Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $94 - $135 | Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros: comfortable, light
Cons: gear loops break, a little tricky to fit
Best Uses: all around climbing, sport climbing, cragging
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Chaos is Black Diamond's most tricked out and comfortable all-around climbing harness. It uses unique (and expensive) construction to distribute the strength of the harness over a larger area and is relatively light given how comfortable it is. The harness has the key items for an all-around harness: four gear loops, full- strength haul loop and and self-locking buckle.
This is a great harness that works for just about any application. Aside from questionable gear loop durability and fit issues with some testers, we had much praise for it. The real question is whether you want to spend $125 for the best when $45 can get you a pretty good harness like the Black Diamond Momentum and $70 gets you the highly rated CAMP Quartz CR3. And, if you are going to spend $125, you might consider the Arc'teryx R320. It costs $10 more and is a little less comfortable, but has much more of a "wow factor" due to how skinny and cool it looks.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Chaos stands out for its high weight-to-comfort ratio light but still enough padding to hang around in. It is the harness Tommy Caldwell uses to work on massive El Cap free projects such as Mescalito. You can hang out for hours without destroying your hips and then send 5.14 vertical granite or at least Tommy can. BD uses what they call "Kinetic Core Construction" that "distributes the weight and strength of the harness over a bigger surface area to create less pressure points." This contrasts with harnesses made by wrapping a one-inch piece of webbing in foam. Does this make a difference? Yes. Is it a huge difference? We're not sure.
The Chaos has the needed features without anything extra: solid gear loops, a full-strength haul loop and a nice speed adjust buckle for the waist. But no adjustable leg loops, which for many Yosemite climbers is just fine.
The main dislikes came from reviewers who could not get the fit right. To them our size medium test harness felt like a small. Some reviewers actually preferred the fit of the Aura, which is much thinner and has less padding. However, other reviewers loved the fit of this harness. There were similar issues with other harnesses and helmets where fit ranged widely between testers. So you need to try on a harness in the store and hang in it for 10 minutes to know if it fits you well.
The elastic risers on the leg loops are not convenient to take on and off. We didn't care because none of our testers removes the elastic much. But some people will mind, especially women. In contrast, the BD Momentum harness makes it easy to drop the leg loops. However, the Momentum has bigger plastic buckles that are more likely to get stuck and scraped in an offwidth or chimney while the Chaos attachment points are very streamlined.
Another gripe with the Chaos is the gear loops. They were actually some of our favorites to clip gear to until they broke. They didn't break off completely, but the plastic that keeps them pointed out broke (see photo). They still worked, but they were not as perky anymore. This was a bit of a bummer considering that it happened after only a few months of Yosemite climbing.
This is an awesome all-around harness. Chris Mac felt it was probably the harness he would take if he could use only one harness to do it all (from the gym to El Cap in a day).
At $125, this is the second most expensive harness we tested after the Arc'teryx R320 ($135). Considering how high the Momentum scores and only costs $45, it is hard to consider this harness a good value. It is for climbers that want the best and don't mind paying a premium.
The Black Diamond Ethos, $125, is the women's version of the Chaos.
— Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: April 4, 2011
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