A climbing harness is one of those pieces of gear your trust your life with. When you’re hanging on the side of the mountain you need to feel secure of your hold, so you can take your time and study your next move carefully. Having the support of the best climbing harness you can find is paramount to your safety and for a successful expedition up the walls.
Regardless of what is your preferred environment or climbing technique, a good sport climbing harness is needed, since it is the part that connects your body to the rope that prevents you from falling should you lose your grip. The options on the market, however, may easily seem too many and very confusing. For this reason, we have compiled a selection of climbing harness reviews, to guide you in your choice of an item no climber can be without.
How To Choose A Climbing Harness – Buying Guide
Your climbing harness is a piece of gear that you will spend long hours with, so having one that fits you comfortably is paramount. You should strive to find a model that you can forget about after a while, with it fitting so snugly against your body that it can almost become a part of it. This will leave your mind free to focus on the more important tasks ahead, such as safely navigating your way up or down a rock wall. Look for padded belts and adjustable leg loops so you can customize the fit and feel of your harness. Try moving around in it or maybe testing it out in the gym before bringing it along on more dangerous expeditions, to evaluate how it feels and how long it takes to synchronize with your body movements. Take your time to check this, since an uncomfortable harness can become one of your worst enemies once you’re halfway up a mountain.
Your climbing harness should feel snug without being tight around your waist or legs, to allow you the freedom of movement you need to climb up the slopes. Be careful to avoid tightening one too much, as this may cause unwanted chafing, pinching and pain. Look for harnesses that are adjustable so you can eventually adapt their shape if you need to be wearing extra layers of clothing. To evaluate the correct size for your harness, the best way is to try it on. Slide it on your legs and pull the waist band over your belly button with all the straps loosened, carefully avoiding any twists and turns in the straps. Pull to tighten the waist belt until if feels nice and snug, with no more than two fingers of space between the belt and your own waist, and be careful to place it above your hips, since they will prevent it from sliding off at the crucial moment. As far as the leg loops are concerned, you can be a little more forgiving with the tightness, since it is mostly the waist belt’s job to keep you attached. If they are adjustable, which we recommend they be, tighten them until they feel securely fastened without pressing on your legs. To test if your harness is correctly sized and if you have fastened it well, try hanging from a wall in the gym. You should manage to sit upright without too much effort and without feeling pressure points or pains in any part of your body. If this is the case, unbuckle yourself and start again, or replace your harness altogether.
Most entry level climbing harnesses are made out of foam, and if you’re just starting out it’s very likely that yours will be one of those. This material is very effective in making the harness comfortable to wear and in absorbing shock from falls or slips. It is also, however, slightly on the heavy side and may cause you to sweat profusely under your clothes, something that is far from being recommended if you find yourself in a cold environment. The best rock climbing harnesses these days tend to use split webbing. This material works better than foam at spreading the weight of the climber around, so it proves much more comfortable after several hours of climbing. Not only that, but it is also tougher, lighter and more breathable than foam making it an obvious choice for more experienced climbers that want and need the best gear they can find, despite it being more expensive than the most basic options available.
Every harness comes with a wide array of loops, which have several different functions to assist you on a climb. If you’re planning on taking with you a lot of extra equipment, then the number of gear loops will probably be one of the most important features for you. Most climbing harnesses will have around four gear loops, which is good enough for most situations. If you usually climb in a gym you might even get away with a few less loops and save yourself something in weight. Apart from that, all harnesses come with a belay loop. For climbers attempting the most dangerous routes, we recommend a thick belay loop or better still, a double one to provide extra security to your climbing team. On the back of the harness you should find a haul loop, which is used to attach ropes or shoes during multi-pitch climbs. This is not a feature that is found on all harnesses since it might not be needed if you’re only climbing in a gym, so be sure to check if it is something you will absolutely need.
One might think that the lighter the harness is the better, since logically it would provide you with more freedom to move around on the walls. This is not exactly the case, however, since with climbing harnesses less weight usually equals to less padding and thickness. This, in turn, may reduce the comfort provided by a significant amount, bringing the straps to cut into your body and bring unwanted and uncomfortable pressure to delicate parts. If you are just climbing in a gym and only spend a limited amount of time in a harness, then you might be able to get away with a thinner one, but if you’re planning to spend long hours strapped in it might be worth to endure a little extra weight for the comfort it provides.
Durability is obviously a much sought-after quality of climbing harnesses but again the choice might not be as logical as it looks. This is because more durable harnesses usually mean thicker and heavier ones, so these might not be the most suited for the type of climbing you set out to do. Follow the same way of thinking that we have shown for weight, and you’ll be able to identify the harness that is best suited for you, with lighter and less durable ones that may well be enough for days spent inside the gym. As far as materials are concerned, keep in mind that foam harnesses, while being less expensive than split webbing ones, will tend to last less and break more easily.
