Fstoppers Reviews the SpiderLight Backpacker Kit: Ditch That Camera Strap Once and for All

Fstoppers Reviews the SpiderLight Backpacker Kit: Ditch That Camera Strap Once and for All

Camera straps: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. The SpiderLight Backpacker Kit may be the answer to break free.

I use camera straps because I need to, not necessarily because I’d like to. With straps, they keep my camera out of the bag I’m always carrying and ready for action, and allow much more comfort for long shoots than handholding the camera body the entire time. What I don’t like is they always seem to be in the way when I’m actually using the camera, either uncomfortably sticking way too much or sliding off my shoulder while hiking, and they add vibrations and generally are annoying when on a tripod in windy conditions. Turns out, Spider has a product that was made for people like me.

The SpiderLight Backpacker Kit can lock on to any backpack or messenger shoulder strap, and allow the camera to hook into it securely via a specialized tripod mount. This means I can ditch the strap and still retain all its benefits.

How the Backpacker Kit arrives in the box is ready to use for most cameras. The good news is that they also designed everything with a little bit of extra attention so that one can get the product to work with the few cameras that may be a bit different from the norm. The instruction booklet inside the box has a couple easy modification to check out if struggling with getting things to align on the camera.

For example, the Sony a7R III is compatible with the SpiderLight right out of the box, however my Fujifilm X-T1 required I remove the tripod screw, rotate the mounting piece 180 degrees, and then screw the plate into the camera. This is not completely necessary, but with a camera like the X-T1, the tripod mount is located very close to the battery door, so otherwise I’d have to remove the plate every time I wanted to open the battery door. The simple modification only takes about a minute.

To get the mount attached to the backpack strap, it’s slightly more involved. After I did it once though, it all makes sense and I could do it easily thereafter without any instructions.

I tested the mount on four different camera bags with varying width shoulder straps, and all of them worked with the SpiderLight Backpacker. My favorite bag, the Tamrac G26 backpack, had the widest straps and it was a tight fit to get locked on, but it was manageable. One thing to note is that in order for the product to securely hold a camera, it uses deep teeth-looking notches and a tight clasping sandwich of plastic to grip the shoulder strap. Because of that, I wasn’t comfortable using the Backpacker Kit with my leather-strapped ONA bag fearing it would make a stamped imprint into the material.

Once the plate is fastened to the camera and the mount is on the backpack strap, the experience of using the Backpacker Kit is really quite good. I found it to be as comfortable to wear for the same duration as I’d have a strap slung on my shoulder. There’s a stretchy Velcro strap on the padded mount that can wrap around the camera lens to help stabilize the gear while skipping about.

The SpiderLight is designed with mirrorless or lightweight DSLRs in mind, so that is something to be aware of before purchasing. As you can imagine, the more weight added, the less comfortable it is to wear. I wore the SpiderLight with an a7R III and 100-400mm lens attached, and that was definitely at the limit in terms of weight and size for this product. In any case, having some gear left inside the backpack actually helps distribute the weight to be more comfortable with the camera strapped on the frontside.

There’s also a couple different “modes” that can be toggled with a switch. One way allows the camera to slide in and out of the holster with no lock, and the other will lock the camera in once inserted. To remove the camera, I just hold the release while sliding the camera back out and let go.

Another trick up the Backpacker Kit’s sleeve is that while holding a separate button, I can release the actual holster out from the strap mount. The holster has its own belt clip on the backside; very nice.

Price

On one hand, I would never spend $125 on a camera strap. So does that mean spending $125 on a system that replaces the camera strap should be out of the question as well?

On the other hand, this is cleverly designed and seems to be a high-quality product. With the Backpacker Kit, that long, annoying, dangling piece of material is finally gone. It also completely frees up my hand that would be used to help stabilize my camera down at my side while walking with a strap. It can even do a little more than a strap by turning into a GoPro POV mount or a temporary belt clip holster as well.

What I Liked

  • Has not jammed trying to take my camera out.
  • The holster pad blends in well with backpack straps.
  • Arca Swiss-style tripod plate built in. This one is huge for me.
  • Camera plate is versatile in its positioning on the camera body.
  • D-ring tripod screw. No tools necessary.
  • Can be mounted to a variety of strap widths, although wider straps do get difficult.
  • The SpiderLight Holster can come off and be fixed to a belt in seconds.
  • Comes with a GoPro adapter, although I didn’t test it out.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The protruding ball bearing on the camera mount, while definitely functional, isn’t exactly svelte. Setting the camera down on a flat surface is the design at its most awkward.
  • I wouldn’t be comfortable using this on my leather strapped bags because of the chance of leaving markings.

