Carrying Capacity: mirrorless or DSLR camera with small to medium sized lens
Weight: .5 lbs
Materials: reinforced hardened plastic, aluminum, nylon webbing
Clips over wearer's left shoulder
Where To Get It:
Price: $79.00 - Cotton Carrier | Adorama | Amazon
As an active hiker who is always bringing their camera along, I'm constantly on the hunt for techniques and gear to lighten my load and make the overall experience of hauling a camera into the backcountry a little easier. With this in mind, the Cotton Carrier Skout harness looked like a way to take the stress off of a more standard neckstrap, while keeping the camera more accessible than having to reach into a backpack constantly to dig it out.
Cotton Carrier's Skout harness is an over the shoulder harness that has adjustable shoulder and waist straps to keep it in place - currently the sole option is a harness that remains over the user's left breast at all times. The camera clips in with mounting hardware that screws into the camera's bottom bolt (which doesn't interfere with the ability to use a tripod, but I'll get to that...) The mounting hardware drops into a hardened plastic clip on the harness, while a 90 degree rotation locks the camera into place on the harness.
In practice, the harness straps snugly over a shoulder using adjustable nylon webbing and includes a removable padded shoulder band. Since the webbing is lightweight, it can fit easily underneath a backpack, and can be put on underneath a jacket or can be lengthened to fit on top of a jacket. The camera is dropped into the harness, and locks securely in with a twist - usually the mounting hardware is set so that it rests with the camera's weight keeping it in a safely locked position.
Until this point, I typically carried my camera against my side using a neckstrap or kept it at the top of a day bag so that I could quickly grab it on a trail. Both options had some serious downsides - the neckstrap usually letting the camera hit my side in the same spot repeatedly over the course of hours, and the backpack requiring me to stop, whip off the pack and open it to grab the camera, which can also get annoying if done frequently.
Cotton Carrier's Skout has done a great job of eliminating both of those and letting the camera rest against my chest, allowing me to hike, walk or climb with both hands free and my camera secure. At the same time, it's easy to quickly reach down and grab it. (I also opted to pick up Cotton Carrier's CCS Handstrap which gives me an instant quick grip on the camera but doesn't hang or swing while it's strapped onto the harness.) In giving me an unobtrusive hands-free option for carrying a camera, as well as making it more easily accessible, the Skout harness has been an incredible find.
As I've worn it more and used it in more situations, I've been increasingly impressed with how Cotton Carrier has taken into consideration and designed for a variety of uses. A small zipper pouch on the back makes a convenient spot to keep the included Allen key for quick adjustments in the field (which doubles as a convenient spot to hold onto a key or some $$), the optional Universal Tripod Adapter Plate allows you keep a tripod mount attached to the camera along with the harness mounting hardware, there is an included detachable safety tether which keeps your camera clipped to the harness in the case of an accidental drop and can be removed easily for the more overconfident amongst us, and an included removable weather cover that can quickly cinch around the camera in the event of sudden wet weather.
I've found the Skout most useful for freeing up my hands if I'm scrambling up or down some rocky trail, paddling in a kayak or riding a bike. While the ergonomics of it probably wouldn't work to hold a heavier zoom lens, it's done well with my DSLR and mirrorless camera bodies with standard medium zoom lenses attached. (For nature watchers, there is a model adapted to fit binoculars rather than camera bodies.) The only other downside I've found is the fixed position on the left side, rather than being able to switch positions during use, but as a righthander, this left-sided position does feel more natural.
Over time, I've just become more impressed, finding how the harness has made carrying the camera less obtrusive. It's made reaching quickly for the camera easier than before, and performing other activities with both hands free more of an ease. The ability to use it with a tripod has been essential as well.