Choosing a climbing harness used to be a matter of plumping for the lesser of two, maybe three, crotch and hip-nipping evils. Many of the earliest models could, in fact, have moonlighted as remarkably effective instruments of torture. Given that their purpose was one of the life-saving variety, relationships between the user and the used tended to be fairly love-hate. Luckily for us, however, at some point in the history of the climbing harness, some saint of the climbing fraternity decided they’d suffered one wedgie or chafed hip or thigh too many and determined to do the intimates and waists and upper legs of all posterity a favour by upgrading things a little. As a result, in terms of comfort, versatility and general user-friendliness, these days we are spoiled – both by the relative luxury and functionality of modern harnesses and for choice.
To spare you the effort of trawling through the countless options out there and aligning them to your requirements, Cool of the Wild is here to take you through a need-to-know rundown of harness types, and offer our selection of the best climbing harnesses for whatever you might be getting up to!
- FAQs when choosing the best climbing hanresses
- The 10 best climbing harnesses in 2021
- How to choose a climbing harness for:
- Parts of a climbing harness
Summary of the best climbing harnesses in 2021
This quick overview of the best climbing harnesses gives you a basic idea of which harnesses are leading the way in the climbing world, with more detailed info on each harness later in the article. And if you really want to understand how to choose a great climbing harness, then skip to the bottom section of the article.
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|Black Diamond Solution Harness||Lightweight, eco-conscious||330g (11.6oz)||$|
|Wild Country Mission||Sport climbing||425g (15oz)||$$|
|Black Diamond Aspect||All-rounder||411g (14.5oz)||$$|
|Petzl Corax||Good value all-rounder||539g (19 oz)||$|
|Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe||Trad climbing, very safe||567g (20 oz)||$$|
|Grivel Apollo||Trad and sport climbing||310g (11 oz)||$|
|Arc’teryx AR 395A||True all-rounder||400g (14 oz)||$$$|
|Camp Air CR Evo||Good value all-rounder||350g (12 oz)||$$|
|Singing Rock Garnet||Great value all-rounder||400g (14 oz)||$|
|Elderid Huascaran||Very lightweight mountaineering harness||219g (7.7 oz)||$|
FAQs when choosing the best climbing hanresses
Some climbing harnesses will come with a recommended retirement age. If there is no recommendation then a harness that shows no signs of wear and tear should be retired after 7 years.
However, you should stop using a climbing harness at the first signs of visual wear and tear. Even the smallest frays and tears can compromise the strength of a harness.
You pay anything from around $45 to $160 for a good climbing harness. The Petzl Corax and Singing Rock Garnet both offer excellent value and are ideal low cost options if you are looking for an all-rounder climbing harness, or if you are just starting out.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Arc’teryx AR 395A is a feature-rich, high-end climbing harness that is suitable for mountaineers (as well as beginner climbers if you want to spend that much!)
The 10 best climbing harnesses in 2021
The Solution Harness by Black Diamond is an ideal option for sport climbers working projects. It offers unrivalled comfort thanks to the Fusion Comfort Technology for excellent load distribution. The result is long-lasting comfort for both belayer and climber with less pressure placed on sensitive areas.
From an eco-friendly standpoint, this lightweight, workhorse of a harness is constructed with Bluesign approved fabric to minimise its environmental impacts.
- Perfect for sport climbing
- Plenty of gear storage loops for sport climbing only
- Simple design
- Very comfortable
- No leg loop adjustments
We start off with Wild Country’s entry in the search for the harness world’s true all-rounder. The Session is, indeed, a decent contender, featuring 4 large gear loops, adjustable leg loops and a rear loop for carrying tools. Due to its innovative V-Flex technology, the Session is also very flexible and lightweight, cutting down on excess bulk by using ventilated padding. While classified as an all-rounder by the manufacturers, most users will find this best suited to sport climbing and a little on the heavy side and thick at the waist for alpine adventures.
- Perfect for sport climbing
- Plenty of gear storage loops
- Not too pricey
- Adjustable leg loops
- Very breathable
- Just a tad heavy
Stepping things up a notch in the search for the all-rounder, the Black Diamond Aspect is a genuine 4-season harness perfectly suitable for ice, alpine, trad and sport climbing. While maybe a little too heavy and thick around the waist (can inhibit freedom of movement) for long days mountaineering, otherwise this tidy little number does it all. It boasts two forged quick-adjust buckles on the waist belt that help to centre the harness, 4 ice-clipper slots for stacked racks of screws, 4 pressure-molded gear loops, one 12kn-rated haul loop, and adjustable leg loops. A great choice for those looking for one harness to do it all, and comfier than rivals like the Wild Country Mission, Petzl Corax and Camp Air CR Evo.
