Black Diamond AirNet Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very light, seamless Infinity Loop belay loop, breathable, comfortable
Cons: Expensive, not meant for carrying gear, fit is small
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The first thing you are likely to notice when you pick up the BD airNET is how insanely light it is. This is due to the airNET construction, which uses a net of interwoven strings to effectively disperse the weight inside the super thin waist belt and leg loops. We assume that this new and patented technology is also responsible for the high price tag. The second thing you will notice as that it only has two standard gear loops, and even those are flimsy. This is a harness that you are not meant to use when forging your way up some large new face, but is instead optimized for gym and competition climbing, as well as redpointing hard sport routes. We love it for working on our sport projects at Smith Rock, but emphasize that it fills a small niche that will require one having a quiver of harnesses to use on other days when it simply doesn't rise to the occasion. This harness also comes in a women's version.
Despite its diminutive profile, we found this to be a very comfortable harness for hanging in. Where most harnesses use one or more strips of horizontally aligned webbing sandwiched within the padding to help spread out the weight of a climber when resting, this one uses the airNET, which uses interlinked strings in a pattern, not unlike a chain-link fence. Since the harness is so thin, you can see the pattern on the outside of both the waist and legs, a cool visual effect. Minimal padding provides comfort against the skin while also keeping the weight down. The effect is very soft and supple and flexible, and the harness easily contours to the shape of your body while hanging.
Our only complaint was that our size Medium seemed slightly small to us so that the waist belt padding didn't fully wrap around our entire body, and some webbing was exposed near the buckle. This also left the harness slightly off-center for our body. Usually, we fit in a BD size Medium nearly perfectly, and haven't gained 15 lbs. that we are aware of, so you may want to consider sizing up if you are on the cusp, for us this likely would have alleviated our ever so slight concerns with comfort. For long hours of dogging on a project, rest assured, you will be as comfortable as you can be.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
If you aren't climbing while in the gym or at the sport crag, you're probably lounging about waiting to climb again, and for hanging, there is no harness more comfortable than this one. It's so minimal and light that it is hard to notice you even have it on. Ditto when walking about, as there is no bulk to get in your way, and the addition of the Infinity Loop as a belay loop (described more below) means there is no seam to catch with each step, so walking is butter smooth. We found this harness to be very breathable, adding to level of comfort felt while wearing it. Our only complaint is we thought the risers could be slightly longer, or slightly more elastic, but even still, this harness is as mobile as they come.
The airNET has very few features, tailored specifically for gym and sport climbing, where you rarely need to carry much on your harness. It has two very small, thin, and flexible gear loops for carrying quickdraws, combined with two rear gear loops that are thin, flexible webbing. In terms of performance, the gear loops are probably the lowest-performing ones in this review. Practically speaking, they are good enough if you need to hang the draws on your sport proj, but are not even ideal for days where you may be hanging the draws on numerous onsights. Of course, in the gym, you never need to carry anything.
Besides the obvious lack of gear carrying capacity, there are a few notable features. The most interesting is the Infinity Loop, which is a belay loop that is completely seamless. This allows it to circle around inside the tie-in points without ever catching, as large bar-tacked belay loops sometimes do. It also has Dynex reinforced tie in points for greater longevity and features elasticized fixed leg loops, as you would expect. For gym and redpointing, it has all the features you need, but if you intend to do anything else, bring another harness.
When holding your buddy while he or she hangs for a long time, most of their weight is concentrated into the leg loops as they are pulled upward, and the comfort of this arrangement largely derives from how the loops feel as they wrap over the femoral artery on the inside of the leg to join at the belay loop. The leg loops on the airNET taper at this point to be quite thin, and then eventually just webbing, although the webbing has been thoughtfully taped on the edges to lessen the sharpness. That said, the thin webbing can still bite into the crotch pretty easily, making this harness slightly less comfortable to belay in than others with thicker padding at this point. The longer you hold a person, the more noticeably uncomfortable this becomes.
The airNET is the definition of a specialty harness, to the point where standard features found on almost all other harnesses, and that would improve its versatility, have been eliminated. It lacks the amount of gear carrying capacity that one wants and needs for multi-pitch climbs, trad pitches, or ice climbing. Its use is limited pretty much to only sport and gym climbing.
However, there is a sneaky other application for this harness, for which it was not designed — ski mountaineering. Since it is so light and so comfortable and low profile, it could make an excellent harness for long days in the mountains skiing, when you rarely need to have very much clipped to the harness anyway, and mobility and light weight are the most important attributes.
This is one of the most expensive harnesses in this review, likely due to the complications of producing the NET. Since it is so niche, we think there are very few people who will find good value in purchasing this harness. However, for the truly dedicated competition or high-end sport climber, the performance offered is superior, and so that little gain will be worth whatever price one needs to pay.
The Black Diamond airNET was made in collaboration with Adam Ondra and serves as a high-end competition and sport climbing harness. For the very experienced climber looking to shed weight at all costs, it is a very innovative and comfortable addition to the quiver. For the rest of us, a more versatile option with the ability to carry more gear is likely a smarter choice.
— Andy Wellman