How do i carry my gear?
For several years now, I have carried photographic equipment in photographic inserts held in a large 90-liter backpack. Companies such as Gregory, Osprey or Deuter offer much better carrying systems than any other brand that produces photo backpacks, so choosing even the best of them, such as F-Stop or Shimoda, was out of the question. Comfort above all. After a full day of trekking while carrying more than 25 kg, an uncomfortable backpack would make it difficult to fully focus on photography.
The solution with photo insert also has some flaws. It works well on a long trek, during which it is essential to safely get the equipment to the location where I plan to take photos. But what if the route abounds in great spots for shooting and offers dynamic weather conditions? Unfortunately, this solution does not work well then. Each stop to take one or two photos requires taking off a 90-liter backpack, removing the gear from the pack and putting those 25 kg on your back again. Dubious pleasure.
Cotton carrier ccs-g3 harness
Comfort and usability
I’ve used Cotton Carrier for a year now and I have to admit that this is a great solution. The harness is comfortable and easy to put on. There are several adjustment options with different straps allowing better fit. To me, the best part is that I can still wear my 90-liter Osprey pack on my back and it does not interfere with the harness in any way. Straps do not overlap, they don’t cause any pain to my arms. Not having to remove the backpack was particularly appreciated in August 2019, when I crossed a difficult Rohacze ridge in the Western Tatras with over 30 kg on my back.
A piece of equipment worth mentioning here is additional belt with Velcro fastener, which helps to attach the lens to the harness (it could have been a bit longer thou). It provides a stability for strapped equipment, so it does not move sideways – I can easily run or jump with it. Amazing. It is especially useful for the most exposed sections of the trails, secured with chains, where it is necessary to move clinging to the rock with a high risk of breaking the lens.
The harness has 2 pockets – on the back and in the front. While the back one seems to be useless to me (packing anything there while carrying a heavy backpack could cause severe back pain), the front one is useful for small accessories. I usually carry a tripod key there – I never had a good place to store it and I kept losing it over and over again. It’s finally in the right place now. When I want to tighten the bolt, I can grab the key right away.
The kit comes with a rain cover which can be attached to the lens at any time. A practical solution, considering that your equipment is exposed all the time.
After using CCS G3 for a year, I bought an additional holder which can be attached to the belt to mount an additional camera body. During trekking I use it rather to attach the lens (it has to have a collar and a foot – e.g. 70-200 F / 2.8). After reaching the destination, it becomes a useful solution when I would like to shoot without a lot of gear on, limiting everything to only two bodies and two lenses.
Cotton Carrier has recently launched a lens pouch that can be attached to the harness, which seems like a very reasonable idea. When using the equipment, I thought it lacked the quick lens change possibility. While I could keep the 12mm Laowa in my pocket during trekking, after attaching it I was left with no place to keep my 70-200.
Pricewise, the harness looks very decent. $159 is not much considering convenience and safety of your equipment. In my case, the potential repairs would have costed me much more. There are often discounts available – it is easy to get it even 25% cheaper (just enough to cover customs and tax if you buy it from overseas :) ). In Poland, the harness is only available at Cyfrowe.pl and, also only, upon request. On the market, you can find Chinese copies of the harness costing around $40, but, to be honest, wearing equipment for tens of thousands dollars, I prefer to pay the difference, get better quality harness and feel safe while shooting. It is the same as with photo backup – there are people who do it and there are those who don’t until it’s too late. I guess it is not worth learning from mistakes in this case.
The harness doesn’t have many downsides. At first, I was worried a bit about attaching the braces at the back with Velcro straps, but many hours of testing while having 70-200 or 150-600 attached has cleared my doubts for good. For peace of mind, you can sew them after adjusting or ask the leatherworker to install additional snaps. To me, it is not a necessity.
During long treks with the body and long lens attached, such as 150-600, the lens rubbed against my belly due to its length. When it is happening for 3-4 or more hours, it can be uncomfortable. That’s why I usually have 24-70 or 70-200 attaches. There was no problem with 150-600 during short treks thou.
What I also noticed is that during intensive physical activities, material parts can soak up sweat. During a 3-week trip to K2, when using the equipment every day on 20-kilometer routes, even I noticed a necessity of washing it ;) In everyday situations, access to the washing machine is usually unlimited, so this should not be a problem.
I haven’t noticed any more cons. To sum up, in my opinion the equipment works really well and I can definitely recommend it. I haven’t found a better solution so far, but it doesn’t mean I won’t keep searching.