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Black Diamond Big Gun Review

Black Diamond Big Gun Harness
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Price:  $120 List | $89.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, easy-to-remove leg loops, easy-to-clip gear loops.
Cons:  Gear loop durability, cluttered loops.
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief  ⋅  Feb 8, 2010
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The Skinny

The Black Diamond Big Gun is a tricked-out big wall climbing harness with lots of extras: extra belay loop, extra gear loop, and multiple options for clipping gear to the back. It is supportive and comfortable without being too big or heavy.

We found it a little more comfortable than the Petzl Calidris but we like the speed adjust buckles and ventilation on the Calidris. The advantage to the Calidris is it is more streamlined and more suitable for cragging. The Big Gun is just a little too cluttered for cragging. Compared to the Metolius Safe Tech Waldo, the Big Gun is as comfortable and the gear loops are not nearly as strong or easy to use. But it is also much lighter, $10 less expensive, ventilates better, and is easier to adjust and free climb in. Overall, if you want a serious big wall harness or rigging harness, we prefer the Waldo because of its comfort and bomber gear loops. It's hard to say what we would prefer between this and the Calidris. The Calidris is better suited for free climbing, easier to adjust, and vents better. But it is not as comfortable and does not have two belay loops. Tough call.

Only occasionally hopping on big walls and running off a smaller budget? Then consider the $45 Black Diamond Momentum. It's not as comfortable, but it is manageable and up to just about any kind of climbing. It might rub your hips a bit raw, but it's not so bad for infrequent trips up walls. Beware that if you're hauling monster loads, though, the Momentum is not a good choice.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Likes


It is toward the lighter end of big wall harnesses we tested (but heavy compared to a standard climbing harness). The harness vents reasonably well considering how thick the padding is. The gear loops are easy to clip gear to with their rigid plastic. Initially, two belay loops didn't entice me, but now I'm a changed person. You just have more options for clipping stuff. Even though I don't love adjustable leg loops, at least these tuck away nicely if you have medium to skinny legs for your waist size. Best of all, the leg loops are easy to completely remove at night, something that fewer and fewer harnesses let you do. The drop seat feature for dropping the leg loops is very easy to use.

Dislikes


The extra webbing for the waist belt is so skinny it does not look as though it will last forever (but it does tuck away nicely). The extra webbing on the leg loops tucks away great as long as you have skinny-ish legs for your waist size. Otherwise it will not quite tuck away that well (this was a worse problem on the Waldo and Calidris).

The gear loops are too cluttered. I don't see a need for three loops on each side because if you actually use all three then the gear is overlapping and jumbled. More important, after using the full strength gear loops of the Waldo, it is a little scary to hang really heavy important stuff off these loops. For example, if you are grabbing the 20-pound Black Diamond Cliff Cabana Double Portaledge from under the haul bag to bring up to the belay or rappelling the East Ledges with it, it is scary to temporarily clip to the side of your harness through just one belay loop. You can clip it through two but that is a pain in the butt. Sure the belay loops should hold it… but it just feels way less secure to have heavy and precious cargo hanging from them. We actually broke the plastic attachment of the same gear loops on the Black Diamond Chaos. The gear loops still worked, but no longer were perky and stuck out in a place that was easy to clip.

This harness is comfortable, but not nearly as comfy as the Waldo. I find that when hauling big loads it starts to dig into the skin around my hip whereas the Waldo does not. That said, on my last wall two other people had the Big Gun, were hanging around all day in it and never complained. So maybe I am just lightweight.

Value


No longer $100, the Big Gun costs $120. The Petzl Calidris is less expensive, but this harness remains cheaper than the Waldo and the Yates Shield.


Chris McNamara