It goes without saying, but no hunter should ever head up into a tree stand without a full body safety harness. Despite all the warnings out there, many hunters obviously still continue to do so. Falls from tree stands are still the leading cause of hunting injuries and deaths in many U.S. states. No matter how experienced you are or how good of equipment you have, accidents can and do happen. Accidents can happen, even if you’ve been up and down from your stand thousands and thousands of time. If you ever fall out of your stand, the best tree stand harness will keep you from getting seriously injured.
If used properly and worn every time, a tree stand harness really can mean the difference between life and death, or at least between a normal life and one hampered by permanent debilitating injury. There’s no reason to risk spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair or potentially in the grave. All it takes to prevent these things is investing in a good harness and remembering to put it on each and every time you’re ready to climb up into your tree stand.
To make sure you arrive home safely from your next hunting trip, this article will focus on tree stand safety. It will include what to look for when choosing a safety harness and tips on hunting from a stand safely. You’ll also find tree stand harness reviews to help you determine which products rank amongst the best. Safe stand hunting isn’t that difficult, especially when compared to the potential consequences that could result from not doing it. So do yourself and your loved ones a favor by making sure you take the proper precautions next time you head up into your stand.
Ranking the Best Tree Stand Harnesses
Tree Stand Hunting Safety Tips
As this article is about safety harnesses, it only makes sense to start this section with another reminder about just how important it is to put on your harness each and every time you’re out in the field, and before you begin to climb to your stand. It’s simply not enough to buy a harness and keep in your backpack until you’re up in the tree.
No matter how many times you’ve been up that ladder, you could still slip and fall on your way up. Similarly, even if you’ve recently checked out your stand to make sure it was secured safely, something could always happen to cause the stand to come loose, dumping it and you out of the tree if you’re not wearing your harness. Still, safely hunting from a stand is about more than just choosing a good harness and wearing it every time.
The following tips can also help make the experience much safer:
- Pay close attention to tree selection. Only hang your stand from healthy trees that meet or exceed the tree stand manufacturer's size specifications and recommendations. If the tree shows any signs of damage or rot, choose another one.
- Always inspect your stand, harness and ladder each time before using it. This helps to potentially identify and damage or wear and tear. Also make sure the stand and ladder are fully secured to the tree.
- Always make sure you have three points of contact to the ladder and stand when climbing up or down. In other words, never have more than one hand or foot off at any time.
- Never climb to the stand with your bow or rifle on your back. Instead use a rope to raise and lower your gear from the stand. Always make sure to do this on the opposite side of the tree from where you climb up and down.
- Never head out into the field without first informing friends or family. Tell them exactly where you will be and when you will be back.
- Never be afraid to call for help. Should something happen and you find yourself hanging from your harness, immediately begin shouting for help. Use your phone to call for help if you can't get yourself back into the stand.
- Always climb slowly, taking no more than 12 inches at one time. Be extra cautious when climbing in potentially slippery or hazardous conditions such as rain, snow or ice.
How to Use a Tree Stand Harness
Owning a harness isn’t enough, as you have to know how to use it properly. As every harness system is slightly different, it’s important to fully read through the manual that accompanies your harness in order to understand exactly how to put it on. Once you have it on, make sure to fully tighten the straps and connect the safety rope before climbing.
Finding the Best Tree Stand Harness
In the past, many hunters used single strap belt harnesses or basic chest harnesses. However, these style of harnesses can actually cause quite serious injuries on their own. This is why only full body harnesses are now approved. Instead of simply hooking around your chest or waist, these harnesses hook around both the chest and legs. This ensures full body support should you fall. Of course, no safety harness is going to be perfectly comfortable if you do find yourself hanging there. The main thing is that you won’t get hurt.
There are two general types of harnesses to choose from, standard harnesses and vest harnesses. Most standard harnesses are quite small and lightweight nowadays, similar to those you see on workers. These harnesses are small enough to wear underneath your outer layer of clothing and generally offer more freedom of movement. However, while they may not offer quite as much flexibility, vest harnesses do have their benefits. They include additional pockets and an added waterproof layer of camouflaged clothing to help keep you warm and dry.
As you’re basically trusting the harness with your life, this isn’t a product where you can really afford to be cheap. Therefore, it’s vital that you buy a harness from a reputable company instead of trying to save a few bucks. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hundreds, but you definitely owe it to yourself to buy the best harness you can. To get you started, here are five of the best tree stand safety harnesses currently out there.
Hunter Safety System Elite Vest Harness
One of the major innovators of modern tree stand harnesses, Hunter Safety System produces a range of outstanding products. Their Elite Vest is far and away one of the best. If you’re looking for a quality vest-style harness, this truly is one of the best money can buy. The all-weather vest is not only waterproof, but breathable enough to wear in warmer weather while still adding an extra layer of warmth for those cooler days. As well, the vest features numerous pockets so you can keep all your gear at hand, and unlike some other products, it comes with both the tree strap and linesman strap. It also features a handy strap that helps you relieve pressure on your groin should you fall. This is definitely something you’ll be happy to have should you be forced to hang for an extended period of time.
Hunter Safety System X-1 Series Bowhunter Harness
If you’d prefer the flexibility and movement of a smaller, more lightweight harness, this excellent bow hunting safety harness from Hunter Safety System is a great option. It only weighs 2.5 pounds, and yet is strong and rugged enough to ensure your full safety without limiting your freedom of movement. It’s not just adults who can benefit, as this model is also available in a youth tree stand safety harness. As well, it also makes an outstanding tree stand harness for big guys since the largest XXL/3X size should be big enough for even the largest men out there.
Gorilla Gear G-TAC Ghost Safety Harness
Another vest-style harness, Gorilla Gear’s G-TAC Ghost is a great harness for rifle hunters. Not only does it feature two big front pockets to hold extra bullets or anything else you might need, but it also features unique padded shoulders to help absorb recoil. The rest of the vest is made of breathable mesh to keep you from overheating. The harness also features a 30-inch tether that offers excellent mobility so you can move wherever you need to take the shot. The only downside is that the leg straps don't always stay tight, but other than that it’s a great product.
Tree Spider Speed Harness
In terms of flexibility and range of movement, the Tree Spider Speed harness ranks right up there with the best. It’s secure, easy to adjust and use, and has super comfortable leg straps and a padded back/shoulder area. Unfortunately, there are a few minor issues that keep it from getting a better score. Firstly, the lack of a waist buckle makes it more uncomfortable than the others when hanging, while you’ll also have to purchase a linesman strap separately. As well, the leg straps may be soft and comfortable, but this also means that they tend to bunch up. Finally, the shiny metal buckles may not be ideal for those who want to be fully camouflaged.
Big Game E-Z On Basic Safety Harness
While the Big Game E-Z On Basic may not necessarily be the best harness out there, it may just be the best tree stand harness for the money. It’s definitely not the most comfortable harness out there (although there are many worse ones). However, it will definitely keep you safe, which is obviously the most important factor. Still, if you do find yourself hanging for hours, you may wish you spent a bit more on one with a bit more support and more comfortable straps.
A lot has changed in the past few decades, with hunting techniques and gear becoming much more high tech as a result. The best tree stand harness looks and feels nothing like those uncomfortable and often unsafe old systems, as well as those cheap harnesses that come with most tree stands. If you’ve never tried one, you’ve got to see what you’ve been missing out on.