Conclusion

While the SpiderLight Backpacker Kit is priced more than most camera straps, the added benefits are worth it to me. I’m always photographing with a backpack on anyway, and I’ve spent a lot of time hiking around thinking of a way to better design a strap that worked in conjunction with my bag’s shoulder straps. Turns out, I needed to think more outside the box and remove the strap altogether.

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28 Comments

That looks really, really uncomfortable. Personally, I love my Peak Design sling strap. It doesn't have ANY of the downsides you mention but it took me a lot of trial and error to find the perfect one for me.

Ryan Mense's picture

As I said, it's not. Having the weight up closer to your shoulder is way nicer then slinging a camera below.

Well, with all due respect (what does that even mean, anyway?), it would be uncomfortable to *me* to have my camera sitting there. And, while my camera is on a sling (noun), it doesn't sling (verb). When I'm walking at a brisk pace or jogging for very short distances (I'm quite a bit older than you :-) ), I have a hand bracing the camera, but not holding its weight, to prevent that. A strap also has the side benefit of keeping your dignity intact! ;-)

Ryan Mense's picture

I do understand that, but felt I needed to point it out again since I am basing my opinion on actually using it. There is a lens strap that braces the camera just as your hand would with a strap. It doesn't flop around at all. I don't mean to defend this like it's the be-all end-all product, but these things aren't really issues with it.

Horses for courses.
Are you talking about the strap that has a clip so you can attach it to your belt? I saw that but thought it would require too much time to attach and detach. When I see wildlife, I wasn't expecting, any amount of fiddling with something could be too long or possibly spook the animal.

Ryan Mense's picture

I guess you kind of lost me here, sorry. I wasn't trying to describe the belt attachment. In the third photo up from here with the telephoto, you can see a strap wrapping around the lens to stabilize it. I was trying to say that strap stabilizes everything in the same manner that your hand does to stabilize your camera down at your waist. But maybe I misunderstood the concern you have.

How I have the SpiderLight set up is to keep it unlocked, and if I'm strolling at a slow pace enjoying the trail, I don't use the lens strap since the camera doesn't bounce around so much being further from the waist where a lot of the movement happens. If I see wildlife unexpectedly, the movement of bringing my hands to my face with the camera in it doesn't change much other than with a strap I grab the camera down at my waist and raise it all the way up slowly, and with this I start to raise my hands up slowly and swipe the camera and continue raising. There's no extra fiddling when the device is in the unlocked setting.

I was referring to another system that has a strap but also a clip, on your belt, to stabilize the camera when walking.
I'm beginning to see your point about this thing.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

I am rather clumsy. I tend to drop things, like cameras. Going without a strap will be very expensive in my case.

Ryan Mense's picture

If you wear a strap around your neck, I guess that's one thing in preventing any drops. Most people I know and myself just sling straps over one shoulder, and with this nothing is really changing in that rhythm except the arm action of "slinging." If your camera is about to drop from your hand and you know it, slings do provide an extra thing to grab onto at the last second though.

Ryan Mense's picture

Another thought, maybe a hand strap plus this for extra safety? A hand strap isn't nearly as annoying as a full strap probably (I've never used one), and kind of meets in the middle.

My son's girlfriend bought me a hand strap, one Christmas, and I absolutely hated it! Again, everyone's different and thank God for it! :-)

Pieter Batenburg's picture

I always wear a strap over my head. I have round shoulders and nothing keeps hanging.

I tried the Spider Holster (because the Peak Design system would constantly jam on me) and fell in love with it. They are well designed and function flawlessly but a bit awkward when placed on a flat surface. Totally worth it, though.

Chris Spicks's picture

So i have used the similar cheap metal version of this from ebay.. Have used it for 4 years. I love it. Another feature of this versus strap.. Put a camera on a strap, and walk fast, or bend over, or do any other type of odd movement. The camera swings around (which could be very expensive accident waiting to happen) this keeps the camera locked to your body. I have used the belt placement, and the camera is always fixed right at my waist. When I bend over.. Its at my bend point (hips) so it doesn't move. If I have had to run/jog, it's not slamming around..

Another nice thing about this (for me using the belt strap mount) the security I feel. No one is going to come up and yank the camera from me. No one is gonna cut the strap and steal my camera. I've always felt that the camera is practically theft proof while attached to my hip.

