A good rock climbing harness can make or break your climb—literally. If you have one that doesn’t work, you can fall and injure yourself badly. You wear it every time you go rope climbing—which means that you could be using it dozens of times in any given year. Not to mention, with so many models offered on the market—there are hundreds of available possibilities out there—it can be difficult to find the one that’s right for year. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide: we want to help you make the best possible purchase. After all, when it comes to rock climbing (or any other outdoor sport), safety is incredibly important.
Important Features to Consider
Leg and Gear Loops
Rock climbing harnesses can have different kinds of loops, including leg loops and gear loops.
In the case of leg loops, these can be adjustable or not. While non-adjustable loops can be easier to handle—there are two fewer buckles than in adjustable models—and they tend to weigh less, you also don’t get as much flexibility when you’re climbing. Because you can’t adjust them, you might also have more difficulty fitting on fixed loops; however—once you have managed to fit them properly—you will find that they are a good fit. As for adjustable loops, these are preferable if you’re wearing many layers of clothing at one time, such as if you’re climbing outdoors in the winter. So, while a harness with fixed loops might be good for climbing indoors, when you’re only wearing a simple pair of shorts, you might prefer an adjustable harness when climbing outside.
You’ll also want to watch out for the adjustability of gear loops. Most models have four loops, but there are also models with two, five, or six loops. If these are located far enough in the front, they’re easier to access; however, if they’re too far in the front, your gear will get in the way while you’re climbing. Also, some—like those made of plastic—are more rigid, while others are flexible and adjustable.
Comfort is vital because—if a given model of harness doesn’t feel nice and comfy when you’re wearing it—then it will be a chore to put on. For harnesses, comfort has two components: one must feel comfy both when you’re standing and while you’re hanging. When you’re standing—which, incidentally, you are going to be doing at least as much as you’ll be climbing—you’ll want a harness that’s light and breathable. In contrast, harnesses which are bulkier tend to be less comfortable, and might chafe against your clothes. Those with breathable meshes also tend to create less sweat when you’re up on the ropes; such meshes might be called “two-part webbing” (Mammut), “Dual Core” (Black Diamond), “Endoframe,” or “Frame” (Petzl).
As for comfort while you’re climbing, then you’ll need to look for a model that has ample padding and a wide waist belt. Some of these will employ technologies that distribute force throughout your body so that you’re balanced better when hanging.
It’s more important that you feel comfortable when you’re climbing—rather than when you’re standing, waiting to climb—so, if you have to choose between standing comfort and hanging comfort, go for the latter.
Like comfort, fit is one of the most important things you’ll have to pay attention to when you’re purchasing a new harness. If a given model doesn’t fit properly, you risk shaking and moving inside of it (when the harness is too loose), or it chafing against you and just generally being very annoying (when the harness is too tight). And, no matter how comfortable your harness might seem to be—maybe if it has good padding, for example—none of that will mean much if it doesn’t fit properly.
So, how can you take fit into account when purchasing a harness? Well—and this goes without saying—as much as possible, you’ll want to try it on first. You should be able to cinch the belt tightly enough that it’s solid and will stay in place, but loosely enough so that you can sleep two fingers—but not much more—inside the gap. Too-tight harnesses will cause you pain when you’re standing or walking about, and those that are too loose will ride up around you when you’re hanging. Also, keep an eye on the gear loops. If a given model doesn’t have the right fit for your body, then one gear loop will be too far back for you, and the haul loop will feel like it’s off balance when compared to the position of your back.
Unsurprisingly, there are several different types of rock climbing harnesses. In some cases, you can even use these models when you’re doing other activities, such as climbing trees or bow hunting. That being said, the type of harness you’ll use will depend on a number of factors. For example, if you go climbing outside and you live somewhere where it’s cold, you’ll want a harness that’s ideal for climbing in winter, since ordinary harnesses freeze upon absorbing water. Therefore, winter harnesses are made of closed cell foam, which doesn’t absorb water. If, however, you want a harness that you can use for a variety of different situations, you’ll look for an all-around model. These have good support for your body and back, and they’re made out of breathable foams, such as those that are mesh. They’re good for users who want to climb both indoors and out.
