Following my search for a camera bag to carry my SLR on fellwalks, I recently tried my system on a trip to the Lakes and I’m delighted to conclude that it was a qualified success. More after the link…
On 26 June I went for a walk in the Lake District and this was an ideal chance to test my system. A lot of the walk was in the low cloud, so I also had to use the case’s rain cover throughout most of the walk. As a reminder, this was the first time I’d tried it on a hill walk, having previously only used it on family outings. The walk had plenty of ascent, descent and rough ground to highlight any deficiencies and give it a thorough workout.
As we walked, I was able to unzip the top of the pouch and slip my camera out easily, which meant it was on hand to take shots whenever I wanted without holding up the rest of the group, a fundamental requirement. The design of the rain cover on the Lowepro Toploader I was using was a little fiddly; the upper hanging loops are designed to pass through a hole in the rain cover so that more of the bag is protected, so I needed to un-clip one side every time I wanted to access my camera. This was a minor inconvenience, though, because I could still do this on the move.
The shortened clips that I developed (see the end of the previous post) were spot-on. They held the bag at the right height and didn’t swing sideways or twist as I was walking which I’m sure a longer fabric strap would have done.
One aspect I hadn’t really thought about before was whether my feet would be visible past the pouch on my chest so I could see where I was putting them. Luckily it didn’t get in the way. I was far more likely to stumble because I was trying to map-read at the same time!
I had some concerns in Part 2 about the rucksack straps digging into my shoulders. In practice, this didn’t happen and I suspect that the additional weight in my sack acted as a better counter-balance than in my initial test.
So what’s the qualification I alluded to? The only major drawback I found was that the case does swing forward away from my chest on ascents. As I leant into the slope, I found myself steadying the case to prevent it banging back on my chest. There are ways I could prevent this. For example, the Toploader case has clip points at the bottom of the case, so I could add some clipping points on my rucksack waist belt, but I think that would be too much of a pain to remove when I want to take my pack off. For the moment, I’m going to keep it as it is.
There are refinements I want to look into. For example, I might like to carry my 70-200mm lens with this system in addition to my 24-105mm. I can strap a lens case to the side of the Toploader case but I would want to make sure that (a) this wouldn’t unbalance it and (b) the combination wouldn’t be too heavy. This would also prevent me using the rain cover, so I’m not convinced this will be ideal unless I could be sure of dry weather. And can you ever really be sure of dry weather in the UK hills? 😉
The bottom line here is that I’ve found something that I’m happy to use for walking. Without having tried it, Matthew Boyle’s “Lamont System” looks like it may still be a better solution as long as the pack size is small enough, but I’m going to stick with what I’ve got for now. At least it means I can take pictures from my walks without holding everyone up or feeling that I’m compromising by using my compact camera.