I have always meant to try a harness for hunts where I planned to swing my heavy E-trac (with probe) all day. I’m horrible about changing arms and so my right shoulder would get inflamed tendons and fatigue quickly. I’d feel great except for the shoulder, and skipped or ended some hunts over it. The “nail apron and screwdriver only” crowd will not like any of these – and owners of very lightweight detectors probably don’t need them either.
Testing the Metal Detecting Swing Aids and Harnesses
I decided to do a shootout among the most popular detector swinging aids on the market over the course of 10 hunts during the month of August and September 2013. All hunts were done with my Etrac and one of three coils at 1800s farmsteads including a mix of lawn, field and woods hunting.
I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just being a gadget-freak or fanboy. If the product wouldn’t truly help me enjoy the hobby more, I didn’t want to use it. So I considered the type of hunting I do… farmsteads, woods, old homes and whether I’d enjoy myself more and bring home more great finds.
I try to avoid any external influences in my decisions. I purchased products with my own money, and was not compensated or influenced by any manufacturer or retailer. The ProSwing was provided as a loaner from my friends at Minelab, but I am purchasing it from Minelab at normal cost so I can keep it.
Swingy Thingy Review (Approx street price $31.95 including Bungee “Queegee”)
The swingy thingy is very simple, and doesn’t require a harness. Essentially it’s a strap, buckle and bungee cord. To use it, you simply adjust the strap, clip it to your pants/belt on the back side and attach the bungee to your detector. Adjusting the bungee for the right height is pretty much the only tweak required. I used it for two hunts and was always glad to take it off, sadly. (note: They now have a Swingy Thingy Ultimate, which I did not test, but it looks to be a more padded version of the original.)
- Light and Packable
- Simple to adjust, easy to put on (except bungee clips)
- Least expensive product.
- No change to your belt configuration
- Fit nicely under my Camelbak / backpack.
- Doesn’t require a harness.
- Unnatural swing - pivot point too close to your body. It always felt like the strap was fighting my wrist, trying to twist me to one side. I tried many adjustments and moving the bungee mount around but it didn’t matter.
- Neck became very sore, even after many adjustments. Transfers load to your neck/shoulder, not your belt. This was pretty bad.
- Queegee adjustment on the shaft, not on top, like Minelab. More work to unclip than a top-adjust bungee.
- Stiff, small clips hard to use with gloves – I added a large metal climbing clip to mine.
- Queegee clamp looks fragile to me. To clamp it on the squarish Minelab shaft, I had to tighten it more than I liked.
HipStick Review (Approx street price: $95 for kit. $60 for stick and Queegee)
The Hipstick is an innovative product that transfers the weight of your detector to your hip (belt) via a strong resin rod. The belt connection has a ball joint to allow the rod to pivot and a small bungee is meant to hold the ball from coming out of the joint. The detector is attached using the same bungee system as is used on the Swingy Thingy, with plastic clips. I used the Hipstick on 3 hunts, one of which was all day. It does require a harness of some type, I used my Camelbak with a large climbing clip.
- Natural swing possible – Swing pivot position is moved 2-3″ from the body. I added a 3″ climbing clip so it would actually swing more like 4-5″ away from me. This made it much, much more comfortable with the E-trac. I could swing normally without it feeling like it was “forcing” my wrist any direction. It truly did make it easier to hunt a long time.
- Easy to set up and adjust – if you get the rod length right size to start. I had to return my initial purchase for a longer one. I’m 5′ 11″ and went with the L.
- Transfers weight to the belt well – not to the neck. My neck did not get sore and my shoulder felt much better after a couple of long hunts.
- Doesn’t work if you have a gut… Simply put, if you have a stomach pouch, it will push against the rod during use and knock the ball out. I tried to use the provided mini-bungee to hold it in, and even tried reinforcing the ball with a bike pump strap and other things to hold it in place, but every time I stooped to dig, the ball came out of the joint. This significantly slowed my hunt as I was always fiddling with it.
- The Belt Clip is awkward – I also could not make the belt-clip itself comfortable no matter how hard I tried. I tried putting it on my belt, my jeans and even my pocket…. it just doesn’t work for me.
- Stiff, small clips hard to use with gloves, so at first I tended to try to leave it clipped up. I ended up adding my own metal climbing clips so I could unclip it wearing gloves – an inexpensive and effective fix. But still, these clips were a pain if you’re digging lots of targets.
- Queegee adjustment on the shaft, not on top, like Minelab. You might want to buy a Minelab bungee if you use a Hipstick.
- Your detector may hit items carried on the swing side of your belt.
- Queegee clamp looks fragile to me
Minelab Pro Swing 45 Review – (Street Price around $129)
When Minelab came out with their ProSwing, I initially was unimpressed. It looked ungainly, bulky and would require me to change how I carry items on my belt. Then I started to see others I respect using it, and had to give it a try. The Minelab product consists of a high quality harness with padded belt and lots of adjustments. Along the side of your choosing you thread a resin rod, which pops into receptacles along the strap and rear of the unit. The shaft, which is nearly invisible during use, transfers weight from the connect point at the top to the belt, relieving your shoulders, neck and arm from carrying the detector. I used this on 4 hunts for this review. But the reality is that this is now I plan to use it for every hunt from now on.