If you’re involved in sport climbing, then you won’t need a model with a lot of bells and whistles. These models are specially designed so that they spare additional weight, and therefore you can maintain your energy more easily. In consequence, they don’t employ excess features, like adjustable leg loops or heavy foam; they’re made of relatively simple features that contribute to making them lighter, rather than weighing them down. And if you’re going to do trad or winter climbing, you’ll want a harness that has at least four gear loops, if not more. Also helpful in this category are leg loops whose position can be adjusted.
Best Rock Climbing Harnesses
EDELRID Jay II Climbing Harness
Several features ensure that this all-around model is ideal for climbers of different skill levels, and for all types of climbing. It’s also a good fit for climbers both recreational and commercial. One reason that this is a great harness is that ir has 3D mesh padding, which is made out of movable foam. The three buckles are smooth and glide easily, which thus improves balance and support. This model is quite durable; it features an abrasion factor; this is located at the point where you tie yourself in. Because it’s an all-around model, you can wear it, both outside and inside, with no problems at all. It has four fixed, symmetrical loops, which means that it’s particularly good for trad climbing; these will help stabilize you while you’re hanging. There are also 2 attachment options that are ideal for ice screw clips. It also has a chalk bag loop, which makes it more convenient.
Edelrid has been making climbing products for more than 60 years, so they’ve built up a great reputation. They even developed the kernmantle rope, way back in 1953. This innovative brand was actually founded in 1863, by mountaineer Julius Edelmann and technician Carl Ridder.
This harness is on this list because of the company’s long-standing reputation, its comfortable fit, and, in particular, the fact that it’s well-suited to different types of climbs. You’ll find that the Jay IF is easy and efficient to use, whether you’re a seasoned climber or still a beginner.
Fusion Climb Centaur Half Body Harness
This multi-purpose harness is ideal for many climbers. For example, it’s very strong, even though it’s lightweight. It’s also easy to adjust, which makes for additional flexibility and higher comfort. It offers three-point adjustment, as well as adjuster buckles made up of two pieces, which are meant for the waist and legs. There are three fast-pass buckles, and adjusting them is quick and easily done.
It is available in sizes from medium all the way up to extra large. It’s versatile, so you can use it in many different environments, such as rope courses, outdoor climbing, and gyms for indoor climbing. It is made of 5000-lb test mil spec webbing, and—with a weight of less than three pounds—is suitably lightweight for longer climbing periods. It is secure enough to hold people of various weights, sizes and body types. You can also adjust it on your outer body, which means that not only you, but also your trainer—or whoever is climbing with you—can adjust it with ease.
The fast-pass buckles are particularly helpful in this regard, since they enable the trainer to work quickly and efficiently. It is comfy and easy to wear; if you size it properly against your skin, it won’t be too tight—or, alternatively, too loose—when you’re wearing it, whether you’re simply standing or hanging up while you’re on the wall or rocks. In addition, it’s strong and durable despite its flexibility, and will last you for many years to come.
ABC Guide Harness
This CE certified harness is a good choice for climbers of varying skill levels. It is quite comfortable, and fits nicely against you. It’s an especially good fit if you’re a sports climber, and prefer a lighter harness, or if you’re the kind of climber who would prefer to have less, rather than more, on your harness. This is because it doesn’t offer much in the way of bells and whistles. Rather, it’s a simple, multipurpose harness, that’s ideal for both beginners and veterans. Also, it’s priced very reasonably; most climbers will be able to afford it.
The waist is ideal for people of different sizes as well; the belt can accommodate people with waists of up to 50 inches, and it can support even heavier climbers with ease. The leg loops and waist holes are well-prepared to take on larger folks, and can be adjusted accordingly. It is safe and secure, and well-suited for emergency rescues, as well as rappelling and standard climbing. You can also roll it up when you’re not using it; it doesn’t take up a lot of space, so you can easily pack it away when you’re not using it. This makes it ideal if you like to go on climbing adventures in the great outdoors.
