Black Diamond Solution Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Unrivaled comfort while belaying, hanging, or chilling, super light, affordable
Cons: Gear loops are small for carrying a large rack, not very versatile for other styles of climbing
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Solution uses what is called 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 comparable Petzl harnesses. The result of this technology is that it's the most comfortable harness to hang in and for hanging out, and second-best for belaying, despite costing a significant amount less than many of the other models that we tested.
The only downside that we can find to this harness is the fact that it doesn'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 works optimally for these disciplines.
In mid-2019, Black Diamond released the new Solution Guide harness, replacing the old Chaos in its lineup. This harness is essentially an adapted Solution, built with a slightly wider waist belt, larger front gear loops, an added fifth gear loop on the back, and more durable fabric. While it costs a bit more, it IS the perfect Solution for long multi-pitch routes and trad cragging.
The Solution is the highest scorer when it comes to hanging comfort in our comparative testing. When hanging while rappelling or at a hanging belay, we have found that a person's weight will rest roughly equally on the leg loops where they arc across the back of the hamstrings and the waistband as it cradles the lower back. Therefore, hanging comfort has a large amount to do with the performance of both the waist belt and the leg loops.
The super wide leg loops found on the Solution do a better job preventing loss of circulation than any of the others we tested. However, when hanging, the waist belt tends to ride up a bit, putting a bit of pressure on the kidneys. This happens in a lot of harnesses and is still less of an issue than we found on less expensive BD harnesses.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
When it comes to standing around or hiking while wearing a harness, this harness easily ranks among the best. It fits in a snug but very unobtrusive way, almost never catching your attention. Carrying a lot of weight on it, we notice no sagging or chafing of any sort. While wearing a pack, it is no hindrance, as the low profile design easily sits well under the waist belt of our pack without undue pressure.
When it comes to mobility, we have little to complain about but are going to get nitpicky because that's what we do in a comparative test. The riser bungees are slightly tight when raising our legs as high as we can, although this never affected us while climbing. Similarly, with its fixed leg loops, the stretchy elastic provides a slightly snugger fit around our upper legs than we would have if we had the option of adjusting the leg loops ourselves. These issues are so minor that they certainly don't keep it from being one the most comfortable.
The Solution is a minimally featured harness to maintain a simple setup for sport and gym climbing. It has fewer features than nearly any other harness, but we think they all perform excellently. Its single auto-locking buckle on the waist works fabulously, and we also like its heavily reinforced tie-in point, usually the first place to wear out on a sport climbing harness. We also like how easy the rigid plastic gear loops are for quickly clipping and unclipping quickdraws, and found that despite the fact these have been shrunk even smaller on the latest version, they are still very easy to clip.
If we have any complaints, it would be that the four gear loops are all small: perfect for carrying a rack of 16 quickdraws, but not as large as the oversized front loops found on the Solution Guide. 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 is comfortable for this purpose, but in the end, this is the only comfort-related grading metric where we feel the Petzl options are unquestionably better.
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 Arc'teryx models have thin straps at this critical point that feel like they are gouging into us.
If there is one aspect we wish that we could change about this harness, it would be to make it more versatile. BD heard our complaints and added both the Technician for ice and mixed climbing and the Solution Guide to their line-up. As only being fit for sport climbing, this is one of the least versatile choices you could make.
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 an optimal of a choice for those disciplines.
The Solution retails for a surprisingly low price, considering how well it performs. While it's a little more expensive than the cheapest options, it's still far cheaper than the most expensive harness that we tested. Since we think it is the best sport climbing 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 harness that we tested for this review, and was also one of the highest overall scorers. As such, we feel like it is the absolute best choice for climbers who primarily sport or gym climb. We also like that it comes at a relatively affordable price compared to most companies' "high end" versions, and thus wholeheartedly endorse it.
— Andy Wellman