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Arc'teryx AR-385a Review

A great all-around harness for alpine missions, trad climbing and multi-pitch routes that packs down small for lightweight adventures
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Arc'teryx AR-385a Review (Despite being extremely comfortable, the fabric on the Arc'teryx AR-385a Women's harness absorbs sweat more easily...)
Despite being extremely comfortable, the fabric on the Arc'teryx AR-385a Women's harness absorbs sweat more easily over time than some of the other models we tested.
Credit: Whitney Clark
Price:  $160 List
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Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Whitney Clark, Jane Jackson & Cam McKenzie Ring  ⋅  Jan 31, 2024
85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 11
  • Hanging Comfort - 30% 8.0
  • Standing Comfort and Mobility - 25% 9.0
  • Features - 20% 8.0
  • Versatility - 15% 9.0
  • Adjustability - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx AR-385a has been redesigned over the years, and the newest iteration quickly became a fan favorite among our testers. This harness is designed specifically for women and uses patented Warp Strength Technology to evenly disperse weight across the swami belt without adding much weight or unnecessary padding. The AR-385a has a very thin, wide waistbelt and adjustable leg loops, making it easy to recognize at the crag. The load feels evenly distributed over our waists, and we didn't notice the lack of padding. The soft edges don't cut into our waist or legs while hanging, making it a great choice for long multi-pitch climbs. It has some great all-around features – like four ice clipper slots – and it packs down small, taking up little room in your backpack. See how it rose to the top of our lineup in our review of the best climbing harnesses for women.
REASONS TO BUY
Versatile
Mobile
Comfortable and compact
REASONS TO AVOID
Material absorbs sweat
Expensive
Editor's Note: We recently retested the updated version of the AR-385a and updated this review on January 31, 2024, to reflect our newest findings.

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Price $160 List
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Bottom Line A fantastic lightweight harness for alpine ascents or everyday climbingAn excellent all around model that is also affordableA sport climber's dream harness that is comfortable, breathable, and easy to move inA super comfortable, women's specific harness that is perfectly suited for long days in the alpineAn extremely lightweight and durable harness that can be worn in the mountains or at the crag
Rating Categories Arc'teryx AR-385a Black Diamond Momen... Black Diamond Solut... Blue Ice Cuesta - W... Blue Ice Addax
Hanging Comfort (30%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Standing Comfort and Mobility (25%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Features (20%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
Versatility (15%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Adjustability (10%)
9.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Arc'teryx AR-385a Black Diamond Momen... Black Diamond Solut... Blue Ice Cuesta - W... Blue Ice Addax
Designed for These Disciplines Sport, Trad, Ice Sport, Trad Sport Sport, Trad Sport, Trad, Alpine
Measured Weight (size Small) 13 oz 10.3 oz 11.4 oz 9.7 oz 4.9 oz
Number of Gear Loops 4 (rigid with flexible attachment points) 4 (rigid) 4 (rigid) 4 (2 rigid in front) 4
Haul Loop? Yes (not full strength) Yes Yes (not full strength) Yes Yes
Adjustable Legs? Yes (detacheable) Yes No No No
Self-Locking Buckle? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ice Clipper Slots? Yes (4) No No No Yes (2)
Waist Belt Construction Warp Strength Technology Dual Core (2 thin bands of webbing with foam in between) Fusion Comfort Technology (3 strands of webbing) Laminate waist belt, high-tenacity PES EVA Foam, UHMW polyethylene, high-tenacity PES
Special Features Colored fibers inside high wear points to indicated when it's time to retire trakFIT leg adjusters are low profile and lightweight Leg loops have same wide construction as waistbelt Women's specific fit for higher waist and larger thighs Speed buckle

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Arc'teryx AR-385a has a four-inch wide waistbelt that utilizes their Warp Strength Technology. Instead of placing padding around one or two bands of webbing that carry the load, this construction distributes it across the entire harness, which has no padding at all. There are four plastic-covered rigid gear loops with flexible attachment points and a non-structural loop in the back for a haul line or extra gear. There are also four ice clipper slots sewn to the outside of the harness.

Performance Comparison


arc'teryx ar-385a - through all of its updates over the years, the versatile ar-385a...
Through all of its updates over the years, the versatile AR-385a continues to be a go-to for big alpine rock missions.
Credit: Paloma Farkas

Hanging Comfort


The harness utilizes Warp Strength Technology, which does a really nice job at distributing weight across the harness and makes hanging for extended periods of time comfortable. This harness has seen many updates over the years and is remarkably better and more fine-tuned than its former self.


When loaded with a rack, the AR-385a used to fold and pinch at the waist, but this problem has been fixed. The waist belt and leg loops have softer edges that don't cut into your skin and the double weave 4-way stretch fabric is comfortable to the touch.

arc'teryx ar-385a - while we prefer this harness for fast and light missions, it is more...
While we prefer this harness for fast and light missions, it is more than serviceable for projecting sport routes, especially with the upgraded support system.
Credit: Dolev Schreiber

Standing Comfort and Mobility


The AR-385a scored near the top of the list for standing comfort. The waist belt and leg loops are so thin that you almost forget they are on. While the harness is an impressive four inches wide at the back, it tapers around the sides of the hips towards the front, contributing to its comfort by limiting overall bulk.


