The Best Climbing Harness Review

We tested 19 of the top harnesses in a head-to-head comparison to find out which is the best. The fact is that there is no piece of climbing gear you will spend more time with than your harness. Climbing shoes come and go and ropes wear out, but your harness will last for years or maybe a decade. There are a lot of great harnesses out there and it is tough to decide which one is right for you. While we found the very best harnesses are also the most expensive, we found a few best buy winners that scored near the top but at a fraction of the price. You may also be interested in our Women's Climbing Harness Review

Read the full review below >

Review by: , Chris Van Leuven, Ian Nicholson

Top Ranked Climbing Harness - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 17 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Arc'teryx R300
Arc'teryx R300
Read the Review
Black Diamond Chaos
Black Diamond Chaos
Read the Review
Petzl Sama
Petzl Sama
Read the Review
CAMP Quartz CR3
CAMP Quartz CR3
Read the Review
Video video review
Petzl Adjama
Petzl Adjama
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Top Pick Award  Editors' Choice Award    Editors' Choice Award   
Street Price Varies $97 - $149
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $107 - $125
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $53 - $65
Compare at 6 sellers
$70Varies $58 - $75
Compare at 5 sellers
Overall Score 
100
0
84
100
0
84
100
0
83
100
0
83
100
0
82
Editors' Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
50% recommend it (1/2)
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
100% recommend it (2/2)
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
67% recommend it (2/3)
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
60% recommend it (3/5)
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
80% recommend it (8/10)
Pros Lightweight, compact, great gear loops, looks good.comfortable, lightlight, comfortable, well-ventilatedwaist belt, features,light, comfortable, well-ventilated, adjustable
Cons Expensive, leg loops can crease and become significantly less comfortable.gear loops break, a little tricky to fitgear loops not our favorite, haul loop not full strengthgear loopsexpensive
Best Uses Sport climbing, gym climbing.all around climbing, sport climbing, craggingtrad climbing, big wall climbing, sport climbing, multi-pitch climbingsport climbing, trad climbing, multi-pitch climbing, gym climbingtrad climbing, multi-pitch climbing, alpine climbing
Date Reviewed Mar 24, 2013Feb 08, 2010Jan 05, 2010Feb 08, 2010Jan 03, 2010
Weighted Scores Arc'teryx R300 Black Diamond Chaos Petzl Sama CAMP Quartz CR3 Petzl Adjama
Comfort - 35%
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
Gym And Sport Climbing - 20%
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Multi Pitch - 15%
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Alpine Climbing - 10%
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
10
Ease Of Use - 20%
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Product Specs Arc'teryx R300 Black Diamond Chaos Petzl Sama CAMP Quartz CR3 Petzl Adjama
Weight (size medium or Size 1) 11.7 oz 14.5 oz 14.7 oz 15.6 oz 14.7 oz
Gear Loops 4 4 4 4 4
Haul Loop Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjustable Legs? No No No Yes Yes
Warranty Lifetime 1 year 3 year 1 year 3 year
Self-locking buckle? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Black Diamond Chaos
$125
100
0
84
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Petzl Corax
$76
100
0
80
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Arc'teryx R300
$150
100
0
84
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Black Diamond Ozone
$100
100
0
80
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Petzl Hirundos Harness
$76
100
0
68
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Petzl Adjama
$86
100
0
82
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Arc'teryx X350a
$159
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Petzl Sama
$66
100
0
83
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Black Diamond Momentum DS
$75
100
0
73
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Black Diamond Aspect Harness
$80
100
0
79
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Camp Air Harness
$70
100
0
58
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Mad Rock Mars
$45
100
0
72
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Black Diamond Bod Harness
$50
100
0
54
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Black Diamond Alpine Bod
$38
100
0
45
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The biggest surprise in testing harnesses came before the tests started. Chris Mac asked several accomplished climbers what their favorite harness was. They usually answered, "This old thing I've had for five or ten years." We were shocked: surely people who climb a lot would constantly upgrade their harness, right? Then Chris Mac looked at the harness he was using. He'd had it for 10 years. This led us to two conclusions:
1) Most harnesses get the job done. And even when they don't, we climbers somehow stay loyal to them.
2) Whatever harness you buy now, you will probably be using for years. So choose wisely."

Here are the results:

Comfort
The biggest factor in comfort is width of the padding. Every harness company says they have a special way extract more comfort from less material, but in the end the most comfortable harnesses have the widest and thickest padding. The one exception is when a harness does not fit well. For example, the Black Diamond Chaos we tested did not fit the testers as well as the Black Diamond Aura (the women's version of the Ozone). This is strange because the Black Diamond Chaos has wider padding and is supposed to be more comfortable. It could be that we testers have ladylike figures (finally an excuse to raid the girlfriend's closet).

