Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $52 - $65 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros: light, comfortable, well-ventilated
Cons: gear loops not our favorite, haul loop not full strength
Best Uses: trad climbing, big wall climbing, sport climbing, multi-pitch climbing
The Petzl Sama is maybe the most versatile climbing harness we tested. We would take this sport climbing, on El Cap, and everywhere in between. It is light, functional, comfortable and a good value for how light and comfortable it is. It is one of the best ventilated harnesses we tested. Some of our testers said that if they could only have one harness, this would be it.
If you are on a budget, the Black Diamond Momentum is $20 less and will also work in most applications. If you have an unlimited budget, try on the Arc'teryx R320 and Black Diamond Chaos to see what fits and feels best. If you want a version with self-locking buckles on the leg loops, check out the Petzl Adjama. Otherwise, we think think is maybe our favorite Petzl harness.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
We don't know if Petzl invented the "see-through" harness, but the Sama is the first harness we saw that used perforated closed cell foam on the waistbelt and leg loops. When you hold it up to the light you see through a lot of the harness. This improves breathability, makes the harness lighter and just looks cool. Petzl achieves this with their Frame technology, which basically puts the strength and structure of the harness around the edges (check out a cool video about frame technology below). The harness is reinforced at the leg loops where harnesses usually wear out first so this harness should last for a long, long time. Petzl was one of the first companies (if not the first) to use a feature we love, a self-locking buckle they call it DoubleBack. For a while, Petzl harnesses stood out because they had it. Now almost all harness manufacturers use the self-locking buckle. This not only makes it easy to get the harness on and off, it's a great safety feature it is impossible to forget to double back your harness.
Petzl has always let the industry with clear illustrations in product documentation. They have now taken the next step by printing these illustrations on their harnesses. For example, on the belay loop there is a printed illustration showing you how to tie in. This will likely wear out over time. However, it will be there when it is most needed: when a person first buys the harness.
The only main dislike with the Petzl, and it is a debatable dislike, are the gear loops. Petzl once had plastic gear loops and then switched to soft "non-plastic-coated" gear loops. According to their web site they did this so the harness would be more comfortable when wearing a backpack. Some testers liked the new soft gear loops. Others did not.
There is a gap between the forward and rear gear loops so that you can clip the CARITOOL and easily access ice screws when ice climbing. This is a benefit for ice climbers, but for trad climbers it means the rear gear loop is pushed further back and is less accessible.
The trail line loop on the back of the harness does not appear that beefy. It may be strong enough, but psychologically it would be a little scary to hang a haul line off it in a big wall application.
For a size medium, this harness fits large. If you are on the small side of a medium, you should probably not order this harness online. Instead, get it from a store so you can try it on.
This is Chris Mac's favorite Petzl Harness. He would reach for this over the Petzl Corax because it is almost as comfortable and comes without all the buckles. Ian Nicholson, would choose the Corax because it is more comfortable and he works his harnesses harder than anyone.
This is an all-around harness that works for just about any application. It is great for the gym, sport climbing and traditional climbing. Chris Mac has used it a lot for climbing on El Capitan.
This harness is in the middle of the value range. If compared to the Arc'teryx R32 ($135) or the Black Diamond Chaos ($125) it is a bargain at $65. But if you compare it to the Black Diamond Momentum ($45) it is a little pricey considering how well the Momentum performed.
Video on Petzl's Frame Technology
— Chris McNamara, Chris Van Leuven
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Most recent review: March 7, 2012
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