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Black Diamond Chaos Review

Climbing Harness

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Top Pick Award
Price:   Varies from $94 - $125 online  —  Compare at 5 sellers
Pros:  Comfortable, relatively light, good gear loops for sport climbing
Cons:  Expensive, not as adjustable as other harnesses, no ice clipper slots
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Black Diamond


The Black Diamond Chaos is the company's top tier all-around harness that excels at trad climbing. As such, it is the winner of our Top Pick award. The Kinetic Core Construction makes this harness quite comfortable without making it heavy. It isn't as versatile as other harnesses that have adjustable leg loops and ice clipper slots like the Arc'teryx AR-395a, but this is a fantastic piece of gear for your next send. Our reviewers loved how comfortable this harness is and enjoyed not having to mess with leg loop buckles. At $125, this harness is fairly expensive especially when compared to lower-end models like the Black Diamond Momentum, which has similar features but isn't as comfortable. For sport and trad climbing only, our reviewers loved this harness.

RELATED: Our complete review of climbing harness - men's

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Jeremy Bauman
Review Editor

Last Updated:
April 20, 2015
Gym to Dawn Wall, the Black Diamond Chaos is a tried and true favorite of many. Ice climbers will miss the lack of ice clipper slots, but this harness wasn't designed for ice climbing. It was made for long multi-pitch rock routes and toting around cams, which is why it won our Top Pick for Trad Climbing.

Performance Comparison

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With good gear loops and great mobility, this became one of our go-to harnesses. Some of our testers liked the simplicity of fixed leg loops.

Standing Comfort

Black Diamond's Kinetic Core Construction makes this harness feel a little stiff. Still, we don't have any major complaints about the standing comfort as long as you have a good overall fit. The 3D mesh padding increases breathability a tad over some of the other harnesses in the review, but it didn't breathe as well as the Mammut Ophir 3 Slide, which uses a double webbing design with perforated foam and mesh in between. The Metolius Safe Tech is more comfortable than the Chaos for hanging, but we found it quite sweaty and uncomfortable when standing. The Chaos is much better for standing and only slightly less comfortable when hanging.

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Here, Brandon milks the stance and scopes out the next placement in our Top Pick for Trad Climbing Award winner. The light blue patches on the Chaos also offer increased abrasion resistance.

Hanging Comfort

This harness was surprisingly comfortable given the absence of thick padding. It was nearly as comfy as the bulky and padded Metolius Safe Tech All-Around but a bit more comfortable than the Petzl Sama. The Chaos uses Black Diamond's Kinetic Core Construction that utilizes Vectran fibers laminated to nylon fabric. These fibers are lighter than nylon and allow the harness to distribute load evenly throughout. This is similar to Arc'teryx's Warp Strength Technology, except that Kinetic Core feels stiff whereas the Arc'teryx harnesses are very flexible. We can't tell you which design is better, but Black Diamond harnesses with this technology still use some padding while Arc'teryx ditched padding altogether.

Getting back to the point, the Chaos is a very comfortable harness to hang in. Some of our testers found it more comfortable than the the Arc'teryx AR-395a. Neither were as comfortable when hanging as the Metolius Safe Tech that uses a traditional harness design with thicker padding. That said, this harness is certainly up for anything you have in mind. It is suitable for everything from big walls to short climbs in the gym. Climbers around the world are using the Chaos and rave about it. It'll tackle your multi-pitch route with hanging belays no problem. Tommy Caldwell could climb in any harness he likes and he uses this one. If it's good enough for the Dawn Wall, it will tackle your next project with ease.

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We hung in these harnesses back to back to determine hanging comfort. Typically, the ones with the most padding were the most comfortable. The Chaos is seen here on this frigid February day.

Discipline-Specific Features

Made for trad climbing, this harness has several reinforced abrasion resistant patches on the legs and the near the hips (in light blue material). If you are they type that loves full body off-width climbing, you may really appreciate this little touch. Provided the harness fits you correctly, you'll probably love the fixed leg loops that don't need adjusting. Less buckles equals less fuss. This harness also features a 12 KN rated haul loop on the back.

