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For serious climbers, a harness is an essential piece of safety equipment that can make all the difference between a fun-filled day out and a trip to the hospital. Standard features include a waist belt and leg loops, tie-in points and a belay loop. Other things to look out for depend on the style of climbing you’re into. For example, a winter climbing harness requires closed cell foam that can’t absorb water in addition to slots for your ice clippers; while sport climbing harnesses should be both lightweight and flexible. In this article, we look at the best options for eight specific uses.
Our Top Picks
Best All-Rounder: Black Diamond Momentum Harness
The Black Diamond Momentum Harness is one of the most popular all-rounders on the market. Designed to be used everywhere from indoor climbing walls to outdoor trad or sport routes, its Dual Core Construction distributes weight evenly and offers the perfect combination of support and lightness. The quick-drying OpenAir waist belt encases a supportive insert between two separate bands of webbing for maximum breathability; while the Speed Adjust buckle saves time and eliminates the chance of making a mistake when tying in.
The harness’s TrakFIT leg loops are fully adjustable, allowing them to accommodate extra layers when alpine or ice climbing. Attach your karabiners and quickdraws to one of four pressure-molded gear loops; and your chalk bag to the sturdy haul loop.There are five sizes available (from extra small to extra large), while colors include graphite, slate, lava, and verde. Female climbers can also purchase the Momentum with a women-specific rise for added comfort.
Best Winter: Black Diamond Aspect Harness
The Black Diamond Aspect Harness is the ideal fit for winter climbing fanatics. Its waist belt features an ergonomic bullhorn shape and Dual Core XP construction. The latter involves two thin webbing straps attached to an EVA foam insert, which together distribute weight to eliminate pressure points. The use of closed cell EVA foam is key as it prevents water from being absorbed and freezing, keeping the harness flexible even in subzero conditions. The waist belt and leg loops also feature the brand’s Bombshell anti-abrasion patches, which are 20 times stronger than traditional nylon.
Pre-threaded Speed Adjust buckles on the waist and leg loops can be adjusted according to the number of layers you’re wearing. A particular highlight of this harness is the fact that it’s intended to be used throughout the year, which helps to justify its slightly higher price tag. Four ice clipper loops add to its winter usefulness, while four gear loops and a 12kN hoist loop are handy no matter the season. Available in small, medium or large, the harness comes in one color: deep blue.
Best Trad: Arc’teryx FL-365 Harness
The FL part of the Arc’teryx FL-365’s name stands for "fast and light," two properties that make it ideal for the long approaches synonymous with trad climbing. The brand’s Warp:Strength Technology evenly disperses the load across the width of the harness, making time spent in hanging belays more comfortable; while its Burly Double Weave stretch material provides added strength and durability. The latter is especially important for trad climbing, which usually involves plenty of high-abrasion situations.
The harness’s fixed leg loops cut down on weight by using elastic instead of buckles to achieve a precision fit. A quick-release stainless steel hook attaches the leg loops to the waist belt so that you can use the bathroom without removing the harness. The large rack needed for trad climbing is accommodated by four gear loops, a rear haul loop, and four ice clipper slots; while orange wear indicators on the belay loop and tie-in points add an extra safety measure. Choose red beach/flare or stone pine in sizes ranging from extra small to extra large.
Best Alpine: Black Diamond Couloir Harness
For mountaineering, skiing, and alpine climbs where traveling light is essential, the Black Diamond Couloir Harness is your go-to choice. At 7.5 ounces, it’s so light you might forget it’s there — until it saves you from falling into a crevasse on a tricky glacier traverse. It packs down to the size of an orange, making it easy to stow; while hydrophobic material repels water to prevent freezing and stiffness. The harness features triple-weave webbing on the interior of the waist belt and leg loops, allowing it to move with you for unparalleled flexibility.
Despite its lightness, it’s also durable and strong, spreading weight evenly to help reduce pressure on contact points. Use the speed buckle on the waist belt to remove the harness easily even when wearing skis or crampons. Other essential details include a full-strength belay loop, two webbing gear loops, two ice clipper slots and an ice screw slot integrated into each leg loop to keep things streamlined. Available in striking ultra blue, the harness comes in a full range of sizes.
