Make a Camera Harness

A camera harness is a valuable, easy, and inexpensive device you can make yourself for under $5.00.

069 camera harness - main photo

The finished camera harness snugly in place.


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When you're spending time in the great outdoors—hiking, backpacking, skiing, or what have you—it's often difficult to find a convenient way to carry along a 35mm camera. Well, I've solved that problem with a dandy harness that can be made, in about 30 minutes, for around $4.00 that is the equal of similar devices sold in camera stores for $14 or more!

Ready in a Second

As an outdoor writer and photographer, I take my camera almost everywhere I go, and I've found no better way to keep it secure and accessible than this handy, homemade harness. One day, for instance, when my husband and I were backpacking on the Continental Divide, a coyote suddenly appeared, moving at a comfortable lope, about 50 yards in front of us. At that pace, the animal disappeared among the trees in about 15 seconds, but—since my camera was waiting, practically under my nose—I was able to get a good photo of the beast.

The harness also comes in handy when I join a bunch of friends to go downhill skiing. With my equipment snugly secured and just a jacket zipped up over it, I can whip my handy 35mm out, take several shots, stick it back inside my coat, and be on my way. Furthermore, my camera stays warm, so there's no danger of battery failure. And now that I'm so quick on the draw, my friends' aversion to my picturetaking has substantially lessened because they no longer have to ward off frostbite while I fumble with my cumbersome gear.

Shop Around and Save

The materials you'll need can be found at several kinds of stores, so look for bargains. Shoe repair shops, for example, may have the least expensive price on elastic, but generally stock it only in black and brown. (If you want a white camera holder, you can simply buy your elastic in any store that sells sewing notions.)

My shopping list for the project looked like this:

(7')  2" nylon webbing  $2.22
(2)   2" snap buckles     .60
(2)   2" sliders          .30
(12") 3/4" elastic        .25
(4)   3/4" split rings    .60
      scrap material       00
Total                   $3.97

Try checking out a tent and awning or sailmaking establishment to find the lowest price on nylon webbing. Snaps and slides can be found in such places too, or in sporting goods shops that specialize in camping gear. Hardware outlets may also have them, and will certainly carry the needed split—or key—rings. (The split-ring assemblies go between the camera and the harness to prevent the snap buckles from scratching the camera's finish. If you now use a regular neck strap you may already have these sections, in which case you'll have saved a step.)

Put It All Together

To assemble a split-ring adapter, position two rings about 3 inches apart. Connect the pair with a strip of material (or sturdy seam-binding tape), overlapped for strength, and stitch a zig-zag pattern back and forth between the rings. Make two of these units and attach one to each side of your camera.

For step two, sear the ends of the webbing with a match or candle to melt the strands together and prevent any raveling. Next, thread a slider onto one end of the webbing and move it up about 8 inches, then slip on a snap buckle and thread the end—again—through the slider. Now, fold the end back (toward the snap buckle) about 2 to 3 inches and sew it to the webbing. You should wind up with a small loop around the middle bar of the slider. Then repeat the entire process for the other end.

The final step is to sew the elastic to the middle of the strap. Before you do so, however, wrap the expandable material around your smallest diameter lens. Stretch it enough to hold the lens tightly, and allow another 1 1/2" for overlapping. (It's best to make a "test run" with pins before you sew the circle closed.) Once you're satisfied with the positioning, attach the elastic loop to the webbing with two rows of stitching, about 1 1/2 inches apart, and your project is complete.

Wear It in Comfort

To don the harness, place the middle of the strap over your solar plexus, cross it in the back, bring one end over each shoulder, snap on your camera, and stick the lens through the elastic.

When you've tightened the carrier properly (it's best to have someone help you with the final fit), the camera will hug your body no matter how you move or bend, and its weight will be supported primarily by your shoulders and back, not by your neck. Also, since the lens will point downward, you'll be able to carry telephoto and zoom attachments comfortably. What's more, the harness is fully adjustable. It'll fit broad-shouldered men as well as petite women. You can even throw it in the washing machine. (If you'd like to use the same sort of device to hold binoculars, simply make two separate elastic loops, one for each lens.)

Since this camera-toter is less fatiguing to wear than is a single neck strap, you'll find that you carry your photography gear to more places, and—consequently—will be sure to take some fine photos that you'd have missed otherwise.