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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Doesn't breathe well, leg loop and waist belt webbing does not tuck away cleanly.
The Metolius Safe Tech Waldo is our current favorite big wall climbing harness. It is the most comfy harnesses we tested and is also ideal for rigging, course setting or any application where you are going to hang around a lot. This is the most popular harness among climbing gym course setters, which says something. This harness used to cost $130, which made it $30 more expensive than the Petzl Calidris and Black Diamond Big Gun. Recently they dropped the price to $109, which makes price not really a consideration when comparing your options.
Compared to the Black Diamond Big Gun this harness is more comfortable with better gear loops, but it is heavier, doesn't breathe that well, and you can't take off the leg loops. We still prefer the Waldo but there are some big pros to the Big Gun. Compared to the Calidris, the Calidris is also lighter, breathes much better, and can be also used as a free climbing harness (we wouldn't use the Waldo at the crags). However, the Calidris doesn't have the two belay loops, super bomber gear loops, and was not nearly as comfy. So we go with the Waldo and choose it as our fav big wall/rigging harness.
If you are just going to do a handful of walls and are on a tight budget, we would lean toward the Black Diamond Momentum, which won't be as comfortable but is only $45 and can be used for just about every type of climbing. We have done a lot of walls in harnesses with equal padding to the Momentum and while the hip area may get rubbed a little raw, it's not that bad as long as you are not hauling massive loads.
RELATED: Our complete review of big wall harness
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
It has the widest waist belt and leg loops of any harness we tested and has a very soft and cozy surface. When you hang out at the belay it's a little like wearing a chair. At first I was not a fan of two belay loops but now I am a convert. You have a lot more options of where to clip stuff.
The perky and durable gear loops are the best we tested. Not only do they stick straight out and are easy to clip, they are full strength. Often when setting up a hanging bivy one person needs to dive below the haul bags to unclip stuff from under the bags, clip it to the side of the harness, then come back up to the portaledge. This is one of the few harnesses where we felt could confidently hang anything off the gear loops.
The downside to it being so plush is that it doesn't breath well and is heavy. When it is 90 degrees in Yosemite or Zion this harness gets hot. It is also not great for free climbing. We would not take this on The Nose or a route where you want to feel light and nimble on the free pitches.
While this harness nails the important stuff (comfort, bomber gear loops, and clip-in points) there are many little annoying details. You can't take the leg loops off to sleep on a big wall. I don't care about this because I just take my harness off completely when I sleep and tie in directly to a lead rope. But if you are like most wall climbers who want a more secure-feeling tie in, you may be bummin when you have to sleep with this harness on. The best option is to bring an extra piece of two-inch-wide webbing that is six feet long and make a 70s style swami to sleep in and then just take the harness off completely.
The extra webbing for the leg loops and waist belt does not tuck away cleanly. The waist belt is a little annoying but the leg loops are more annoying. I can't figure out how to keep the extra webbing tucked away so I just climb with the extra hanging down. Not a big deal but it seems like a pretty easy design issue for Metolius to solve. There are no speed adjust buckles, which is not a big deal with a harness that you don't take on and off much…but I still would prefer the speed adjust buckle.
The sizing with this harness can be a little tricky. I found that with a 31 inch waist I was just between their small and medium and wasn't sure which way to go. I went with medium in case age ads a little to that zone. Metolius has the following warning on their web site: "Waldo Sizing Note: When fitting the Waldo harness the buyer should choose a size that will allow them to tighten the harness a few more inches from what feels initially comfortable. Wall climbers find that after a few days on a route, with a load of gear clipped to the harness, the ability to further cinch tight the harness is crucial."
Metolius Video on the 3-D Adjustable Rise System
— Chris McNamara
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 20, 2011
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