Mad Rock released the updated Venus, the Venus 4.0. The 4.0 version retails for $55 and sports new colors, updated gear loops, and a thicker waist belt. Below is a comparison, with the updated harness shown first, followed by the Venus harness we tested.
We are now linking to the updated Venus 4.0, but our experiences accounted below refer to the previous Venus harness.
Hands-On Review of the Venus
The Mad Rock Venus has a single strand of webbing as the primary structure of the waistbelt (with padding built up around it). It has adjustable leg loops and a full-strength haul loop.
Testing out the Venus. This harness sat lower on our hips than others, which a few of our testers liked.
We gave the Venus a lower score for standing comfort for several reasons. The material is stiff and not very pliable, which we noticed when sitting or just hanging out in the harness. Also, the rise is on the low side, so if you try to wear this one on your waist, the front of the waist belt then digs into you a little bit. This harness is better for those who like to wear their harness lower on their hips.
You can see how the front of the harness is dipping forward and digging into us. There's wasn't enough rise in the front for most of our female testers.
The construction of the Venus's waistbelt is fairly simple — there's a single strand of one-inch webbing tacked on to the "padding" on the waistbelt (we use quotation marks because there is little padding there). When you weight this harness you can feel that all of the pressure is in that one inch of webbing. Other harnesses use dual or even triple webbing systems to disperse the load over a greater area, and the difference is noticeable. We preferred the hanging comfort of the Black Diamond Solution over this model for that reason.
Testing this basic harness reminded us how far harness design and engineering has come, though it does usually come with a steeper price tag as well.
The Venus is more of an attempt at an all-around harness than a discipline-specific one. It weighs 13.1 ounces in the size small that we tested, but it feels a little bulkier than some of the sleek sport specific harness. There is a full strength haul loop, which you don't always get out of a sport harness, but the rear leg loops are secured with large buckles, which is never comfortable when chimneying. We look for comfort in our all-around models for those long days on the rock, but this one just didn't deliver so well. Look to the Camp Supernova, our Editors' Choice winner, for a comfortable and functional multi-use harness.
The buckles make it easier to drop the leg loops, but they don't feel great in certain climbing situations like chimneys.
The stiffness of the material on this harness impacted our mobility a bit. It's possible that this one loosens up with wear, but in the first few months that we used the Venus it didn't get noticeably softer.
The Venus is best used for single-pitch climbing (since we didn't find it too comfortable to hang in). The gear loops can hold quite a bit though, so you could easily use it for traditional climbing.
The Venus has adjustable leg loops, which helped give it a good score for adjustability. The risers in the back are easy to adjust as well.
We did like the adjustable leg loops on this model more than the ones on the Black Diamond Technician.
The Mad Rock Venus is a low-cost entry-level harness that is a good choice for people who are getting started in the sport. It also comes in various starter packs with a chalk bag, belay device and locking carabiner, and we've seen that package for around the same price as the harness alone, which is a great bargain.
We prefer to use this harness for sport climbs over trad.
At $55, this is the one of the least expensive harness in our test group. However, we thought the $57 Black Diamond Momentum was a lot more comfortable, and that's why it won our Best Buy award over the Venus.
The Mad Rock Venus lacked enough comfort for us to recommend it whole-heartedly, but it still gets the job done, and when purchased as a starter pack it is an incredible value. Pick this one up if you are new to climbing and need to get a lot of gear at once but don't have an unlimited budget to do it with.