Best Camera Tripods of 2018

If you are the proud owner of a digital SLR camera, you will probably find that you need a tripod at some point. Tripods are necessary for a number of different situations: from long exposure to astrophotography, to telephoto lenses and adding yourself to group photos. Getting extreme close ups, shooting in low light conditions, reducing vibration in videos – all of these situations and plenty more demand a tripod.

A cursory search for DSLR tripods will turn up a huge selection of products and wildly different price points. It’s important to note that, as with many DSLR accessories, paying more to get quality products is important. Cheaper tripods might do the trick for less expensive entry-level cameras with kit lenses (which are not very heavy). For more expensive – and, thus, heavier – equipment, a cheap tripod won’t be able to safely hold it, and you could ruin your gear.

In addition to ensuring you get a tripod that can accommodate the weight of your camera body and lenses, you also want to factor in how you’ll be using the tripod. For example, if you do a lot of hiking to shoot landscapes, you need a tripod that isn’t super heavy or bulky – you have enough weight to worry about without a tripod adding a bunch to it.

One of the most important specifications of the tripod you buy is weight rating. Weight rating is the maximum weight that the tripod can hold. Understanding the weight rating you need comes from the weight of the camera body plus the weight of the lens (or lenses) you will use most often.

The weight of the tripod is probably an important factor, too. Tripods can be heavy, and if it’s something you’ll be carrying around for long periods of time or on uneven terrain, you might want a lighter model. Remember that the tripod’s weight will add weight to the gear you’re already carrying.

Lighter weight tripods are either designed with a lower weight rating, or they are made of lightweight, sturdy material. These factors can impact the total cost of the tripod.

Weight rating and the weight of the tripod itself are just two of the aspects that you should consider before buying. Some additional features of tripods include:

  • Tripod height: The height of the tripod should match or exceed yours so that you don’t have to bend down to see the viewfinder
  • Durability: Depending on what you’ll be putting the tripod through, and based on the climate and location of your shoots, you probably want to consider how durable the tripod is
  • Stability: Related to weight rating and durability, the stability of the tripod should be excellent so that you don’t have to worry about damaging your expensive equipment while you’re trying to catch the perfect shot
  • Legs: Tripod legs will be tubular or non-tubular. These types will help indicate how they lock. Additionally, legs will have a few segments – more segments often mean less stability, so keep that in mind
  • Feet: Tripod feet come in different types and can be useful for certain types of shoots. It’s preferable to have replaceable feet in case you want to switch out to a different style
  • Head: The three types of tripod heads are ball head, gimbal head, and pan head.
  • Release: How you get the camera on and off the plate and the tripod is important to some photographers. More expensive tripods generally have a much more effective quick release system.

A good tripod will last a long, long time, and it will enable you to get the gorgeous shots you want without a lot of fuss. Our guide will cover some different options for you to consider based on your budget or shooting needs.

Our #1 Recommended Tripod

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Aluminum

Our top pick offers a weight capacity of 13.2 pounds, and it extends to 68.5 inches. It is a bit heavy itself, meaning it might not be best for backpacking or travel, but it is a good everyday tripod. The Alta Pro is an excellent all-around tripod, featuring a durable ball head that allows single handed positioning. It’s super versatile and has a fantastic range of movement to let you get the perfect shot. It’s a high end tripod without the high end price tag – you can’t get the same features and construction on any other tripod for this price.

Best Budget Tripod

SLIK Sprint Pro II

The SLIK Sprint Pro II is a great bargain for entry-level DSLRs and some mid-ranges, with a max weight capacity of 4.5 pounds. It easily extends up to 64 inches and works well for low shots, too. Because it is lightweight, it’s good for travel. It folds to a small and compact size for easy storage in a backpack or travel bag. However, it doesn’t have a center hook, so users should take care in windy or rocky shooting situations. It’s nicely priced and has great construction and durability for a budget tripod.

Best Travel Tripod

Manfrotto Be Free Compact Aluminum Tripod

Manfrotto is a well-known and highly respected manufacturer of camera tripods. The Be Free compact tripod is our pick for best travel tripod because it is well constructed and lightweight for the price point. At a mere 3.1 pounds, the Be Free holds up to 8.8 pounds and stays sturdy. Its portability does mean that it is not quite as tall as some other tripods – the max height is 56.7”. Nonetheless, the Manfrotto Be Free is a fantastic travel tripod that will go with you anywhere.

Best Professional Tripod

Gitzo GT2543L Mountaineer

The Gitzo GT2543L Mountaineer is a bit of a beast, and it’s definitely more expensive than many of the tripods that we’ve reviewed. But if you have a professional camera and heavier lenses, it’s imperative that you have a well-constructed tripod that can both support the weight and stay sturdy. It supports up to 39 pounds and features a built-in hook and G-Lock legs. Whether you want to extend it to its full height (70.47”) or use it for ground level shots, the versatile and rock solid Mountaineer is for you.

Best Lightweight Tripod

Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber

When every ounce counts, you need a lightweight tripod that can still handle your gear. The Sirui T-025X can support up to 13.2 pounds but it only weighs about 2 pounds. It sets up and locks quickly and easily. It features separate knobs to allow for panoramic captures. The leg design enables you to shoot standing or utilize it for a ground level or table top tripod. For hikers and travelers, this is a great lightweight tripod that has quality construction and durability.

