Published Jul 18, 2022 12:00 PM
As a responsible field optics owner, you understand that protection and quick access are paramount in deciding what the best binocular harness is for you. When it comes to carrying, storing, and utilizing your optics in the field, there are a plethora of choices on the market to pair with your favorite pair of binoculars or rangefinder. The sheer number of options makes choosing the right fit challenging without spending time and money on solutions that may not work.
While testing these harnesses, we specifically addressed their capabilities depending on which need they adequately fulfill. So whether you need a harness to reduce neck fatigue, to compliment your entire kit, for bow hunting, or a modular harness with tons of storage for a day of bird watching, there is something on this list that will work for you. After rigorous testing, here are our top five binocular harnesses to suit your needs.
Things to consider before buying a binocular harness
The color of your harness may not be something you keep at the forefront of your mind. But it does play an important role depending on the purpose it will serve. If your goal for your binocular harness is to reduce neck fatigue, color is probably not a critical factor in your decision.
Color does, however, come in handy when partaking in hunting or bird-watching activities. When stealth is the name of the game, you want to make sure your binocular harness doesn’t make you stand out like a sore thumb. Most manufacturers on this list have camo and solid color options so that you can choose based on your need.
On all-day excursions, quick and easy storage access can make your day all that more enjoyable. If you are going out for a long day of bird watching, snacks and something to drink are nice to have without needing to carry a backpack. The lighter you can pack, the better your neck and shoulders will feel at the end of the day.
Perhaps you are headed into the backcountry for a hunting excursion. A binocular chest harness that holds your hunting essentials, such as licenses, rangefinder, cell phone, and game calls, will ensure you have everything you need for a successful hunt close at hand.
Neck straps, shoulder straps, and chest harnesses all impact your body differently. Larger binoculars can be quite heavy, and a long day of carrying your optics ready to go at a moment’s notice can take a toll on your muscles.
While neck harnesses are simple, they can put a lot of strain on your neck over time. You’ll want to go with a chest or shoulder harness to alleviate some of the aches and pains that come with carrying large binoculars for extended periods. Depending on which system you go with, some harness styles are also modular. Modular designs allow you to add accessories to build out the best kit you require.
Neck straps are a convenient, lightweight option for wearing your optics, but binocular harnesses often have useful features to enhance your experience. For instance, some manufacturers opt for a quick release or holster system for your optics to allow for unencumbered use. Similarly, other products store your optics in convenient pouches that have the added benefit of protecting your expensive investment. If you have large binoculars for long-range use, it is also important to consider how large of a pouch you will need to hold your optics.
Here are our picks for the best binocular harnesses in 2022
Best overall: Cotton Carrier 3G Binocular & Camera Harness
Why it made the cut: The Cotton Carrier 3G Harness was the easiest to use, most comfortable, modular chest harness for carrying binoculars and other imaging equipment.
- Colors: Realtree Xtra Camo, Grey
- Binocular capacity: Up to 2
- Style: Chest harness with side holster
- Additional features: Quick release, removable side holster, rain cover
- Highly modular
- Versatility for cameras and binoculars
- Fastest quick release
- Lack of storage without purchasing separate accessories
Cotton Carrier put a lot of thought into creating a platform for carrying outdoor enthusiasts who want to carry multiple imaging devices. The resulting G3 Binocular & Camera Harness is a versatile system that allows users to utilize the harness to accommodate their needs.
To take full advantage of the harness straight out of the box, you will need a 3/8 tripod screw receiver. Then, simply attach the camera hub to the tripod screw receiver with the provided hardware. The twist and lock carrying system makes this harness very easy to use. It’s designed to securely hold your gear close to your body, eliminating the possibility of damage from your equipment swinging around on a strap. It also allows for quick and easy detachment by turning your binoculars and sliding them out of the holster.
With the G3 Binocular & Camera Harness, you have two quick-release mounting points located on the chest and hip. These allow you to carry up to two pieces of imaging equipment at once. It’s no secret that we at Pop Photo love our cameras which makes this harness a clear winner in our eyes. And should you have a day that you only want one piece of equipment, the hip holster is removable.
With all that in mind, though, there is one area this harness left us wanting a bit more. The lack of additional storage was a bit disappointing. While there are two stash pockets on the front and back of the harness, the front was a bit too small for practical use. And the back is no more than a mesh storage area. Neither pocket zips up, so they aren’t very secure. Luckily, Cotton Carrier provides a selection of accessories you can purchase separately, and its dry bag accessory addresses this issue.
