Product Review: KUIU Binocular Harness System

by Tom Ryle on November 7, 2013

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glasssing smallIf you’ve spent any time toting binoculars in the mountains then I’m confident you’ve cussed your bino harness a time or two. They either ride up on the back of your neck or allow your binoculars to bounce incessantly against your chest, usually both. And if you’re like me, you’ve tried them all and settled on the one that causes the least amount of frustration.

I had the opportunity to test the new KUIU Binocular Harness System soon after the July 2013 product launch. Like every product in their lineup, KUIU’s Binocular harness system is unique and purpose-built to carry a wide range of 10x and 15x glass typically used for mountain hunting. (Pocket-sized folding models are best suited for a shirt or pack pocket).

Since KUIU’s birth a few short years ago, I’m continually reminded of famous architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  Mies strove toward minimalism and is often associated with the aphorisms, “less is more” and my favorite quote, “God is in the details. In my experience, that’s where real user value lives – in the details. KUIU’s bino harness was obviously conceived through a rigorous iterative design process, whereby continual prototyping and testing led to thoughtful features and execution details. KUIU founder, Jason Hairston had this to say:

“We spent 2 years designing, testing and refining the KUIU Binocular Harness into the most functional system created. Our design holds your binoculars tight to your chest, is extremely quiet, allows for easy one-handed operation, and is modular with two sizes to fit a wide range of binoculars.”

What You Get

The harness comes with the full containment pouch and a separate “bikini” strap for outings that don’t require as much full-body protection. And the featherweight ripstop rain cover is always at the ready to keep rain, dust, needles, and other debris off your glasses. There are also two mesh side pockets that are suitable for diaphragm calls, wind checker, or other small items. I use one for elk calls and the other to store the rain cover.

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Like other products in KUIU’s Guide series, the KUIU Binocular Harness System is constructed of Toray Primeflex® 4-way stretch soft shell fabric with a micro-fleece lining for quiet use. The Primeflex® fabric combined with an elastic cord and Duraflex cord locks provide customized fitting to assure protection for your optics in all hunting conditions. Although the system is treated with the high performing Toray Kudos®DWR, a 30 denier sil-nylon diamond ripstop CORDURA® Fabric rain cover is included to ensure complete waterproofness.

How It Works

As I mentioned at the outset, one of my top gripes is when a harness rides up on my back, which creates slack and the dreaded bounce so common with most harnesses. The KUIU binocular harness solves these two common problems through a unique tethering approach. The KUIU harness transfers the weight of the binoculars away from your neck and shoulders by connecting the top straps (over shoulder) to the binoculars while the side straps (around body) connect to the semi-rigid “pouch” (or bikini strap) only. When you lift your glasses out they are no longer tethered to the pouch in front, providing full range of motion. There is no struggling to overcome strap tension elsewhere in the system.

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Without the use of elastic, the KUIU system fits comfortably and snuggly around your upper chest, provides even weight distribution and prevents annoying bounce and sag when running or crawling.

Unlike most other binocular harnesses on the market, the KUIU system peels down and forward from the top, allowing for efficient one-handed operation. The roof of the lid is semi-rigid as well to protect the eyepieces, and has a handy finger loop on top that is sized to fit a gloved hand.

My Experience & Assessment

As a product designer I judge products, in part, by how well they serve my needs repeatedly in real-world conditions. As I mentioned at the outset, if a harness rides up my neck or beats my chest, it stays home.

This past September I was hunting Roosevelt elk along the jungle-like Washington coastline. Contrary to the reputation for rain, September is often hot with temps pushing 90 degrees or more. As a result elk are often found in the canyon bottoms amidst an unrelenting obstacle course of thick brush, thorns, and downed timber. Navigating this country can be exhausting, not to mention very hard on gear. You can expect to be literally crawling on hands and knees and navigating around ancient logs too tall to climb over. An endless sea of sword ferns produce pungent, gritty pollen that covers everything as your movement disturbs thousands of reaching arms. Think: dust mask! Meanwhile, salmonberry, devils club and other vegetation work you over like a drive-through car wash!

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One morning I battled my way up a familiar drainage. Normally I keep my binoculars in my pack until I get higher on the ridge but on this day I wanted to see how well the KUIU harness would perform. After a full hour of abuse I headed up out of the bottom toward a favorite glassing spot at the edge of some big timber. I pulled my binoculars from their protective pouch and despite a few lone twigs in the bottom; the lenses were clean and free from fern pollen. I had cinched down the elastic to create a tighter than normal seal around the eyecups which worked well.

There was no noticeable bounce throughout my hunt but to test this further I wore the harness during a recent stair running session in my office building. The attach points create a “neutral mass weight” condition whereby there is equal support from the top and bottom, resulting in the weight to become static against your chest. There is not a bias in either direction; no ride-up and virtually no bounce.

As consumers, we all have to balance price with quality and performance. It’s no mystery that KUIU designs and manufactures some of the finest gear on the market, and while much of their offerings are targeted at extreme-conditions adventures, their binocular harness system is appropriate for all types of hunting.

Sizing Options + Pricing

The Binocular Harness System is available in Vias or Verde Camo. The large sized system weighs 7 ounces, fits binoculars up to 10×42 and is available for $79.99. The extra large weighs 8 ounces, fits binoculars up to 15×56 and is available for $84.99.

About KUIU

Based in Dixon, California, KUIU was founded in 2011 to provide customers with the world’s most advanced hunting layering system and equipment on the market. KUIU provides remarkable apparel and equipment that is light, packable, and dependable. By eliminating retailers and selling their products exclusively online, KUIU drives the ultimate shopping experience. They provide superior customer service, lower pricing, and the highest product quality. For additional information visit www.KUIU.com or call 855-367-5848 Monday-Friday from 9:00AM-5:00PM PST.

© FreshTRAX Outdoors 2013, All Rights Reserved.

 

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