Best Video Tripod

Benro S7

Shooting videos with your DSLR requires a good tripod that minimizes shake and can handle your camera. The Benro S7 is designed with videographers in mind, and is well constructed and functional. It also features an S7 Video Head which will give you better control over panning and smoother results. Both the aluminum and carbon fiber versions are fairly heavy, but necessarily so. Videos demand the sturdiest tripods for the best results.

Best Tabletop Tripod

JOBY Gorrilapod SLR Zoom

If tall tripods aren’t your thing, tabletop tripods might be right up your alley. We like the Gorillapod because it’s much more than just a tabletop tripod. It is crazy flexible and can actually be used in a number of different situations. It’s popular for vloggers and for low perspective photography. It is incredibly affordable, so it’s worth checking out even if you don’t think tabletop tripods are for you.


A Guide to the Best DSLR Camera Accessories of 2018

Every Digital SLR camera owner knows that there is more to photography than just the camera. Photographers simply need gear and accessories. If you are new to DSLR, you might be a little overwhelmed by all the options. Some accessories are more useful than others, and what you need depends entirely on what kind of photography you do primarily.

There are a few must-have accessories (we’ll cover those first) and plenty of optional gear that you can either pick up now or hold off until much later.

Here is our complete guide to DSLR camera accessories.


What we’re calling “essentials” are accessories that you’ll want to pick up right away, though some are more important than others, of course.


Your DSLR has limitless potential, but much of that power comes from proper lenses. Your DSLR likely came with a kit lens that will get you by for a while, but you’ll eventually want to start thinking about adding lenses to your repertoire.

Lens buying can be a bit overwhelming itself – there is a huge number of options for every brand. Our guides to lenses for Canon and Nikon cover some of our budget-friendly favorites for both brands.

Our Recommendations:

Check out our DSLR lens guides for Canon and Nikon, featuring our favorite lenses for any occasion.


A good, sturdy camera bag is an absolute necessity as soon as you start moving around with your camera and lenses. You want a bag or backpack that fits all of your gear comfortably and securely. Most photographers are very particular about their bag – it needs to support the gear that they have plus be comfortable to carry.

There are several types of bags on the market. There are camera/gear cases, backpacks, and messenger bags, to name the most popular styles. Bags come at nearly every price point imaginable, so there are several factors to consider when you start looking. You’ll also want to think about where and how you’ll be using the bag – do you need weatherproofing? Do you want room for other things (laptops, etc.)? Take some time to find the perfect bag for all of your needs. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started.

Our Recommendations:

Best Messenger Bag: Think Tank Retrospective 7

We like this bag’s ruggedness and functionality. It might seem a bit pricey, but it should last a long time and work hard. It fits pro cameras plus lenses and other gear, so there’s plenty of room for any photographer.

Best Backpack: Lowepro Fastback BP 250 AW II

Backpacks are great for everyday use, but they are especially great for travel. Our pick for best backpack is the Lowepro Fastback, which is designed for travel. It features great storage options and easy access, in addition to room for extras like a laptop.

Memory Cards

While you may already have some storage, we suggest grabbing a backup early on. It’s incredibly easy to run out of space, and that is the worst kind of frustration when you’re traveling, in the middle of a shoot, or somewhere cool trying to capture some great shots.

It’s easy and cheap to find memory cards, whether you have slots for SD, CF, or both.

Our Recommendations:

SD Cards: 2 Pack SanDisk SDHC Card

CF Cards: SanDisk Ultra 16GB CF


Like memory cards, spare batteries are an accessory we recommend picking up sooner rather than later. Many batteries last a long time, so it’s likely that you won’t need the spare every time. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry in this instance.

Our Recommendations:

Grab batteries specific to your camera, and consider battery holders and quick chargers if you have the need.


Tripods are necessary for many kinds of shoots. Good tripods can be expensive. But inexpensive tripods can be useless, or even dangerous. It’s worth it to save up for a tripod you’ll actually be able to use rather than making a hasty purchase of a cheap tripod.

Our Recommendations:

Budget Tripod: Slik Sprint Pro II

If you are looking for a budget tripod that is affordable and good for travel, the Slik Sprint Pro is a good bargain for the money. It holds up to 4.5 lbs and can extend to 64 inches.

Best Tripod: Manfrotto Be Free

Manfrotto is *the* name in tripods, and this model is a great one. Though the price might seem a little high to a newcomer to DSLR, it’s actually a very fair price for a good, solid tripod. It supports up to 8.8 lbs and is well constructed for usability.

Cleaning Gadgets

You’ll want to be able to clean your lenses and camera at any time, so it’s good to get cleaning materials right away. There are plenty of options for cleaning kits and gadgets, but the most essential thing you need now is something to easily clean lenses. Our picks are chemical-free cleaners you can carry with you anywhere

Our Recommendations:


Giottos Rocket Air Blaster

Less Essential

The second section of this guide covers what we consider to be “less essential;” that is, these are accessories that you probably don’t need right away (though it always depends, of course).

