Since a good pair of birdwatching binoculars is one of the most important and expensive pieces of gear that you’ll invest in, you need to use the best binocular harness to keep them safe and secure while you’re hiking out to your destination spot. Using a basic binocular strap tends to put too much weight around the neck which can lead to tension, discomfort, and pain. Using one of these harnesses can provide a more comfortable birding experience since they’re designed to evenly distribute the weight of the binoculars across your shoulders and upper back. The harness comes with clips that attach to your binoculars, so you can keep them safe and secure, tightly against your chest, while they remain highly accessible. This device will also give you more freedom of movement.
There are several styles and models of binocular harnesses to choose from, which can make finding the best one a difficult task. But by learning more about how these harnesses work, why you need one, and how to use one, you’ll be able to find the perfect match, and one that will work for your birding needs, binoculars, and your budget.
I’ve reviewed several of the leading harnesses on the market and narrowed it down to the top eight models, each of which brings something to the table, whether it’s durability, security, an ergonomic fit, or an affordable price. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart, which will showcase some of the differences and similarities between each of these models.
Binocular Harnesses Comparison Chart
|Vortex Optics Glasspak||Bag||8 ounces||$|
|Bushnell BinoculAR||Cover||5 ounces||$|
|Badlands Bino X||Bag||1 pound||$|
|Vortex Optics Binopack||Dual||15 ounces||$|
|Badlands Bino XR||Dual||1 pound, 6 ounces||$|
|Badlands Bino Basics||Traditional||6.5 ounces||$|
|Vortex Optics Binocular||Traditional||4.8 ounces||$|
|SITKA Gear Harness||Traditional||2.56 ounces||$|
Best Bag Harness-Vortex Optics Glasspak Binocular Harness
The Glasspak by Vortex Optics is designed to securely house top of the line binoculars in a range of sizes. This pocket loaded pack will also hang onto your personal items, such as keys, cell phone, wallet, and more. The tethers securely attach to your binoculars, protecting them against accidental drops, while making them highly accessible. The harness comes with both zippered and mesh pockets. This lightweight harness weighs in at just eight ounces and features straps that are fully adjustable for a more comfortable fit. The nylon and bungee tab securely keeps the harnesses’ lid in place.
- Lightweight design
- Mesh and zippered pockets
- Highly adjustable straps
- Adjustable tethers
- Harness clips are made out of thin plastic
This bag style harness comes loaded with plenty of storage space, mesh pockets, zippered pockets, and highly adjustable straps. The bag portion of the harness will keep your binoculars secure and well-protected and can accommodate binoculars of all sizes. I gave this model a rating of five out of five stars.
Best Cover Style-Bushnell BinoculAR Accessory 19125C Deluxe Bino Harness
The manufacturer claims that this model offers unparalleled performance and comfort. The highly adjustable elastic straps allow you to keep your binoculars secure and accessible at all times. This model does an excellent job of evenly distributing the weight on the torso and shoulders and features a perforated, wide back panel support for improved comfort and breathability.
- Binoculars will rest below the chin for fast, easy sighting
- Evenly distributes weight
- Lightweight design
- Highly adjustable elastic straps
- No storage space
- Rides up in the back
The cover style harness will securely hold your binoculars up against your chest, directly below your chin, for easy and fast access for sighting. Durable, adjustable, and priced affordable, this versatile model is a great buy for birding, hunting, and more. I gave this model a rating of four and a half out of five stars.
Best Harness for Hunting-Badlands Camouflage Tactical Bino X Hunting Binocular Case
This latest model by Badlands features a bag-style harness that comes equipped with a zipper-less closure system that allows you to open and close the bag silently and quickly. This model is made out of waterproof, durable material such as Hypalon, which is considered one of the most flexible, strongest materials on the planet.
The yellow bar-tacks on the harness are made out of aramid thread, which is an impressively strong fiber that can handle up to one hundred and ten pounds of weight. The highly adjustable straps allow you to enjoy a comfortable, custom fit, while the bag portion of the harness keeps your binoculars secured against your chest. The pack is also hydration compatible and can handle up to a one-liter reservoir.
- Hydration pack compatible
- Magnetic closure
- Highly adjustable
- Lifetime warranty
- Fits binoculars up to 20×56
- Weighs one pound
If you’re looking for a lowkey harness for birding or hunting, one that gives you virtually silent access to your binoculars, without crinkling or the noisy sound of a zipper in an otherwise silent environment, then you’ll love what this harness by Badlands has to offer. I gave this model a rating of four and a half out of five stars.
