Petzl Ouistiti Review
Cons: Narrower size range, not the best for larger kids
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Our Analysis and Test Results
There is good reason for awarding Editors' Choice to the Petzl Ouistiti. Not only does it have all kinds of features, but it also has the most secure design to keep fidgety kids from messing with the buckles. It's also extremely comfortable for both hanging in and for just "hanging around" the crags with their toys.
When looking for a comfortable full-body harness for small but active kids, the Ouistiti should be on the top of your list. This harness isn't lacking in the comfort department. Like many adult (and kids) sit harnesses, it uses closed-cell foam for padding in leg loops, waist belt, and shoulder straps, making it a great option for kids who really get into trying hard and hanging while they give a tough move, go after go.
It also sports a lower than normal (for a full-body harness), single tie in point that is more comfortable for lowering; this teaches kids what it feels like to lower in a sit-style harness, which makes for a smooth transition when its time for upgrading. If the child plans to spend a lot of time hanging (or even belaying another small someone, then you should take a very close look at the Ouistiti.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
This harness has great padded panels that do a magnificent job of dispersing the weight for a comfortable hang. We were also surprised at how comfortable it was for wearing around off the wall. The secure fit keeps all the straps in place, and they don't shift or sag. There are no binding issues or pressure points, and movement isn't restricted. The leg loops originate from the outside hip area, making elastic risers unnecessary; an elastic bungee (top quality) holds the leg loops together, helping to keep them from drooping down - without restricting movement.
This comfortable harness is also pretty flashy with its extra features. At first glance, this thing gives the impression of being overbuilt.
But everything Petzl did has a purpose for someone, and it serves its purpose well. In our test, we had the kids do a ton of following and cleaning countless trad and sport pitches while we belayed from the top. This was the only full-body harness with gear loops we were able to use for that purpose.
There is a "dorsal" (Rear) attachment as well for special applications like skiing, flying Peter Pan over the crowd, or to keep kids under control at Disney.
All parents of young kids will appreciate the strategic buckle location and absence of fasteners required to put on and off. While it does require adult assistance to get adjusted, the easy to use double-backed buckles, located on the upper back, keep idle hands from fidgeting with them.
The low, single tie in point is more comfortable when hanging and gets kids used to the feeling of being lowered off with a sit harness. Both tie in points are color-coded so kids can easily orient it for slipping into. Most full-body harnesses have dual tie in points, but this one has a full waist belt with a single, low tie in point, which is excellent for teaching smaller kids to belay their lightweight siblings (with a backup belay at first of course). Parents who are serious climbers, who may be nurturing a love of climbing for their kids (a.k.a. raising their future rope gun) will also appreciate the extra features this harness offers.
All these added features allow kids to grow in the sport. Gear loops are nice for clipping gear to for when following "grown-ups" and learning to sort gear etc., and not many harnesses have the added dorsal tie in point for all those non-traditional uses. However, it won't grow as far, size wise, as other full-body harnesses. Most full-body harnesses can extend to fit climbers up to 85 pounds, while the Ouistiti is only made for kids up to 66 pounds. However, we don't penalize them for this very much since most kids that approach that weight are ready for a sit harness. Most full-body harnesses don't get used (at least by climbers) in the larger configurations.
For the price, this harness has some of the best value in our test. When you account for all the features this thing packs, the added security, and great comfort, you end up with a very close competitor to the Trango Junior for Best Buy. Both have the added security of having the buckles out of fiddly fingers reach, which gives parents extra peace of mind.
We think any kid just getting into climbing will love this harness, regardless of their long term goals. It's comfortable, fully-featured, and inspires confidence with its secure fit. It is also the best choice for young kids who may have climber enthusiasts for parents. No other full-body harnesses offer the features that open up the climber to almost any application. However, many kids will find all the features overkill and may be happier with something more basic like our choice for Best Buy, the Trango Junior. Regardless of their climbing style, this is a good option; however, this harness really is appreciated by kids who are progressing at the sport at a very young age. We really enjoyed belaying our tester kids up to a nice belay ledge and letting them clean the pitches of both sport and trad gear on their way up.
— Adam Paashaus