Click to enlarge
Chris McNamara gear testing the harnesses for comfort. For a few weeks he replaced his office desk and chair with this set up. He is wearing the BD Aura in this photo.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Anyway, back to harnesses. So yeah, the padding. We were all blown away by how cool the Arc'teryx R300 is with its almost "padding free" design. When standing around and climbing, it doesn't feel like you have a climbing harness on. However, when hanging around in it for a long time, this harness's cool, slim profile digs into the sides and legs of the testers more than with other harness. Arc'teryx did create a revolutionary cool new harness, but they can't escape the basic equation: more padding equals more comfort. One of the most comfortable waist belts is on the Camp Quartz C3 and you guessed it: big comfy padding. Two harnesses that stand out for light weight and comfort are the Black Diamond Aura and the Mad Rock Alpha. Both of these are surprisingly comfortable for how light they are, especially the Alpha that costs only $60.

Many of the more expensive harnesses use fairly fancy new padding designs to reduce weight and increase ventilation. Petzl was one of the first to do this with their Frame technology. This system puts the strength of the harness at the edges and allows for great ventilation in the middle of the waist strap and leg loops. But it is the old school, normally fuzzy material on foam that often leads to the most comfy harnesses, an approach demonstrated by Metolius Safe Tech All-Around, Black Diamond Momentum AL and Mad Rock Alpha.

Gear Loops
Gear loops are not a big factor in harness preference because they all work fine; none is unacceptable. That said, some stand out. Our favorite gear loops are rigid ones like those on the Arc'teryx, Black Diamond and Metolius harnesses. The Arc'teryx R300 is our favorite because the gear loops are easy to clip, hold a ton of draws and are positioned forward. The Black Diamond had awesome gear loops… until they broke. On our Chaos harness we snapped part of the plastic, which made them less perky. Metolius gear loops have a great combo of being easy to clip, super strong and very durable. Overall, we do not like front and rear gear loops that are separated by a space for a special plastic ice screw biner. This is great for alpine climbing, but for rock climbers it means your rear gear loops are further back and harder to clip. Petzl switched in the last few years to non-plastic gear loops. Most gear testers found the forward Petzl gear loop easy enough to clip but the rear loop is not easy because it is flat and has no structure. Petzl says this is so you can wear a pack comfortably, but to us the tradeoff is not worth it.

Buckles
We prefer harnesses with self-locking buckles (also called "speed adjust buckles" and "DoubleBack buckles"). While some buckles work smoother than others, they all work good enough. The only harnesses that do not have self-locking buckles are the Metolius Safe Tech and Black Diamond Momentum AL. We hope both companies will add self-locking buckles. The Momentum comes in a model with self-locking waist and leg loops, but no model that has a self-locking waist with non-adjustable leg loops.

Adjustable Leg Loops
None of our reviewers prefers adjustable leg loops. That includes an alpine guide (Ian Nicholson) who is supposed to say adjustable leg loops are mandatory in the mountains (read How We Test). We tried to put our bias aside and so adjustable leg loops were not a deal-breaker. For example, most testers like the comfort of the Metolius Safe Tech All-Around despite its adjustable buckles, although we would like to see a version of this harness without them.

In general, we find that harnesses with fixed leg loops feel more comfortable than those with adjustable leg loops. Harnesses with fixed leg loops usually have some elastic that allows the leg loop to stretch. Adjustable leg loops generally don't have elastic so you have to decide if you want to tighten the loops and have them firmly against your skin or a little looser. There is not the middle ground you get with elastic.

One thing that stood out with leg loops was how cleanly the extra webbing tucked away. For example, the extra webbing on Metolius Safe Tech All Around was always popping out giving the harness a less clean look and feel. In contrast, the Camp Quartz CR3 tucked away very nicely. We preferred self-locking buckles for the legs which most harnesses came with (or you could pay extra to get).

Leg Loop Elastic Release
This is one area where harnesses really differ. The Petzl harnesses have our favorite hook-style leg release that attaches to the waist. It is easy to undo and only a little fussy to re-attach. Petzl has the lowest profile single hook system of all we tested except for the Arc'teryx. However, we couldn't get the Arc'teryx to release while we were wearing it either a design flaw or a bad harness batch. The CAMP Quartz CR3 had an easy-to-release and low profile hook. Because The CAMP latch attaches at the leg loops, you can see where you are reattaching the elastic (as opposed to waist attachments where you have to feel for the attachment point). That said, with leg attachments you have elastic that dangles in the "wipe zone," so you have to manage that by holding it to the side (awkward) or tucking the elastic into the harness (best option). Mad Rock uses an innovative system that is easy to release and re-attach but we are not sure how durable it will be if you do lots of chimneys. On the less expensive Black Diamond harnesses it is easy to release the plastic buckles. But on the more expensive Black Diamond harnesses (Ozone/Aura/Chaos) they use a system that is low profile but not easy to quickly get on and off. You can easily release the Metolius elastic and can't do it at all with the Camp Air.

Weight and Size
Although climbers are obsessed with all things light, harnesses are one area where we testers restrained ourselves. Even the heaviest harness, the Metolius All-Around, doesn't feel that heavy. And generally the lightest harnesses are not that comfortable. However, if you are into alpine climbing and count every once, it might be worth going with either the Camp Air, which folds into the palm of your hand and weighs a mere 8.4 ounces, or the Petzl Hirundos.