With its prominent gear loops, this is a great harness for trad or sport climbing. The gear loops are further forward than others like the Petzl Sama. Many people we talked to and online reviews we read cited small gear loops as a primary complaint. However, on the size medium we tested, we could easily fit nine draws on each of the front gear loops and eight on each of the back ones without any over-crowding. The Petzl Sama fits about the same even though its gear loops look a little bigger. The Arc'teryx AR-395a is a bit of an anomaly with its twelve front and nine back capacity on each side. While the gear loops on the Chaos may be slightly smaller than some other harnesses, during the course of this review we always racked our gear on the harness (instead of a shoulder sling) and we never had an issue with over-crowding. Out testers feel that if you're climbing with more gear than a double rack, you're probably going to want to use an additional gear sling anyway, thus negating the slightly smaller gear loop issue entirely.

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While the gear loops may not be as big as some of the other harnesses, they still fit a standard rack easily.


This harness won't hold you back, but we didn't find it the most mobile either. As we mentioned above, the materials are quite stiff and feel more constrictive than the AR-395a. We took this harness skiing and our tester completely forgot he was wearing it. While it may not be the most mobile, it will easily get the job done. We have no major complaints concerning its mobility. It feels a lot more mobile than the Metolius Safe Tech and is almost as comfortable.


This harness excels for every rock climbing venture. It eats multi-pitch routes for breakfast and loves sport climbing nearly as much. It loses versatility points because it lacks ice clipper slots and isn't very comfortable when wearing a backpack. But that isn't what this harness was made for. If you're looking for a good alpine harness, check out the Petzl Sama. The Chaos thrives on big rock climbs and gives you the features you need without any of the ones you don't.

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Without ice clipper slots, the Chaos isn't the best harness for ice climbing.


This harness isn't very adjustable, but that isn't necessarily a downside. It just means you need to make sure it fits before you buy it. The double backed waist adjustment is smooth and easy to use. Like Petzl, Black Diamond centered the gear loops relative to the smallest end of the size range. If you're at the upper end of the range, you'll find that the left gear loop is up to three inches further back than the right one and your haul loop will be just off of your coccyx (rather than centered where it should be). We recommend hanging in any harness at the store before you buy, but if you don't have that luxury, the Petzl Corax is less hit-and-miss since it is super adjustable and covers a much larger size range thanks to dual waist buckles and adjustable legs.

We looked through hundreds of online reviews to see what other people said about this harness. A common complaint had to with the sizing of the leg loops. Lots of people had to size up the waist so that their legs could fit.

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Confused about what size harness to get? We compiled sizing information for the seven harnesses we reviewed to help you get a perfect fit. As far as centering your gear loops, you'll want to be at the smaller size of the range for BD, Petzl, and Metolius. Shoot for the middle of the range for Mammut and Arc'teryx.

Best Applications

This rock climbing specific harness has everything you need for a day at the crag or a huge multi-pitch climb. If you don't venture into the alpine or ice climb very often, this harness will excel at everything you throw at it. Chris Mac thinks this is a super versatile harness and would be his pick if he could only have one harness for everything from the gym to done-in-a-day routes on El Cap.


For $125, this harness isn't a strong value because it isn't as versatile as some of the harnesses that cost almost half as much. It is a premium product at a premium price. However, the Arc'teryx AR-395a retails for $160, so compared with that, the Chaos is a pretty good value.


The Black Diamond Chaos is a top tier product that has a great mix of features, mobility, and comfort. Is a true all-around rock climbing harness. It wasn't as comfortable as some models we tested, but it is quite light and feels great. If it fits you well, you'll probably love this harness for years. We are happy to give the Black Diamond Chaos our Top Pick award because it is the best trad climbing harness we reviewed.

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With forward gear loops and great mobility, the Chaos is an excellent harness for trad and sport climbing.

Other Versions

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  • Women's specific version
  • Cost - $125
  • Black Diamond's most comfortable and most durable women-specific harness
Jeremy Bauman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: April 20, 2015
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