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Birding In The National Parks: The Black Widow Camera Holster From Spider


The Black Widow from Spider Camera Holster lets you hang your camera on your hip when you're not shooting.

The late Steve Jobs supposedly once said that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. I think that’s how I was about camera holsters before the folks at Spider suggested I try one.

I bird and botanize with a Canon Powershot XS30IS, a camera that won’t get me a magazine cover shot, but does a great job of documenting things I see for future reference and sharing with others. It’s too big to fit in a pocket, but I like to have it at the ready, so I’ve always carried a small camera bag bandolier-style under my binocular harness to have the camera accessible at my hip. The multitude of straps crossing my torso was getting a bit ridiculous and when a nervous bird appeared, I had to wrestle with opening the bag, which is a sure way to get a bird to fly away.

Enter Spider Camera Holster’s Black Widow. The Black Widow is Spider’s holster designed for point-and-shoot cameras as well as lighter weight DSLR’s.

Seeing the holster complete with the belt and pad Spider provides in their Black Widow Kit made me a little bit trepidatious at first. Birders aren’t known for their style, but it seemed to me I was going to look like a kid dressing up as Batman with this “utility belt.”

When I finally got around to reading the directions, I realized I could slide the holster onto my own belt and dispense with the wide nylon belt provided. I will say, though, that after wearing it for a while, the supplied belt is comfortable and sturdy. It also doesn’t look all that bad. My only complaint about it is that on the one 90-degree day I tested it in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it got a bit hot and sweaty.

Enough about the belt. Does this thing safely hold your camera in place? Based on my tests, the answer is a resounding yes!

I don’t tend to do a lot of running and jumping when I’m out birding, but you never know how things are going to get jostled in the field. I also did some extemporaneous running and jumping, completely out-of-character for a birder, just to see how my camera fared.

The Black Widow wasn’t fazed by anything I did. The camera obviously moves and contacts your hip, but it is definitely not leaving that holster no matter how intense of an action movie you’re starring in.

Set-up is easy. A metal pin is wrench-tightened into the tripod port on the camera. The ball atop the pin then slides into the plastic lock on the Black Widow and the camera is snapped into place. The lock can only be released by pressing the locking lever upward. It takes enough pressure that it’s really a two-hand job to undo the lock and slide the camera up and out of the slot, but that’s a good thing as two-hands-on-the-camera is a rule to live by when you don’t have a strap around your neck.

So, a bird appears and you want to shoot it (with your camera!), but it’s going to be startled by any excessive noise or movement. With the Black Widow on your belt, you can discreetly reach to your hip, silently remove the camera and slowly draw it up and shoot. I got more than a few shots in the North Dakota badlands that I wouldn’t have had I needed to undo a bag to get to my camera.

While there’s nothing cheesy about the plastic lock on the Black Widow, Spider does make the Spider Pro System with a metal lock and plate for heavier cameras. The Pro also comes with a belt that’s significantly more stylish with a locking buckle replacing the Velcro on the Black Widow belt.

I passed the Pro System on to my friend Joshua so he could put his DSLR on it and bounce around Michigan for a while. His reports were as positive as mine were for the Black Widow. His one complaint about the Pro from a field-work standpoint was some metal-on-metal noise from the plate and pins contacting the locking mechanism. The noise is less noticeable with heavier lenses, but when not much weight is on the lock, the noise while walking was a bit annoying. Otherwise, the Pro performed quite well. So well that Joshua is avoiding me to get out of having to return the thing!

I’m 100 percent sold on Spider Camera Holsters after this trial. I just need to learn to reposition the holster or take it off when getting on and off tour buses or other tight spots. While exiting a bus in Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota, the camera on my hip got caught on the railing beside the steps. I’m happy to report that although my pelvis was nearly dislocated from forward momentum, both the Black Widow lock and the Velcro belt closure held tight! I’d feel safe with my most expensive equipment on that holster. I just need to practice bus disembarking skills.

The Black Widow Holster Kit (including belt and pad) retails for $64.99 and the Single Camera Pro System for $135.00. You can find these and other accessories at Spider’s website


Sounds less useful than a camera sling (which works fine with a binocular harness) - like Blackrapid makes:

I love those for long bird hikes, pelagic trips, etc.

Hmmm, not sure how I'd like that, Nate. I tend to want to keep straps on my torso to a minimum once the bin-harness is already there. I'd rather have the cam on my belt. It also looks like drawing the cam up on the sling would run into your bins. That all depends on how low-slung you keep your bins, I suppose. I go for the Han Solo look with the low-slung harness. :-)

Trust me - it works great. I put on the Blackrapid first, then the bins over it.

I use a Crooked Horn harness for the bins, and have them as short as they will go.

The two systems do not interfere with each other and they work great - onshore or on pelagics.

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