- A potential all-year-round, one-harness-does-it-all solution
- Comfier than Black Diamond’s popular Momentum harness
- Adjustable leg loops
- Double belt buckles to centre harness and spread weight load
- 4 ice-clipper slots
- Restricts movement slightly on mountaineering adventures
- Fabric is prone to fraying
- Smallish gear loops
Styled as a go-to solution for via ferrata, rock, ice and alpine climbs, the Corax is Petzl’s best answer to the all-rounder. With adjustable leg loops, pressure points lined with soft, cushioning fabric, four spacious gear loops and Caritool Evo compatibility for ice screws, it doesn’t do a bad job of it, either. The Corax is very comfortable and well-made, but compared to its rivals – the Black Diamond Aspect, Wild Country Mission and Arc’teryx AR 395 – it is just a fraction too heavy and restrictive of movement for high mountain use. For the title of Best Budget Harness, it comes in a close second to the Singing Rock Garnet, which does everything the Corax does at a much cheaper price.
- High-capacity gear loops
- Buckles galore may put some off
- Restricts movement when walking
The Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe is a true beast of a harness. While weighing in at a fairly ponderous 567g, it uses every gram remarkably well, doing pretty much everything a harness can do in the most robust and safest way possible. The Metolius comprises four large gears loops, great breathability, foam padding, adjustable leg loops, a duo of belay loops for extra security and minimising clutter on multi-pitch belays or rappels, and Safe Tech webbing and lining, which means that every inch of the material used is fully strength rated. Nice! While all this may be overkill for indoor wall climbing or too heavy for high-mountain excursions, the Metolius comes into its own on trad routes and is super-comfy even when worn all day long. As for competitors, we’re really not sure it has any!
- Ideal for trad and all-day, multi-pitch climbs
- One of the most safety-conscious harnesses on the market
- Super-handy dual belay loops
- Large gear loops
- Great breathability
- A touch pricey
Part of Grivel’s 2016/17 range, the Apollo is a minimalist, no-frills, classic harness designed to cover all of your sport and trad-climbing needs. At a mere 310g, it does everything you need a harness to do if you don’t plan on venturing onto ice or into the high mountains, and is a good solution for those who want to keep things light and simple. Its double-buckle waist belt allows you to find the perfect, balanced fit and the four gear loops are adequately spacious for all your trad route gear. For ice climbs and mountaineering, Grivel’s Poseidon and Ares harnesses offer something a bit more custom-made.
- Good weight distribution
- Very comfortable
- Quick-release drop-seat buckles
- Very comfortable
- Fixed leg loops
- For alpine or ice climbs you’d be better looking elsewhere
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The AR 395a is the most expensive item in our review, but goes along way toward justifying this unkind price tag with a host of extremely kind features and high-end performance. With 4 gear loops, 4 ice-clipper slots and a rear haul loop, there are plenty of places to accommodate your gear rack. While favoured by trad-climbers, the AR 395a is suitable for all occasions and at only 400g and remaining supremely comfortable even on all-day climbs, it might just be worth the hefty outlay.
- A true all-rounder
- Super-comfortable all day
- 4 gear loops, 4 ice-clipper slots, haul loop
- Drop-seat buckle
- Relatively light
- Pricey – you could buy two of most other harnesses for the price of one AR 395a!
A superbly versatile, lightweight (350g) and user-friendly harness, the Camp Air CR Evo may well be the much sought-after all-rounder…and at an affordable price. Compared to its rivals, the Arc’terxy AR 395a, the Singing Rock Garnet, the Petzl Corax and Wild Country Mission, the CR Evo is marginally lighter and does everything you could possibly need except tie your knots and scoot up the climb for you!
- EVA padding
- No-twist belay loop
- Adjustable leg loops
- Very compact
- Hub racking biner compatible
- Breathable 3D air mesh
- Not as comfortable as some competitors
The Singing Rock Garnet is our hands-down, out-and-out winner of the Best Budget Harness title. Not only is it very cheap, it’s reasonably lightweight (400g), boasts EVA padding, a drop seat, 4 spacious gear loops, 2 ice-clip slots, adjustable leg loops and allows more freedom of movement than many competitors. In a head-to-head with the Petzl Coraz and Black Diamond Aspect, this wallet-friendly harness is only marginally shorter on gear storage but, given the price, is still a great option for those keen to keep down expenditure without sacrificing quality.
- Very cheap!
- Adjustable leg loops
- EVA padding
- Drop seat
- 2 ice-clip slots
- Great freedom of movement for alpine and mountain climbs
- A little less storage than the Corax and Aspect
Cheap, functional, incredibly light and wonderfully user-friendly, the Huascaran is a gem of a harness for high mountain and alpine pursuits. Although you’ll have to make an additional purchase for something to use in the gym or on trad climbs, if you’re looking for a harness purpose-made for mountaineering and alpine climbing, this tidy, minimalist, fuss-free harness is hard to beat. Cool of the wild’s hands-down winner of ‘Best Mountaineering Harness’ title!
