Proper Treestand Safety Gear - Cool For Life!

by Karen L Cranford

The hunting industry has recently risen to provide choices for treestand 
safety equipment. Which kind is best? What is important? What works, 
and just as importantly, what does not!

To Karen Cranford's List Of Columns

When you hunt, are you concerned about being COOL?  Do you wear the latest hot camouflage pattern because it's COOL? Do you hunt from the newest, hottest tree stand because it's COOL?  Do you also not wear proper safety equipment when hunting from your tree stand because you feel it's not COOL? Or maybe you don't think you can afford it, or that it crimps your style. Well, let me assure you, it IS very COOL to hunt using the proper safety equipment, really it is!  You see, it is very cool to return from your hunt having harvested a huge trophy buck.  It is not cool to abruptly end your hunt by lying broken, bleeding, and possibly dead on the ground from an unfortunate, unexpected fall from your tree stand.

Will wearing and using proper safety equipment add weight to the growing list of things you must pack into the woods on the first day and every day of hunting season?  Most definitely, it will.  Will wearing and using proper safety equipment increase the amount of time it takes to climb a tree and set your tree stand?  Probably, it will, but only by a little bit. 

Is it worth the trouble?  If you, your family, your friends, or your employer value your life, it is most definitely worth the weight, the time and money investment. 

The ridiculous side of this whole issue is that there are still those who believe they can tree stand hunt safely without such equipment because they are "careful".  Each year, numerous tree stand hunter's make a decision not to use this sort of equipment, and some of them pay for this decision with their lives and some by spending the rest of their lives in a wheelchair.

The hunting industry's manufacturers have risen to the challenge by providing a wide choice of hunting safety equipment to help ensure that you are able to go into the woods safely each hunting season.  Some of this equipment is excellent, some of it is good, and some of it is not so good.  You will have to be the judge of what works best for you in your situation.  Armed with a little knowledge, you should be an excellent judge of good safety equipment.

Safety Belts
The first issue to be addressed once and for all is safety belts. Your chances for survival are often better hitting the ground than taking a hard fall with a safety belt around your waist or chest area.  The impact from a fall while wearing such a safety belt, according to physicians who have examined the bodies of individuals killed because of impact loading on a safety belt, can cause the contents of one's stomach to be forced up his or her trachea causing suffocation when breathed back into the lungs.  Not a pleasant way to go in this writer's opinion.  It is definitely best to avoid safety belts and go with a properly designed full-body safety harness.

Left Photo shows the system in use during the climbing phase to initially install your fixed position stand.  Right Photo shows the system in use while in your stand in the hunting position.

Fall-Arresting Versus Fall-Restraining Safety Gear
The second issue to be aware of is the concept of fall-arresting versus fall-restraining safety gear.  Fall-restraining gear does just that, it restrains the user from falling. 

For example, you fall asleep while in your tree stand and begin to slowly tilt forward.  When your safety gear tightens (hopefully after only a few inches of movement), it restrains you from continuing your fall out of the stand.  Typically, a safety belt will accomplish this fall-restraining task for you.  Fall-arresting, on the other hand, is required in a situation where you are in a fall (for example, your tree stand unexpectedly gives away from underneath you) and the safety gear in use arrests, or stops, the fall in process. 

Fall-arresting is definitely the function you want your tree stand safety equipment to perform.  To be fall-arresting, the equipment must be designed to take a tremendous amount of force with out breakage.  Also, this force must be distributed across the human body in such a way as not to cause damage to the body when the fall is broken.  After all, your fall is broken when you hit the ground, the problem is the impact causes most people significant problems.  You do not want your safety equipment to cause similar problems.

Static Versus Dynamic Systems
The third issue to be aware of is static versus dynamic systems.  A static system is one with little or no stretch built in to cushion you in a fall.  A dynamic system provides some measure of stretch in its design.

This dynamic stretch helps absorb some of the shock of stopping the fall.  In other words, it transfers some of the shock away from the fall victim's body.  In addition, the dynamic system itself will not be required to absorb all of the shock of the fall which makes it, pound for pound of construction, able to arrest your fall with less likelihood of breakage. 