Top Dual-Style Harness-Vortex Optics Guide Binopack
This compact harness by Vortex Optics will keep your binoculars secured against your chest and highly accessible. It also does an excellent job of protecting the lenses from dirt, debris, and the elements, so the lenses stay clean. The pockets allow you to store important personal items such as a knife and your cell phone and keeps them highly accessible. This dual harness comes equipped with zippered pockets on the rear, side pockets, and an elastic sleeve located on the top of the pack to store extra items.
- Highly adjustable straps
- Plenty of storage
- Full-coverage lid
- Diameter bungee closure system
- Side pockets close in the wrong direction
- Bulky design
If you want a harness you can use to trek through the backcountry late at night and check off all the species on your nocturnal birds list, then this harness is a perfect choice. This model comes loaded with all the right features, including a full-coverage lid and bungee closure system, in addition to a variety of pockets that will allow you to store all of your important gear and keep it close at hand. I gave this model a rating of four and a half out of five stars.
Feature-Packed-Badlands Bino XR Binocular and Rangefinder Case with Harness
This model is perfect for the birder who loves to stay organized when they’re on their latest birding adventure. The harness comes with compartments for your binoculars, an interior shelf that’s adjustable and able to accommodate a variety of binocular sizes, and a large storage pocket on the exterior that allows you to keep personal items easily accessible. The pack also features a magnetic closure that works to keep the lid securely in place.
- Plenty of storage space
- Adjustable straps
- Durable design
- Removable built-in rain cover
- Daisy chain gear attachment
The built-in rain cover, variety of storage compartments, and the highly adjustable straps provide a true multifunctional harness that will keep your binoculars safe and secure while allowing you to keep plenty of gear on hand using one of the many compartments designed to keep you organized on the go. I gave this model a rating of four and a half out of five stars.
Best Traditional Harness-Badlands Bino Basics Camouflaged Binocular Strap Harness
This traditional harness by Badlands features a basic design that makes the harness easier to take off and put on. The ergonomic fit promotes user comfort and does an excellent job of evenly distributing the weight across the back and shoulders.
The shoulder straps are also highly breathable, making the harness an excellent choice in hotter weather conditions. The harness itself is highly adjustable and compatible with most styles of hunting backpacks. The camo design allows your harness to blend right into the surrounding brush, which is perfect if you’re hiding out and trying to get a view of an elusive species.
- Highly adjustable
- Easy to use
- Low price
- Lifetime warranty
- No storage space
- Cannot protect the binoculars from the elements
This model is well-built, easy to put on and take off, and features an ergonomic design that promotes wearer comfort. If you’re looking for a simple, highly adjustable and breathable harness to take with you on your next hike through the backcountry, then this model is an excellent choice. I gave it a rating of four and a half out of five stars.
Best Ergonomic Design-Vortex Optics Binocular Harness Strap
The binocular harness by Vortex Optics is easy to take on and off, features an ergonomic design that promotes longer use, and does an excellent job with weight distribution, which will prevent shoulder, back, and neck strain.
This model is very lightweight and doesn’t come with any pockets or any type of storage space, but if you’re looking for a simple harness that’s comfortable to wear all day long, then this model is a great choice. The straps themselves are made out of Lycra and nylon, so they’re very durable and allow you to easily slip the harness on and off. The harness itself is marketed as a one size fits all, so it’s highly adjustable and can work well even if you wear it over a heavy winter coat.
- One size fits all
- Lycra and nylon straps
- Low price
- Ergonomic design
- Can be worn over a jacket
- No storage space
- May be too big for smaller birders
- Cannot protect the binoculars from rain
While the design may appear simple, the harness itself offers one of the best ergonomic fits around, which is surprising in a model that’s marketed as one size fits all. The highly adjustable design, great weight distribution, and overall quality make this model a great buy for the birder or hunter in search of a harness that can support all-day use. I gave this model a rating of four and a half out of five stars.
Best Value-SITKA Gear Bino Harness
This is another one size fits all model that features a minimalist design and works to keep your binoculars highly accessible, and held tightly against your chest to prevent it from swinging as you’re walking or hiking. The shoulder straps are non-elastic and feature a stretch-woven design which makes them highly breathable. A breathable harness is a must during hot weather conditions. The included Jacquard woven webbing ensures concealment, while the built-in swivel hooks will make your binoculars more accessible.
- Jacquard woven webbing
- Highly adjustable
- Non-elastic straps
- Low price
- Cannot protect binoculars from the elements
- Not pockets or storage compartments
The basic design makes this harness more beginner-friendly, and easier to put on or take off. This model is lightweight and highly breathable, so it will be a great choice if you’re looking for a durable, breathable harness that can handle birding out in the backcountry during the summer months. I gave this model a rating of four and a half out of five stars.