- Great for alpine climbing and mountaineering
- Very compact
- 2 attachment points for ice-screw clips
- Quick-release buckle on leg loops makes it easy to take off and put on crampons
- Eco-friendly: the world’s first Blue Sign approved harness!
- Not suitable for gym/sport use
- A bit short on cushioning and padding
How to choose a climbing harness
While there are a multitude of specs, features and functions that largely determine a harness’s suitability, deciding which harness is right for you ultimately boils down to how and where you plan on using it. Before we get round to reviewing the best harnesses out there at the moment, let’s take a look at the various uses and applications of a harness and some of the specs that will make one of these your go-to gear for your time on the rock, ice, in the gym or in the high mountains.
Sport or gym climbing
When sport climbing, we are spared many of the considerations necessary at trad, ice and alpine level. We don’t, for instance, need additional features such as haul loops, huge gear loops or adjustable leg loops, and we can also afford to economise on certain features in favour of a bit more comfort and the additional weight that usually entails. The ideal sport or gym/wall harness, therefore, will most likely boast plenty of padding and a sizable waist belt but have fewer gear loops.
Many of the finer details of a trad climbing harness come down to personal preference, but a few general ‘musts’ are a haul loop, plenty of storage space for nuts, cams and biners, and all-day comfort. With most trad routes taking at least a good few hours, you don’t want anything that’s going to start nipping or not provide adequate back support when hanging or in the case of a fall. Adjustable leg loops are a bonus, allowing you to accommodate layers of clothing in colder weather and enjoy a nice, tight fit on summer climbs.
Ice and/or mixed climbing
For those who will be spending more time on the frozen stuff, the desirable features to look for in a harness are fairly easy to enumerate. To accommodate your extra gear and ice-screws, you’ll need a few ice-clip slots, fairly spacious gear loops and a weight-sustaining haul loop. To make sure you can get on all of those extra layers and get in and out of the harness without exposing your feet to the cold or fussing around with laces with cold fingers, adjustable leg loops are an absolute ‘must’.
Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing
Mountaineering and alpine harnesses are defined as much by what they don’t have as by what they do have. The ‘don’t haves’ include a wide waist belt, a chalk bag loop and an abundance of padding. Whereas the ‘haves’ – or ‘must-haves’, rather – include adjustable legs loops (to put on and take off crampons while wearing the harness, and to let you adjust the harness to your layering of clothes), a drop seat to let you answer nature’s calls with as little fuss as possible(!), and some form of accommodation for ice-screws. Given you’ll be carrying the thing in your backpack for a large part of the day, the lighter the harness the better.
The true all-rounder climbing harness is something of a holy grail – pretty hard to find and subject to much speculation as to its whereabouts! While many harnesses are claimed to be ‘all-rounders’, the description, in some cases, can be misleading and again will depend largely on personal taste and preferences. Certain aspects of functionality lend themselves to the categorisation, of course, but often the compromises entailed mean individual users might be inclined to disagree with the labelling. To give an example, a well-padded and super comfy gym or trad harness might prove to be a bit too heavy for mountaineering, given that the climber will have to lug it in his or her rucksack for a great part of the journey or, conversely, an ultralight alpine harness might lack the padding and comfort desired by sport or trad climbers who anticipate doing a lot of hanging or rappelling.
Parts of a climbing harness
This is usually lightly padded to provide comfort. Waist belts are adjustable with a buckle to one side. Some harnesses have two adjustable buckles on either side of the belay loop.
These are not intended to be used as load bearing attachment points. They are used to carry quickdraws, carabiners and climbing protection when climbing. Most climbing harnesses will have at least two gear loop located on the sides of the harness. However, some harnesses have more than four gear loops.
Load tested, the belay loop is the strongest part of a climbing harness. It is only used for for belaying; no ropes should be tied to the belay loop, only carabiners and belay devices should be attached to it.
These are used for the climber to tie into before attempting a climb. They should not be used to attach a belay device or carabiner to the harness. Both loops should always be used to distribute the wear on the loops creating a stronger, more reliable attachment point.
The waist buckles of climbing harnesses are usually auto-locking (once they are tightened they won’t loosen with wear). Otherwise, the buckle is designed for the wearer to “double-back” the waist belt webbing to lock off the mechanism manually.
These are usually lightly padded to provide comfort to the wearer. They are kept in place at the back by elastic straps and attached the belay loop via the lower tie-in loop. Leg loops are often adjustable with a buckle, however, some are not adjustable at all.
These straps connect the leg loops to the back of the waist belt. They are usually adjustable to fit the wearer.
We are, indeed, altogether blessed by the range and quality of climbing harnesses now at our disposal. While the above selection will no doubt include more than one harness you’d like to add to your climbing armory – or maybe even ten – Cool of the Wild hope that we have at least helped to narrow things down and simplified the selection process for when you do your harness shopping!