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Published Mar 15, 2023 9:00 AM
The importance of a good tree stand harness cannot be understated. We’ve heard far too many regretful stories from hunters who didn’t utilize the proper safety procedures in the field. Many end up badly injured or, in some worst-case scenarios, permanently disabled after a tree stand fall. Hunters owe it not just to themselves, but also to their families to come home after every hunt. That’s why a quality safety harness is not an item hunters should skimp on while shopping.
The right safety equipment will keep you safe not just while sitting in a stand, but also during your ascent and descent from the tree. We kept that in mind when making our top picks for the best tree stand harnesses.
How We Made Our Picks
I have hunted deer since 1999. I have spent a good deal of that time hunting from a tree stand while wearing various forms of safety gear. I’ve spent more than a fair amount of time dealing with inferior safety harnesses that are difficult to put on and uncomfortable to wear for a full day in the stand. Obviously, none of that subpar equipment made this list. We also considered many factors hunters will find important when making our selections.
- Weight Rating: What is the maximum weight each harness can hold?
- Harness Weight: How much does the harness itself weigh? Does it have excess materials that make it uncomfortable to wear or draw a bow?
- Sizes: Is this a niche harness for only one group of hunters? Are there options in various sizes and weight ratings for everyone?
- Value: How much does the harness cost? Do the features match up with the price tag?
Best Tree Stand Harnesses: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Hunter Safety System Pro Series
- Weight Rating: 100 – 300 Pounds
- Harness Weight: 3.06 Pounds
- Sizes: S, M, L/XL, 2XL/3XL
- Mesh vent straps for warmer weather hunts
- Lots of storage pockets
- Strap to drag a deer out
Hunter Safety System is often the standard by which all other brands of harnesses are judged. Their Pro Series is our clear favorite for the added features packed in beyond just being a lifeline. This is a great choice for warmer climates since HSS built much of the harness with a mesh design that helps ventilate and prevent excess sweating. Today’s modern hunting jackets and pants are often built with a bevy of pockets. Unfortunately, many of these often become inaccessible the moment you slip on a harness. The Pro Series solves that issue by integrating eight total pockets, including a larger one built specifically for your smartphone. This harness has a rather unique feature in a USB charging port. It feels a little excessive, but at least you’ll know you can stay connected in case of an emergency.
This one also makes our best overall list simply for the range of sizes and weight limits available. If there’s one downside to this harness, it’s the fact that it carries a much higher price tag than many other options on the market today. It’s also slightly heavier because of all those bells and whistles.
Best for Bowhunting: Hunter Safety System X-1
- Weight Rating: 100 – 300 Pounds
- Harness Weight: 2 Pounds
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL
- Light design
- Few points to interfere with a bowstring
The X-1 is a good choice specifically for stick and string simply because the straps have a narrower design that allows for a fuller range of movement, especially when drawing. I also like that there are fewer areas on the harness that will hang up or interfere with your draw or release. The straps are also unobtrusive enough that they won’t interfere with a long walk to the stand. At $70, this harness is also very affordable on just about any budget. A downside is the buckle placement on the insides of the thighs. There is more than one complaint out there about them clicking together as a hunter walks. You’ll want to exercise a little caution on your final approach or exit routes when using this harness.
Most Comfortable: Muddy The Crossover Combo Harness
- Weight Rating: 110-300 Pounds
- Harness Weight: 2 Pounds
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL
- Simple, easy to put-on design
- Extra pockets and gear loops
- Padding in shoulders and waist
This is a good harness choice from a comfort perspective because Muddy added extra padding to the waist, shoulders, and back areas. It may not seem like much, but that extra padding goes a long way toward making those all-day sits more comfortable. Sometimes that’s the only way to bag a big buck. This harness has a tether that’s simple to attach with one hand. The flexibility of the tether is another plus. I’ve used far too many harnesses with stiff tethers that restrict movement. This small feature just adds to the comfort. Muddy builds four different sizes for this harness, with a max weight limit of 300 pounds for the XL model.
Best Lightweight: Hawk Treestands Elevate Lite
- Weight Rating: 300 Pounds
- Harness Weight: 1.8 Pounds
- Sizes: One size fits most
- Extra padding in leg straps
- Low profile for bowhunting
- Tether allows a range of movement
- Sizes a little large
- Only one color option
Coming in at 1.8 pounds, the Elevate is one of the lightest tree stand harnesses on the market today. This harness is going to offer a nice range of movement needed for drawing a compound or recurve. This is also a good choice for anyone who has had negative experiences with leg straps cutting into them. Hawk Treestands are one of the few companies that put a little extra padding into these areas. This is also one of the few harnesses out there to include a chest strap for a little extra peace of mind.
Because it has a 300-pound weight capacity, it tends to size a little larger than other harnesses on the market. Shorter hunters may find that this “one-size fits most” option is not ideal. It is a great option for taller hunters over six feet tall and 200 pounds.
