Whether you’re a professional rock climber, or you just want to occasionally release your adrenaline and interact with nature, you probably know that rock climbing harnesses are one of the most important parts of your climbing gear. Not only are they crucial for your safety and well being, but harnesses are also responsible for your comfort while climbing.
But we know that choosing the right climbing gear harness can be a very daunting task, especially once you come across the huge range of types and features the market offers. That’s why we put together some tips to help you choose the best option for your next climbing adventure.
Pay Attention to the Construction
One of the most important things to do before you decide to explore climbing harnesses on the market is to get to know and understand the different parts of a harness:
- Waist belts are the thick slab of webbing that stays wrapped around your waist. They’re usually sewn and padded so they can provide the ultimate combination of comfort and minimum amount of weight and can be adjusted with buckles, according to your needs and preferences.
- Buckles are essential to ensure that the harness will not accidentally come undone when it’s weighted. Harnesses usually feature one or two buckles, and they allow you to easily tighten or loosen the waist belt.
- Leg loops are typically padded loops of webbing that encase your upper thighs and their purpose is to distribute your weight between your legs and pelvis as well as to provide you with comfort while climbing.
- Gear loops are designed to carry equipment such as quickdraws and cams. They’re commonly made of plastic or webbing, and some of them are also removable. However, remember that gear loops are not intended to be clipped into like a piece of protection at an anchor.
- The haul loop is located on the back of the harness and is used to attach the second rope of a haul line. And same as the gear loops, haul loop is not intended to be clipped for a piece of protection or bear with huge loads.
- The belay loop is the strongest point of the harness and the only part that can withstand huge loads. So, if you’re carrying anything heavy such as a locking carabiner while belaying or rappelling, you should attach it exactly to the belay loop.
- Tie-in loops are actually the two loops that are connected to the belay loop to distribute the wear and add redundancy to your system. However, tie-in loops aren’t tested for strength, so make sure you don’t attach your carabiner or anything that can weaken them while you’re hanging.
- Leg loop cross piece is the length of the webbing connecting the two-leg loops on the front of the harness. This webbing, along with the tie-in loops on the waist belt is one of the points where your climbing rope should be attached, and it’s usually adjustable with a small threaded buckle.
Determine the Right Type
But even if you know all the parts and the overall construction, know that to purchase a climbing gear harness you need to understand the different types. At this point, you should know that all the climbing harnesses are designed for specific climbing styles, and we can split them into a couple of categories:
Sport Climbing Harness
These harnesses are intended for indoor use, or more specifically for climbing in gyms. They typically feature single automatic or double-back waist belt buckles that are quick and easy to get on and off, as well as 2 gear loops due to the minimal gear required, a thin belay loop to save on weight and minimal leg adjustability.
Traditional Climbing Harness
Unlike sport harnesses, traditional ones require much more gear so this type is intended to maximize space while being light and comfortable. They feature adjustable leg loops with buckles, 4 or more gear loops to hold a lot of gear, thick padding to add on your comfort and a haul loop for carrying a second rope.
Alpine, or also known as mountaineering harnesses are very versatile since they feature fully adjustable leg loops and waistband, fewer gear loops for carrying a minimal amount of gear, thin padding so they can be worn easily with a pack and a thin belay loop to save on weight.
Ice and mixed harnesses are similar to the traditional ones and are designed for climbing in winter conditions. They’re known for their fully adjustable leg loops using buckles so they can fit over winter climbing clothing, more than 4 gear loops to hold winter climbing gear such as ice screws and tools, haul loop for carrying a second rope and extra lumbar padding to keep your lower back and waist stable and your entire body comfortable.
Pick the Right Fit
Getting a climbing harness would completely be in vain if it doesn’t fit you properly. And even though all of the manufacturers will offer their own sizing charts, it’s important to try the harness on before you determine which size suits you the most.
So, once you get inside the harness and have it tightened, you shouldn’t have more than a 2-finger gap in slack between your waist and the harness. Also, a well-fitted harness should have the ability to adjust to a larger and smaller size equally while allowing it to grow or shrink into diameter.
Also, don’t forget to pay attention to the placement of the leg loops, since it’ll determine your comfort. The tighter the leg loops, the more snug and comfortable you’ll feel while hanging even though some movements will be impossible. On the other hand, looser leg loops allow for more mobility and motion, but they don’t feel as comfortable as those that will sit snugly, so make sure you choose according to your preferences.
Once you have the harness on, don’t forget to test it. However, keep in mind that harnesses are best tested while hanging in them or weighing them.
The waist belt should sit in place and not shift or move excessively. If it does move, you should tighten it until the shifting stops. However, if the harness feels like it digs too hard in your skin, have in mind that it’s not the right option for you and consider trying another one.
Also, if you’re feeling like you’re giving too much pressure to keep your core upright, you should adjust the rise of the harness, or more specifically shorten it. If adjusting it doesn’t help, know that the harness isn’t the right for you again.
Finally, don’t forget that everybody has a different body construction and not every harness will fit everyone the same. So make sure you try out different styles and models, and see which one suits your body the best.
Once you have the right rock climbing harness, you’re ready to hit your next climbing adventure without worrying about your safety.