Therefore, this solid durable product is versatile, easy to wear, fairly comfortable, and has a great price. If you’re looking for a new, simple to use, user-friendly harness, then this might be a great fit for you.
Black Diamond Momentum Harness
Although it can be difficult to choose the right harness, the Black Diamond Momentum Harness is a great choice to make. Black Diamond is known for their high-quality harnesses; they’ve been in the business for a long time, and have made countless premium-quality pieces of rock climbing equipment. One such model they offer is the Momentum harness, which is comfy and versatile. It’s got four pressure-molded gear loops, as well as a haul loop for extra stability, and is spacious enough so that you can easily carry your cams and other items. The comfortable waist belt, which is in the shape of a bullhorn and which features Dual Core mesh construction, will fit nicely our your waist or hips—enough so that you can feel comfortable even after you’ve been climbing for a while. The leg loops feature trakFIT technology, which allows you to easily customize the tightness or looseness of your loops. The trakFIT technology also ensures that you have a better fit, no matter what the weather’s like outside—whether it’s cool autumn or blazing-hot summer, you’ll always be able to adjust it to your weather (and your own tastes and desires). The belt features a pre-threaded Speed Adjust buckle; this ensures that it’s quick and easy to put on. It’s also safer than the waist belts of those models that aren’t pre-threaded. With this belt, you’ll be able to save more time, because you won’t have to keep adjusting the leg loops and the fit of the waist belt. This time-saving factor is ideal for every type of climbing excursion, whether you’re indoors or out. There is also a rear elastic riser; this is adjustable for a better fit.
EDELRID Jayne Climbing Harness
This woman’s harness harness is an all-around model, so it’s ideal for different types of climbing—as well as for female climbers of different ages, shapes, and sizes. It’s got minimal weight, which makes it nice and lightweight—so it won’t feel too heavy while you’re hanging in it—and it has strong load-bearing webbing. The structure is made out of 3D mesh, and the padding is made out of foam that can be moved around to your heart’s content. The mesh is combined with load-bearing webbing, with the result that you’ll get a nice, comfortable fit thanks to this model. There are also three buckles, which glide easily; these help improve both the balance and the comfort of the harness.
Moreover, the leg loop is longer, with the result that you can position it optimally above your hip bones. There are also four fixed gear loops; these are symmetrically placed, which contributes to the organization of this model. Thus, it’s easy to properly center the tie-in point, and the gear loops can be aligned with ease for people with differently sized waists. There are also inverse edges on the top of the waist belt; these have the function of both preventing pressure points and improving comfort while you’re hanging before the wall or rocks. Also, two attachment options, specifically meant for ice-screw clips, are included. Thus, as you can see, you won’t have any problems if you want to go rock climbing in the winter.
It is available in both small and medium sizes; the former measures 63 to 83, and 50 to 60 (waist and leg); the latter measures 70 to 95, and 55 to 65.
As noted above, Edelrid has been making rope and alpine equipment since the nineteenth century—for more than 150 years, in other words.
Other Things to Consider When Purchasing a Rock Climbing Harness
Watch out for the price of a given harness. Some harnesses are more expensive than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re of higher quality than their less expensive counterparts. Therefore, if you’re considering purchasing a specific model, carefully consult the reviews (on Amazon in specialty rock-climbing magazines and websites) before you make your decision. This way, you can avoid getting the wrong model.
Ultimately, the right harness can help you so much—while a bad harness won’t just be a bad purchase; it can even make your climbs unsafe, whether you’re out on the rocks, inside at an indoor rock climbing center, or projecting a new climbing route. A good harness will serve you well in all of these conditions—whether you’re just a beginner or have been climbing for years; whether you climb for fun or for profit; and no matter your age, size, or body shape. If you’ve found the right harness, then that’s the first step towards having a good climb, every time.
So, be careful when you’re looking to buy a new harness; you want to make the right decision before purchase. That way, you can spend the right amount of money, be satisfied with your purchase—and enjoy great climbing experiences in the years to come.