External Hard Drive

Eventually, you’ll need to do something with all those photos. An external hard drive is the best option (unless you’re springing for cloud storage) to keep your pictures organized and not eating up valuable space on your computer. There are tons of options for hard drive, and plenty of storage options, and the price of them has gone down significantly in the past few years.

Our Recommendation:

The Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB Portable Hard Drive  is a nicely-priced terabyte of storage in a super-portable package.


There are lots of types of lens filters out there meant to do anything from protecting your lens to providing options for more creative shots. You’ll see UV filters, polarizing filters, neural density filters and more. Polarizing filters are great for landscape shots as they help reduce reflections and darken the sky. UV filters are a must have for protecting your lens from dust and moisture. You may not need filters right away, but they are worth looking into down the road.

Our Recommendation:

Give the Tiffen Circular Polarizer  a try and see how polarizing makes a difference in your shots.

Neck Straps

The neck strap that comes with your DSLR camera might work just fine for you. However, for some, these are very uncomfortable and must be replaced as soon as possible. Or, some photographers want a more attractive one than the stock strap. Whatever the case, there are plenty of options out there for replacement neck straps. There are also wrist straps, cross body straps, and two-way straps if you’re interested in additional ways to wear your camera.

Our Recommendation:

Miggo Two-Way Carrying Strap

External Flash

The built-in flash is not always great, and many cameras don’t even have one. Natural light is great to shoot with, but inevitably you will want some artificial light source. Your best option is a first-party external flash (Nikon and Canon), but there are some good third-party options as well.

Our Recommendations:

Canon 600EX-RX Speedlite Flash

Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash

Remote Shutter Release

A remote shutter release is an important addition to your tripod, especially if you intend to take long exposures or group photos that include you. Shutter release remotes can be wireless or tethered, and there is a tremendous range of price points for them. They tend to work only for one specific brand, so if you get an off-brand, make sure to check compatibility.

Our Recommendations:

To start out, we recommend this budget-friendly AmazonBasics Wireless Remote, available for both Canon and Nikon.


Our final accessories category is one we’re calling “optional.” These are accessories that you may or may not need, now or later.

Photo Editing Software

The question of whether to buy photo editing software is a big one. Software can be expensive and complicated to learn. However, serious photographers often decide it is necessary to spend the money and get the best. There are some free photo editing apps and software that you can play around with until you’ve saved up for the more expensive ones, though – GIMP and Photoscape are a few highly rated options.

Our Recommendations:

For paid software, the go-to is of course Photoshop. Choose from Photoshop Elements (for new photo editors and casual photographers) or Photoshop Lightroom (for more complexity and options).

Rain Protectors

If you’ll be out in the elements, having a rain jacket for your DSLR is a smart move. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your equipment. Even cameras with weather sealing can use a little extra protection. There are pretty drastic price differences out there, but we recommend spending a little more on a quality cover is worth it.

Our Recommendation:

We like the Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Cover for its reasonable price and intelligent design.

Light Reflectors

Reflectors are a great option when you want to make the most of natural light. This is especially useful in outdoor portraits, where you want to fill in the shadows without using flash. They make a huge difference in portrait photography, so it’s well worth it to pick one up if you do a lot of it. There are also differently colored options out there for when you want to get even more specific with lighting in your shots.

Our Recommendation:

This 5-in-1 collapsible reflector has everything you need.


A guide to DSLR accessories

Best DSLR Camera Bags

Finding a bag, case, or backpack for your DSLR camera can sometimes be tricky. Many photographers are very particular about their bags, and it’s easy to see why. You need something that will protect all your gear, withstand the environment you are usually in, and be comfortable to wear around.

There are many camera bags on the market, and you can find just about any price point imaginable. We have a roundup of our favorite bags out there to help you narrow down your decision.

We have identified five styles of camera bags: shoulder bags, backpacks, sling bags, messenger bags, and purses.

We recommend considering a number of things before you buy a new camera bag, including:

  • Ease of access
  • Weatherproofing
  • Dedicated pockets or inserts
  • Room for gear and extras (laptops, etc.)
  • Preferred style

With your wish list in mind, we also recommend buying the best available in your budget. As a general rule, more expensive bags will be better made – they’ll be made from better material and have better stitching and more durability.

Of course, we know that having a bag that’s fashionable is important, too, but tastes vary so widely it all comes down to personal preference. We did keep stylishness in mind in our review, though, and luckily there are plenty of options that look good while being functional.

Without further ado, here are our favorite camera bags.

Best Shoulder Bags

Shoulder bags are not always the most popular camera bags, but they work well for plenty of photographers. These bags sit on one shoulder (and sometimes double as cross-body bags), so it’s important that they have padded shoulders to minimize discomfort.

Shoulder bags generally aren’t as sleek as messenger bags, and they’re not meant for hiking or other outdoorsy activities like backpacks. So, they tend to be a bit bulky, but good ones will have good protection and plenty of pockets and slots for all your gear. Think Tank and Lowepro offer our favorite shoulder bags, and both brands have plenty of options for sizes and colors.

Our picks:

Think Tank Retrospective 30 (Top Pick)

While the Retrospective 30 is the most expensive of the three shoulder bags we picked, it’s well worth the money. It features plenty of storage space – the Retrospective 30 can accommodate a full frame DSLR and extra lenses. The manufacturer calls it “inconspicuous” and a blend of “old school” with new technology.

