S4Gear LockDown Binocular Harness Review

LockDown Optics Deployment System - Binocular Harness
Awards: Winner Best Binocular Accessory 2011

I was contacted by S4Gear, an American company based in Oregon that manufactures a small range of very innovative outdoor products and they wanted me to take a look at and review their take on the binocular harness: The LockDown Optics Deployment System – with a name like that I was very intrigued and thought that it was either going to be nothing more than a fancy named gimmick or something very revolutionary… I eagerly awaited their arrival in the post.

LockDown Optics Deployment System?

Basically the LockDown Optics Deployment System is a type of binocular harness or as some like to call them, binocular suspenders. Yet they are like no other bino harness that I had ever seen before and offer a number of key advantages over your standard harness.

In the Box
The first thing that struck me as I took them out of the box, was just how well they were made, this included all the clips and straps as well as the stitching on the material itself. What was also noticeable was just how light they were – these were not going to add much more weight to your binoculars.

In the box I also found the fitting instructions and warranty information as well as a small bag containing two split rings and four zip ties, that are used to attach your binoculars to the harness.

How To Correctly Fit the LockDown Binocular Harness

Sizing and Adjustments
Before attaching your binoculars to the harness, the instructions tell you to put it on to adjust it to fit your particular body. This was easy enough. The elasticated waistband has two buckles that click into place, then you can move the sliders so that it fits snugly around your mid-section. What I really like here is the attention to detail as there are attached loops that you can thread the excess strap through that prevents any straps from flapping loose.

The second adjustment to make is via a couple of sliders that sit just above the hood of the harness and enable you to change how high up, or low down you want the binoculars to sit on your chest. This adjustment allows for about 4-6″ of movement.

Fitting your Binoculars to the LockDown Harness
Next step is to fit your binoculars to the harness. I decided to first try and fit the LockDown to my pair of Vanguard 8x42 Spirit ED Binoculars as these are of a fairly typical roof prism design and if the LockDown works on these, they should work with most standard full size binoculars.

Firstly I removed the neck strap and my lens covers from the binoculars. This step is not mentioned in their instructions and I guess it would be possible to keep them on, but to ensure that there is the minimum amount of clutter, I think it is best to remove them.

Next you can either attach the supplied split rings and/or zip ties to the neckstrap attachment loops on your binoculars. With my Vanguards, I first tried the split rings, which did work, but I found that the rings would not move completely freely as the plastic loop on my binoculars was very small. So I swapped them for the Zip ties, which worked very well.

Then before attaching your binoculars to the “shock cord”, the next step is to put the LockDown Optics Deployment System on and then slide your optics under the hood and make the adjustment for the front flap to fit over them via two adjusters and is done to accommodate different lengths of binoculars and you can set the tension to your preference.

Now if you want to, you can press down on the hood which is made of a slightly pliable aluminium, to mould it to fit your particular binoculars for a tight fit and as low a profile as possible.

Finally you attach the “shock cord” hooks to the split rings or zip ties that you attached to your binoculars earlier. You can then adjust the tension of the “shock cord” with a cord lock behind your neck. The idea is to make your binoculars just tight enough so that they slightly pull up towards you when under the hood. This is so that in the field and for quick access they will be secure enough so that you don’t have to secure the front flap every time you put them in the hood, yet not so tight as to make taking them out of the hood difficult.

That’s it… done! To be honest, writing about it is much harder than actually doing it and my binoculars fitted perfectly and very easily. If I haven’t described it very well, take a look at the video below which should help you get the idea:

As I mentioned earlier, the LockDown Optics Deployment System, is a binocular harness like no other and below are my observations after using them for a few days that includes all the advantages as well any disadvantages I could think of to using them.

Positives:

Secure Fit: I think the thing that stood out the most for me was just how snug and secure the binoculars sit next to your body, without being uncomfortable at all. If you have never used a harness before, then you are in for a treat, especially if like me, bouncing binoculars really annoy you. Even with most “standard” harnesses, there is a little play and if walk fast they can often move from side to side on your chest. Not so with these, they do not move at all and if you wanted to, you could easily run without them annoying you at all. Not that many birders would run, but I think for hunters, possibly people involved in orienteering or even the military, this would be extremely useful. Mountain bikers, those who hike on rough trails or even skiers who want to carry optics with them would find the security of this LockDown harness ideal.

But even those who just walk with their optics, it just feels nice to have them fit so well and if you lean over to get something from the ground, they will remain tight against your chest.

Comfort: The next point to mention is just how comfortably the harness feels on you, even with a fairly heavy pair of binoculars attached and over long periods of time. I went on a number of very long walks and the weight of my binoculars or the harness never bothered me. If you were ever worried about the weight of your binoculars, I really suggest you get a LockDown harness as it will really take the pain out of carrying your optics. On top of this the straps of the LockDown are made from a breathable material which should also prevent you from sweating too much under them, although I must point out that I did have a little sweat under them after long walks on a hot day, but nothing too serious.

