Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $45 - $65 | Compare prices at 6 resellers
Pros: Great front gear loops, mobile, versatile, few buckles to deal with
Cons: Poor rear gear loops, less breathable than the previous model, leg loops don't adjust, sometimes difficult to get a perfect fit
Best Uses: Climbing everything except big walls
Petzl did a major redesign of the Sama since we last tested it! The new version has a radically shaped waist belt, a bright new color, and a much different padding construction. Overall, this is one of the most versatile harnesses we stepped into and it comes at a great price. It wasn't the most comfortable or the lightest, but it works for nearly every style of climbing. Ice climbers or mountaineers may prefer the Petzl Adjama, which is the same but with adjustable leg buckles. While it can venture onto big walls, we'd usually prefer a harness that's a bit more comfortable like the Metolius Safe Tech All-Around. Pick up the Petzl Sama if you want a harness that's lightweight, mobile, and has all the features you need for year round climbing.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
From ice climbs and long trad routes to sport climbs, the Petzl Sama handled it all with grace and ease. This harness is a master at conquering nearly all disciplines of the vertical world and the bold styling looks picture-worthy at every rest.
The new Petzl Sama is very comfortable for standing around at the crag; however, some reviewers think the previous version was more comfortable thanks to its mesh construction. The new one is less breathable than the old version, but still more breathable than many of the other harnesses in the review like the Black Diamond Chaos. Petzl uses shaped leg loop construction for the leg loops, which makes them look triangular. Many of our testers found this more comfortable when standing than the typical way manufacturers attach the legs to the belay loop. It also makes putting the harness on a little easier because the triangle piece keeps the leg loops from twisting.
Petzl uses a double webbing design to distribute force evenly across the edges of the Sama. This Endoframe technology is basically the same as Mammut's Dual Webbing or Black Diamond's Dual Core. Traditional harness designs use one piece of webbing in the middle of the harness and increase comfort by adding more padding to spread the load. Double webbing designs use two pieces of webbing (one at the top edge and one at the bottom edge of the waist belt) to spread the load over a wider surface area. Harnesses that use this design, like the Sama, can usually achieve comfort without the weight penalty of extra padding. This design also allows for some amount of air flow if a permeated foam or mesh is used. The last iteration (which also used Endoframe construction) of this harness didn't have very much foam and you could actually see through the mesh between the two webbing strips at the edges.
Petzl increased the width of the harness at the hips and reduced it at the back. The average shape of male climbers allows us to wear harnesses on our hips rather than our waist, so increasing the width on the hips makes sense because this is typically where harnesses are the most uncomfortable. We didn't find the increased waist width to make very much difference over the previous version of this harness. While we could tell that this harness was slightly more comfortable than others with similar double webbing designs like the Mammut Ophir 3 Slide, we found it less comfortable than the Arc'teryx AR-395a and Black Diamond Chaos that use a completely new design that distributes load evenly to the entire surface of the harness.
At the end of the day, after the marketing hype settled down, we gave this harness a 7/10 for hanging comfort. If it had more padding, it probably would have been one of the most comfortable in the review. That said, we wouldn't hesitate bringing this harness on nearly any climb.
One great feature of this harness is that the top tie-in point is much more prominent than it is on other harnesses. With this design, it is slightly faster to tie-in on the ground than other harnesses and is much easier to re-tie before lowering through the chains. The front gear loops stick out decently, but the back ones are more flexible to accommodate a backpack. While this is nice for alpine climbing, sport climbers may want more prominent rear loops. Some testers loved Petzl's gear loops while others prefer gear loops like Black Diamond's, which are more rigid.
Two ice clipper slots live between the gear loops on either side. This positions them closer to your back than your front. When kicking ice, we prefer clipper slots a bit further forward. Finally, it's important to mention that during this review, the Sama seemed to abrade more than the other harnesses. While durability is outside the scope of this review, the newer Sama seems less durable than the older version. however, all the wear we noticed was only cosmetic and didn't affect the safety or function of the harness.
This harness is quite mobile. It isn't as mobile as the Arc'teryx AR-395a, but it never seemed to restrict movement either. Many of our testers love the way Petzl sews the leg loops to make a triangle. This design sits flush against your thighs and feels very free when twisting your hips. Overall, this was one of the most mobile harnesses in the review. When walking, it's easy to forget you're wearing a harness at all.
With its two ice clipper slots and gear loops that accommodate a backpack, this harness is quite versatile. While some may prefer back gear loops that stick out more, some of our testers have been using Petzl harnesses with this design for years and years and have never had an issue. The only thing that would make this harness more versatile would be the addition of adjustable leg loops to accommodate thicker layers for alpine climbing or mountaineering. If that sounds like what you're looking for you should pick up the Petzl Adjama, which is the same as the Sama but with adjustable leg loops. Many of our testers prefer the fixed leg loop design because they enjoy the simplicity of fewer buckles.
With only one buckle at the waist, this harness earned a 5/10 for adjustability. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Absolutely not! But it isn't the best harness to buy if you don't have the chance to hang in it first. You're either going to get a good fit and love this harness, or buy it without trying in on and likely get a poor fit. If you want a super adjustable harness that will be more likely to fit without trying it on first, check out the high scoring Petzl Corax, which has two waist buckles and adjustable legs.
Also, Petzl positioned the gear loops to be centered for people at the small end of the size range. The climber in the photo below typically wears a size medium harness and fits within the size range. As you can see, the right gear loop is substantially farther back than the left one. He would do better buying a size large. Arc'teryx and Mammut orient their gear loops relative to the middle of the range making this problem less noticeable on their harness. The Petzl Corax completely avoids this problem by using two buckles.
With its nice range of features, this harness works well for all applications except for those that require extended hanging. Ice climbers will likely prefer a harness with more ice clipper slots like the Arc'teryx AR-395a, which has slots closer to the front. If you're looking for a great do-it-all harness, this is an excellent pick.
For $65, this harness is super versatile and offers a great value. Without adjustable legs, you're going to want to try it on to make sure you get a good fit. Provided it fits well, this has all the features you'll need for nearly any style of climbing.
The Sama is a versatile high-scoring harness. It isn't as breathable as the previous version, but some of our reviewers found it more comfortable. Sizing is difficult, but when you get it right it fits great and works well for everything. As with our Editors' Choice winner, we wouldn't be disappointed if this was the only harness in our closet, even though this model offers slightly less performance.
— Jeremy Bauman
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Most recent review: April 20, 2015
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