Treestand Safety For Bowhunterson Oct 8, 2012
The Basic Safety Harness
When it comes to choosing which harness is best for you, there are several basic options. First, consider the safety harness that comes with every treestand sold. Chances are good you have a pile of these collecting dust in a corner somewhere. I know I do. These harnesses, while not my favorites, are certainly adequate for keeping you safe while bowhunting from an elevated position. They are tested and approved by the TMA and usually made of either elastic or thick cloth straps and may have either buckles, snaps, or pull tension straps for closures.
If price is an option, then they can't be beat since they are basically “freebies” every time you buy a treestand. If you don't have one, chances are you've got a buddy that will give you one. But if you plan on logging a lot of hours in a treestand, you will quickly realize that those types of harnesses are not designed for repeated long term use. They are not exactly designed with a hunter's comfort in mind. This is where higher quality safety harnesses come into play.
When hanging stands, don't forget to use a lineman's belt to ensure safety.
The Safety Vest Harness
The vest style safety harness looks more like a hunting jacket than a harness and usually has camo fabric front and back. The harness is basically sewn inside the vest. You simply put on the vest like a jacket and attach the front buckles and leg straps. A good number of hunters prefer the vest-style because they allow the user to carry many accessories in the pockets for quick access while hunting.
The nice thing about vest style harnesses is they usually have lots of pockets and straps to carry your gear. Many have built in rangefinder pockets and lanyards for attaching calls which allows you to keep everything within easy reach while on stand. Most importantly, they are much more comfortable for an all-day sit than the free harnesses previously discussed. The straps are wider and have considerably more padding and the safety lanyards are usually longer, giving the hunter more freedom to move in the tree. The only drawbacks to vest style harnesses is the extra bulk that accompanies them or wearing them in hot weather.
However, companies like Hunter Safety System have gone through great lengths to streamline the size and weight of the vest style harnesses to make them more enjoyable for the hunter to wear for long periods of time. The Pro-Series safety harness features a mesh material that is light weight and breathable, while still oferring plenty of pockets for gear storage.
Standard Design Safety Harnesses
The next option is what I refer to as a "standard harness". These are typically similar to a vest style in that they have lots more padding, longer lanyards, and are much easier to put on and attach to the tree than the harness which is included with your treestand. The difference is they are usually lighter and take up less room than a vest, making them slightly more versatile. Most weigh between one and two pounds which allows you to wear them for extended periods of time without even knowing they're on.
The minimal design and light weight of the Hunter Safety System UltraLite harness has made it a favorite of the Bowhunting.com video staff over the past year. It's light weight design allows for increased comfort and greater mobility.
The downside to standard design harnesses is that they don't have accessory pockets to carry any of your hunting gear. Some models do include binocular straps which can really come in handy for those who prefer to wear their harness on the outside of their jacket. Harnesses such as the Hunter Safety System Ultra-Lite fall into this category. This style has become my personal favorite over the years.
Hybrid Design Safety Harnesses
A fourth option is a hybrid of both the Vest and Standard design harness. This particular design has ultra-lite construction, with no bulky vest, but still has pockets around the bottom for a hunter's gear. While these types of harnesses are relatively new on the market, they're already becoming a quick favorite of bowhunters as they provide the best of both worlds.
All of these harnesses can be washed with your other hunting clothing to remain scent free as well. However, in order to be effective, no matter which harness you choose, wear it on every single hunt. No harness can save your life unless you are wearing it.