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Black Diamond Solution Guide Review

An extremely versatile harness ideal for multi-pitch rock climbs
Black Diamond Solution Guide
Photo: Black Diamond
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $100 List | $99.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable to hang in, increased carrying capacity, durable, mobile
Cons:  Not as comfortable as Solution for long belay sessions, no ice clipper slots
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 12, 2019
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 12
  • Hanging Comfort - 35% 9
  • Standing Comfort and Mobility - 20% 6
  • Features - 20% 7
  • Belaying Comfort - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Solution Guide is our favorite harness specifically for trad and multi-pitch climbing because it combines the incredible comfort of the BD Solution with a design and feature set optimized for all-day comfort and carrying a large rack. It has oversized front gear loops for loading up on cams, as well as a large and flexible fifth gear loop in the back that easily holds shoes, water, a windbreaker, and any other extra gear you may need to carry. It is also made entirely of "Super Fabric," a tough and very durable fabric that lived up to our tests. At a relatively affordable price, this is the best harness for tackling long routes, or simply plugging cams for the day at the crag, and is plenty versatile to be used sport or gym climbing as well.

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Pros Comfortable to hang in, increased carrying capacity, durable, mobileVery comfortable, improved leg loop design, plenty of gear loop storage, versatile for all types of climbingPerfect set of features, lightweight, comfortable, affordableVery light, super packable, most mobile, versatile for all types of climbingPerfect feature set for any style of rock climbing, most comfortable harness for belaying, affordable
Cons Not as comfortable as Solution for long belay sessions, no ice clipper slotsNot very light, higher priceNot the most comfortable for long belay sessionsExpensive, not as comfortable for prolonged hangingNo ice clipper slots, not the lightest
Bottom Line Comfortable for hanging belays and holds a lot of gear really well, the ideal attributes for a multi-pitch harnessSport, gym, alpine, ice, mountaineering – you name the style and this harness proves to be an ideal fitIf you want one harness that will perform awesome no matter what style of climbing you are doing, this is that harnessSurprisingly comfortable despite its lightweight constructionFashionable, comfortable, and sports a perfect set of features
Rating Categories Black Diamond Solution Guide Arc'teryx C-Quence Edelrid Sendero Petzl Sitta Petzl Sama
Hanging Comfort (35%)
9
8
8
6
8
Standing Comfort And Mobility (20%)
6
8
7
9
5
Features (20%)
7
8
9
9
7
Belaying Comfort (15%)
6
9
6
6
9
Versatility (10%)
7
8
8
10
7
Specs Black Diamond... Arc'teryx C-Quence Edelrid Sendero Petzl Sitta Petzl Sama
Designed for these disciplines Sport, trad, multi-pitch Rock, Ice, Alpine Sport, lightweight alpine, trad trad, sport, mountaineering Sport, indoor, trad
Weight (size medium) 14.1 oz 13.3 oz. 11.6 oz 9.7 oz 13.7 oz
Gear Loops 5 5 5 4 4
Haul Loop Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjustable Legs? No, elastic No Yes No, elastic No, elastic
Self-locking buckle? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ice Clipper Slots? No Yes - 4 Yes - 2 Yes - 2 No, but works with Caritool EVO
Waist Belt Construction Super Fabric Contoured WST (Warp Strength Technology) Soft frame construction with 3D mesh padding WireFrame: support and weight distribution w/o use of foam Double webbing strips padded with EndoFrame technology
Waist Size Ranges (inches) 24-39 in (M)32-34.5 inches (L) 35-38.5 inches 27.5-33.5 (S), 29.5-35.4 (M), 31.5-37.4 (L) 26-30 (S), 29-33 (M), 32-36 (L) 28-30 (S), 30-33 (M), 33-36 (L), 36-39 (XL)

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Solution Guide was released in early 2019 and now stands as Black Diamond's flagship trad and multi-pitch harness, replacing the old Chaos, which is no longer available. As a modified riff on the very popular BD Solution, our favorite harness for sport climbing, it is impossible not to contrast and compare the two. Essentially the Solution Guide is the same as the Solution, with a few noticeable changes that increase its performance for long routes.

