Most tree stands come with some sort of a harness. Sure, these are safe enough and will do the job, but they’re really not comfortable and are terrible to wear all day and night. A lot of hunters are transitioning over to using a rock climbing harness, and have found that this eliminates a lot of the problems they have hunting from a tree stand. There are tons of different styles of climbing harnesses, and lots of different features.
The best rock climbing harness to buy for bow hunting is the Black Diamond Alpine Bod Harness. It is a traditional minimalist climbing harness as far as materials and belt closure, but adds extremely convenient leg release buckles.
It also comes with plenty of gear loops for securing climbing sticks and other necessary gear. This climbing harness is also a lot cheaper than any harness designed for archery.
The other harness that a lot of hunters like to use is the Black Diamond Vario Speed Harness. It’s even more minimalist than the Alpine Bod harness, because it doesn’t have any extra gear loops and just has standard leg straps.
Each hunter may have his or her own preferences, which is why I list both here. In my opinion, the Alpine Bod is better, and is actually even usually cheaper than the Vario Speed Harness.
Should I Use a Rock Climbing Harness for Bow Hunting in a Tree Stand?
Climbing Harnesses are rated to withstand a lot of forces, and are designed to be worn all day and still be comfortable. Contrary to popular believe, you won’t land upside down if you are wearing a harness on only your lower body. Climbing harness use either two tie-in points on the front or a specific tie-in point that ensures you land right-side-up.
- Comfort: There’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as a full body harness with a rope attached to your upper back. You shouldn’t even feel a climbing harness while you’re wearing it. A lot of climbing harnesses have some extra padding built in to the leg loops and waist strap because climbers spend time hanging from them. With hunting you’re going to be sitting in the harness most of the time, so you want it to be as minimally invasive as possible.
- Safety: Climbing harnesses are designed to handle falls from significant heights, and are made to help the faller land facing upwards instead of down at the ground. With a climbing harness you don’t have to worry about a rope up near your neck, and you will always land facing the tree so you can easily climb back up. With a full body harness you may land facing away from the tree connected to the nape of your neck, making it very difficult to spin around and climb back up.
- Convenience: One of the most overlooked features of the climbing harness is that you are more likely to wear it. With traditional full body harnesses, hunters often neglected putting them on because of the hassle of untangling everything and rigging it. With a climbing harness it is a quick couple of steps to get completely set up.
- Ease of Use: Another huge benefit to the climbing harness is that, with your torso free, you can add or remove layers without disconnecting from the tree or climbing down to the ground. This is a game-changer for most hunters, and really helps in terms of safety. If you get a harness with quick release leg loops too, you can even add a layer to your bottom half without too much added safety risk.
- Less Distracting: With the tie-in point at your waist, you can turn all the way around with the bow drawn without interfering with your harness. With a regular full harness you would be fighting the tether connected to your upper body the whole time.
- Weight: The harness weighs just over a pound, even with the gear loops. That’s about half as much as regular hunting harnesses.
- Price: Most tree stands do come with a really simple hunting harness, but but if you ever have to buy one, you’ll easily be out $50 to $100. Climbing harnesses can get really expensive, but for the basic features that hunters need, you shouldn’t have to spend more than $50. The Black Diamond Alpine Bod harness is much less than $50.
Why the Black Diamond Alpine Bod Harness is the best for Hunting
- Quick Leg Release Buckles: The practicality is endless. You can unclip the buckles to shed layers while still keeping the waist belt tight. With other harnesses, you have to remove the harness or loosen parts of it to take off your jacket or extra pants. This is extremely hazardous if you slip and fall.
- Gear Loops: The loops on the Alpine Bod Harness are actually even weighted to catch a significant amount of weight. I wouldn’t hang from them, but you can pretty much hang anything that you can physically carry. It’s best to have a flashlight, knife, and other essential gear on the loops. This way you don’t have to worry about them falling down to the ground. Utilize small carabiners to clip stuff onto your harness.
- Price: At around $45, this harness is definitely on the low end of the price spectrum. You could probably find another one a little bit cheaper without gear loops or leg release buckles that is made by a less-than reputable company, but Black Diamond is completely trustworthy and makes solid gear.
Hunting Harness Must-Have Features:
Black Diamond doesn’t make the only harness that works. Here are the features that you will want to look at if the Alpine Bod harness isn’t for you-
- Brand: Make sure it’s made by a reputable climbing company. Petzl, Mammut, Edelweiss, etc. You can guarantee they’ve been through the necessary safety tests and certifications.
- Quick Release Legs: Like I mentioned above, this should be a non-negotiable. It is a lot easier to step into, and can even be used to add layers to your lower half without having to go down to the ground.
- Sizing: Some climbing harnesses come in small, medium, large, etc. Others take a one-size fits all approach with a lot of extra nylon webbing built in. Make sure you get one that will be big enough when you’re all bundled up with layers for the cold.
- Gear Loops: Some hunters want an even more minimalist harness without gear loops in order to “save weight” (much less than 1 pound). I think it’s much more convenient to be able to secure stuff to your harness and not worry about knocking it off the stand or dropping it on the ground. The gear loops on the alpine bod harness are even strong enough to carry your sticks.
Tips for Using a Climbing Harness for Bow Hunting
- Put your harness on while you’re still on the ground. No reason to wait until you’re up high and risk falling!
- Practice your setup in your yard, or at a nearby park so that you know what you’re doing and so someone is near you to help if you need it. You can even take practice falls in the harness and figure out how best to climb back up.
- Get to know the harness well enough that you can put it on or take it off in the dark. This way you are less likely to make mistakes on a routine basis.
- You’ll need to have a tether, or safety system to secure you to the tree. I recommend the Hunter Safety System Rope-Style Tree Strap. It comes with a prusik to help you ascend the rope.
- Keep the safety system taut, with just enough slack so you can move around. The more slack you have, the harder it will hurt when you fall and the more difficult it will be to climb back up. Ideally, you should have less than 6 inches of slack in the rope- enough to let you sit comfortably and stand up.
- Always have a cell phone with you on your person so you can call for help, as well as an emergency whistle, a flashlight, and a knife. These are all great things to hang from your harness’ gear loops. If you’re out of cell range, the Garmin InReach Mini Satellite Communicator will almost always be able to catch a satellite and transmit your message. This should be mandatory for anyone who goes alone.