Camera Equipment in the Extreme

swbugas Member Posts: 46

Over the last three to four years, I've become 200% addicted to photography. It's the process, the result, really everything about it. Between rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, pack rafting and a lot of the spaces in between, I've carried my camera close to everywhere I've been. Somehow, though, I've neglected to improve my system of camera in bag or camera hanging on my shoulder strap. Both systems lead to pain or damage to me and my equipment.

With this in mind, my question is how do you carry your camera equipment? I haven't had the opportunity to try the HMG camera pod, but I'm incredibly interested. Do you have feedback on the camera pod, or any other creative solutions?

Don't get me wrong, I would let my camera gear drag me to the ground before I even think of leaving it at home, and there's a level of pride in suffering for the opportunity shoot. I definitely have an open mind to an improved system, though!

  • Picture to show where I'm absolutely happiest with my equipment... I'd love to see where you guys are happiest with your equipment too! Extra points for posting pictures with the HMG camera pod


  • mikesee
    mikesee Member Posts: 5

    I like the Pod on my chest when mountain biking or backpacking.

    I use the Pod inside of a lap bag (inside of a waterproof bag) when packrafting.

  • danofosho
    danofosho Member Posts: 7

    The best alternative to the Pod is probably the Peak Design camera clip. It's relatively cheap and extremely versatile but it's a tradeoff between quick access and protection from the elements.

    It is sold with a second set of screws for thicker strap locations so fitting onto a hyperlite bag's padded shoulder strap is no problem (see my left strap in the attached photo).

  • swbugas
    swbugas Member Posts: 46

    @danofosho that's actually exactly what I use now! I love it 90% of the time, but even with a smaller lens, I find an imbalance, and some shoulder pain, after a full day climbing. I've used my capture clip for a 15 hour climb, and was wrecked with shoulder discomfort by the end haha. I don't know if there's really a perfect solution...

  • nirwin
    nirwin Member Posts: 22

    I used to use the Peak Design should strap mount, but it really did imbalance the weigh on my shoulders. Had to get rid of it. That's why I always now use a chest bag for my camera. Balances the load, easy access, and can put the camera away easily in adverse conditions. The only down side being is that depending on the camera pouch (I have 3 now), the pouch can block the sight of your feet which can be annoying if in tricky uneven terrain.

  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 100

    Excellent question. I am also looking forward to getting a Hyperlite camera pod and putting it to the test. One of my big hesitations was that I thought I had read that it wouldn't fit a full size DSLR and pro lens, but I think I was wrong about that. What I have tried:

    The Peak Design camera clip works well if your camera isn't too heavy. If I bring my Sony RX100, it's pretty perfect. I mostly do desert things, so I seldom have to worry about water/rain. It leave the camera very accessible, which is great for shooting, but sometimes an issue if I'm scrambling, or put my pack down, and the camera can get scratched/bumped/etc. I have been able to use the regular screws (not long screws) to affix it to my shoulder straps.

    One option that I feel like is very underrated is the Cotton Carrier (pictured below). Plusses and minuses are:

    + Even distribution on both shoulders. Sturdy, camera isn't going anywhere you don't want it to. Easy of access.

    - Might not be able to see feet. Heavy (about 1lb).

    Neutral: Can be hot (could be good or bad depending on your location / weather.

  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 100

    Alright, I'm coming back after having used the camera pod on a number of adventures. It's not perfect, but it's very good. Here's my rundown.

    My two biggest complaints:

    • I'm using the size large pod with a full frame DSLR - Nikon D780 and various lenses. The camera will fit in the pod, but it's *very* tight. I can keep a tripod plate on the bottom, but not an L plate and hand strap. I really wish it were about 10-20% bigger in order to better accommodate a larger camera.
    • Attaching it and removing it from my backpack straps is kind of annoying. It's like needing to use your key to lock and unlock your car doors. Is it the end of the world? No. But it feels as if there should be a better option, like keyless entry. I don't have a perfect suggestion for what that solution should be, but I think this final 20% of fine tuning would make a huge difference.
    • One additional small negative: I haven't found the ideal combination of camera pod plus phone pocket. I found myself reaching for my phone on my shoulder strap multiple times on my last backpacking trip. Not a big deal, but worth mentioning.

