The Rack: Harnesses
Choosing the Right Harness this Spring
For a harness to be safe and comfortable, it must fit correctly. This involves the right fit in the legs and waist as well as the proper amount of rise. Many climbers understand the significance of the first two requirements but are unclear about how the rise influences performance and comfort. Rise is the distance between the leg loops and the waist belt. Harnesses without enough rise don’t allow the waist belt to sit properly above the hip bones, which may result in a climber slipping out of the harness during an upside-down fall. Too much rise lets the waist belt shift up and compress the ribcage, restricting breathing when hanging on the rope.
While extra padding can add comfort during extended belays, too much cushioning can increase weight and bulk. This might not be a concern for most climbers but gram-shaving redpoint specialists will prefer something more Spartan.
Mesh panels and perforations improve a harness’ breathability; an important consideration during warm or humid climbing conditions.
Most manufacturers offer harnesses with fixed and adjustable leg loops. Fixed leg loop models are lighter and less complicated, while the adjustable models provide room for extra layers or some weight loss.
The new adjustable harness from Black Diamond offers comfort and versatility, making it ideal for four-season climbing. The single-pull buckles on the waist and legs loops provide fast and easy fit adjustments while the four gear loops and four Ice Clipper slots ensure plenty of racking options for rock or ice. The unique SoftEdge construction on the upper edge of the waistbelt prevents the chafing sometimes encountered with thinner waistbelt designs. The Lotus/Aspect is heavy and over-featured for elite sport climbing and over-padded for difficult ice, but it is a good choice for general rock-climbing.
The men's Sama and Women's Selena highlight why Petzl continues to be a top harness choice for many climbers. These fixed leg loop rock climbing harnesses feature Petzl's unique Frame construction which substitutes lightweight and highly breathable mesh panels for the dense, sweat-inducing laminated foam of most harnesses. As the original manufacturer of the single-pull buckle, it's not surprising that the Sama and Selena also receive this convenient and easy-to-use closure. Four carefully positioned gear loops address draw and hardware organization while the perforated foam in the leg loops increases breathability and comfort during warm conditions or on extended hanging belays. An excellent all-round rock climbing harness.
The Vision Ziplock is a good choice for cragging or multipitch adventures. Four gear loops provide plenty of racking space while Wild Country's easy-to-use single-pull Ziplock buckle combines safety and convenience. Weight is minimized thanks to Wild Country's binding-loaded construction, which eliminates the need for structural weight-bearing webbing along the waist belt and leg loops; the edge binding tape carries the load. Wild Country adds wear indicators to the tie-in points which warn climbers when it's time to replace the harness. A well-made, affordable and versatile harness.
Mammut's Togir Slide harness uses a special two-part webbing construction which provides comfort in a lightweight and low-bulk package. For a snug and secure fit regardless of extra layers, the Togir Slide uses low-profile single pull buckles on the waist and leg loops. Extending this versatility are the four gear hardware-friendly gear loops and three ice-screw carabiner attachment points. While versatility and comfort are big features of the Togir Slide, Mammut does not forget safety. The tie-in point and belay loop use special webbing that has a red thread embedded in the centre. If the red thread is exposed, the harness should be replaced. The other innovative feature is the semi-rigid wear protector on the leg-loop tie-in point. This simple innovation dramatically extends the life of the harness.
At a 190g, the Loopo is the lightest fully padded climbing harness available. But unlike other ultralight rigs, it delivers comfort and support usually only found in harnesses of more than twice the weight. Much of the weight savings come from the Loopo's innovative closure, which eliminates the traditional metal buckle and belay loop. The Loopo is secured by the tie-in knot itself, which joins the two front tie-in loops. Another benefit of this tie-in/belay-point is that it holds the belay device lower, allowing climbers to quickly pay out more rope on desperate clips. Two generous gear loops provide room for plenty of hardware and more loops can be added with Edelrid's Slide-Rail-System. The ventilated foam waist belt improves comfort in warmer weather while the contoured Y-style leg loops take the sting out of extended working sessions. While perhaps not the best choice for long multi-pitch climbs, the Loopo is an excellent option for cragging and sport climbing. Highly recommended.
With its sportive but unobtrusive padding and adjustable leg loops and waitsbelt, the Jasper is an excellent choice for climbers spending between single-pitch cragging routes and longer more committing multi-pitch climbs. Innovations include a centering waist belt that assures the gear loops remain accessible regardless of waist adjustments and a secure single-pull buckle system that quickly opens allowing climbers to easily fit the harness over bulky boots or skis. Four gear loops and offer plenty of racking options and two ice biner slots extend the Jasper's versatility into the winter ice season.
Cream Ale - $97
This plushly-padded harness is well-suited for back-country cragging or long rock routes. Cassin sculpts the waist belt and leg loops for optimal support and add smoothly operating single-pull
buckles for safety and convenience. Two rigid plastic gear loops ensure critical protection remains accessible while the more flexible rear loops are less obtrusive when wearing a pack. The brightly coloured belay loops simplifies checking the tie-in point while the easily adjusted rear riser straps improve fit and comfort.
Arc'teryx's innovative Warp Strength construction allows them to turn the exterior harness fabric into a structural load-bearing member eliminating the need for bulky webbing overlays and foam padding. The result is a lightweight compressible harness that conforms to the climber's body and allows for unencumbered movement during gymnastic climbing. The construction works but the thin top edges on the waist belt and leg loops occasionally bite into the skin during hanging belays or when working routes. Four gear loops and a smooth single-pull buckle round out the features on this well made rock climbing harness.
In a world of ultralight, highly specialized and often disposable climbing harnesses, the Metolius Safe Tech All-Around Harness is a welcome change. Using durable fabrics and robust construction the Safe Tech All-Around Harness can survive years of climbing adventures. Comfort is also top notch thanks to the innovative 3D buckle system, which ensures a perfect leg-loop fit and rise - very smart. From a safety perspective, this harness is unmatched. For example, the waist-belt buckle holds 10kn even with a single pass (always double-back the buckle) and the tie-in points can individually hold the same load if the climber accidently ties in incorrectly. The use of two belay loops also improves safety as it allows climbers to use one for anchoring and the other for belaying - perfect at busy multi-pitch stances.