hassle-free. "

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