    I think the main other competitor to the pod is the Peak Design clip, and here are my comparisons:

    • HMG pod is 1oz heavier - 3.6 vs 2.6 on my scale. Negligible in my book.
    • HMG pod does a significantly better job of protecting the camera, this is one of my biggest arguments in favor of the HMG pod over the PD clip. I can take the pod off my backpack straps, stick it in my pack, or put it down, and I know it will not get scratched, dusty, etc.
    • Another big factor in favor of the HMG pod is that it attaches to both shoulder straps. I know I complained about the dismount above, but while carrying, this is a huge benefit when your camera is heavier. If I'm using a smaller point-and-shoot like a Sony RX-100, the PD clip wins out over the HMG pod, but I imagine a HMG Versa (or vice-versa!) might be even better.
    • HMG pod is more expensive, but if you're carrying a pricey camera, I think the protection against both weather and impact is worth it.

    The other competitor that I know is not as popular is the Cotton Carrier:

    • The biggest advantage of the CC vest is that I don't need to remove the camera/vest before taking off my pack.
    • CC wins out in terms of ease of access of camera, but only by a slight edge
    • Cotton Carrier is going to be warmer - for better or worse.
    • Putting the weight on both shoulders - dead even.
    • HMG pod is definitely more protective. Both against weather and impact.
    • HMG is much lighter - CC vest is 19oz
    • Overall, the HMG pod wins out in my book.

  • TenDigitGrid
    TenDigitGrid Member, Moderator Posts: 82

    Awesome stuff, agree with all comments. I tend to use my peak design clip on trail then use hmg pod for weather protection and around camp at night. I bring both.

  • swbugas
    swbugas Member Posts: 46

    Awesome! Thanks for the feedback. I'm already decided here...I'll be getting the pod to give it a go. The PD clip is great, but I ding the heck out of my camera while on more serious climbs... Thanks again!

  • operationadventure

    @swbugas i know I’m a little late to the party, but I figured I’d throw my two cents out also. The Camera Pod is king for backpacking imo. My only complaint is that when you get into steeper more laborious terrain (class 2-4) the pod bangs against your chest and it gets annoying. It definitely spreads the load on the shoulders much better than the PD camera clip and the accessibility is virtually the same.

    For technical climbing with a harness I’ve started using the Matador camera base layer. It allows you to wear the camera strap while the camera is in the bag and it has a carabiner on the bag that you can clip to your harness while climbing. If you wear the strap loose the weight of the camera stays on the harness while climbing and when you stop for a picture the camera strap never comes off your neck. I love the redundancy of this system. The only downside is the padding is a little soft, but overall it’s the best climbing set up I’ve found. It also acts as a dry bag if the weather turns bad.

  • ARobs
    ARobs Member Posts: 3

    Is anyone else having issues with their pod drawing their shoulder straps too close together? Attaching the pod in what seems to be the most popular and proper way draws my straps too close together and puts a lot of pressure on my collarbone near my neck. Looking in the mirror, I also notice that it is also pulling the outboard edges of the shoulder straps off of my chest. I would really appreciate any advice regarding this or alternative ways you have found to connect the pod. When I use a bigger strap and connect it looser, it bounces quite a bit, especially when hiking uphill.

  • bugglife
    bugglife Member Posts: 100

    Some more updates to my camera pod review from 11/16 above.

    • I mentioned that I couldn't find the ideal combination of phone case and camera pod, so I frankensteined an old case that had broken (user error), removing the plastic clips, and adding S clips on short tethers so it can attach to the camera pod. Above are photos of it rigged in a few different orientations and I will report back once I've put it to more use.
    • I also mentioned that attaching and removing it from my pack straps was annoying. I feel foolish that it took me multiple trips to figure it out, but it's MUCH easier to do if you take your camera out of the pod BEFORE trying to connect or separate.

    @ARobs - I haven't experienced what you're talking about, but I'm pretty narrow, and could easily imagine it happening to wider or more barrel-chested individuals. A few thoughts:

    • In addition to adding the tether to widen the top attachment points, you could also add one through the bottom loops and connect that to your pack straps as well, which may help with the bounce.
    • If you switch the orientation so the zipper is facing towards you and the lid opens away from you, you can attach one top loop and one bottom loop to your left shoulder strap, and wear it under your arm. This has the disadvantage of all of the weight being on one side, but the combined plusses of a better view of your feet AND ergonomic camera removal with your right hand that might be easier on your wrists.
    • A combination of one regular clip on your left shoulder strap, along with an extension to your right shoulder strap might allow for easy camera removal and a bit more chest room, without adding so much bounce.

    Just a few ideas. I hope one of them is helpful!