As someone who grew up gun hunting Whitetails out of cold tree stands perched in the thick hardwoods of upstate New York, I never really saw an application for a binocular harness. I rarely if ever bothered carrying binos into the woods since my average shot was well within 100yds and the density of the forest did not lend itself to any visibility far beyond that. Fast forward to the hunter I am today, I almost exclusively carry a bow into the woods and I am fortunate to hunt or at least hike everywhere from the swamps of Central Florida, to the mountains of Utah, and God willing, in the future venture to places I haven’t yet dreamed of. As I grow as a hunter Bino’s have become an essential piece of kit for me. Success bow hunting boils down to preparedness and the quicker I can get eyes on an animal the faster I can regain my mental composure (hopefully) and position myself so that I have the greatest probability of executing a successful shot. Bino harnesses allow me to have my binoculars, range finder, release, windicator, and usually a snack, at the ready. The result is a quieter, less animated, more efficient hunter.
The Muley Freak Binocular harness is a lightweight, high speed harness with a minimalist design that rides tight to the body and has room for only the essentials. The harness material is soft to the touch but durable. The back, bottom, and hood of the binocular compartment have a plastic insert sown into the lining to keep your bino’s protected. The harness is built around the main binocular compartment which has a hooded cover with that folds forward and can be easily operated with one hand thanks to an integrated loop pull tab which is sewn on top of the hood and runs front to back. The hood can also be tightened via two bungee cords which run down the back sides of the bino compartment and can be tightened with a simple pull.
The bino compartment has enough room for most 10x42 binoculars but not much else. The backside of the harness has a thin zip pocket perfect for tags or other smaller items. The sides of the harness feature mesh pockets with elastic bands at the top to keep contents secure. Typically I run my release in one and my windicator and/or turkey reeds in the other. The front pocket is sewn directly to the binocular compartment and is made of the same material as the main compartment. Its size and location lends itself well to storing a range finder, phone, or other small items you might want in a hurry. There is no structure or padding integrated into the front pocket but its shape naturally holds items pretty well even when moving around unzipped.
When it comes to bino harnesses a lot of attention gets paid to pockets and camo patterns but the shoulder straps and buckles are arguably the most crucial components. A great harness can become an irritating useless piece of kit if you find yourself constantly tightening flimsy buckles or readjusting straps that rub your traps and ribs raw. The straps and hardware Muley Freak incorporated into their harness are small and lightweight. I was admittedly nervous about how they would hold up but after a year I have zero complaints. Regardless of what I had in the harness, the environment I was in, or the garments I was wearing, I found I could simply fit the harness once and forget it. I never found myself readjusting or shifting it in anyway. The Back panel of the harness is a multi-layered mesh material which I found very comfortable and nearly unnoticeable when worn under a pack. It also breathes well even on hot humid days.
After a solid season of hunting hogs in Central Florida and deer in upstate New York, I found the Muley Freak to be a great bino harness. I’ve really enjoyed running a it especially in warmer weather when I don’t have the luxury of jacket pockets. This harness allowed me to keep a lot of my time sensitive gear right in front of me and between my arms where I could quickly gain access to them. No rummaging around different pockets or un-slinging a backpack which saves on time and noise.
Strength to weigh ratio I would say the Muley Freak is top of its class. There are other more minimalist bino-harnesses on the market but the Muley Freak is as low profile as I would personally recommend. If you cut down on storage and padding anymore you might as well wear your binos around your neck with some paracord and throw a beanie cap over them. On a few hunts I actually tried getting away with only bringing my Muley Freak harness and the KUIU Stalker 500 hydration pack into the woods. This proved a bit too ambitious for full day sits and I usually wished I had a bit more real-estate to stash gear. For 2019 I am going to scale up both my day pack and bino harness but I really enjoyed this combo for short morning and afternoon sits where I didn’t need a lot of equipment.
If you are in the market or interested in a quality harness the Muley Freak is a great option. It’s light weight, middle of the pack on storage and protection, and deserves high marks for quality. Price point wise these run between $90-$100 USD on Muley Freak’s website which is pretty competitive. The harness is offered in tan, green, Multicam, and Kryptek Highlander.
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