Taking your Camera on Trail with Ease

We all know that most smartphones these days take some pretty darn good photos, but if you’re really wanting to step up your game, then carry a mirrorless or a DSLR with you while you’re on the trail.

Being an ultralight backpacker is no easy task. We all know this. It takes a special person to troll social media to see what everyone else is using, be accepted into those groups that define in their pinned posts that your base weight must be less than your first-born child, and to go to Bed Bath and Beyond to make a purchase of your digital food scale praying that the people in line behind you aren’t mumbling under their breath to their spouse, “I bet that they’re gonna use that for drugs.” Do I pack light? You damn right I do and I’m not going to allow a few ounces to deter me from completing some of the most beautiful trails in the world. As I mentioned, being a UL backpacker is tough, but even tougher if your passion is to capture some of the trail’s most beautiful landscapes and your trek’s highlights with something other than your smartphone.

To my knowledge, they haven’t created any UL camera hardware, so until then, I’m just going to have to suck it up and go with it. Like many photographers, I have fumbled with my camera one too many times on the trail and missed great opportunities to take some amazing shots while I’m out. I’ve tried everything from slings to pouches to harnesses that “secure” my camera but look like a soldier’s plate carrier. I believe that I have finally found the answer to my problems with a couple products from Peak Design. I recently trekked the “Bottom Up” route of Zion National Park’s “The Subway” to test out the Capture PRO and The Clutch to see if these two products are worthy of taking a DSLR on the dirt for either dayhiking or on a thru-hike. If you’re familiar with this route, then you know that there is a very steep descent down to North Creek, plenty of ginormous boulders to scramble up and around, more than enough slick rock to potentially cause some serious damage, and plenty of water to negotiate. I can’t think of a better proving ground to test some camera equipment than somewhere that where one wrong step could mean the death of your most expensive piece of gear in your pack.

Confidence Matters

The Capture PRO is a metal (3.88 ounces) clip that attaches to either shoulder strap of your pack by way of two screws. This clip acts as the resting place of your camera while not in use via the mounting plate (1.06 ounces) that attaches to the bottom of your camera. Upon first impression, I was a little reluctant about this knowing that if this thing decides to pop off or come loose, then that would be the end of my day of taking photographs and this review would have an entirely different spin to it.

Okay, so we’re up to less than five ounces of gear that claims will keep my camera secure while attached to my pack. Although I was initially skeptical, this claim holds true. As hikers, we know that there is sometimes no slowing down when it comes to descending steep terrain; especially when there are no trekking poles involved. All you can really do is pray and hope that there isn’t anyone nearby waiting to make a GIF out of you in the event that you do take a tumble. As I descended down into the canyon, slipping in a few spots here and there, the camera locked onto my shoulder strap, and anxiety shooting up my spine, I quickly noticed something about the Capture PRO and my Canon 80D – it wasn’t going anywhere. Even after considering the weight of the camera plus the lens, the Capture PRO did its due diligence and didn’t move one millimeter along the 500 foot descent into the canyon. Okay, I’m impressed thus far.

How does it work?

Good question because in fact, I’m still a bit in disbelief that I’m writing this right now as opposed to contacting Canon begging them to replace my camera because it fell down the trail into the water and we all know what their reply would be. Basically, there is a metal plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera, much like a plate that comes with a tripod. I’ll get into how this setup worked on my tripod later. Be patient. When it comes time to deploy my camera, all that needs to be done is one push of the red button and the camera slides off and is ready for use. To secure it back in place, just slide it onto the Capture PRO and listen for the click, give it a couple jingles to make sure that it’s seated right, and you’re on to the next landscape.

