How To Look Like A Bad Ass Birder

Have you ever been out birding with your digiscoping kit or traditional camera equipment and wondered if there was an easier and more comfortable way to carry your camera and binoculars at the same time? Did you ever hope you'd look like a total bad ass while doing it? Well, I have three words for you: Tactical Birding Harness. 

Actually the real name is the CCS Binocular & Camera Harness and as soon as you put it on, you feel ready for what my friend Ben Douglas would call "beast mode birding."

The CCS Binocular and Camera Harness from Cotton Carrier. 

The CCS Binocular and Camera Harness from Cotton Carrier

Initially, I was skeptical about this harness on two fronts. First, I'm female and I'm a well endowed. Though I enjoy using binoculars harnesses for comfort, it can be a challenge to get those to work around a curvy chest. Many of these products are built for guys and well, the products get weird when applied to a woman's body. 

Image of a guy using the Binocular and Camera Harness from the Cotton Carrier website. 

Image of a guy using the Binocular and Camera Harness from the Cotton Carrier website. 

The second concern is that I had is that I have a low center of gravity and I wondered if having this stuff hanging on me was really going to be anymore comfortable than my usual set up of a traditional binocular harness with my camera slung over my shoulder while carrying my scope on a tripod. 

Me wearing the binocular and camera harness. 

Me wearing the binocular and camera harness. 

To my surprise, the tactical harness can be quite comfortable. As soon as I put it on, I felt a bit like Bruce Wayne suiting up for a night with the Joker. Being short, I had to do a lot of cinching of the shoulder straps, but once I got the harness snug against me, it wasn't bad at all. The fitting of this harness is really key (and gents, you may want to skip to the next paragraph as I'm going to get into some serious boob talk here). Ladies, if you leave it slightly loose, the harness shifts a bit as you move and then you're left with that look many of us dread: one of your breasts is randomly hanging out on the side. Don't make it so tight it hurts to breath, but have someone help you tighten it on the shoulders and the waist to keep in in place. 

Once fitted well, it doesn't move as much as a traditional binocular harness. Many women tell me that they find the traditional binocular harnesses uncomfortable. I think one reason is that people don't pay attention to where the leather patch is in the back. Sometimes it has a tendency to ride up just below your neck, when really it should be squarely between your shoulder blades and depending on how active you are in the field, you periodically have to pull it down. This harness stays in place for the post part when snug. 

You'll note there are straps with clips to help secure your camera and binoculars to the vest should they become dislodged from the vest, preventing them from dropping to the ground. I like how the binoculars are flat against the chest and don't flop around. I'm using 8x32 ELs which are compact and lightweight, it might be a different story with larger barrel binos.

You'll note there are straps with clips to help secure your camera and binoculars to the vest should they become dislodged from the vest, preventing them from dropping to the ground. I like how the binoculars are flat against the chest and don't flop around. I'm using 8x32 ELs which are compact and lightweight, it might be a different story with larger barrel binos.

The  harness comes with adapters to attach to the bottom of your camera and around the barrel of your binoculars. The washer has arrows that when aligned correctly will secure your optics to your harness. 

The  harness comes with adapters to attach to the bottom of your camera and around the barrel of your binoculars. The washer has arrows that when aligned correctly will secure your optics to your harness. 

The harness has an adapter and velcro strap to attach to the barrel of your binoculars and a tripod adaptor for your camera. These have large washers that will lock your optics in place on the front of the harness, and off to the side (you can adjust whether you have the second piece on your right or left to favor which side you use most). I did notice that after awhile the velcro strap on my Swarovski ELs would come loose and slide a little bit and I'd have to retighten it to keep it aligned with the harness.

I also  had to get used to my binoculars and camera in a new area. If you've had your digiscopign set up for awhile, using them has become second nature. This is a bit of a different configuration and it takes some getting used to the different way you have to holster holster and reholster your bins, especially if you're excitedly looking at a bird.   Here's a demo of the binoculars being holstered:

A small pocket in the belt holds a cover to put over camera to keep them dry if it's raining while you're out in the field. There's even a holder just inside the front of the harness in case you have an umbrella with a thin rod that you want to put over yourself to stay dry. Just wearing the whole set up around for an hour was not bad and the best part was that my binoculars and camera felt secure and not like they were bouncing all over the place.  This is something I might use while at a birding festival or birding remote areas. I wish I had this back when I was doing bird surveys. I'm not sure if I would wear this set up in an urban park, it might be a bit much and cause neighbors to question you. But if you are going to wear it in an urban park, go big or go home:

The harness accessorizes well with a Batman Cowl. 

The harness accessorizes well with a Batman Cowl.