If you spend long periods of time wearing a pair of binoculars, you have probably experienced one of the banes of bird watching: a sore neck. Even binoculars that seem light at first, can be a surprising drag on your neck after a while and that takes some of the fun out of birding. The solution? A harness for your binoculars. It is a simple inexpensive fix that will save you years of sore necks!
The binocular harness my husband and I both have is from Vortex Optics. I purchased them from Amazon. It is basically a small piece of rounded off leather that sits at the center of your back with four slots to hold the two ends of each nylon/lycra strap. One strap from this leather piece runs up your back, over your right shoulder, under your right arm and back around to the leather piece. The other strap does the same on the left side.
It comes in one size and the straps can be adjusted to fit. (My husband, shown in the photos, and I each have one of these harnesses adjusted to be comfortable.) From the front, it looks a bit like you are wearing suspenders with binoculars clipped between the straps – maybe not stylish but oh so comfortable. The weight of the binoculars is now distributed over your back and shoulders instead of your neck. I’ve worn mine for hours without any soreness. You can easily forget you are wearing it. (If you are wearing dark colors, the harness blends in and isn’t as noticeable to other people either!)
The binoculars also sit tighter to my body than my regular neck strap so I find that it is less likely to bang around or get caught on things. As a woman, sometimes straps for cameras and binoculars are uncomfortable and binding on our anatomy, but I find this to be perfectly comfortable. I’ve also worn the harness while wearing a light backpack over it as well as a camera strap over one shoulder at the same time and it was all fine.
The harness is designed to work with any binoculars with strap attachment loops that are at least 1/2” wide. It comes with two little pliable attachment slips and two metal split rings. To use the harness, you remove your regular binoculars strap, slide the slips through the binoculars’ strap attachment loops, folding each slip in half. Then you slide a metal split ring into holes in each of the folded slips.
To attach the binoculars to the harness, you simply attach the clip on each of the straps to the metal ring on each side of the binoculars. The binoculars now rest on your stomach (however high or low you choose to position it.) You can walk around hands free.
When you want to use the binoculars, you simply lift them up to your eyes. As long as you have adjusted the straps to give you plenty of strap space, it works beautifully and doesn’t bind at all.
Because they are adjustable, you can wear them over a coat or sweater. Or you could wear them under your outer layer. This might be something you want to do if it is raining and you want to keep your binoculars dry. It also is handy on days when you throw a sweater on and leave it open and/or when you know you will want to take it off later.
The harness is easy to put on and take off; once it is adjusted, you simply slide an arm through each strap loop. I found it a little awkward to adjust the straps initially by myself; I kept taking it off and on to adjust it until I got it right. When my husband used his for the first time, he put it on and I adjusted it while it was on him and it was a much quicker process. You probably won’t normally need to readjust it every time though unless you are doing something like going from wearing it over something really bulky to something much thinner. If you get home and don’t want the harness, you can un-clip the binoculars and use them without a strap.
It’s well made and so should last a good long time and is not expensive. (Check them out on Amazon.) Just be sure to measure the loop on your binoculars where the current strap passes through before you buy them. If the opening is at least 1/2” wide, it should work with this harness. You can also use the harness with a camera if its strap loops are the right size.
When I go birding, I often have binoculars, a camera and a smart phone with birding field guides in my hands and a backpack on my back with other odds and ends. I find that having the binoculars on a harness and the camera on its own sling or wrist strap means I’m spending less time juggling things. It’s very freeing and lets you get to your binoculars quicker to get eyes on that elusive bird. If you do a lot of bird watching with binoculars, you will thank yourself for getting a harness.
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