It has a slightly wider waist belt, especially in the back, for diffusing the load during long hangs at belays or for long rappelling sessions. It also has two larger front gear loops and an added fifth gear loop in the back that dramatically increases its carrying capacity. It's made with durable Super Fabric, featuring little plastic "protection shields" woven into the nylon fabrics that increase durability. And finally, the elastic leg loop design is ever so slightly different from the Solution.

Performance Comparison


The Solution Guide is an ideal harness for getting high off the...
The Solution Guide is an ideal harness for getting high off the deck, no matter what sort of protection you are using. It is ideal for long multi-pitch and trad routes, although is perfectly versatile for use at the sport crag as well. Here hoping not to take the whip on one of the many stunning aretes at Smith Rock -- Kings of Rap.

Hanging Comfort


The Solution Guide uses Black Diamond's Fusion Comfort Technology in both the waist belt and leg loops, comprised of three flat strips of webbing spread out and covered in minimal padding to help provide a wider area for diffusing the climber's load through the harness. This design is very low profile and uses almost no thick foam padding, while also being the most comfortable design found on any harness, in our experience.


Comfort while hanging is critical for a multi-pitch harness, as you never know how long you may have to spend at a hanging belay. Hanging in this harness is more comfortable than virtually any other, as the load is spread out evenly between the legs and lower back. We noticed that the waist belt does compress a bit, riding up to apply pressure over the top of our iliac crest over time, but far less egregiously so than the competition. The fat leg loops are also comfortable to hang in, although if we hung in the same position for too long without moving, we noticed our circulation started to get cut off, a problem easily remedied by shifting around a bit. As we have stated many times, hanging for long periods in a harness is not comfortable, but in the Solution Guide, it is less so than almost any other choice.

Check out how fat the waist belt is, significantly more so than on...
Check out how fat the waist belt is, significantly more so than on the regular Solution. There is also a bit of added foam padding on the inside. This is easily one of the most comfortable harnesses for hanging in.

Standing Comfort and Mobility


This is a very comfortable harness to hang out in, and also provides excellent mobility due to its thin design and low profile. Should you need to wear a pack over the top of this harness, the very thin waist belt sits comfortably underneath pack straps, and while the gear loops are made of rigid molded plastic that stick out, they will flatten out if need be.


The comfort of this harness is one of the main reasons we love it so much. However, if we are choosing to be nitpicky, we could say that the leg loops do rub together a little bit as we walk around, and sometimes they don't lay flat against the inside of the legs, causing them to catch on each other. We have noticed this a few times over the few months we have been testing, but can honestly say it affects performance close to zero and is simply a very minor and occasional annoyance.

There is likely no other harness more comfortable for spending a day...
There is likely no other harness more comfortable for spending a day at the crag than this one. It is also highly mobile, both attributes which make it a good choice for wearing all day.

Features


Overall, the feature set found on the Solution Guide is sleek and simple in a way that minimizes bulk while offering exactly what is needed for traditional or multi-pitch climbing. It does not have adjustable leg loops or ice clipper slots, though and is not the best choice for ice, mixed, or alpine mixed climbing. However, its low profile features mean that they don't hinder performance for sport climbing.


The front gear loops are larger than the back ones, so can hold more...
The front gear loops are larger than the back ones, so can hold more items easily. These gear loops are rigid molded plastic which is very easy to clip and unclip, but which don't sit right next to the body, and so provide a higher profile. You can also see how the tail end of the waist belt webbing is held out of the way by sewn straps.

It has five gear loops total, with four rigid molded plastic ones, two on each side, that stick out a bit from the body and have a flat, horizontal orientation. These are some of the easiest gear loops to clip and unclip carabiners from, and their flat design means that the carabiners don't crowd on top of each other, even when super loaded up. The front two gear loops are slightly larger and allow for greater storage than the back two. The fifth gear loop is flexible and spans the entire backside of the harness, making it a great place to stash extras like a windbreaker or small water bottle.

