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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Birding Tips 1 - binocular harness

my entire birding life, i have stuck to using a normal carrying strap with my binoculars. when working in costa rica, I had my binoculars with me all day, every day and was always on the lookout for scarlet macaws (the species I was working on at the time). Because of the long hours carrying binoculars, I used to sling them across my shoulder (like a beauty-queen's sash). and I found that this was quite comfortable for me.

but, I have recently started to use a binocular harness (binocular suspender) and have found it incredibly comfortable. It seems that binocular harnesses are rather popular in the United States, but are thought of as completely silly most everywhere else. Well, to be honest, I still think they look silly - as though I have a kiddy/doggie lead attached to my back so that my wife can reel me in when I stray too far. (oh please, no one give that idea to my wife! that will be the end of searches for elusive Ivory-billed Woodpeckers and such like). But, at the end of the day, my neck is really starting to appreciate the binocular harness.

Essentially, in stead of having just one strap that distributes the weight of the binoculars around the neck, the principle behind the harness is that the weight is split and supported by the shoulders. harnesses are generally adjustable so they can be made to fit over just about any clothing, and their elasticated straps tend to allow for a better and more comfortable fit.

At first, I did not really like that there was tension on the elastic holding straps when I was looking through the binocualrs, but as I used it more, I started to appreciate the added stability this system gave me - the slight tension tends to hold the binoculars in place in a suspension tripod-effect.

The binocualrs tend to sit close to the chest with less pendulum than I am accustomed to with a neck strap, and the handy little quick-release clips mean that I can get the binoculars on and off quickly (particularly important when I want to lend my binoculars to someone quickly).

If you tend to carry your binoculars around for hours on end, have a bit of a hand-tremble, or tend to have neck trouble, then I would strongly recommend trying a binocular harness out.

Happy birding


Unknown said...


I've always worn my bins "bandolier" style (across my body) and like you, found that to be the most comfortable. The harness looks really silly, but most older birders here in the states (seems like 75%) use them.

Your review at least will make me consider them because it would seem this is an optimal way to wear your bins if you're carrying a digiscope setup, scope or camera.

Keep up the good work.


Dale Forbes said...

Hi K,
ya, I found beauty-queen style binocular wearing to be best when I had little equipment with me (just bins and a field note book in a sling bag) and was out in the field for a long time. It took almost all the tension of the neck, and one could easily swop sides every now and again.

the one problem I have is that the bins are not quite as readily available for a quick ID as when they are around the neck. I did not find this to be anything of a problem in warm places where I was wearing just a T-shirt (or no shirt), but with great big clumsy snow jackets, bandolier kinda sucks.

You are then down to either having an aching neck, or looking silly. I am tending to choose the latter, particularly if I know I will be carrying about my digiscoping setup anyway ('cos I already look silly with that whole contraption).

Happy birding