Kyle Medina's picture

Can't use tripod = no go.

Ryan Mense's picture

You can use a tripod though? This was a big deal for me as mentioned in my What I Liked list. It has an Arca Swiss design built in.

Kyle Medina's picture

Hmm missed that part. Now I don't have Arca heads, more money out the door to upgrade. Though I haven't had an issue with my current system of just having everything in a backpack. Never came across scenarios of OMG! I need my camera out.

Ryan Mense's picture

Quick snap

Chris Spicks's picture

Doesn't it have a threaded hole right next to the thumb screw? On mine, the tripod. Plate screws right in there.

Ryan Mense's picture

Yes you can do that if your tripod head isn't Arca Swiss compatible.

When I first saw these I thought it looked really nice, but just couldn't get over the protruding stud. I use a combination of a BlackRapid strap, wrist strap, and Fusion plate, along with an ingenious 25 cent modification for a "can't ever drop it" solution. I've made a video about it here. https://youtu.be/pbKB_1KXOHY

I have a Peak Design Capture which is very similar. It works well but sometimes I wonder if the camera or lens will take damage being swung around and bounced against the chest thousands of times during a hike. It's not much movement but it may add up. I have decided to use the Capture only during times I really need the camera and otherwise I pack it into the backpack.

Josh Leavitt's picture

Thanks for posting this Ryan! I just ordered one after reading the article. I do a lot of backpacking and have been relying on the should strap for years, but it gets awkward with the camera dangling at the hip and obstructing arm movement while walking. This SpiderLight looks like it'll solve that problem when paired with the slingbag I use for long hikes.

Sean Gibson's picture

I like how easy it is to mount, but it seems as if it would bounce around against your chest while you move. I'm finding the peak design mount to probably be a little tougher to mount quickly, but I enjoy how stable the camera is against your chest/body once you do. Little give and take I suppose.

Drew Pluta's picture

Is there any reason to consider this over the Peak Capture? This system looks terrible by comparison, what am I missing? The Capture seems to be smaller, lighter, more versatile, more elegant, and cheaper. It also looks like it's probably more comfortable from an ergonomic and handling perspective.

Before you use this kind of system, ask yourself one question - How much does my camera weigh, and how much pain will it cause when it hits my foot from a height of about 3 feet?

Years ago, another company (whose name I forget, but I know they closed shop due to trademark issues) had a great camera / strap system. It was a round ball on the end of a post, which mounted on the camera, and a grip that went on the end of your strap.You put the grip around the ball, tightened the grip's hold (which was just loose enough to let the ball swing around) and off you went.

BUT wait, there's more. After about two years, the ball wore out the grip holding it. Boom, my Nikon D300s w/battery pack landed on my foot while I was standing in my house. The yell heard around the block.

Warning - No matter how much you take care to not overuse the ball/grip combination, friction will eventually wear out the grip or the ball. Period.

I find this review somewhat misleading for hikers out there. Having the lens swing around is a definite no-go, and needing to secure the camera with another strap to fix this problem just seems very inconvenient and lending to more things dangling around in the air and getting caught on things, which can be dangerous depending on what type of hiking you do.

Although a product disclaimer points towards smaller and light-weight cameras, for comparison, I would argue that even a mobile phone knocking around your chest or waist would be similarly irritable - though why you'd have a camera around your waist while hiking I have no idea. The device is also huge.

The review would have really benefitted from comparison against its main competitor out there - the Peak Design Capture. Apart from the jamming issue, the PD excels and/or addresses all the other features this product has to offer (although I don't know if the jamming issue has been fixed with their latest release). In fact, it holds more weight, and holds the weight higher up on your chest if that's what you prefer - the camera doesn't hang down like it does with this product, and can be positioned in 4 directions if a square-shaped arca-swiss plate is used.

What I think would have been more beneficial to readers out there is what makes this product unique, such as the ball-socket securing system that allows the camera to pivot, rather than remain fixed; or the greater speed with which one can secure or release the camera using this product; or, who would benefit more from using this style of holster compared to the PD capture.

An emphatic 'NO' for someone who hikes, from someone who hikes.

The heaviest equiment combination you showed (with the 100-400mm lens) had a weight of approximately 2 kilos, right? According to a sales rep I contacted, the limit of the system is at 3.2 kilos, so it should be safe enough. Yet I wonder, what was your feeling about the stability of the product with that heavy weight hanging/dangling from it while walking/hiking?
Cheers.