So, back when I wanted to find a key piece of gear to handle/manage my camera equipment while out shooting from the back of a moto – I was steered towards NewsWear's Chest Vest by a longtime friend and fellow shooter Liz Kreutz. I reviewed the different options available and chose the "medium" over the "digital" (has a pocket that will hold a large digital body); or the "foul weather" version, which essentially is the digital version made with waterproof material.
I had avoided the waist belt systems for a few reasons. First off I wanted to get the weight off my belt, secondly, with a lot of time sitting on a moto, I wanted to ensure things were a bit higher so I could pivot easily and not worry about getting to pockets along my hips or more around towards my back.
The one thing I couldn't find at the time (and I'll admit I didn't look before I started writing this post) was any sort of review that talked about the sizes of the pouches. The NewsWear site only mentions different things than might fit, but not actual measurements nor an example "load out" of the gear. This review will answer both those questions.
Measuring Up the Men's Medium Chest Vest:
There are four pockets, the middle two are the same size, as are the outside two pockets. The larger middle pockets measure (roughly) 9.5 inches high by 5 inches wide by 2.5 inches. The other pockets are 6 inches high by 5.5 inches wide. The flaps that cover the tops of the pockets also contain pocket areas with a velcro closure across the top edge. I wanted to measure the effective usage of the pocket, so I measured from the lower edge of the velcro closure to the bottom of the pocket. The larger pocket flaps are 6 inches high by 5 inches wide, while the outer flap pockets are 5.25 inches by 5.25 inches.
Overall width of the four pockets from side to side is 20 inches, the backing extends another 2.5 inches on either side (for sewing of the waist belt and the shoulder straps) for a total width of 25 inches. I didn't want to un-do the belt setup that has worked for me to measure a maximum length of belt available, but by looking at available extra belt length I'd say you could get a total "belt" length of 47 or 48 inches. I wear mine over a moto jacket which (with the protective padding, etc) is fairly bulky, I think the "belt" (full pouch assembly width + webbing) would be 40" for my config. I do wear it a bit loose when on the moto.
There are two other pockets – along the "inside" of the belt, behind the middle to pouches – that I'd forgotten were even there. They are fairly flat, have a velcro closure at the top edge, and measure 5.75 inches by 4.25 inches wide. You might stash a passport or other key papers here, things you don't want to fall out of a pocket, but don't need super easy access to.
The construction is of heavy duty canvas/nylon. The pouches are all made of fabric panels that allow for the large lenses (etc) to easily slide into place. I think most of the other grizzly details can be found at the newswear.com site HERE.
What I Use on the Moto:
In the previous pictures, I had the gear above in the pockets. My "load out" for shooting a bicycle race from a motorcycle is as follows, although the image above doesn't have all the "smalls" I usually stuff into the flap pockets. and the thing below the Canon 5D2 body is a 15mm f2.8 fisheye, the strap kept rolling it away when it was on its side. Also – to ensure there wasn't any confusion about what was in the chestvest vs. hanging from me when on the moto – I didn't picture the two 1D bodies I use nor the flash. Okay – enough of the caveats, on with the info…
Left most (as I'm wearing it, right most in the picture) pocket carries my quantum flash external battery. I keep my wider lens camera on the left side with the flash on it, so this keeps the cord stretch to a minimum. In the flap I keep my memory card vault, and some other basics for being on course. An allen key (you never know when a l-plate or mounting plate may loosen up on you at the wrong time), some ear plugs (for loud PA systems during podium presentations), and a lens cloth with a lenspen or two for touch-ups.
Left center pocket houses my 5D2 without the grip. The majority of my moving shots are all handled by my two sports shooter bodies – one with a 70-200 2.8L IS (right side) and the other with a 24-105 w/ flash (on the left side) – you just don't need the full frame width when moving. So I keep it in a pocket for easy assembly for a scenic or fish eye shot. In fact, my 15mm 2.8 fisheye lives at the bottom of this pocket, the padded strap above to protect the lens, then the body on top. This lets me get the body out if I want to use my 17-40 that is kept in the rightmost pocket for a scenic without having to get the fisheye out of the way first. This flap pocket is usually stuffed with (not pictured) route notes for the day. A page from the race bible with all key mile markers, along with any notes I may have on scenic spots to try for, etc. I'll usually end up with a laminated card (thanks to my moto driver) which has all the summary info and an elevation chart with feed zone, KOMs, sprints, etc indicated.
