I recently had the opportunity to attend a relatively local birding expo. Of course, while I was there I had the opportunity to try out a variety of different binoculars and spotting scopes. It was your typical “field day” for an optics nut. In addition to all of the wonderful optics there were a variety of other products and services available there for birding enthusiasts… everything from bird feeders to baked waxworms, paintings, periodicals, etc… One product that caught my eye and which I eventually ended up purchasing was a new binocular harness.
I am sure many of you utilize one brand of binocular harness or another. I have used several over the years from a variety of different optics companies. They are all pretty much the same in the sense that we are talking about two elastic straps with a small, leather connecting piece in the back. The binoculars are typically held to the elastic straps via two small hooks and the usual zip-tie/metal o-ring. These harnesses do a wonderful job of distributing the weight of the binocular more evenly over your entire back and shoulders instead of just around your neck. For those of us that tend to use heavier, full-sized or over-sized binoculars this can be somewhat of a godsend. Even those individuals who typically use mid-sized models the bino-harness can be extremely beneficial.
So then you may be asking why I decided to pick up another one since I already have several at my disposal. Well, the typical harness isn’t without its drawbacks. Simple things like having the harness constrict your jacket or shirt or having too much tension on the straps when you try to pull the binoculars up to your eyes are two common complaints that I have heard and experienced myself.
The harness that I picked up at the show is one manufactured by S4 gear and is called the “Lockdown”.
It is a bit different from the typical binocular harness that many of us have used previously. If you take a look at the pic/link that I provided you can see that it has some obvious advantages. For one the straps are moderately padded and run down the middle of your back instead of in a “criss-cross” pattern. I found this greatly cuts down on the level of constriction and thus improves your comfort level while wearing it. Second, though you have to put your head through the upper section just like a conventional harness, it does have two, quick “disconnect” buckles on each side so it doesn’t get twisted and is easier to take on and off.
The second improvement is in the method that the binocular is attached to the harness itself. There are two “free floating”-bungee straps that feed out from the section around your neck. The advantage to these is that you don’t have tension on the entire harness every time you go to grab the binocular to take a look at an object. The binocular is still attached to the harness though so if you have to let the binoculars go for a second they are securely attached to it.
Lastly, as you can tell from the picture, when the binoculars are not in use they can be placed securely in a small, padded and protected central section. The upper half cover is relatively stiff so they are protected almost as well as if you had the binocular still within its case. Plus the upper flap serves as an eyepiece cover in case you decide to “dine” while you are still wearing the harness and binocular. This is something I have found particularly useful considering how often I carry a snack with me when I spend an extended period of time out in the woods or field. The binoculars’ objective lenses are also protected with the bottom flap which secures via another small, elastic cord to the upper flap.
In regular use I have found the harness to be exceptionally comfortable and easy to use. I have not found any major drawbacks and several benefits over the conventional harness design. For the $35 they are selling for I definitely think it is a worthwhile investment for those of us that spend a great deal of time with our eyes behind a pair of binoculars.
One key note, make sure you know the length of your binocular. The Lockdown comes in two sizes. One for larger binoculars (6-7.5 inches in length) and one for smaller models (4.5-6 inches in length).