These descriptions make total sense when you see it, but we’d also go so far as to call it stylish (in a utilitarian sort of way). It’s durable and sturdy with a rugged build and quality materials. Check out the other Retrospective bags for additional sizes if the 30 is more than you need for your gear.

Lowepro Nova 180Lowepro

The Nova is not as stylish as the Retrospective, but it’s well made and features several options. It’s also less expensive than Think Tank’s. You have options for storage and carrying, as well as several choices of sizes. The Nova 180 is for compact DSLRs, but you can pick up larger sizes for bigger cameras or more gear storage. The Nova is weatherproof and features a flap lid for extra protection from the elements. It’s a bit boxy, but it has fantastic protection and will last a long time.

AmazonBasics DSLR Gadget Bag (Budget Pick)

If you do not want to fork out so many of your hard earned dollars, AmazonBasic’s line of goods has a gadget back that’s seriously budget-friendly. The compartments inside offer plenty of space and options for your gear storage, and are lots of pockets and slots for your extras. It’s not anything spectacular to look at, but it’s well made and functional. And you simply can’t beat the price.

Best Backpacks

DSLR backpacks are awesome for photographers on the move. They are also an absolute necessity for outdoors photographers who need to have their equipment safe and have both hands free. There are an incredible number of camera backpacks on the market, and you can spend hundreds of dollars getting some of the top of the line models. However, spending big is necessary if you need a backpack that can handle the elements and keep your gear safe and sound.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack (Top Pick)

The buzzy and award winning Peak Design has an everything-you-need-and-then-some backpack that pros can’t get enough of. While it’s a little spendy, you’re paying for expert design, well thought out engineering, and weatherproofing you won’t have to think twice about. One of the best things about the Everyday Backpack is how intuitive and functional the storage is. You get easy access to all the things you need. We love this backpack and think you will, too.Peak Design

Pacsafe Camsafe V17 Anti-Theft Backpack

While this backpack is designed with security in mind, it’s also a functional, well-designed backpack for an affordable price. The anti-theft features of the backpack are super useful for travelers – it is engineered with all the security components you’d need. This includes embedded wire mesh and RFIDsafe Blocking Material to help prevent hacker scanning. It also features a built in rain cover, lots of compartments for all your stuff, and a low profile. It’s perfect for travel or everyday use.

Lowepro Hatchback BP 150 AW II (Budget Pick)

We’re big fans of all of Lowepro’s camera bags. This one isn’t our favorite Lowepro overall, but its budget-friendly price and versatility help it land a spot on our list. The Hatchback BP 150 is designed for compact DSLRs, but it also easily converts to a standard daypack. This makes it even kinder to your wallet, as you’re essentially getting two bags in one. It features an all weather cover to help protect your gear from the elements and from dust. If you want a more comprehensive outdoor backpack, or you have more to spend, we recommend checking out some of Lowepro’s other offerings (the pro-approved Whistler BP  is pretty amazing), but if you’re on a budget, the Hatchback is a fantastic option.

Best Messenger Bags

Messenger bags are a popular choice for photographers who want a stylish, comfortable bag that’s easy to access. The best messenger bags for cameras have pockets or inserts for your gear and for anything else you want to carry with you, like laptops or tablets, or keys and a wallet.

Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag (Top Pick)

Peak Design makes their second appearance on our list with this smart, high-quality messenger bag. It’s a bit pricey, much like their backpack, but it’s well worth saving up for. Peak Design worked with photographer Trey Ratcliff to create a functional bag that considers photographers’ needs. There are so many things to love about this bag – from its construction and usability, to its incredible attention to detail in organization configuration. Plus, its weatherproofing, comfortable strap, and rugged good looks, it’s a bag that will quickly become many photoPeak Design Messangergrapher’s favorite.

Tenba Messenger DNA

The Tenba Messenger DNA comes in several sizes so that you can find the perfect fit. The exterior is all-weather and rugged, making it a great choice for everyday use. The interior pays attention to the care and space you need for your camera and gear. The Messenger DNA also features an additional security strap so that you can wear it on your bike without the bag sliding around. The top has a quick access feature that makes it simple to grab your camera without opening the whole top. Price-wise, the Messenger DNA is priced well for an all-weather bag with inventive and useful features.

Ape Case Large DSLR Bag (Budget Pick)

Like our other budget picks, the Ape Case is best for a compact DSLR. Though the name says large, it’s really more of a medium-sized (or even a small medium) messenger. However, it’s very affordable and has a fun, functional look about it. It’s lightweight and contours to the body well, making it a good option if you want a bag that doesn’t call attention to the gear you have in it. It’s nicely priced, so if  you are on a budget, this is worth checking out.

Best Sling Bags

Sling bags are not the most popular style of DSLR bag, but they are well loved by photographers who want a more compact way to carry their camera around. These are ideal for short hikes or day trips where you don’t need all of your gear and don’t want a bunch of extra weight on your back or side. Most sling bags are inexpensive; in fact, most are available for under $100, making them a good option for a backup bag.