Best shoulder harness: Zeiss Comfort Carry Harness
Why it made the cut: The Zeiss Comfort Carry Harness sets out to provide an alternative solution to the traditional neck strap for users looking for a minimalist way of carrying heavier optics for extended periods.
- Colors: Black
- Binocular capacity: 1
- Style: Shoulder harness
- Additional features: Quick release
- Minimalist design
- Eliminates neck fatigue
- Pricy for lack of additional features
One of the biggest problems with larger or even image-stabilized binoculars is their weight. When you have a ton of technology packed into a rigid magnesium alloy subframe, a long-range pair of binoculars can pack on the pounds.
Zeiss addresses this problem with its Comfort Carry Harness. It offers a system that moves the load-bearing responsibility from your neck to your shoulders. Transferring that weight to your shoulders greatly increases the amount of time you can spend in the field without muscle fatigue. Using a traditional neck strap can create a very unpleasant ache after a long day with your equipment hanging around your neck. By sharing the load between both shoulders, no one muscle group is responsible for bearing the weight throughout the day.
The price of the Comfort Carry Harness did come as a bit of a surprise, especially with the lack of extra features. It is more affordable than a robust chest harness, but it has no additional options for storage or any modularity. Though if minimalism and reduced neck fatigue are your primary requirements when considering purchasing a quality binocular harness, then the build quality of the Zeiss Comfort Carry Harness will leave you pleased with your decision.
Best chest harness: SITKA Mountain Optics Harness
Why it made the cut: The SITKA Mountain Optics Harness is a highly modular system that provides a ton of storage, making it our go-to option for people specifically looking for a binocular/rangefinder chest harness.
- Colors: Optifade Subalpine Camo, Optifade Open Country Camo, Pyrite
- Binocular storage: Up to 3
- Style: Chest harness
- Additional features: Molle straps, lens cloth, quiet magnetic flap opening, quick release
- Molle compatible chassis
- Large storage capacity
- Silent magnetic accessibility
- Very modular
- Can feel bulky to new users
SITKA is a leader in outdoor gear, and the Mountain Optics Harness is no exception. It outfitted the Mountain Optics Harness with three large storage compartments. You’ll be able to keep all the equipment that you need close at hand. The largest front pouch is designed for binocular storage. It features a magnetic clasp that allows quick and quiet access to your binoculars at a moment’s notice. The additional two storage pouches are big enough for a smaller pair of binoculars, rangefinder, GPS, cell phone, or any other gear you decide to take with you.
If you don’t need all the additional storage on your trek, they easily detach from the system’s MOLLE strap system, cutting down on weight and bulk. What puts this harness in a class of its own is the utilization of the MOLLE straps for expandability. While other systems use a more proprietary method of adding on attachments, SITKA allows its users to customize their harness with any MOLLE-compatible accessories.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to have a system this feature-rich without a drawback here and there. The biggest issue we had with this platform was the sheer bulk. If you are not accustomed to using chest harnesses or having gear mounted in front of you, it can feel cumbersome and in the way at times. If this is the case for you, start by using the harness without the additional storage pockets until you are more comfortable, then add your accessories as you see fit.
Best for birding: Badlands Bino XR
Why it made the cut: To make a day of birding an enjoyable experience, a harness system that can carry multiple pieces of gear and other necessities is a must, which is why the Badlands Bino XR is our choice for the best binocular harness for birding.
- Colors: Approach Camo, Approach FX Camo, Mud
- Binocular capacity: 1
- Style: Chest Harness
- Additional features: XL binocular capacity, side and rear storage, rain cover
- Plenty of storage
- Accommodates large binoculars
- Magnetic entry system
When it comes to bird watching, certain species seem more elusive than most, which means large, powerful binoculars are integral during your exploration. The problem is that the larger the binoculars, the harder they are to store in a fully enclosed system. Badlands tackled this problem head-on with their Bino XR system. The main storage compartment is large enough to take on large binoculars and an additional rangefinder or monocular. With reinforced shoulder straps, the added weight from the binoculars is supported evenly across your shoulders, helping to reduce muscle fatigue throughout the day.
The integrated side pockets and rear storage are what set this apart from other offerings. Since binoculars with a high magnification have such a narrow field of view, it is often ideal to bring along an additional monocular for glassing purposes. Since this storage is integrated with the main storage compartment, you won’t have to sacrifice space for delicious snacks and other necessities.