Best for Big Guys: Malta Dynamics Hunter’s Elite
- Weight Rating: 300 Pounds
- Sizes: S-M, L-XL, 2XL, 3XL
- Harness Weight: 4.6 – 4.9 Pounds
- Wide straps and beefier buckles
- Loops for climbing protection
- Extra padding on the back and waist
Unfortunately, the market for tree stand harnesses that fit larger body sizesfrom is a bit limited. The Malta Dynamics is made from heavy-duty construction, and the straps are a little bit wider than most harnesses. The buckles are also much beefier, which is going to help hunters over 250 pounds feel a bit more secure in the tree stand. The downside is that it makes the whole harness significantly heavier. The 3XL model comes in at nearly five pounds. However, most larger hunters will also likely find this harness to be a bit more comfortable simply because there’s some extra padding in the back, waist, and leg areas. The climbing strap loops are also located in a very convenient location that’s going to make them easier to utilize during your ascent and descent from the stand.
Best for Climbing: Summit Pro Safety Harness
- Weight Rating: 300 Pounds
- Sizes: M, L
- Harness Weight: 4.4 Pounds
- Lineman’s climbing rope included
- Padded shoulder straps
- Molle Accessory spots
- Only two sizes
- Some noise complaints
The Summit Pro includes an eight-foot lineman’s rope which makes it ideal for hunters who prefer a climbing stand. Using that rope helps ensure you are never out of contact with the tree during your ascent and descent in case something goes wrong. Although, Summit does include a prusik knot for hunters who want to use this with a hang-on or ladder stand setup. This setup is simple, with unobtrusive straps that make it a nice choice for bowhunting too. Perhaps the most unique feature of this harness is a Molle accessory attachment system, which is not something you’ll find on other harnesses. That may be a niche feature, but it’s nice to know that it is there. Summit rates this harness for 300 pounds, but I am puzzled by the fact they only offer medium and large sizes. For the price, this is a solid harness and a nice upgrade from the ones included with many climbing stands today.
Best for Women: Hunter Safety System Lady Hybrid
- Weight Rating: Not specified
- Sizes: S/M, M/L
- Harness Weight: 2.5 Pounds
- Specifically designed for women
- Generous storage pockets
- Quick release buckles
- Pointless pink accents
Unfortunately, the market for women’s hunting gear remains a bit niche, especially with safety harnesses. This is the only harness on the market designed from the ground up for female hunters. Thankfully, HSS took some of the top features from their men’s harnesses and utilized them here. Most notable are the mesh liners, which effectively make it an all-season harness.
There are six pockets for your cell phone and various small hunting accessories. The binocular and rangefinder straps are also helpful for staying organized in the stand. Overall, this harness has a low profile that lends it well to bowhunting. HSS also added a rubber coating to the leg buckles, which will make this harness more comfortable and quiet during an all-day sit. The only downside is the steep price. HSS also added some pink accents, which seem a bit pointless and cliché. Some women may even find them off-putting.
Things to Consider When Buying the Best Tree Stand Harnesses
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the most common cause of tree stand falls is the hunter slipping or losing his or her grip. Often, these accidents happen in stands the hunter has used many times in the past. Many hunters don’t think it can happen to them until they’re caught off guard and mess up a climb they’ve made a hundred times before. So, it pays to take this stuff seriously.
Most manufacturers also give their harnesses a limited shelf life of three to five years. Most harnesses will have an expiration date, and it is recommended hunters replace a harness that is past that date. This is mostly because the material harnesses are made from can break down over time, especially if exposed to a good deal of abrasion while climbing trees or simple UV exposure that degrades the materials. Inspect your harness for wear and tear before every season. If you notice loose threads or areas that look worn down, it’s probably time to buy a new one.
Do I need a harness for hunting?
If you are planning to hunt from a tree stand, a proper safety harness is a must-have item. Every year, state wildlife agencies report accidents that likely could have been avoided if the hunter had simply worn the proper safety gear. It’s one of the most common forms of hunting accidents, and it’s not worth risking your life.
Are hang-on tree stands safe?
Yes, if they are properly maintained and hung up. These types of stands are designed to be taken down and put back up every year. Leaving them up year-round increases the chances of the straps fraying and losing strength as the tree grows. Be sure to inspect your stand every year and replace any parts that look unsafe.
Can I use a climbing harness for hunting?
I have heard of some hunters using a climbing harness instead of one designed for hunting. While many climbing harnesses are less expensive than hunting ones, they are also often not designed for sitting for hours in a tree. As a result, some of these harnesses are not going to be as comfortable.
If it seems like Hunter Safety Systems dominated this list, that’s simply because they offer more variety than any other manufacturer out there right now. And their products have the quality and reputation to match that dominance. As far as modern tree stand harnesses go, the Pro Series was an easy choice for best overall based on the accessibility and comfort features that the company has pioneered and perfected with this offering.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.