Think Tank Turnstyle 20 (Top Pick)

Think Tank makes it to the top of another category with this sling bag called the Turnstyle. It’s the most expensive sling bag we selected (though still under $100), but it’s worth the money for Think Tank’s smart design and sturdy construction. The Turnstyle features an option to be worn as a belt pack in addition to a sling, making it a versatile choice for active photographers. Either way you wear it, you can get to your gear quickly and efficiently. It also has water-resistant fabric and a removable rain cover.Think Tank Camera Bag

Lowepro Slingshot Edge

The Lowepro Slingshot is a smartly designed sling that makes getting what you need super easy. There is a small front pocket, for example, that has a space for your phone, plus separate space for other small essentials. All of the other access points are well thought out, and the Slingshot makes an excellent choice for travelers with compact DSLRs. You can quickly access the side pocket without taking the bag off, and the zipper placement makes it easy to get in and out of while also deterring theft. Lowepro is a fantastic brand for camera bags, and their Slingshot is no exception.

Ruggard Triumph 35 Sling Bag

You’ll notice we don’t have a budget pick for sling bags, and that’s because the Lowepro sling and this Ruggard sling are pretty darn close in price. The Triumph has a bit more room than the Slingshot, but it too has smart access points to quickly get in and out of the bag. The Triumph as a compact tripod holder and plenty of compartment options, making it an excellent option for traveling and keeping everything together.

Best Purses

There are far fewer options for camera purses than any other bag type. This is probably because they aren’t practical for every photographer, nor are they very useful for many situations beyond walking around town. There is still some demand for them, though, so there are a few possibilities for a stylish purse that is designed to hold DSLR equipment. One thing to note, however, is that there aren’t many budget options, so you can expect to pay over $100 for a DSLR purse.

Jo Totes Gracie Camera Bag (Top Pick)

The Gracie purse is a super cute option that has plenty of room for your camera and gear. There’s room enough for your camera body and a few lenses or other gear, plus pockets for other things. The Gracie bag is fantastic for travel – it doesn’t look like a gear bag and it conforms to your body rather than being bulky. The access points are easy to get into, and there are lots of options for storage. It’s also the least expensive option in this category.Jo Totes

Kailo Chic Camera and Laptop Tote

This tote doesn’t have great padding for the camera compartments, but it’s a real winner in the looks department. It features comfortable straps and lots of compartments, so it will work well for a stylish photographer who is on the go. It is practical and sturdy, so if you are looking for a bag that will function as more than just a camera bag, this is a fantastic option. There are several print options, too, so there’s sure to be one that matches your personality.





Best bags for DSLR cameras

How to Find the Best Shooting Safety Glasses

Three years ago I went to my local indoor range, a trip I make every few months. Like most ranges, this one allows shooters to use regular prescription glasses in lieu of safety glasses and that’s what I’d always done. I’d never had a problem. Halfway through my session that day, though, an ejected case from my pistol bounced off the lane divider and managed to find a just-big-enough gap between the corner of the top of my glasses and my face. Fortunately I’d blinked in time and the hot case tumbled past my eyelid before coming to rest, trapped against the side of my nose by the bottom of the glasses. It left a painful mark, but could have been much worse. From that day on, I would only wear proper safety eyewear when shooting.

And it isn’t just hot brass you need to protect your eyes against. There are ricochets, pieces of flying clay targets, returning fragments from steel or other hard targets, hot gases from muzzle brakes, and even rare but potentially devastating catastrophic gun failures. It only takes one freak incident, one time. There are lots of options in shooting eyewear, so here’s a quick guide to important features with some reviews of the best eyewear for any budget.

What to Look For


As I learned from the events above, you need shooting glasses that provide good coverage. They should follow the face’s contours and not leave gaps for projectiles to get through. It won’t matter how good the lenses are if objects can get by them. The lenses should wrap at least a little past the corner where the earpiece hinges meet the frame.

Impact Protection

Aside from coverage, the lens’ ability to withstand impacts is the most important feature in shooting eyewear. There are two ratings glasses can obtain to demonstrate this ability.

The first rating is known as ANSI Z87. ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute, which exists to set guidelines for safety equipment. The standard for safety eyewear is known as Z87. To be able to claim a product is Z87 compliant, manufacturers have to subject the eyewear to tests demonstrating it will withstand impacts like those encountered in industrial occupations. ANSI Z87 was first published in 1968 and has been updated five times, the most recent in 2015.

The other rating is being included on the U.S. Army’s Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL). The requirements to make this list are far more demanding than to pass Z87. Most notably, lenses are put through military high-speed ballistic fragmentation testing, and must be seven times more impact-resistant than what Z87 calls for. APEL eyewear also has to block UV, withstand a wide range of temperatures, and meet a basic standard for optical clarity. Here is the official APEL web page.

Lens Material

Most modern safety eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a lightweight plastic that transmits light about as well as glass. It can stand both hot and cold conditions without becoming brittle. Polycarbonate’s most important feature here is its impact resistance. Layers of it are used to form ballistic (“bulletproof”) glass.

