Using a Rock Climbing Harness for Hunting Applications

Using a Rock Climbing Harness for Hunting Applications

I suppose I should start this blog out by saying that the following is a method that works for me.  The focus of this blog post is to highlight the advantages that I have personally experienced via the implementation of a rock climbing harness into my hunting system.  Each individual should conduct their own research and use available information on UIAA fall ratings, safety standards, and other important and widely accepted industry guidelines before implementing a modification to their hunting safety gear.

I hadn’t thought of how hunting and climbing could be combined to provide more efficiency in many treestand applications until I stumbled across the DIY Sportsman on YouTube.  I don’t even remember how I found his channel, but during one of his videos he mentioned another hunter who utilized a rock climbing harness to use a one stick climbing method in order to reach his hunting height.  I began to think about the benefits of a rock harness but I wasn’t sure if they could be trusted in treestand falls and I remained unsure of details like how I would fasten myself to the tree once I was at my hunting height.  With a little thought I believe I solved the problems and came up with a system that reduces pack weight, is less restrictive when in the stand, and allows me to add or remove layers with ease.  At the same time I was able to address these efficiency issues through the use of a climbing harness, I believe I was able to implement a system that is as safe or safer than my previous safety harness set-up.  Not to mention, the rock climbing harness I picked up sells for around 50% the price of a full body hunting harness.

First and foremost, a rock climbing harness is light.  The model I selected is a Black Diamond Vario Speed Harness.  It is often used by instructors in classes because it has a lot of adjustment for different sizes of people.  I am going to use it from early season to late season, so the adjustment is necessary for me because of the bulk of clothing it may have to go over.  The other reason I picked the Vario Harness is because it has a streamlined design and doesn’t have any extra metal accessory rails, eliminating both weight and the possibility for metal on metal contact.  Some modifiers use these rails as carriers for a lineman’s belt but I wanted the most minimal design possible.  Using a rock climbing harness instead of a full body hunting harness can reduce pack weight by almost 2 pounds, depending what model you decide on.

My rock climbing harness set up used for treestand fall restraint, with arborists lineman’s belt attachment at right.

The second huge benefit of a rock climbing harness is that the tree tether will attach to the front of the harness at about waist height.  This keeps the tether from being an obstruction to your shot when you are trying to move from one side of the tree to the other in order to draw on a deer behind you.  I have missed more than one shot opportunity in the past because I could not get positioned quickly enough due to the dorsal tether on a full body harness being in the way of my draw.  At first, I was not sure if this front attachment would be safe in a forward fall.  When I tested the harness, I was pleased to realize that in the event of a fall, the rock climbing harness actually will naturally turn you toward your tree, allowing you to simply climb back into your stand.  Your tether is shorter with this system as well, limiting both the distance you can fall and therefore the shock felt in the fall.  If you are a hunter who uses a Hunter Safety System Life Line or similar product which incorporates a Prusik knot system as a climbing aid, you will experience an additional benefit to the rock climbing harness.  Since the tether is attached to the front of the harness at your waist, you avoid having it come over your shoulder by your head and neck like it must do with a full body hunting harness with a dorsal attachment.  With a rock harness, the tether is always in front of you at chest height.  I feel this is a significantly safer way to utilize the Life Line safety systems when ascending or descending.

Lastly, and perhaps the most easily recognizable benefit is that I can put the rock climbing harness on and walk to my stand with the freedom to add or remove upper layers without taking a full body harness off my shoulders.  This is important if you are hunting remote areas with long access walks, or if you traverse hill country and need to shed layers to keep yourself from sweating and creating additional body odor.  If I choose to pack the harness in, it is compact and lightweight, folding up into a 6 inch square about 2 inches thick.  It fits nicely in my pack and doesn’t take up all the room in my backpack like my full body harness would.  The full body harness always became a tangled mess and was almost impossible to put on in the dark at the bottom of the tree if I chose not to wear it while walking in.  It was also very noisy because of the large buckles on it.  The Vario harness has sleek and compact buckles that have less chance to contact other metal gear.

Is a rock climbing harness for you?  It depends on the type of hunting you do.  Whatever you decide, the two most important things are that your system is safe and that you feel comfortable with it.

Below are some of the resources I used when making my decision to switch to a rock climbing harness.

The DIY Sportsman discusses modifying a rock climbing harness for treestand application:

Climbing a Tree With One Stick- “One Stick Method”

Here is the link to the Black Diamond Vario harness I chose:

Black Diamond Vario Speed Harness:

The original 1 stick climbing method video demonstrated by YouTube user CBigBear1:

1 Stick. MP4

-Reuben Dourte

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