Arc'teryx C-Quence Review
Cons: Not very light, higher price
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The C-Quence harness takes the most notable feature of Arc'teryx Harnesses, the Warp Strength Technology waist belt and leg loops, and improves upon the design for less bulk and greater comfort. In particular, the waist belt is much narrower than you may have become used to, much more in line with similar designs from Black Diamond or Petzl. It seems that they realized that the same amount of weight dispersion and comfort can be had in a smaller package, and we like this design better because it cuts down significantly on the bulk of the super wide waist belt found on older models such as the AR-395a. The waist belt, and leg loops, remain made of super thin material with almost no padding, but this works very effectively to distribute the weight, reduces bulk, and cuts down on heat build-up on hot days. The leg loop design where it wraps around the interior of the leg and closes the loop before joining the belay loop in front of the body has been re-designed, and we are huge fans of the improvement. The wide straps here sit flat, and don't gouge into crotch nearly as bad; super noticeable when belaying. The harness also comes in a women's version, and a wide variety of sizes. We ordered our typical size Medium, and found that it is certainly on the larger end of the spectrum, where we can barely make it fit by cinching it all the way tight. If you fall in between sizes, we recommend purchasing the smaller option.
When hanging in a harness, either at a belay, or while rappelling or simply because you have taken a fall, the weight tends to be fairly evenly distributed between the waist belt as it wraps around the lower back, and the leg loops as they wrap around underneath the thighs. Much like the older Arc'teryx harnesses, and the most comfortable ones made by Black Diamond, the Warp Strength Technology design is very thin, almost unpadded, and super flexible. Very thin wires, either in a cross-hatching pattern, or lined up parallel and running close together side-by-side, effectively distribute the weight across the entire strip of material, and this design works better than others that instead only have one or two pieces of webbing sandwiched in between foam padding.
The result is a very comfortable harness to hang in. The waist belt doesn't ride up too much above the hips when hanging, so it only minimally crunches the kidneys. Likewise, the wide leg loops disburse the load well enough that we didn't ever suffer loss of circulation in our legs while hanging for a long time, which can happen in other harnesses. For taking lots of falls while sport climbing, or for multi-pitching where hanging at the belay for long parts of the day is mandatory, this is a very good and relatively comfortable option.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
The thin and unpadded design of the waist belt and leg loops keep it flexible, so that they fit against the body well. This makes for a very comfortable harness to wear at the crag all day, and also for walking around in. We do notice that as we walk, the motion of our legs moving one after the other shifts the belay loop, which catches a bit on the upper tie-in point. This isn't uncomfortable at all, but simply reminds us with every step that we are wearing a harness.
The flat waist belt sits close against the body, and is an excellent design for wearing with a pack on. The gear loops are also free hanging and can sit down flush against the body, so wearing this harness with a pack while walking on glaciers, or on alpine climbs, presents little issue. We would go so far as to call it one of the best options for these types of climbing.
The C-Quence has all the features needed for pretty much any style of climbing. It has four large gear loops that are free hanging and covered in molded plastic for easier clippability. Each of these gear loops can hold a ton of carabiners, so carrying a full rack is not an issue. That said, like other Arc'teryx harnesses, they taper to a low point near the front of each loop, which we don't love because it causes all the gear to slide down and condense upon itself. This may work fine for quickdraws, but for cams it can make it harder to grab the one you want quickly without all the others getting in the way.
The waistbelt also sports four ice clipper slots, two on each side, so you can rig yours however you see fit. In the back is a fifth gear loop or haul loop which is flexible webbing, and is a nice spot to clip shoes or a light windbreaker. The front buckle is automatically doubled back, is easy to manipulate, and stays locked tight throughout the day as you climb.
This harness only comes with fixed leg loops, lacking adjustable buckles. The leg loops are designed to have a large amount of potential expansion range with an elastic strip keeping them cinched together, so we didn't have any issue wearing it with more clothes on, and indeed prefer not to have the added bulk and weight of extra leg buckles.
When belaying in a standing position and holding a fallen or resting climber, almost all of the force and weight of that climber concentrates itself in the leg loops of your harness. The design of the leg loops as they wrap around the inside of the legs to meet at the crotch is of particular importance here, as you not only don't want your junk to get pinched, but a poor design can really dig into the creases in an uncomfortable way.
We've knocked Arc'teryx harnesses in the past for a very uncomfortable design in this region, but our experience with the C-Quence tells us they have successfully addressed this problem, and we find it among the most comfortable for extended belay duty. The straps are relatively wide as they wrap inside the legs, and are designed to sit mostly flat against the skin, rather than tip up on edge, where the thin edge can then gouge into the crotch, uncomfortably concentrating the forces being held. We concede that this design required us to adjust things more than we typically would need to with most harnesses, but once all is sitting right, belaying comfort is assured, and a little adjustment is only a minor inconvenience.
As we've already mentioned, this is a very well-rounded harness that is applicable for any style of climbing. It's super comfortable for falling, hanging, and belaying, which makes it an ideal gym and sport harness. It also has plenty of gear storage on its five gear loops, so multi-pitching is right up its alley. With ice clipper slots and a wide range in the leg loops, its not problem to wear it on cold ice climbs, and the flat waist belt and comfortable fit make it a solid choice for wearing with a pack while alpine climbing, or while walking up glaciated peaks while mountaineering.
Our only knock when it comes to versatility is how heavy it is. We weighed our size medium at 13.3 ounces, which isn't the heaviest of those we tested, but is far heavier than the lightest and most versatile. For alpine climbing especially, low weight is a key consideration, and despite being so low profile, this one still packs on the extra ounces.
Like most things Arc'teryx, you shouldn't expect to get a bargain price point. There are a few harnesses that cost more than this one, and in some cases quite a bit more, but there are also many high quality harnesses for much less, often about half as much. If you are a budget shopper, check out some of the very high quality offerings that cost a lot less. However, the performance can't be beat, and the quality is top-notch, so if you are willing to pay the money, we think this harness absolutely presents great value.
The C-Quence is the newest harness in Arc'teryx's lineup, and we would agree with their statement that it is their most comfortable. It is a very versatile choice and makes for a great all-around harness for the climber who likes to do it all, but only wants to own one harness. If you are just as likely to plug cams in Yosemite or Rocky Mountain National Parks as you are to get in an after work session at the local gym or sport crag, then the C-Quence is an ideal choice for you.
— Andy Wellman