UV Protection

Contrary to popular belief, how dark lenses are have nothing to do with how well they block UV radiation. Even clear glasses can block both UV-A and UV-B rays, and it’s an option you should look for in shooting glasses if you do any portion of your shooting outside. UV rays can damage your eyes over time, possibly leading to cataracts or other problems.

Other Features

Shooting glasses may also have the following features, which are primarily about comfort and convenience rather than safety–but people are more likely to wear safety glasses if they are comfortable.

  • Anti-fog coating
  • Scratch-resistant coating
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Adjustable nose piece
  • Adjustable ear pieces

Other Considerations

Lens Tints

While clear lenses are an overall good choice for shooting glasses, there are numerous shades and tints available to optimize a shooter’s vision under particular conditions. Here are the most common.


Gray lenses can range from a light smoky color to a tint as dark as normal sunglasses. These are good for shooting in bright conditions, including outdoors. Gray lenses do not heighten contrast.


These are also good for bright days, but have the added benefit of increasing color contrast.

Yellow or Orange

Bright yellow and orange lenses are good in dull light, like indoor ranges or cloudy days or near dusk. They improve depth perception and make colors pop more, for example orange clay targets.

Prescription Glasses

As I said in the beginning, regular prescription glasses don’t offer enough protection for shooters. Not only do they usually leave gaps, but the lenses aren’t made to withstand projectile impacts.

If you shoot and need glasses, there are several solutions. The first is to wear contacts with standard safety eyewear. You can also buy safety glasses that fit over prescription glasses, but I’ve found these to be clunky and difficult to fit properly. Your other option is to have prescription safety lenses made for shooting glasses frames. Lenses can be made for either single vision prescriptions or bifocals. It’s not cheap–a set of singe vision lenses will cost about $150-200–but there are some mid-priced frames out there than can dampen the expense. A company called Wiley X makes a number of frames that can be fitted with prescription lenses, including their models Talon, Vapor, and Valor. Those three are all APEL rated and under $100.

Selected Products

Here are three of the best shooting glasses on the market at their respective price range.

Budget Range

Howard Leight by Honeywell Genesis Sharp-Shooter

  • ANSI Z87 and APEL rated
  • 99.9% of UV blocked
  • Adjustable nose piece
  • Adjustable temples
  • Adjustable lens angle
  • Available in clear, amber, espresso, vermilion tints
  • Exceptional value

Medium range

ESS Crossbow

  • Frame and hi-def lens
  • ANSI Z87 and APEL rated
  • 99.9% of UV blocked
  • Anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings
  • Superior clarity
  • Replacement lenses available for about $20

Premium Range

Oakley Si Ballistic M-frame 2.0

  • Frame and 2 lenses
  • ANSI Z87 and APEL rated
  • 99.9% of UV blocked
  • Anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings
  • Proprietary polycarbonate (Plutonite)
  • Maximum clarity; distortion-free
  • Can take prescription lenses
  • Replacement lenses available for about $50
  • Silicone non-slip ear and nose pieces

Shooting is a lot of fun, but the safety involved has to be serious. Shooting glasses play a vital role in protecting our vision. Hopefully this introduction to shooting eyewear has shown you what to look for when choosing your next pair, and given you some ideas about what’s available in different price ranges.

Best Binocular Harnesses for Hunting, Birding, and More

Best Harnesses for BinocularsA binocular harness is a wearable harness built to hold your binoculars when they aren’t in use. They are far more convenient than carrying the binoculars by hand or storing them in your backpack, where you’ll then have to take them out again every time you need to use them. There are several different options that you can choose from based on your binoculars and the activity you will be doing.

What is a Binocular Harness?

Binocular harnesses reduce the stress and pressure on your neck that you would get when carrying the binoculars around your neck using the binocular straps. But with a binocular harness, the weight and pressure of the binoculars are distributed evenly across your entire body, reducing the burden of carrying binoculars.

While the standard binocular straps are fine for short periods of time, eventually the pressure the straps exert on your neck would be far more uncomfortable than if you were using a binocular harness. This will take the weight of the binoculars off of your neck. This is why binocular harnesses are far better than straps.

A binocular harness is especially useful during activities where your binoculars require better support and protection than what is provided by the standard binocular straps. Some examples would be hiking and hunting. A harness will provide far more strength than straps, making sure your binoculars are safely held in position even if you’re running, keeping swinging to a minimum. Making the binocular harness both safer, and more comfortable than binocular straps.

Great for Hunting and Birding

When you need to get to your binoculars quickly, fumbling around with backpacks or binocular straps is less than ideal. This is especially annoying during hunting or birding when the timing is critical. So being unable to efficiently use your binoculars can be incredibly frustrating.

Many times, once you’ve finally retrieved your binoculars from your pack, it will be too late. This is one of the biggest reasons for owning a binocular harness, to make it quick and easy to get to your binoculars when you’re out hunting or birding. So you never have to fumble with your binoculars trying to get them out of your pack.

Types of Binocular Harnesses

There are many different styles and types of binocular harnesses which you can purchase, which can usually be broken down into a few different categories: Full Size, Basic, Low Profile, and Dual Harness. There are also a couple of different attachment methods for binocular harnesses, which can affect both the harness’ ease of use, as well as its reliability.

