It wasn’t that long ago that bino harnesses were nothing more than a tangled mess of straps that left our optics exposed to the elements and bumping against our chests with any movement beyond an upright slow walk. But as always, necessity is the mother of invention and over the past few years we’ve seen a number of companies bring their design and innovation resources to bear on how we carry one of the most important pieces of gear we take afield.
Pulling inspiration from the modular chest rigs many soldiers, operators and LE personnel have worn for some time, the hunter’s bino harness has evolved into a multifunctional chest pouch that keeps our optics protected from the elements and stores close at hand some of the key accessories we need readily available at a moment’s notice. From the Chinese torture of the strap systems of years gone by, bino harnesses have become a truly integral piece of kit for the modern hunter on the move.
I’ve personally used a couple of these new age harnesses made by some well-known brands in the mountain hunting community and they’ve each had their strengths and weaknesses. Frankly what annoyed me more than anything else was virtually every available model turned me into a walking, talking logo or camo pattern ambassador for the manufacturer. I know some of you reading this review will think nothing of that and if you’re a devout customer of a particular company then all the power to you. I’m not, and am constantly testing, tweaking and refining my gear selection.
So it was through my search for an “impartial” bino harness system that I stumbled upon FHF Gear out of the Bozeman, MT area. Founded by Paul Lewis, an avid outdoorsman, full-time law enforcement officer and part-time SWAT Team leader FHF stands for Fish, Hunt, Fight. Paul’s harness systems and accessories pull design inspiration from these three segments of the outdoor and shooting sports industry. I’m always interested in and inspired by those that don’t accept the status quo and FHF Gear’s brand story certainly resonated with me. Who doesn’t love an underdog building hard as nails gear for the discerning outdoorsman and operator?
Paul’s harness systems are made with understated style and available in colour and camo patterns I was more inclined to include in my kit. I reached out to Paul back in the summer and he was kind enough to send me a medium sized harness system in First Lite’s Fusion pattern to house my 10x42mm Leupold Mojaves.
When the harness arrived, the first word that came to mind was “bombproof”. The construction was certainly a heavier grade than the harness systems I’d used in the past but to my mind this was a good thing. There wasn’t a single buckle, strap, loop or component that didn’t look like it could survive season after season hunting the mountains of BC. I especially liked the strap design as my previous harness used very thin shoulder straps that were constantly twisting and getting tangled both on and off my body and drove me nuts.
The shock cord closure is dead silent and allows incredibly quick and easy access to the main bino pouch. Although I didn’t use the small zippered front pouch to hold my tags, it is definitely sized perfectly for just that purpose. A nice surprise was the small webbing pockets on the sides of the main harness body. I knew these were part of the design but I had no idea how well built they would be. Due to the extremely durable webbing material these pockets are stiffer than those on my last harness and although I was initially skeptical I actually preferred this design to the more elastic, thinner webbing I’d experienced with the old system. I use my wind checker a lot throughout the day and getting the little bottle out of these stiffer pockets was surprisingly easy and more importantly getting it back in was even easier with one hand only, not something I could say about the elasticized side pockets on the old harness. Shouldering a rifle or drawing a bow was smooth and without interference when wearing the harness.
Paul goes out of his way on the website to emphasize the fact that his harness system is not a sealed design, meaning dust and other particulates can get inside the main enclosure. I think it’s important I add my two cents here as I put my harness through some serious paces on my Northern BC sheep hunt this past September.
This year we used ATVs to access a valley from where we’d leave the ATVs and backpack into the mountains. This was not a trail for the faint of heart. Known for swallowing ATVs to the handlebars in its numerous mud holes it wasn’t a question of if but when we’d get stuck and have to winch out. Chest waders were a given for the ride in. It took us three hours and numerous winchings to get in and two hours to get out, mostly because we avoided some of the mistakes we’d made on the way in a week before. My FHF bino harness was on my chest the whole time and we faced snow, rain, wind, mud and dust in some of the roughest trail conditions I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was basically a motorized rodeo. My binos remained protected and I didn’t once over the entire week, including my time in the mountains, have to clean the lenses or wipe any mud or dirt off the eyecups. To put this in perspective, I’ve never come home with dirtier gear than I did from this hunt. The harness itself now has a custom mud stained version of First Lite’s Fusion pattern as its exterior but my binos remained clean.
Throughout my time in the mountains the harness stayed nice and snug against my body and was put to the stalking test on a couple of rams. At no point did I feel like it was in the way. The system also fit very well beneath my Stone Glacier Sky Archer pack and as noted above, I really liked the shock cord closure. We had very cold weather and the pull-tab was easy to operate with gloves on. I’ll also note that the Cordura fabric never posed a single issue in regards to noise.
My only critique is the small tension locks that attach the harness to the binos themselves could use better teeth to bite into the strap material. I discussed this with Paul via email and he explained that this was one of the issues he was working on with his production company as they had (unbeknownst to him) switched to some cheaper components that he was not happy about. Long story long, the FHF Gear harness met every challenge I threw at it and then some. I could not recommend this system more highly.
If you’re in the market for a brand-agnostic bino harness, or a harness in a camo pattern not available from the other suppliers you’d be hard pressed to find a system as well designed and built as the FHF model. Paul also makes numerous accessory pouches for his system so the harness can be as modular as you need it to be. Available in foliage green with tan straps, First Lite’s Fusion, Kryptek’s Highlander and Multicam there’s a variety of colours or patterns to choose from.
At the time of this writing Paul was working on addressing some key issues with his production company and was out of stock in all sizes and models. Although frustrating as a consumer, this is yet another sign of Paul’s unwavering commitment to selling only the highest quality products. There are some companies out there that would not take the serious step to halt production while they sorted out their concerns, instead continuing to sell an inferior product.
In my opinion, if you’re looking for a well-built harness made to handle the demands of harsh backcountry use and aren’t willing to sport the logos or patterns of some of the “big boys” then it’s worth waiting for FHF to get their production back on line.
To join FHF Gear’s email list and be notified when the harness system is coming back online click HERE.