Type Of Harness
Depending on the environment you are climbing in, you will need different types of harnesses with different features. If your main area of interest is sport climbing you will need to look for the most lightweight model available, focusing on freedom of movement and climbing comfort since you won’t be hanging around in your harness for a long time. For training in the gym, on the other hand, you might want to look for a harness that is also comfortable to wear since you’ll be staying in it quite a bit as you try out new holds and techniques. In this case you won’t even need gear loops or ice clipper slots, so these will help you keep the weight down. A traditional climbing harness, meant for the outdoors, will need several gear loops and also needs to be extra padded and durable than the models we have described earlier. A rear haul loop is also needed for this style of climbing. For big wall climbing, you’ll need everything a trad harness can give you and more, with extra padding and numerous loops, extra strong belay loops and more heft and weight. Finally, alpine climbing harnesses will be similar to trad ones but can be a little lighter and simpler, since you won’t be needing all the features they provide given the speed at which you’re planning to ascend and descend.
Type Of Climbing
Climbing is a sport that can be practised in thousands of different ways but can be approximately divided into several categories. Gym climbing is done indoors, on walls studded with holds of varying difficulties, meant to let you practice your skills before you head out to the real mountains. Sport climbing is similar to gym climbing, but the emphasis here is placed on speed rather than style. Once you head outdoors, you might undertake traditional climbing, which implies multi-pitching and attaching ropes to the sides of mountains to hold you up. Big wall climbing refers to attempting the largest and most difficult climbs, often requiring up to several days, while alpine rock climbing mirrors sport climbing, but is done in the natural outdoors environment.
Male vs Female
Not all climbing harnesses are equally usable by both sexes, so you need to watch out when you are buying one. Women’s climbing harnesses are designed to adapt to the female body shape, with a tighter waist belt than models meant for men. This allows for a better hold that is much more secure than using a male harness and trying to tighten it excessively. Of course this is doable, as human beings come in all shapes and sizes, but if you can choose it’s probably better to stick with one that is designed for you.
Fixed vs. Adjustable Leg Loops
When choosing a climbing harness, try to find one with adjustable leg loops. This will provide you with an extra degree of versatility when compared with ones whose loops are not adjustable. You might find this especially handy if you plan to use your harness all year round, because it will let you adapt its shape to the clothing you intend to wear.
Ice Clipper Slots
Ice clipper slots will be needed only for the very specific situation of ice climbing, which involves using axes to dig holes into solid ice. The slots provide a place to hold the specific clippers you need for this kind of activity and are quite easy to tell apart from regular gear loops. If you know you need them, you’ll know to look out for them when buying a climbing harness, as they will be a fundamental part of your kit whenever you head out the door.
The main difference you will see on climbing harnesses when it comes to buckle systems is whether they use one or two of them. A single buckle is quicker and easier to adjust on the fly and also keeps the weight of the harness down, but a double buckle will let you keep loops more centered regardless of how tight you pull it. The choice then is entirely down to habit and personal preference.
Q: How Do I Choose A Climbing Harness?
To choose a climbing harness, you must first determine what kind of climbing you intend to do. This will let you know what are the most important features you need to have and cannot be without. This will in turn guide tour choice as to which model best suits your need, and you can then refine your choice by considering size, fit, comfort and weight.
Q: When Should I Buy A New Climbing Harness?
The lifespan of your harness will depend on how much wear and tear you put it through, but in general you should consider buying a new one every seven years. If you use it professionally, almost every day, you might need to replace one every year, and in any case you should immediately do so if you notice even the slightest sign of damage.
Q: How Tight Should Climbing Harness Be?
A climbing harness should be tight enough to make it adhere nicely to your body but not as tight as to provoke pain or unwanted pressure. This is something that becomes easier to evaluate with experience, testing out different setting when you're on the walls and discovering which one feels better while staying secure.
Q: How Long Does Climbing Harness Last?
Even if your harness has been carefully stored and presents no signs of damage, you should consider retiring it after more than five years. Most manufacturers provide a manual along with the harness in which they state the recommended lifespan, as it varies among models, so be sure to consult it if you are not sure about what to do.
Globo Surf Overview
There is no backup for a climbing harness once you’re out on a wall, so it is crucial to choose one that you can trust and that you know will perform when put to the test. In our article you can find the best models available on the market today, so you can make an informed choice and head out with the confidence of having the best gear on your side.