To give you one researcher's calculation of the force required to stop a fall with a dynamic versus a static system, consider the following.

(Please be aware that many assumptions are involved in such calculations and different researchers might come to different results using the same data.)  A 250 pound person falling a maximum of six feet will require approximately 2000 pounds of force to stop a fall on a dynamic system engineered with approximately 25% stretch.  The same circumstances with a static system of approximately 5% stretch will require approximately 10,000 pounds of force to stop the fall.  Military research regarding the impact of an opening parachute on the human body shows that less than 2500 pounds of force is generally safe, 2500 to 4000 pounds of force is dangerous, and that significant injury or death is probable with forces over 4000 pounds. 
In general, a static system is expected to generate at least two to three times the amount of force on the body as a dynamic system.  It seems clear to this writer that a dynamic system is the way to go.

Proper Construction
The fourth issue is proper construction.  Any system that may be forced to withstand between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds of force in order to do its job had better be well constructed or you are wasting your time and money.  This writer recommends at a minimum that all load bearing hardware be of load-rated steel construction. 

Sturdy webbing as well as stitching that will not break loose on impact is a must.  In addition, dual connection points for the harness and/or system will distribute the force of the fall among more than one piece of hardware.  Mountaineering and rock climbing gear is always redundant, but for some reason hunters do not seem to see the value in redundancy. 

Redundancy can be of lifesaving importance.  Another valuable construction point for a harness is for the connecting rings to be encapsulated in body of harness rather than simply sewn to the outside surface of the harness.  With the encapsulation technique it is virtually impossible for a ring to ever completely detach from the harness
 during a fall.

Remain Upright In The Event Of A Fall
The fifth issue is a system that will allow you to remain upright in the event of a fall.  First of all, being upright is much more comfortable than being upside down.  Second, you are much less likely to lose consciousness if upright.  Third, remaining upright puts you in a better position to regain your footing, reestablish your equilibrium, and hopefully be able to safely climb down without having to wait for a rescuer to come by -- which could take hours or more.

The sixth issue to be considered is comfort.  If you are like most people, you probably will not wear a harness and use a safety system that is not comfortable.  Also, if you must wait for a rescuer to show up before you are able to climb to safety, you will not want to be in severe pain during that potentially long time lapse.  I challenge any of you to attempt to hang by a safety belt around your waist.  Within seconds or a few minutes you will be in so much pain that you would likely cut yourself loose and fall to the ground rather than to remain in that state for very long.

The hunting industry manufacturers have recently risen to providing many choices for safety equipment.  Guardian Climbing Safety Systems and Angel Wings are among these choices.  These systems meet all of the points mentioned above and more.  They are load-rated to handle a 250 pound person falling a maximum of six feet.  The maximum that you can fall using the equipment according to the instructions is three feet, so if you are diligent in proper use of the equipment you have quite a margin of safety built into the construction of the systems. 

The systems are all both fall-arresting and fall-restraining.  The systems designed for fixed position tree stand hunting are designed to allow you to climb past obstructions, such as limbs, without having to disconnect from your safety equipment. 

Whether you are hunting from a fixed-position or self-climbing tree stand, with the proper Guardian or Angel Wings system, you will be able to be connected to the tree via your safety equipment from the time you leave the ground until you return to the ground.  This includes climbing to the location for hanging your stand,  installing your stand, climbing into your stand, hunting, and descending back to the ground.  Any of these tasks can be performed even if it is necessary to climb past obstructions. 

These products are available on the web at or or by calling Cranford Manufacturing Company, Inc. at (336) 284-2686. 

Left Photo shows the Guardian Climbing Safety System in use during the climbing phase to initially install your fixed position stand.  Right Photo shows the system in use while in your stand in the hunting position.

Karen L Cranford
Karen is the Director of Operations for Cranford Manufacturing Company, Inc., the creators of EZY® Climb Tree Steps and Hunting Accessories and the manufacturer of Guardian Climbing Safety Systems and Angel Wings.

Karen L Cranford
Karen is the Director of Operations for Cranford Manufacturing Company, Inc., the creators of EZY® Climb Tree Steps and Hunting Accessories and the manufacturer of Guardian Climbing Safety Systems and Angel Wings.

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