Harness Styles

Binocular harnesses are split into one of four categories: Full Size, Basic, Low Profile, and Dual Harness. Below you can find a detailed description of each harness type, as well as their potential uses.

Full Size

A full-size binocular harness is the most widely used, and most popular binocular harness style. These usually include full sized pouches to give your binoculars as much protection as possible without being cumbersome. These are ideal for both hunting and birding, as well as general use.


A basic binocular harness will employ a simple system that uses clips and ties for your binoculars. Harnesses like these are quite a bit cheaper than other styles, but they’re far less durable, and won’t protect your binoculars as well as a higher-end harness will. But it’s still far more convenient than a strap or just storing the binoculars in your pack.

Low Profile

A low profile binocular harness will give you similar performance to the basic harness, but with upgraded, more comfortable straps, and more safety features to protect your binoculars. These are perfect for someone who wants a high-quality harness but doesn’t have the money to spare for a full size or dual harness model.

Dual Harness

A dual harness system will give you the functionality of two harnesses rolled into a single package. Allowing you to carry your binoculars, as well as a camera, or even a second pair of binoculars. Or any other equipment. A dual harness system will allow you to carry two items at once comfortably. Which is great for birding, where you may need both binoculars and a camera.

Attachment Methods

There are two primary attachment methods for binocular harnesses, which can significantly affect the reliability and ease of use of the harness. Below you can find a detailed description and recommendation regarding the two attachment methods: Quick Release, and Snap-On.

Quick Release

Of the two attachment methods for binocular harnesses, quick release is by far the most convenient of the two. It utilizes a simple buckle-like attachment that allowing for quick release and locking. However, it can be prone to small amounts of accidental releases. So while it may be more convenient than snap-on, it isn’t as reliable.


The snap-on attachment method, while less convenient than the quick release method, is more reliable and secure. It utilizes a series of metal rings which are attached to the neck strap anchors of your binoculars. Although, the metal rings are known to sometimes rub against the finish on the pair of binoculars.

Best Binocular Harnesses for Hunting

Binoculars are very popular among hunters; they allow them to see animals and objects easily from a distance. But it can be a pain to take your binoculars out of your hunting pack every time you need to use them, and this is where the need for a good binocular harness comes in. Here are a couple of the best binocular harnesses for hunting.

S4Gear LockDownX Binocular Harness

The S4Gear LockDownX binocular harness utilizes wide, padded straps and a full-size style. Providing a stable and comfortable place to keep your binoculars. The X-shaped straps spread the weight of the binoculars across your body, and the straps, as well as the back panel, are both made from breathable fabric, making the harness more comfortable, and reducing sweat.

The LockDownX also includes a binocular pouch with conformable flaps to protect your binoculars and twin shock cords which you can attach to your binoculars for tension-free glassing and bounce elimination.

Badlands Mag Bino Case/Harness

The Badlands Mag Binocular case and harness are the optimal choices if you’re looking for a binocular case fit for professional hunting and hunting guides. The harness is durable and reliable, and weighs only one and a half pounds, with a fully enclosed case large enough to fit up to 200 cubic inches. Like many other high-quality harnesses, the Badlands Mag is a full-size harness and features breathable fabric to reduce body heat.

The integrated case is built to handle all 8×32 pairs of binoculars, as well as most 10×42 pairs, and the harness includes a roll-out hydration bladder integrated into the rear center back pad. Overall, it’s an excellent binocular harness, perfect for any outdoorsman.

Best Binocular Harnesses for Birding

Binoculars are one of the most important tools in a bird watcher’s arsenal, allowing them to get an up-close view of the birds without disturbing them. But birds can be quick, and often move, making it extremely inconvenient if you have to take your binoculars out of your bag every time you need to use them. Luckily, binocular harnesses remove the inconvenience. Below you can find a couple of the best binocular harnesses for birding.

Celestron 93577 Binocular Harness

The Celestron 93577 binocular harness is a comfortable, high-quality lowe-profile binocular harness perfect for birding. Great for long walks where you need your hands-free, but still want your binoculars to be available at a moment’s notice, without having constant pressure on your neck.

The small back plate reduces sweat and makes the harness more compact, and while not padded, the straps are thick enough to reduce pressure and distribute the weight of your binoculars significantly. The harness also utilizes a quick release system for added convenience. Overall the Celestron 93577 binocular harness is a high-quality, low-profile binocular harness, perfect for birding.

OP/TECH USA Bino/Cam Harness (Elastic)

The elastic model of the OP/TECH binocular harness is a perfect fit for any outdoorsman looking for a straightforward and reliable binocular harness that can self-adjust to make carrying your binoculars more comfortable and convenient. The harness utilizes a loop attachment method for added reliability.

The harness is available in both a webbing and elastic model, but the flexible model is believed to be better, due to it letting you hold the binoculars closer to you when not in use, and being able to stretch to allow you to bring the binoculars up to your eye level with ease.


A binocular harness is a perfect tool for any outdoorsman, whether they’re a hunter, a bird watcher, or anything in-between. They allow you to comfortably wear your binoculars without having to deal with the continued pressure a neck strap gives you and makes your binoculars far more accessible than they’d be if you only stored them in your pack.

