By: R. Cade Powell
After ordering a new pair of Vortex Razor 10×42’s this year, I dreaded the thought of dragging them around the desert and badlands while crawling after pronghorn and mule deer. Even worse were the thoughts of scratching them on the big rock piles some of our elk call home in NW Wyoming.
I’ve tried a couple ‘systems’ to go with my bino’s but those systems just didn’t work for the way I hunt. After reading and re-reading a review Ryan Hatfield did in the summer 2013 issue of Elk Hunter Magazine on this very subject, I ordered a Bino-Harness and Range Finder pouch from FHF Gear out of Montana. It arrived within the week and after wearing it around the house for a couple evenings, it was loaded in my gear for a couple big weekends chasing archery elk and deer. Can I really write a ‘review’ on a product that I only hunt with for a “couple big weekends”? In this case, absolutely!
I will only share a few details from those hunts to clarify.
Elk hunt: 7 nights on the mountain living out of my backpack. Temps were between 84 and 22 degrees over the 2 partial weeks I hunted. All elements were experienced from hot, wind, rain, snow, etc. 32 miles hiked and just over 15,000 feet of elevation gained. Over 45 bull elk seen. 7 within bow range that I had ethical shots at. Bulls seen that I would have killed: 2. Bulls that I would have killed and were within bow range: 1. Arrows released: 1.
Deer hunt: 2.5 days of hunting. Bucks seen: 50+. Bucks seen that I would have killed: 2. Bucks seen that I would have killed and were within bow range: 2. Arrows released: 1.
Comfortable: straps are where they belong; I never had my backpack straps ‘rub’ or interfere with my bino harness straps. Clips to remove binos are simple and fast. My bro-in-law wasn’t about to pack his old binos when I had a new pair of Vortex. He packed the spotting scope but used my bino’s when I was on the spotter. It was simple to unclip them and pass them over.
Protection: the bino-harness does not completely encase your bino’s. With that said, it protects them superbly from all the elements I could find. If it is raining/snowing/blowing hard enough for me to worry about, my C4E Torrent Rain Gear will be worn over everything and they’ll be completely encased. I had no issues with the amount of protection the harness offered. Harness case is padded, soft, lightweight and offers ample protection for all my outdoor needs.
Quietness: my only concern when ordering this harness was the noise associated with cordura I had experienced with other pieces of equipment. I put my binoculars in and out of their case at least 10 times while I was perched 36 yards above 6 mulie bucks. I took my binos in and out of their case several times on a good bull elk as he worked his way to 10 yards of me. His cow and calf didn’t’ hear anything either and finally stepped off the trail at 11 yards to feed below me. I chose not to poke an arrow through that bull at 10 yards. He never heard my bino-harness. If you are a conscientious hunter, the cordura will never be an issue.
Access: you can adjust your straps so everything is right where you want it in order to access your binos or rangefinder. Straps on the ‘lid’ are adjustable to be as tight or loose as you want them. The harness is not as fast as a simple strap around your neck with your bino’s ‘just hanging out there’. It was fast enough for almost every situation I could put it through, including needing my bino’s to glass mulie bucks or bull elk that just appeared out of nowhere and were just about to step over a ridge into never
Profile: the harness holds everything comfortably to your torso. When I laid eyes on the mulie buck I ended up killing, he was moving to a new bedding area. I was on the rims above him and had to run, literally, for over a mile. I’d sneak out to the rims and glass him moving through the draws. I’d then duck back behind the cover of the rim and run to the next point to glass him again. My harness kept my bino’s snug to my chest and prevented them from bouncing up and smacking my face as I’ve had other systems do.
On the elk hunt, a bull screamed over the ridge one morning as we had just got back to camp. I had already dropped my pack but looked down and had my knife, cow call, wind checker, and license poked in the pockets of my harness. With my GPS in my pant pocket, I took off to get a better look at that bull. For me it has just the right amount of pockets and space for how I hunt. They are low-profile and very accessible.
Made in the USA!
In a ‘perfect’ world there are a couple minor things I would change with this system. I love the rangefinder pouch and how it strapped right onto my harness. It was in a perfect spot to grab when a range was needed. The rangefinder pouch, however, was almost ‘too good’ of a fit. My Vortex Ranger 1000 slid right in and sometimes was a little tough to get my fingers into the pouch to grab it and pull out. If there were a ‘half moon’ cut into the front of the rangefinder pouch that would allow you get a couple fingers on it, I would have no issues. When I was close to elk or deer, I would take the rangefinder out of the pouch and put it into the pocket on my Core 4 Element Switchback pants. The lanyard I ordered with it was perfect to keep it secured to my harness but long enough to allow me to fit it into my front pocket to access easier.
It took a little getting used to my binos always being attached to the harness system. I wore the system when I was deer hunting and then when I was driving to a new location. I took it off after hiking out of the elk hills and needed my binos a couple times as we were driving out. It took some getting used to them being attached to the harness. As you can tell, I’m really digging deep here to find something I didn’t like……….
Coming out of the elk hills after that first weekend, it was almost 80 degrees that afternoon – even at 10,000 feet. I had to stop a couple miles short of the trailhead and take my pack, harness and a shirt off. I probably should have taken my merino base layer off when we started our ascent. I felt really hot and was sweating pretty good where my harness was secured against my chest. After cooling off for 30 minutes, I was good to go and my harness didn’t bother me. It never caused me ‘sweat’ rash or anything like that. I probably would have been fine if the Merino had come off at the top of the mountain. It never bothered me or made me sweat during a couple days hunting deer when the temps were in the 90’s.
If you are crawling head-first downhill, your harness will slide forward and crowd your neck. If you bend down to pick things off the ground, your harness might slide as well. I don’t think there’s any way to ‘fix’ this. Again, I’m really digging here……………..
All in all, I was really pleased with my harness and rangefinder pouch. So much so, that I recommended it to several buddies who purchased theirs before a recent Idaho deer hunt.