Best Sport: Petzl Hirundos Harness
The Petzl Hirundos Harness prioritizes lightness, flexibility, and streamlining making it ideal for sport climbers. FUSEFRAME technology allows for a narrow, supple waist belt that provides full freedom of movement while keeping weight to a minimum; two goals also achieved by the buckle-free elasticized leg loops. The latter lets you achieve a secure fit no matter what you’re wearing. The waist belt features a forged aluminum buckle that ensures proper closure and allows for quick adjustment with a single pull.
Sport climbing is typically fast and sweaty. As such, the waist belt and leg loops are lined with woven polyester mesh that wicks moisture and dries quickly, while the perforated closed cell foam increases breathability. Reinforced tie-in points made of high-modulus polyethylene for increased resistance to rope friction afford peace of mind. Your equipment is accommodated by four gear loops, two of which can be moved to the front out of the way of your backpack. Available in orange/silver, the harness also includes two slots for Petzl’s CARITOOL tool holder and a rear loop for your tail line.
Best Gym: Edelrid Jay II Climbing Harness
A gym climbing harness should be inexpensive yet durable, and the Edelrid Jay II Climbing Harness fits the bill perfectly. It is the most affordable option on this list, allowing you to save your dollars for a high-tech outdoor harness. Designed as an all-rounder, it features an abrasion protector for extra durability at the tie-in point; while 3D mesh padding affords optimal support and comfort. This is particularly useful for gym climbing when you’re likely to push your limits and fall frequently.
Easy Glider buckles on the waist belt and leg loops allow for a secure, adjustable fit. Use the movable foam waist padding to align the tie-in point and gear loops according to your personal preference. Although gear loops aren’t strictly necessary for gym harnesses, this one boasts four fixed gear loops, two attachment options for ice screw clips, and a loop for securing a chalk bag in case you decide to use it outdoors as well. Available in extra small, small, medium, and large, you have two color choices: slate/icemint and vinered/lollipop.
Best for Women: Petzl Luna Climbing Harness
Although there’s nothing to stop ladies from using any of the harnesses on this list, women-specific products like the Petzl Luna are tailored for a curvier shape and can be more comfortable. The Luna features a contoured waist belt and a longer rise (the space between the waist belt and leg loops) for better hip placement. The leg-loop-to-waist-belt proportions are also designed with the female form in mind. However, since there’s no such thing as a standard shape for women, the leg loops are also fully adjustable.
The harness is intended for technical mountaineering, trad climbing and multi-pitch climbing. Padding on the leg loops and waist belt helps to ensure comfort while preserving your freedom of movement, while no fewer than five equipment loops cater to the large rack associated with these climbing styles. The harness also has a rear loop for your trail line and is compatible with the brand’s CARITOOL EVO tool holder. Available in extra small, small, medium and large, the plum color sets you apart from the boys without being too girly.
Best for Kids: Edelrid Fraggle II Children’s Safety Climbing Harness
Can’t wait to introduce your little one to the thrill of climbing? Invest in the Edelrid Fraggle II Children’s Harness. Available in extra, extra small and extra small, it’s perfect for toddlers up to 88 pounds. The unique full body design allows the harness to fit securely on kids whose hips are not yet defined; while the chest-level tying-in point prevents them from tipping forward. Getting small children to wear such a seemingly finicky piece of equipment may seem like a stretch — but in reality, its ergonomic design and 3D mesh padding makes it amazingly comfortable.
The padding also allows the harness to maintain its shape so that it’s easy for older kids to take off and put on by themselves. Ensure a secure fit by adjusting the harness using the two slide block buckles. For steep climbs or skiing, you can use the attachment point at the back to provide an extra level of safety and assistance. Choose oasis/icemint or Sahara/oasis, both super-bright shades guaranteed to appeal to kids while also making them highly visible on the mountain.