Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Product Review: Binocular Harnesses
In recent years I have learned how valuable optics are when hunting out West. You need good optics for a good spot and stalk hunt. Most of the binoculars I have seen come with the manufacturers neck strap. As many of you can attest, this can leave quite a strap burn on your neck and leave you with serious neck fatigue. It's not what you want when you are hiking the backcountry. The solution is quite simply using a binocular harness.

I recently had the opportunity to test out the binocular harnesses from Crooked Horn Outfitters and from Nikon Sport Optics. Although very similar (elastic straps, plastic hooks), they have a couple of small differences.

First, I tried out the Crooked Horn harness. This one was completely black except for the light brown leather back connecting the four straps. It also comes in a camo pattern.
It was quite simple to use right out of the package. Clip the hook through the eyelet on your binoculars, get you arms through the straps, grab the remaining hook and clip that one through the second eyelet. The hooks clipped into place rather hard. The benefit is that binoculars won't come off the hooks very easily, but my thumbs begged me for mercy. I think they are like that so that the eyelet won't come back under the arm of the hook and pop out.

The straps were easily adjustable and held the bino's snug.

I could easily raise and lower the binoculars to my eyes and back down with no trouble. I didn't have as much clearance between the binoculars themselves and my body, but I was willing to live with that. I loosened and tightened them to get a perfect fit, but if I loosened it to fit better they seemed to bounce a bit more. If I tightened the straps, they bounced less, but felt a bit snug almost as if the harness was creeping in towards my navel. (How's that image for you?)

The second harness I field tested was from Nikon Sport Optics. The Nikon harness was completely black, even the strap connector (located on your back when used correctly). The Nikon harness also comes in a camo pattern.

This harness was even easier to use and took less effort to get everything hooked into place. The hooks have a freer motion to them and lock so the binocular eyelet cannot pop out on their own. I was able to hook them and unhook them with ease and my thumbs thanked me for it.

The straps were easily adjustable and also held the binoculars snug, but with a little more breathing room. They were a relaxed fit and very comfortable.

I was able to raise and lower the binoculars to my eye very easily. The Nikon harness has a small nylon extender strap, about an inch or so, that connects the elastic strap to the hook. This helped the binoculars slide up and down the harness more easily and didn't squeeze my stomach so tight. (I suppose cutting back on the doughnuts would help!)

I thought that the black vs. camo would be a deal breaker for me, but it's completely cosmetic. You want your pattern to be broken up and a good pattern on your clothing will do that. You binocular harness won't be a downfall in your hunt if it's black vs. camo.

I also thought the aroma from the leather connector on the back of the CHO harness would be a deal breaker. I'll admit I preferred the all black Nikon, but the leather isn't going to make that much difference. If you are close enough where an animal can smell the leather, he's probably going to smell YOUR scent before that. Stay downwind.

I found both harnesses to be very useful and quite comparable. They have a similar price point and can both be used with SLR cameras, as well. I give a slight edge to the Nikon for two reasons. First, the hooks that snap into place can be done with little effort and make virtually no noise. Second, that extra piece of nylon that attaches to each hook makes a  difference to me. I felt more comfortable glassing and hiking with the Nikon than the Crooked Horn harness. I highly recommend using one in the field. Your neck will thank you for it!


  1. You are not kidding Al, these things are major neck savers. I carry 15 power Bruntons, and they forced me into considering these straps and I am glad I did. I ended up with the Crooked Horn and since thats all I know, I like em.

  2. I couldn't agree more, Gary. I used to be so stubborn and then when I tried my Crooked Horn harness I was hooked. No more neck pain and I enjoyed every spot and stalk after that. I just got to try the Nikon harness and that's the only reason I lean towards it. Both are great!

  3. have you ever reviewed the Cougar Optics binocular harness from http://www.mybinocularharness.com/

    this harness is my personal favorite. the harness uses a ring in the back instead of a leather patch.

    the nice thing about a ring is that you can slide the straps together and wear the harness over one shoulder across your body as well as the traditional way over both shoulders.

    which makes it really nice especially if you are carrying a bow on one side. You can still slide your binos or slr camera up to your eyes quickly even when you wear it on your side.

    just my 2 cents i prefer it to the crooked horn harness. plus it doesn't hurt that its cheaper and they ship it for free.

    hit them up they may give you a free harness to do a review on it. i found them by reading a review on someone elses site actually

    love your blog keep it up!