- Very comfortable once adjusted. If it hurts your neck, you need to tweak the adjustment. My first hunt with it resulted in neck pain like the Swingy Thingy, but I extended the shaft adjustment for hunt #2 and it fixed the problem. It is adjusted by a simple screw-in-and-out method. One hunt I did was 9 hours and I was not even sore the next day.
- Bungee hooks and clips are extremely simple to pull off for digging, even with gloves. Unhooking the bungee is incredibly easy. I unhook every dig, with a flick of the finger. It’s no effort at all. This is a huge win because straps are now out of the way during recoveries.
- The bungee adjustment is at the top, which makes all the difference. In fact, using the Minelab bungee with the Hipstick made it a better setup as well! Adjusting the bungee is a pleasure, even if you do it a lot (e.g. when you’re going up or downhill.) This is how the other slings should have done their bungees.
- Very natural swing – this is key. The E-trac just floats. It’s amazing. But there’s something you should know. I moved the lower hook so that it’s on the E-trac handle (the center balance point.) This looks like it would make it hard to hold/swing the machine, but it doesn’t. What it does it precisely balance the detector. This is only possible because the bungee is adjusted at the top.
- I was finally able to move my Sun-Ray probe to be mounted on the top of my detector shaft (I had previously mounted it near the battery for balance, but I keep knocking it off) … now that the detector is floating in mid-air, the probe doesn’t even matter, weight wise.
- Most expensive at around $129 street price.
- You’ll have to change your belt configuration. I had to change habits and carry my gear on the left or the machine would hit it.
- No way to easily attach hydration. I ended up just stacking my Camelbak on top of it, but that made for a lot of shoulder straps. I really wish they’d have set it up to accept standard hydration.
- Bulky to pack. Lots of padding make it comfortable, but it will not fold easily into a backpack without taking out the rod.
- Best connect point on the E-trac is right in the middle of the handle. Connecting this further down the shaft made it far less natural to use. I tried all kinds of routing – below my in-line probe, above it, strap routed over the display, to the left, right. Nothing worked as well as having it smack dab on the handle – I just guide the machine from under the strap. I’m thinking of fabricating a connector that rides above my hand (see below.)
- Cheap plastic buckle. I’m replacing mine with a cobra buckle, allowing me to tighten it well (which matters.) If the buckle breaks in the field, the harness will not work. The force distribution of this harness requires you wear it somewhat snug or you’ll suddenly be carrying the load on your neck. Kudos to Minelab for making the buckle replaceable.
If you use a heavy detector, you will come to love a harness if you like to hunt all day. If you use a lighter machine, they may just be a bulky pain in the butt. As an E-trac user, I’m a convert. I enjoyed my hunts longer and was less sore later with the Hipstick and the Minelab Harness.
I’ll just say it… the Swingy Thingy is simply out of its league here. It provided none of the comfort benefits of the other setups based on my hunting, always feeling as if it was fighting my swing. I tried hard to love it, but ended up just taking it off and swinging as usual. The only time I can think of using it is if my shoulder is worn out at the end of the day and it’s either use it or stop detecting. The Swingy Thingy made me MORE sore than if I were using just the detector, only the soreness went into my neck. I did try adjusting it many times, and even switching sides. I just ended up putting it in the car. It could be much better on other metal detectors, but with the E-trac I’m done with it.
If you’re a thin person, like the Aussie in their video, and you don’t mind some awkward unclipping, the Hipstick might be for you. It’s brilliantly designed in concept, but when I tried in in the field it became a pain at times. Still, it does improve the comfort of hunting a lot through the weight transfer, so I tended to put up with the ball joint and unclipping hassles anyway (at least until I got out the Pro-Swing.) If you’re hunting fields where the signals are far between, it would work fine I think. If the ball joint were attached to some type of belt-mounted holster (rather than the awkward plastic clip they include) and you used it with the Minelab top-adjust bungee, it might be much better. Having the ball joint right on the belt is an issue for me. If it were held out, perhaps 3-4″ I think it would work 100x better.
The Winner (by a mile) – the Minelab Pro Swing 45 Metal Detecting Harness
The Minelab Pro Swing is the kind of accessory that helps you enjoy your hobby more often and look forward to the next hunt, meeting my main criteria. It took some adjusting to get the shaft length right and the belt tightness correct, but once you have that done, it works exactly like planned. It doesn’t get in the way as much as the other slings thanks to the flick-to-disconnect setup on the bungee. I used mine on 4 long hunts, and I’m hooked (excuse the pun.)
Its bulk means it’s a commitment. You will have to change your setup to use a harness like this. After 1-2 hours of hunting, I forgot I was wearing it – even on a hot day – until I disconnected it and felt the full weight of my E-trac!!! If you want to use a hydration pack you’ll have to get creative or simply wear it on top.
I hope that Minelab releases a revision to this with a cobra/metal buckle and a method to attach hydration and other pack add-ons. Perhaps somehow integrate MOLLE tactical modular units perhaps?
Great job Minelab – you’ve sold me.
Postscript: Idea for hooking on an E-trac at the ideal balance point. Using an altered angle bracket, a small, strong climbers loop, metallic (strong) zip ties and some heavy duty handle wrap, I think you could regain the normal use of the E-trac handle while attaching the harness at the ideal balance point.