More important than weight was fit and feel. For example, the Arc'teryx R300 is not the lightest harness, but it feels the lightest because of its fit and and design. Most of our gear testers, after putting on the R300, said, "Wow, it doesn't feel like I'm wearing a harness at all." It is one of the easiest harnesses to compact and put in a laptop bag, which makes it convenient for taking to the gym if you bike and need to save space. The Black Diamond Aura/Ozone and the Mad Rock Alpha also feel extremely light yet are still comfortable.

Safety Features
Many of the harnesses have extra safety features worth noting. The Metolius Safe Tech (no surprise) has a number of features designed to "idiot proof" against clipping into the wrong spot. This is nice, but the Safe Tech is missing one of the biggest safety features a harness can have: a self-locking buckle on the waist that makes it really hard to forget to double back your harness. The Camp Quartz CR3 has a number of safety features including a belay loop that makes it nearly impossible to cross-load the biner. It also has a "wear alert" on its tie-in points that shows red when you have worn through the first layer of material and it is time to replace the harness. This feature is also on the Wild Country harness. Petzl has taken its great safety illustrations to the next level they now print them on the harness. Specifically, the belay loop had an illustration of how to properly tie in (very cool).

Accessories
Having a durable and versatile climbing rope to go with your harness is very important. Two of our favorites are the Mammut Infinity and the Mammut Tusk. Check out The Best Rock Climbing Rope Review for a more in-depth look at all the ropes we reviewed.

Every climber needs a good chalk bag. We recommend the Prana Geo Chalk Bag and the Metolius Competition Chalk Bag.

The Bottom Line
BEST ALL AROUND HARNESS EDITORS' CHOICE
For harnesses it was really hard to choose and Editors' Choice. There are too many good harnesses and none of them clearly rose above the rest. Almost all the testers choose different harnesses for their favorites. So, in the end, we let the scoring decide the two winners.

The Black Diamond Chaos pulled ahead because it is light yet comfortable and has all the key features without extra buckles. We loved the simplicity and comfort. The CAMP Quartz CR3 also gets an award because of its super comfy waist belt and great features at a reasonable price. This is now Chris Mac's El Cap harness.

In the meantime, here are the top contenders for best all-around harness, in no particular order: Metolius Safe Tech and Petzl Corax. The Metolius is a favorite in Yosemite because it is such a workhorse; you can hang heavy stuff on the gear loops without worrying and it just feels comfy. The Petzl Corax is a beefed-up version of the Sama with adjustable buckles and is the favorite of Ian Nicholson. He guides year-round and puts harnesses to the test, so much so that he has worn through three Corax harnesses and keeps going back to them.

BEST ALL AROUND HARNESS BEST BUY
While it was hard pick an Editors' Choice, it was easy to pick a Best Buy: the Black Diamond Momentum AL. For only $45 you get a comfy harness with great gear loops and good design. In fact, we like this harness almost as much as Black Diamond Chaos, which costs nearly triple the price. The only way the Momentum could be better is if there was a model with a self-locking buckle that kept the fixed leg loops. If you do want adjustable leg loops it is hard to beat the Mad Rock Mars for the money. It is only $45 and comes with great self-locking buckles for both the waist and legs.

BEST HIGH PERFORMANCE HARNESS
Here again the competition was tough. Everyone loves the Arc'teryx R300 while climbing and belaying, but it is not fun to hang around in. It is probably Chris Mac's favorite high-end harness just because it is so cool-looking and fits in his motorcycle bag so easily. But most other testers prefer the Black Diamond Ozone because it is more comfortable. When asked, "If you could have any harness to go send your project, what would it be?" Most testers consistently picked the Black Diamond Ozone.

BEST HIGH PERFORMANCE HARNESS BEST BUY
As with Best Buy among all-around harnesses, again here there was a clear winner: the Mad Rock Alpha. This harness surprises most reviewers with its comfort. It is also one of the lightest harnesses. The Black Diamond Ozone is a little better, but not by much and it costs another $40. The Alpha comes with four gear loops, which makes it more versatile. Also, the Petzl Sama is only $5 more than the Alpha and is almost as high scoring.

THE BEST HARNESS FOR EACH APPLICATION
If we had the option to buy a harness for every application, here is what what we would get:

For Men:
Best Sport Climbing and Gym Harness: Black Diamond Ozone or Arc'teryx R300
Best Trad Climbing harness: Metolius Safe Tech All Around, Black Diamond Chaos, Petzl Corax CAMP Quartz CR3
Best Alpine Harness: Petzl Adjama, Camp Air

Chris McNamara, Chris Van Leuven, Ian Nicholson
Buying Advice
How we Test
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Climbing Harness - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Climbing Harness

by Chris McNamara, Chris Van Leuven, Ian Nicholson
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Recent Editor's Award Winners