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Mad Rock Solar Review

A great harness designed for beginners and youth competitors alike
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $70 List | $69.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Large gear loops, comfortable, user friendly
Cons:  Expensive
Manufacturer:   Mad Rock
By Adam Paashaus ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 27, 2020
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Our Verdict

Built with the youth climbing enthusiast in mind, the Mad Rock Solar is a great all-around harness for kids looking for the best, which is why we've decided to award it our Editors' Choice. Unmatched comfort and excellent features assure that this harness will be all any kid would need until they fit an adult harness. Mad Rock may charge a little more for the Solar than its competitors, but this harness is not a basic sit harness. The waist belt and leg loops are cut from a single piece of webbing and matched up with thin EVA to help cushioning. This makes the harness light yet supportive without being too stiff and rigid.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Mad Rock has a good thing going with the Solar for kids. There are a couple of small gripes we found, but overall this harness does a fantastic job. No other harness seemed to have as much attention to detail and technology built into it. With no shortage of features, this harness will work perfectly all for the serious youth climbers out there.

Performance Comparison


Big sister contemplating working up into the upper crack.
Big sister contemplating working up into the upper crack.

Hanging Comfort


The kids Solar uses the same technology as the adult version. The leg loops and waistbelt are cut from a single piece of webbing to help spread the forces better to add to the comfort while still reducing bulk.

They also added a thin layer of EVA foam to the waist belt and leg loops to increase the cushioning while keeping the weight down as low as possible. Our testers found it to be on par or better than the rest of the competition in this metric, especially when it came to longer hanging sessions where this harness specifically shined.

The Solar provided a comfortable hang for when you want to work a route.
The Solar provided a comfortable hang for when you want to work a route.

Standing Comfort and Mobility


Again the design of the webbing leg loops and waistbelt adds to its comfort. This time for standing comfort and mobility. Since the material is cut from one piece, it's thin and flexible, making for a harness that moves well with the user. We spent hours in these harnesses wearing them around the base of the wall, crawling under boulderers, sitting in the dirt, and belaying, and the Solar was super comfortable, never causing any discomfort.

Waiting for her turn to climb  luckily her harness is comfortable even off the wall.
Waiting for her turn to climb, luckily her harness is comfortable even off the wall.

Other harnesses compare similarly to the Solar in this metric, but none of them also have as much hanging comfort (not to mention features) to go along with it. Normally its a give and take between standing comfort and hanging comfort, but the webbing design of this harness does a great job of providing both.

Mom looks over the knot.
Mom looks over the knot.

Features


This harness is made specifically for youth competition type climbers. That isn't to say it wouldn't work well for the casual kid climber, because it will, but it speaks to the fact that it comes well equipped to tackle the hardest routes without becoming an interference.

This harness at 1st glance looks like any other basic kids sit harness, but upon closer inspection, we found it to have the best set of features for advanced kid climbers. The (two) gear loops are not only the largest in the test, but they also stand out off the harness really well, making them easy to clip and unclip gear from. The sizing of the harness is just about perfect, and despite having a single point waist belt adjustment, the gear loops lie perfectly square on the hips of most youth-sized kids, making them even more user-friendly.

Racked up and ready to go  the Solar has ample gear storage.
Racked up and ready to go, the Solar has ample gear storage.

The set of elastic risers connect the waist belt to the leg loops are adjustable and releasable serving their purpose well. A loop on the back can be used to clip a chalk bag to, and there are even a couple of places for a toothbrush for those working hard redpoints. keeper straps hold the loose webbing ends out of the way but some of our testers

While this harness is high tech and brings a great set of features to the table, in function, it's just as simple and basic as any of the other sit harnesses in our test.

"Belay on?" "On belay!"
"Belay on?" "On belay!"

Versatility


All of the sit harnesses in our roundup have similar features that allow them to be used for a wide range of climbing styles. Every harness in our test was used for basic top-roping, trad follows, and sport climbing. Each one has enough features to get by, but the Solar stands out as being one of the best equipped to tackle the more technical routes.

While this harness works great for most older kids who are using a sit harness, some will find the size range limiting in the smaller sizes with a waist adjustment that covers 23"-27".

The Solar is a harness for the stoked climbing enthusiast. If you are looking for a youth harness that checks all the boxes, then this should be a top contender in your search. It would work well for beginners but really shines for those who put their harness through a lot of technical uses from top roping to sport or trad climbing. The big gear loops can hold plenty of gear for following long pitches, and the webbing technology makes it comfortable to wear for those long days out.

Our oldest kid tester going for the thin crux.
Our oldest kid tester going for the thin crux.

Value


Being the most expensive harness in our test, we were initially skeptical whether the added expense was going to be worth it. However, after a ton of hands-on use, we found it to be the highest performing sit harness in our test. Other sit harnesses have similar feature sets and can be used in similar situations, but no other harness combines everything from comfort to weight and performance.

Despite how great all that sounds, the Solar is not without its flaws. After only a couple weeks of trad climbing in Joshua Tree, the leg loops got extra fuzzy, and the risers showed some wear where they connect to the leg loops. None of the wear is structural, but the exterior fabric that is covering the main webbing on the leg loops has almost worn through in a couple of spots. If sport climbing is the focus, this harness should have no problem lasting quite a while, but if groveling up chimneys and granite flares is part of your repertoire, one of the other sit harnesses would likely stand up better to more abuse.

Conclusion


Mad Rock did a great job with their new Solar youth harness. Features like huge accessible gear loops and brush holders are simple yet important features to some kid crushers. The "ergonomically cut from a single piece of webbing" waistbelt and leg loop construction that it shares with the adult version makes for a light weight and super comfortable harness both on and off the wall. All of these attributes come together and result in us giving the Solar this year's Editors Choice award. Now almost any youth climber can get a good fit in a comfortable yet performance-oriented harness.

End of the day chat with friends.
End of the day chat with friends.

Adam Paashaus