Protection: I really like the fact that the hood and it’s cover protect your binoculars so well. You no longer have to keep your objective or eye-piece lens covers with you in the field and the fact that your binoculars are mostly covered in the hood, they will be fairly well protected from light rain as well as for getting scratched should you knock them against something in the field.

Storage: Another nice feature is that you can store and keep your binoculars in the harness even when they are not in use. Because the lenses of your optics are covered, they wont get dust on them and the harness hangs nicely from a coat hanger or hook on the back of a door. This may seem like a small thing, but if your binoculars are there and ready for you to take with you as you leave the house, you are far more likely to actually take them with you than if you have to go and get them from somewhere.

Tension Free Glassing: With most binocular suspenders and harnesses, your binoculars are kept against your body with elastic straps (like trouser suspenders) this means that when you bring them up to your face they are under tension. In some cases and when you get used to it, this can be beneficial as it can help keep the binos more steady by pressing them firmly against your face. But for the most part and in my experience I find it a little annoying and can also make using your binoculars one handed difficult or at times even impossible. With the LockDown, once you have correctly set them up, there is no tension in the “shock” cords once you bring them up to your face. This means that using them feels far more like you would usually use binoculars with a traditional neck strap.

Low Profile Design: This is a part of the design that I really like. Because the harness fits nice and tightly to your body and does not stick out much more than the width of your binoculars, you are far less likely to get it and yourself tangled up in fences, bushes or other thick undergrowth when out in the field.

Another benefit of this design is that you could easily wear something like a jacket over the harness, this could offer extra protection to your optics in extreme conditions or should you not want to advertise to everyone that you have a pair of binoculars with you, it will conceal them. I am thinking that this would be very beneficial if you were to take it travelling with you (like on safari) and at some point did not want to stand out as a “rich tourist.”

Noise Resistant: One of the key benefits of a pair of binoculars that have been covered in a tough rubberised armour is the fact that it helps to dampen down any sounds that are made if you bang something against your optics, which could frighten away easily spooked birds or other animals. This could all be for nothing if your other equipment was to make noise. So in the same way I like the fact that the whole harness, including the very light aluminium “hood” that covers and protects your binoculars is covered in a tough as well as noise resistant fabric.Ontop of this because your binoculars fit so securely to your body with out flapping about, there is even less chance of them banging against something to make a noise.

Quick to Put on & Take Off: Once you have properly fitted your binoculars to the harness and the harness to your body, removing it and replacing it is very quick and simple. and only requires you to un-clip the two side buckles and pass the harness over your head. This is in stark contrast to many standard harnesses that I have tested where you have to almost climb into them, which can be tricky because many are elasticated.

Look Great: I am not sure and I am definitely not a fashion guru, but I sometimes feel that some binocular harnesses can look a little naff or at the best a little nerdy, but not so with these. I really like the look of them they are modern and really look the business.

Warranty Information: It is always a good sign when a manufacturer is so confident in their product that they offer a lifetime guarantee on it, which is exactly what S4Gear offer on the LockDown: They promise to replace or repair it (at their discretion), if the materials or workmanship is found to be defective, for the life of the product. Obviously this will not cover you if you abuse your LockDown or use it in the wrong way.

Negatives:

I used the LockDown harnesses on many different occasions, in different situations and over long periods of time and really struggled to find anything that I really did not like about them. A few points that I did come up are included below – but to be honest most are true for all types of binocular suspenders or harnesses:

Sharing: Because the harness is attached and fitted to you, it will make sharing your binoculars with another person a little more difficult than if you were just using the standard neck strap. You would have to either remove the harness from yourself – which is very quick anyway and then pass it onto the other person, or you could just un-clip the binoculars from the suspenders.

Possibly slow to change over again: If the loops that are used to attach the neck strap or the Shock cord to on your binoculars are a very tight fit, you won’t be able to quickly swap from the harness back to your standard neck strap as you will first have to remove the split rings or zip ties from the loop before attaching your neck strap to your optics again.

Further Information

The LockDown harness currently comes in two colour combinations (Black & Gray or Black & Camo) and there are two different sizes. To work out which you need, just measure the length of your binoculars:

  • LockDown for binoculars from 6" to 7.5" in length.
  • LockDown Micro for binoculars from 4.5" to 6" in length.

Below is another video created by S4Gear that goes over some of the key features of the LockDown Optics Deployment System and even though it is mostly aimed at hunters, it should give you a good idea as to what it is all about.

Conclusion

Overall, I highly recommend this piece of kit and it is by far the best binocular harness that I have ever used. Obviously aimed at the hunting market, I think they are ideal for for anyone else who wants to keep their hands free whilst still being able to securely carry their binoculars with them. This would include travel, especially on adventures like safari holidays where most people would also want to carry a camera as well. Because of their tight fit, mountain bikers, those who hike on a trail or those into orienteering or even skiers who want to carry optics with them would find this LockDown harness ideal.

Priced at about $40 to $50, I feel that they offerer very good value for money, especially when you take into consideration the quality of their construction:

Where to Buy & Prices

In the US they are available for around $40, whilst in the UK the S4Gear LockDown Harness costs about £50:


Further Reading

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