The Best Scope Rings

Shooters spend a lot of time researching different rifles and scopes when putting together their shooting systems. While these are obviously the most critical pieces, smaller gear should not be taken lightly. One component often overlooked is the purchase of reliable rifle scope rings. Rifle scope rings are circular clamps that are used to attach a scope to a rifle using pre-installed mounting bases. Quality rings keep the scope mounted securely to the weapon enabling accurate aim at all times. Even top of the line scopes will prove to be useless when paired with sub par rifle scope rings. The last thing a shooter wants to deal with after sighting in their weapon is unreliable zero, or the inability to have consistency in hitting the mark. This is where a set of good scope rings comes into play.

Top Three Recommended Scope Rings

When deciding what type of scope rings to install, factors such as price, material and the manufacturer’s reputation for quality products should all be taken into consideration. It is extremely important to match the scope rings to the correct style of base. The most common base is the Weaver style. Weaver style bases have a .180 recoil slot, to which the rings are attached. Most scope companies make a set of rings that correspond to this style of base. Picatinny bases are similar to the Weaver style, but are larger. The Leupold style of base is the industry standard that non-Weaver styles are measured against. Almost all modern rifles are set up for a certain type of mounting base, either pre-drilled or grooved. In the case of a weapon that lacks a pre-set mounting point, it may be necessary to have the holes or grooves machined by an experienced machinist or gun smith. Once the correct base is matched to the firearm, it is simply a matter of purchasing a set of rings to coincide with the mounting system as many of the rifle scope rings on the market can be used with different manufacturer’s bases.

The primary options in terms of materials used in the manufacturing of scope rings are steel or aluminum. Steel rings are much sturdier and keep the round shape of the rings from becoming compressed and oval shaped over a period of time or in the case of the rifle being dropped. They are most often produced by molding or machining. This process offers more variance. Aluminum rings are made using a process called extrusion, in which many rings are created from a single piece of material. This process creates mostly identical rings offering the best accuracy. Each style of ring comes with many options in terms of the finish to match the shooter’s preference. Everything from a matte finish to a camouflage is available. Another thing to consider is the height of the ring purchased. Rings come in low, medium, and high heights. Typically, the size of the scope’s objective lens outside diameter and the ocular ball size will determine the height needed on the rings in order to allow the scope cap to clear the barrel.

Proper installation of rifle scope rings does more than just secure accurate aim. It may also help to protect the gun, the scope and more importantly, the shooter. Mounted rings that are too loose will most likely turn freely over time and throw off the accuracy. Rings that are too tight, even just slightly, may bend the sight tube rendering the scope inoperable. When trying to avoid damaging the scope, it is imperative to match the inside diameter size of the scope ring to the outside diameter size of the scope tube. Look for a set of rings that will allow the scope to mount close to the barrel of the rifle but without actually touching it. This will make it much easier to bring the target into the sight picture more quickly and will also help to ensure a higher level of accuracy when shooting long distances. Once the scope and rings are mounted in place and adequately, use Loc-Tite or another brand of thread locker ensures the screws will not loosen with recoil.

There are many other options than just normal rifle scope rings. Extension rings can be used when it is desired for the scope to sit higher on the rifle. These can also be used in cases of mounting a shorter scope onto a rifle with a longer receiver and can offer about another half-inch of mounting leeway. Quick release rings have a lever that allows the user to take off the scope more easily when cleaning or transporting the firearm from the field. It can also come in handy for a hunter trying to put a longer-ranged scope on, depending on the type of game being hunted, though if a single scope is used between more than one gun, re-zeroing the scope will most likely be necessary each time it is exchanged. Offset scope rings allow the scope to be mounted on the side of the weapon. These types of scope rings are usually chosen based on the action style of the gun and if the weapon already has factory mounted sights.

Most of the time, manufacturers of rifle scopes also make sets of rings to compliment the scopes they produce. It may seem ideal to purchase rings made by the scope manufacturer but it is not necessary, as many companies make quality rings that can be paired with any style of scope. One line that Weaver manufactures are Lever-Lok rings. Made of solid steel, these rings consistently receive high ratings in reviews. They have a cross-lock design, which helps to keep the rings more stable and secure. They are also quite affordable and easy to install. Lever-Lok rings also allow a quick release without the need of tools for removing a scope. In fact, it is possible to detach these rings with the scope still attached to them. Leupold makes the Rifleman series of scope rings, which are machined from aluminum; these rings are lightweight and able to withstand significant recoil forces. They are low priced and also receive good reviews on a regular basis. Though on the higher priced end, Nikon makes a variety of rifle scope rings that live up to the company’s reputation for high-quality products. Many of these rings come in the Mossy Oak style finish. The Simmons Company makes sets of aluminum rings. Extremely affordable while still being well built, these rings not only consistently receive good reviews, they also have a loyal following of customers.

With all the different options of rifle scope rings out on the market, it can be a bit confusing trying to decide the correct one to purchase. The most important things to look for are light rings that match the mounting system that the particular firearm utilizes and also the size of the scope tube. The last thing any shooter wants is to spend their hard earned dollars on a rifle and scope only to have the whole system compromised by poor scope rings. Good rings need not be pricey, but they should stay secure once attached to the weapon giving peace of mind to the shooter.