Yes, the cat is out of the bag: Women are the fastest-growing segment of hunters. So in addressing increasing women's needs and in welcoming new hunters into the fold, safety harness manufacturer Hunter Safety System (HSS) answered our calls for safe and innovative products with its new-for-2014 Ladies Contour vest-and-harness system. As a bowhunter who scampers up trees on a regular basis, I had to try one on for size—literally.
The instant I put it on I was impressed by the fit and understood why it was named the Contour. It's designed to fit a woman's form, starting with three black stretch panels that trim bulk regardless of your clothing layers, and offers a contoured fit. Patented adjustment features keep it snug and comfortable like a glove while allowing you to be mobile on stand—another plus, along with the fact it only weighs 2.25 pounds and feels like a lightweight shirt. In meeting its "fashion meets form and function" goal, HSS included teal-colored accent lines in front of the black panels to create the image of "curves." Nice touch, but even that was no afterthought as HSS actually surveyed people on color options, which is how it knew to sidestep pink. Come to think of it, I see several other companies are now working teal into some of their base layers.
The vest has a sliding, metal adjustment bar in between the layers of fabric that you use to adjust the internal straps before adjusting and securing the leg straps. The buckles are rubber-coated for stealth. The Contour comes with a 1-inch Suspension Relief/Deer Drag strap that can be used to relieve suspension trauma after a fall—or to drag your deer out of the woods. (NOTE: It should NEVER be used as a tree strap to secure you to the tree.) The tether is folded and sewn using "break-away" stitches so it functions like a shock absorber in case of a fall to cushion the impact of a sudden stop. Adjust the strap to fit you and keep it handy in one of the two lined vest pockets. If you fall and can't get back into your stand or onto the ladder, then you can step into it and stand up on the comfortable, saddle-style straps to keep your blood circulating and alleviate all the pressure in your lower body that would result from hanging. The Contour also comes with a quiet and adjustable tree strap, a lineman's climbing strap and an instructional DVD.
Overall, the HSS Contour's Smart Fabrics are quiet and the quick-snap leg buckles are lighter, stronger and quieter and eliminate potentially dangerous dangling straps. Last but not least, in putting safety first—a hallmark of the NRA—an HSS Lifeline will keep us hunters connected to the tree from the moment we start to climb until we're back on the ground. There's an extra level of comfort that comes from knowing HSS has your back, particularly considering you're often climbing up before first light and back down as darkness descends.
For some final words on innovation, let's talk zippers. Because HSS eliminated what it calls "the pesky bust strap" in favor of a zippered-vest design, you can expect more comfort and less weight. Though you may not notice, this vest has a "safety" zipper that will release if pressured in any direction—unlike a standard zipper. Should you fall, rest assured the zipper will not hinder your neck line. I think HSS thought of everything on this one, maybe because it always has its eye on innovation. HSS was the first to unveil a safety vest for youth so it makes sense that it's the first to do so for women as I recall something HSS national sales manager Michael Wydner said about how the goal is to make vests tailored to bring every family member home safely after the hunt.