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Hands-on Gear Review
Black Diamond Solution Review
Cons: Gear loops are small for carrying a large rack, not very versatile for other styles of climbing
Bottom line: Without doubt the most comfortable harness we have ever worn.
Weight (size medium) (ounces): 12 oz.
Gear Loops: 4
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Solution is the most comfortable harness that we have ever worn. Since our harness ratings are especially heavy on comfort — accounting for 70% of a product's final score when combining comfort while standing, hanging, and belaying — it is no surprise that the Solution was the highest scoring harness in our review. While it doesn't have the absolute widest or most heavily padded waist and leg loops, the Fusion Core Construction disperses a person's weight in a way that was simply unrivaled among its competition. Despite this praise, the Solution will not be the optimal choice for everyone, as its design and feature set are targeted specifically toward sport and gym climbing, eschewing many convenient and necessary features for carrying a large rack or extras up long trad climbs. For this reason, we called it our Best Overall Harness for Sport and Gym climbing, and for these disciplines, don't think you could find a better option.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Black Diamond Solution uses what is termed as Fusion Comfort Construction to create the most comfortable waist belt and leg loops. This design employs three bands of very thin webbing spread out evenly across the waist and legs to more efficiently disperse the pressure generated by hanging or belaying in the harness. While it does pair a thin layer of EVA foam with some breathable mesh to complete the setup, this foam layer is nowhere near as bulky as that found on the Petzl Sama, or even the Black Diamond Chaos. The result of this technology was that it was the most comfortable harness to hang in and belay with, despite costing a significant amount less than many of the other model that we tested.
The only downside that we could find to this harness was the fact that it didn't have larger gear loops to accommodate the amount of gear typically carried when leading long free routes. Instead, it is a sport or gym climber's specialty harness and would work optimally for these disciplines. If you are looking for one single contender that can do everything from sport to trad to ice or alpine climbing, then we would recommend checking out the Arc'teryx AR-395a or Petzl Sama.
The Solution was the highest scorer when it came to hanging comfort in our comparative testing. When hanging while rappelling or at a hanging belay, we have found that the majority of a person's weight will rest on the leg loops where they arc across the back of the hamstrings, while a lesser amount will be supported by the waistband as it cradles the lower back. Therefore, hanging comfort has a large amount to do with the performance of the leg loops.
The super wide leg loops found on the Solution did a better job preventing loss of circulation than any of the others we tested. However, when hanging, the waist belt tended to ride up a bit, putting a bit of pressure on the kidneys. This happened in a lot of harnesses and was still less of an issue than we found on the Black Diamond Momentum. While the waist belt was not quite as comfortable for hanging in as the Arc'teryx AR-395a, the overall comfort level was far superior. Because it was the best but still had a minor flaw, we gave it 9 out of 10 points.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
When it came to standing around or hiking while wearing a harness, absolutely none was better. It fits in a snug but very unobtrusive way, almost never catching your attention. Carrying a lot of weight on it, we noticed no sagging or chafing of any sort, comparable to the comfort level experienced with the Petzl Sama. While wearing a pack, it was no hindrance, as the low profile design easily sat well under the waist belt of our pack without undue pressure.
When it came to mobility, we had little to complain about, but are going to get nitpicky because that's what we do in a comparative test. The riser bungees were slightly tight when raising our legs as high as we could, although this never affected us while climbing. Similarly, with its fixed leg loops, the stretchy elastic provided a slightly snugger fit around our upper legs than we would have if we had the option of adjusting the leg loops ourselves, like we did with the Petzl Aquila. These issues were so minor that they certainly didn't keep it from being the most comfortable but instead limited it to 9 points instead of a perfect 10.
The Solution is a minimally featured harness to maintain a simple setup for sport and gym climbing. It has fewer features than the Black Diamond Chaos or even the Petzl Corax, but we thought they all performed excellently. Its single auto-locking buckle on the waist worked fabulously with nothing left to worry about, and we also liked its heavily reinforced tie-in point, usually the first place to wear out on a sport climbing harness. We also liked how easy the rigid plastic gear loops were for quickly clipping and unclipping biners.
If we had any complaints it would be that the four gear loops are all reasonably small: perfect for carrying a rack of 16 quickdraws, but not as large as the oversized front loops found on the Chaos. It also doesn't have ice clipper slots for winter climbing, and its haul loop is not as large or easy to clip as most others and is likewise not rated. Merely having larger gear loops would have expanded the range of this excellent harness into almost any discipline, but as it stands, it is thus a bit limited.
Comfort while belaying is perhaps a bit overlooked when considering a harness purchase, but it shouldn't be, as this makes up a large part of a harnesses function. There is no doubt that the Solution was once again best in class when it came to providing the "least uncomfortable" belaying situation.
When it comes to holding someone on a top-rope or while hanging for a long time, the critical place of discomfort comes where the leg loops wrap over the femoral artery on the inside of the leg and rise to meet the belay loop. With the widest and most comfortably constructed leg loops, it shouldn't be a surprise that the Solution performed so well. By comparison, the AR-395a has thin straps at this critical point that felt like they were gouging into us, while the high end BD Chaos was also comfy, but just not quite the same. We once again awarded 9 out of 10 for belaying comfort.
If there is one aspect we wish that we could change about this harness, it would be to make it more versatile. As it is, we had no choice but to rank it at the bottom of the pile.
The Solution's fixed leg loops, small gear loops, small haul loop, and lack of ice clipper slots all limit its use. This harness is best purchased by someone who spends 90% or more of their time at the sport crag or in the gym. It can be called into service for a bit of trad cragging or ice climbing if needed, but just isn't as optimal a choice for those disciplines as the Sama or AR-395a.
The Solution is designed for sport and gym climbing, and these will be its best uses. It can be used from time-to-time for single pitch trad or ice climbing but is lacking in the features most users would want for those styles. It is very light and easily packable, and with its great comfort could be a serviceable harness for mountaineering walk-ups. We would not recommend it for multi-pitch trad routes, or for alpine rock or mixed climbing.
The Solution retails for $70. This checks in at around $20 more expensive than the cheapest options, but $90 cheaper than the most expensive harness that we tested. Since we think it is the best harness you can buy, we are happy that it comes at a relatively affordable price tag and think it presents great value.
The Black Diamond Solution is the most comfortable and lightest harness that we tested for this review, and was also the highest overall scorer. As such, we feel like it is the absolute best choice for climbers who primarily sport or gym climb. We also liked that it comes at a relatively affordable price compared to most companies' "high end" versions, and thus wholeheartedly endorse it.
— Andy Wellman
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