The comfy double-weave, four-way stretch fabric feels nice against your skin, and the soft edges don't dig into your legs or waist when you're fully racked up. Previous versions of this harness would bend inward and pinch at the waist, and we were happy to see this problem fixed with the updated model.

arc'teryx ar-385a - the oversized, angled gear loops makes it easy to rack up on the...
The oversized, angled gear loops makes it easy to rack up on the AR-385a.
Credit: Luka Krajnc

Features


The AR-385a has many features that we like for an all-around harness and a few that we don't. The gear loops are large enough to hold many quickdraws or lots of gear if you prefer to carry a rack on your harness. They are also slightly angled inwards, which helps prevent all your gear from sliding to the back while climbing. Because the gear loops also lie flat, it is more comfortable to wear this harness with a pack when alpine climbing. The leg loops are easy to drop (if the need arises on a long route), and the hook attachment has a slim profile that won't create a pressure point when pressing your back against the rock.


However, the rear gear loops are pretty far toward the back of the harness, making it difficult to reach gear sometimes. If climbing a chimney, it's best to try and slide bigger gear towards your front, so the cams don't get in the way of upward progress. We like the extra large rear haul loop for clipping all the extra stuff needed for a long multi-pitch climb – like a jacket, approach shoes, or for hauling a tagline. Overall, the construction and features of this harness are excellent, and they only continue to improve with each update.

arc'teryx ar-385a - the arc'teryx ar-385a weighs 13.6 oz and packs down small.
The Arc'teryx AR-385a weighs 13.6 oz and packs down small.
Credit: Whitney Clark

This harness comes with four ice clipper slots that are sewn onto the outside of it, but the slots are not as tight and secure as we would have liked. Depending on which style of ice tool carabiner you use, you might have a lot of extra movement with these slots. This harness weighs 13 ounces in a size Small. It's extremely compact and packs down small into your bag, making it an excellent choice for light-and-fast alpine climbing missions or backcountry big walls.

arc'teryx ar-385a - even if you're carrying a lot of gear, we had no problem working...
Even if you're carrying a lot of gear, we had no problem working tight moves in the AR-385a.
Credit: Clint Helander

Versatility


We ranked this model very high for versatility as well. If you are looking for a harness that can easily transition from sport to trad to ice, this is a great choice. Even if you mostly sport climb, you never know when the opportunity to try something new might arise.


The adjustable leg loops give you the option to use one harness for everything. You can just as easily open the harness up to fit over a pair of shell pants for ice climbing as you tighten it up to fit over leggings on sport days. The four ice clipper slots also add versatility, as not all alpine-styled harnesses we tested have this feature.

arc'teryx ar-385a - the adjustability of this harness makes it great for any type of...
The adjustability of this harness makes it great for any type of climbing, but we find that it particularly excels on long multi-pitch routes.
Credit: Luka Krajnc

Adjustability


The AR-385a is very adjustable. The pre-threaded waist buckle cinches down with ease and stays there. The adjustable leg loops give about four inches of play, so you can layer this harness over leggings or pile on long underwear and softshell pants. We really like how this harness can be cinched down to be worn for sport climbing one day and enlarged to make space for alpine or ice climbing the next.


One thing that did arise after over a year and hundreds of days of use is that the nylon webbing began to wear down where the waist buckle was cinched. Harnesses aren't built to last forever, and this is something that naturally begins to happen with most gear over time. But it is certainly something to watch out for, especially if you are using the AR-385a a lot.

arc'teryx ar-385a - over time (heavy use for over a year), the nylon webbing began to...
Over time (heavy use for over a year), the nylon webbing began to wear down. This is normal wear-and-tear, but considering that you may use this one harness for all of your climbing, it is something to keep an eye on.
Credit: Will Stanhope

Should You Buy the Arc'teryx AR-385a?


The AR-385a is one of the most expensive harnesses in our review, costing three times as much as some of the budget models we reviewed. If you're just an occasional sport or gym climber, there are better, more basic models out there to suit your needs at a fraction of the cost. However, if you climb a lot – whether it be sport, alpine, trad, or ice – then the versatile AR-385a is worth the investment. This harness is an impressive piece of engineering; it is comfortable, sleek, and functional, with all of the necessary components we like to see in a harness. While it ticks all of the boxes as a do-it-all harness, it really shines for trad and alpine climbing, where you want a comfortable, compact, lightweight harness.

What Other Climbing Harnesses Should You Consider?


If you are predominately a sport climber or only climb occasionally, there are less expensive models that would better suit your needs. For example, the Black Diamond Solution is a sport climbing-specific harness that costs almost half the price of the Arc'teryx AR-385a. If you want another inexpensive option with adjustable leg loops, then check out the Black Diamond Momentum. It has a cushioned waist belt and leg loops to keep you comfy while projecting your next route, and is available at an unbeatable price point.

Whitney Clark, Jane Jackson & Cam McKenzie Ring