Believe me when I tell you that throughout the entire hike, I was waiting for the moment that my camera would come loose and fall into the water or onto a boulder, but it didn’t. I remember when I used to sling my camera over my shoulder and across my neck before I would do a scramble, but rest assured that those days are long gone because of this product. I thought for sure that the camera would slide down my shoulder strap due to the weight and the impact that my equipment was enduring along the hike, but it remained in the same spot the entire time. I didn’t have to readjust it once. The screws that hold the Capture PRO in place tighten down with my fingers and I’m ready to go. In the picture below, you can see a third thumb screw (above the word “CAPTURE” on the outer side of my strap) which will allow for the tightening of the base plate to add some more confidence while you’re hiking. I honestly didn’t use that thumb screw once because the default positioning was fine. For hiking, I would definitely say that this is a top notch product that will alleviate damage to your camera if you use a sling.

For those of us who carry a tripod along with us on the trail, have no fear because the base plate of the Capture PRO will work just fine as a replacement to your current plate. For those using a Manfrotto RC-2 tripod, the good folks at Peak Design are one step ahead of you and have included an Allen Key and four screws for this application. When I first received the Capture PRO, I thought for sure I would need to get some extra to make sure that my camera would stay in place on my MeFoto Backpacker Classic tripod, but the base plate that comes with the Capture PRO worked just fine.

The Clutch

Hiking “The Subway” means getting dirty and getting wet. It’s inevitable. Scrambling over big boulders, grabbing onto trees, and splashing water on your face to cool down means your hands are going to get dirty. Every time you grab your camera for a shot means you’ve got to take your buff off and wipe your hands clean before you get the shot, which we all know won’t completely get everything. Dirt, grime, and sweat can be found on every photographer’s hands in the backcountry which means that we’re probably more likely to drop a camera out there than we are when we’re working for peanuts shooting a wedding being chased all over by monster-in-laws.

The designers at Peak Design have gone through countless versions of come up with a 1.77 ounce strap that will hold your camera snug to your hand while shooting. The Clutch is a revolutionary strap that was incredibly comfortable and reliable on my hike. For those of you counting, I’m up to about the weight of six envelopes now to make sure that my 1.44 pound camera doesn’t take a plunge into the dirt or water. I can live with that. I can assure you also that six ounces is not going to keep me from summiting Mt. Whitney or reaching Katahdin either.

Use and Overview

There’s not too terribly much to say about The Clutch aside from it is well built and it’s very comfortable. In between shots, I could rest my hand and my arm without having to worry about my camera slipping from me.  I could honestly say that the design of this allowed me to shoot a few more shots while out on the dirt because it didn’t cause any cramping and having my camera strapped to my hand longer resulted in the opportunity to shoot more. It’s easy to tighten and loosen and, most importantly, it is secure. I held my camera in my hand with confidence over streams and around rocks with no worry of losing it. Check out Peak Design’s video on The Clutch to see for yourself on how this can be a game changer to your photography game.

Final thought

If you’re like some of my thru-hiking buddies that roll stoveless, cut straps off your pack, and brush your teeth with ferns instead of carrying a toothbrush to save weight; then this product may not be for you. On the other hand, you don’t have to be the next Peter Lik to use these products either. If you’re looking for a secure way to carry your investment without having to worry about it dropping, falling, or swinging into a boulder; then I highly recommend both of these. For the cost of these two products in comparison to what your DSLR or mirrorless camera cost you, then they’re worth every bit.



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Comments 4

  • David Longley : Jul 26th

    Well-written, informative article on a subject that I, myself, have been researching since purchasing a new camera for the backcountry. Having a gear review based on the field experience of an accomplished long-distance hiker is significant. Jason, your photography, as I’ve said before, is beautiful and inspiring. Apparently, your writing is as well.

  • Danielle Newton : Jul 27th

    This has such great tips! Was so nervous about packing my camera out.

  • Lara : Jul 28th

    This looks awesome. Question – from the photo it looks like the lens comes out over your chest. As a women’s who is well endowed, do you think that would be a hinderance to this working?

    • Hashtag : Jul 28th

      Great question Lara! I cannot honestly say whether or not it’ll be comfortable for a woman (or a man for that matter), but I can say that the camera is going to go along the angle of your pack straps if that makes sense. I love that it’s secure and doesn’t move and shake like other products I’ve tried. While going up and down slopes, and bouldering over rocks I barely noticed that my Canon 80D was even there.


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