Binocular Harnesses Buyer’s Guide
When you’re shopping around for a new harness comfort should be the top priority. Additionally, you want to look for a model that can keep your binoculars secure and prevent them from swinging or moving around as you quite climb or hike. If you know anything about birdwatching equipment, then you know binoculars are delicate and require additional protection to keep them dry and to prevent the lenses from accidentally getting knocked out of alignment. Aside from providing a more comfortable way to carry your binoculars, these harnesses also allow you to keep your binoculars secure and safe from the elements and potential damage.
When you use a neck strap it will allow your binoculars to move back and forth as you hike or walk around. The harness works to keep your binoculars close to your chest securely, out of the elements and protected from falling debris. If you’re hiking or climbing over difficult terrain then using a harness is a must. Additionally, a harness will free up both your hands allowing you to focus on climbing or hiking, which is a huge plus if you’re traveling over challenging terrain or climbing a steep trail.
In the past, the harness design was very simple and consisted of a couple of elastic suspender straps that the user would wear around their waist and over their shoulders with an extra strap that attached to the binoculars. This type of simple design is still the basis of today’s modern binocular harness, but modern models come loaded with some great features and extras.
The sling style harness is often a birder’s favorite. It consists of a single strap that goes over the shoulders which makes it easier to take off and put on. All you have to do is slide one of your arms through, instead of pulling it on over your head like you would with a traditional suspender harness. This type is very lightweight and compact and probably the easiest type of harness to take off and put on.
It’s also more affordable compared to other styles of harnesses. However, it doesn’t provide as much protection as bag style harnesses and there isn’t much storage space that can be used to store your other gear and supplies.
Traditional or basic harnesses offer a variety of benefits. It’s easy to pack, it’s very small, and most are very light. It’s also easy to put on and take off. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much storage space and doesn’t provide much protection from the elements.
This is probably the most popular style of harness on the market. It offers many accessories and features that are designed to enhance your birding experience and can come in handy if you need a higher carrying capacity and require maximum protection. Using one of these models can instantly replace the need for a carrying case since it works to keep you or binoculars free of dirt, debris, and dust. However, most models can be relatively heavy and bulky. Additionally, they’re also the most expensive style of harness.
The cover harness is considered multifunctional. It works to provide top of the line protection, however, it doesn’t offer quite as much as the bag style harnesses. Yet, this style is lighter and not quite as bulky. Overall, it provides the least amount of protection for your binoculars and is small and lightweight. It’s also a more affordable option compared to a bag harness.
Most basic harnesses consist of clips and a set of straps, however, a full-size harness can come with a full binocular case or pouch which can make carrying your binoculars easier. The difference between the pouch and bag option is the amount of coverage each type offers.
As an example, the pouch will typically fold around the bottom and top of the binoculars, which will leave most of the side exposed. This style is designed to mainly protect the lenses and keep them free of debris and dust. The case will provide full coverage completely encasing the binoculars and protecting them from damage, dirt, debris, and rain.
If you are looking for a harness that’s loaded with storage space then a dual harness is probably right up your alley. If you want a model you can use to carry your compass, spotting scope, birding binoculars, field guides and more, then you should consider this style option which allows you to comfortably carry several pieces of equipment. However, it doesn’t provide quite as much protection as a bag style harness.
Do I Need a Harness?
So, you’re probably wondering whether or not you really need a harness. Birding binoculars are heavy-duty and can handle the great outdoors, yet they’re considered very delicate instruments, especially when it comes to the lenses. Because of this, carrying them around in your hands or around your neck can be dangerous, since you can accidentally drop them or they can get knocked against a tree.
Some birders choose to place their binoculars in their backpack, however doing so does not provide the same level of protection and can also make it difficult to quickly access them. Because an elusive bird may quickly leave the area, rifling through your backpack in search of your binoculars is not the best idea. A harness will make your binoculars highly accessible while keeping them safe and protecting them from the elements and rocky terrain, not to mention debris, and dirt.
Are Straps a Better Option?
While most pairs of birding binoculars will come with their own dedicated strap, these straps can be very uncomfortable to wear after just an hour or two. Additionally, the strap allows the binoculars to swing around as you move. Because of this, using a harness is the best way to keep your binoculars safe, and one that will work to evenly distribute the weight while making sure your binoculars are highly accessible.
Using a harness will come with a wide range of benefits. The biggest one is the fact that they work to keep your binoculars secured against your chest, which is a more efficient way to carry them compared to wearing them around your neck. Most models consist of a couple of straps that will stretch across the shoulders and under the arms, where they will meet at the back to evenly distribute weight. This will lead to less upper back strain and muscle tension. Even a lightweight pair of binoculars can become very heavy after several hours of hiking in the backcountry.