Right center pocket (in this "full" example) has my 100-400. I don't use this much, and will usually leave it with my sherpa slash second shooter for them to use, but I'll throw it in on occasion. This is roughly the same size as the 70-200 2.8 and other lenses. So you've an idea of what will fit. The outer pocket for this usually is left to be a bottle holder of sorts. We usually end up with 1/3 liter water bottles from the race organization and one, along with some sort of sports bar to much on during the stage, will fit into the flap pocket.
Right most pocket will have my wide angle lens – usually a 17-40 f4L. It has a bit more reach than the 16-35 2.8, and I rarely if ever shoot at 2.8 during a race stage – especially since this is my "scenic" lens and even in the team areas, and after a stage if I'm shooting in a crowd, I'll have the flash running and will have more depth of field need than 2.8 will give me. The outer flap will house some spare ziplock bags, and a quick fit camera/lens cover. I've found that the disposable ones are super packable and work great. Op/Tech USA makes the one I use out of a clear plastic (www.optechusa.com). It has a drawstring to keep the bag tight against the open end of the lens; an elbow bend to the sleeve; a hole that allows you to pull the eye-cup pad off and re-mount it "outside" the bag so you are not looking through plastic; and it has enough length on the "put your hands in here" end that it will go almost to your elbow. Yes – my "full on" cover is used when I know I'm heading out into the rain, but this is a great easy to pack alternative that works well – but I digress…
My Additions to the System:
The two additions I've added to the system are not necessary in my view, but definitely helped me with my load out. I picked up a pair of "velcro on" shoulder pads from a local dive shop. They give a bit of padding to the 1.5" wide webbing that is used for the shoulder straps, but more importantly to me was they now offer a way to secure my camera straps to my shoulders so I don't lose a camera at a critical moment. Since the velcro just wraps around the pad, I undo one of the strap sets, tuck the camera strap across the top of the shoulder strap, then close the velcro over the camera strap. I leave this one a bit loose to allow the strap to slide through the velcro without binding. Voila – I don't have a camera strap across my neck; nor do I worry about it sliding off my shoulder. It is also super easy to undo to release the strap if I need freedom of movement when off the bike or at the end of the race at the finish line or at the awards podium presentation.
The other addition is a pouch for my cell phone. I've enough different Oakley AP style bags that I have plenty of the military style modular pouches that velcro onto mil-spec vest/webbing systems. I just used one of those and velcroed it around the left shoulder strap just above the pouches. Now my phone is easy to grab with my right hand as needed. Also – with it closer to my head than if it was inside a pocket, I have a better chance of (tho not much with wind and a helmet on – nor would I answer – I'd just know to check when I got to my next "scenic" setup and was off the bike).
What can I say – I love this product. I've now used this vest for almost two years. It has held up incredibly well, no fraying of any cloth, none of the stitching has come undone, and the velcro has been holding up well. It has served me well no matter if I'm on the back of a moto, working in a crowd at a criterium, or if I'm documenting an event.
The supple nature of the materials used make it easy to "cinch down" an empty or only partially full pocket, and it seems to move well as I do. Not getting in the way as I pivot, kneel, get around obstacles, and so on. It just works well with various amounts, sizes, and pure volume of gear you want to stow.
I know some of my colleagues will wear this lower than I do, at almost belt level, but I like it around my lower torso instead. It gives me freedom to get on one knee without the pouches hitting my thigh. Also – while on the moto, it puts the bottom of the pouches right in my "lap" so the gear is lightly supported but allows me to pivot freely.
The load is balanced across my shoulders, back and waist (well – and when seated, my lap), so I've yet to have any "gear" fatigue. I may be tired from a long day, but my shoulders and waist are not hurting from hauling my gear around.
I will probably get a foul weather version soon, it will be nice to have the extra space if needed, and to have the weather protection; but I'll be sure to hang on to this one.
If you have any questions – feel free to comment below, or use the "contact" link in the header.
Thanks for reading!
Copyrighted image courtesy of KQCooper