Price can be a hindrance for someone just getting started with a chest binocular harness. Fortunately, Badlands offers the same system in the slightly more affordable Bino X. It comes without the rangefinder or monocular storage compartment, which lowers the price to something a little easier to digest.
Best for bowhunting: Kuiu Pro Bino Harness
Why it made the cut: The most annoying aspect of bowhunting with gear, especially chest-mounted, is the propensity of the path of travel of your bowstring crossing over your chest harness. Kuiu nailed this problem with their Pro Bino Harness, which firmly earns its spot as the best binocular harness for bow hunting.
- Colors: Valo Camo, Verde Camo, Vias Camo, Ash, Steel Gray
- Binocular capacity: 1
- Style: Shoulder harness
- Additional features: Modular, fully enclosed storage, side pockets
- Pro gear at an entry-level price
- Accessories available
- Fully enclosed storage for maximum protection
- Mesh pockets aren’t very secure
While bowhunting, if your bowstring glances off of anything upon release, it could easily result in missing your only shot of the season. For this reason alone, a binocular harness with a slim profile is paramount. Kuiu is no novice to the hunting game, and they prove this with their Pro Bino Harness.
The main storage compartment is outfitted with form-fitting technology to ensure that your binoculars are fully protected from any damage. It also keeps the entire system snug and out of the way of external interference. Even the side pockets are elastic mesh ensuring the smallest form factor when not in use.
You may find that your Pro Bino Harness lacks some more desirable features, and you want some additional space. If so, Kuiu has an entire series of available accessories designed for the Pro Bino Harness platform. Any chest harness with modularity is a huge win since it allows you to build the system that perfectly fits the situation you will be using the equipment.
A word of caution, though, for the side pockets. Since they are an elastic mesh construction, they aren’t fully secure. Therefore, we cannot recommend that you store anything loose and important (i.e., keys) in these pockets. Other than that, this is a near-perfect chest harness for your next bowhunting excursion.
How do I stop my binoculars from swinging?
Utilizing a binocular harness can help prevent unwanted swinging while in motion. Chest and pouch harnesses are the best option to keep your binoculars from becoming victim to damage from clashing against a hard surface.
Do I need a binocular harness?
A binocular harness may not be an investment suitable for everyone. Ultimately, it is up to you and your specific needs when using your equipment. For example, keeping your binoculars in a backpack or around your neck may be suitable for you.
If you want quick access to your binoculars or other gear but don’t want the neck strain inevitable with a neck strap, a harness is an ideal choice. Binocular harnesses also offer more protection for your binos when on the move since they won’t be swinging around or catching tree branches.
How do you carry binoculars while hiking?
While no system is inherently right or wrong, you may find that you prefer how you choose to carry your binoculars while hiking. It may be tucked away safely in a pouch secured to your chest or ready to go at a moment’s notice in a hip holster. Either way, the decision is up to you on how to carry your binoculars while hiking.
Should I bring binoculars backpacking?
Binoculars can be a great way to scout terrain while backpacking to plan the best route to travel. It’s also a neat way to better see wildlife and terrain features. If you bring binoculars backpacking, opt for a lightweight pair or even a monocular to save on crucial weight.
How do you use a binocular harness?
Each system is unique in how you go about using each one. For example, chest harnesses are worn like a vest and usually come with some sort of attachment or pouch to store your gear. On the other hand, you’ll wear shoulder harnesses the same way a pair of suspenders are. They come with shorter lanyards to secure your optics between the two straps.
How do I attach lanyards to binoculars?
Lanyards are attached to binoculars by feeding nylon webbing through the lanyard slots or lanyard lugs found on your binoculars. Each system varies from one another, so we recommend that you consult your product’s owner’s manual for further instruction on how to secure your lanyard to your binoculars.
Each individual’s needs for a binocular harness system will differ depending on how they prefer to use their equipment. Consider your needs when reviewing the available options so you can choose a harness that best suits you.
Methodology: How we picked the best binocular harnesses
When reviewing our choices for the best binocular harness, we observed a lot of crossover between the available products. With this in mind, though, some very clear winners in our picks allowed us to award that particular product the best of its class. Storage and the ability to be modular were the top two key features when assessing the best fit for each harness, as that is where they started to become more specialized in what they have to offer.
Narrowing down which harness will be best for you can be a tedious task, especially since there is a lot of overlap in features and benefits in all of the offerings on the market. This list of binocular harness reviews aims to educate you on all the decisions you need to make to choose the right fit for you. Regardless of how you intend to use your equipment or if you want to avoid aches and pains, we are confident that there is a harness on this list for everyone.