On the front of the harness, you’ll find a couple of connectors that will clip onto the binoculars themselves which will allow you to keep them close to your chest resulting in less movement. This limited ability to move will reduce damage to the binoculars which can be caused when traveling over uneven or rough terrain.
Another benefit is a fact that using one will keep your hands-free at all times while still keeping the binoculars close enough for you to grab and put to your eyes in just a couple of seconds.
Whether or not a harness is comfortable all depends on how you wear it and whether or not you’re carrying a lot of other gear. Basic models are pretty lightweight and can easily fit under the straps of a backpack if needed. You can also use a larger harness so that it will fit over a heavy coat during the colder months. Keep in mind that if you’re only wearing a lightweight shirt that the straps can rub across your shoulders and cause mild irritation.
Fortunately, many models of harnesses now come with padding in these areas to prevent irritation and improve user comfort. However, this added padding can make a harness feel quite bulky. So, before you choose a model, consider the type of gear, clothing, and weather conditions you normally go birding in to determine how much padding is needed and what style of harness will work best for you
When you’re choosing a binocular harness there’s a couple of different attachment styles to choose from. The first type is called a quick release attachment.
This attachment option works via a buckle type closure system that’s similar to what you would normally find on a backpack. This type of attachment system is easy to release and use and features a closure that’s much more durable and thicker. This means that the attachment is less likely to snap under heavy use. Additionally, it can usually be tied to the binocular anchors for a more secure hold.
Another option is a Snap-On attachment which is also considered pretty durable and sturdy, however, it’s not quite as convenient because it requires a metal ring that must be placed on to the binocular’s anchors so that it has something that can attach to you. Additionally, the clip quality varies, so some may not be quite as durable as the quick release attachment. The metal rings on the attachment can rub up against the binoculars which can scrape the finish, which is a huge drawback.
Overall, both types of attachments are sturdy and strong and will work to keep binoculars secured.
When you purchase a harness the size of the harness really isn’t a big issue considering you’re just clipping the binoculars onto the harness via the anchors. However, if you buy a harness that uses either a bag or a pouch, then the size of the binoculars will be important. That’s because these types of harnesses may be made for a specific model or size of binocular. If you own a pair of travel or compact binoculars then this probably won’t be an issue. However, if you own a pair of full-size birding binoculars then you’ll want to take a look at size recommendations which should be listed on the harness spec sheet.
A good harness should be strong and durable and able to handle heavy-duty use. Since a harness failing can mean potential damage to your binoculars and other gear, durability is especially important. Because of this, you need to find a harness that can handle wear and tear that comes with rubbing against the straps of your pack or against your clothing. Harnesses also get snagged or scraped by branches, rocks, and brush, if you’re traveling through the backcountry.
The spec sheet will also clearly list the load capacity for each model. This will include the weight of your binoculars and any other gear stored. Keep in mind, the heavier your binoculars are, the more strain that will be placed on the straps. The stronger and thicker the straps are the more weight it can carry.
Just like with hunting, you need to be extremely quiet when you’re birding, otherwise, you run the risk of scaring the local wildlife, causing your bird to take flight. If you’re looking for a harness that comes loaded with storage space and compartments, make sure it also has a magnetic closure. The last thing you want to do is try to take out your birding guide and make even the slightest noise unzipping your bag. Also, avoid a model that comes loaded with loud, heavy metal buckles, which will announce your presence well before you’ve made it to your destination.
You need a harness that’s comfortable to wear for several hours at a time. Make sure the model you choose is highly breathable, especially if you plan on doing plenty of hiking and birding during the summer. Padding can also help, however, too much can have a negative impact on breathability, so you’ll need to find the perfect combination of the two.
Make sure the harness is waterproof and able to keep your gear and binoculars nice and dry. Many top of the line models come equipped with a durable waterproof finish that will keep your gear dry, which is crucial. Additionally, if the harness has storage compartments, these should also be waterproof, which will help to keep your personal items, such as your cell phone, safe and dry.
The best binocular harness is easy to use, versatile and equipped with the type of features designed to enhance your birding experience. The right model for you is more about your personal preferences, whether you need a simple set up, or a model that comes loaded with pockets, storage space, and a highly adjustable design. With the right model, you can enjoy a hands-free trek through the backcountry, while keeping your binoculars secure, safe, and protected from the elements, surrounding brush, and inclement weather. I hope my buyer’s guide and product recommendations have taught you more about the benefits of these harnesses, how they work, and how one can help to improve your next birding adventure.