The fifth gear loop is a flexible black loop that is accessible by...
The fifth gear loop is a flexible black loop that is accessible by either hand. We find this is an ideal place for clipping shoes and a windbreaker on multi-pitch routes. You can also see the haul loop, which is not rated, and the easy to unclip elastic leg risers that use a hook to join the waist belt.

There is a dedicated haul loop in the back, although it is not rated, and shouldn't be trusted to hold a fall. The tie in points and belay loop are reinforced for longer wear, and the durability of the entire harness is greatly enhanced by the use of Super Fabric, meaning it won't quickly fray if you like chimneying or climbing offwidths in the Creek regularly. The leg loops are non-adjustable but have a wide range of elastic stretch, and the large, doubled-back waist belt buckle is a cinch to use. For its intended purpose, the features found on this harness are spot on and work great.

Belaying Comfort


We have noticed that when belaying someone for a long period, especially if they are hanging a lot or top-roping, the comfort of a harness depends on the design of the leg loops as they wrap around the inside of the legs. Unfortunately, the design on this harness in this critical spot is slightly different than the regular Solution and is not quite as comfortable. In particular, the very wide and minimally padded leg loops taper down to be very thin, where the strip of webbing exits and rises to meet at the belay loop.


While putting in extended top-rope belay sessions for our friends while they worked new projects, we noticed that this thin and tapered area certainly digs into our crotch, and grows more and more uncomfortable as time goes on. The good news is that this rarely happens when lead belaying, or when climbing a multi-pitch route, where extended top-rope sessions are not common.

Top rope belaying can really test the comfort level of a harness...
Top rope belaying can really test the comfort level of a harness, especially on the inside of the legs. Unfortunately, we didn't find this one to be the most comfortable because the leg loops easily dug in, but this was only an issue if we belayed for far too long anyway.

Versatility


The Solution Guide is designed expressly for trad climbing and multi-pitch rock climbs, and for this, it works like a dream. It is also versatile enough to use regularly while sport climbing or at the gym, since its added features do little to increase bulk or weight. At 14.1 ounces for a size medium, it is neither super light, nor very heavy, and falls right into the narrow range of weight that we found most harnesses also live in.


This harness packs down reasonably small, so it isn't too difficult to find room for in an overstuffed pack, although the rigid plastic gear loops do make it a bit bulkier than comparable Petzl models. The only types of climbing we don't find it appropriate for are alpine mixed and ice, as well as mountaineering, as it has no ice clipper slots and many people also appreciate adjustable leg loops for these pursuits.

For any type of rock climbing, this is one of the most versatile...
For any type of rock climbing, this is one of the most versatile choices. We loved hooking it up with a full rack of cams to tackle splitters at Trout Creek. It has no ice clipper slots though, and fixed leg loops, so its versatility wouldn't extend to ice or mixed climbing.

Value


This harness costs roughly 30% more than the standard Solution, if you are paying retail prices. For those who like to trad and multi-pitch frequently, the expanded feature set is worth the slight increase in price, and the quality is top-notch. From this perspective, we think it presents great value, and note that it is our favorite choice for this purpose. However, it's a bit more expensive than the most comparable Petzl model, but still quite a lot cheaper than a similar Arc'teryx harness, so the value may also be dependent on which brand you most prefer.

While it costs a bit more than other highly versatile harnesses, we...
While it costs a bit more than other highly versatile harnesses, we still think this one presents good value, especially because of its increased durability.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Solution Guide is our favorite choice for traditional and multi-pitch climbing because it best meets the needs for these disciplines — increased gear carrying capacity, durability, great hanging comfort — better than the competition. We also think it presents a great value and is versatile enough to be used at the crag for sport climbing as well. If you love the Solution but want larger gear loops, the Solution Guide is a perfect choice.

With a super comfortable fit that is highly mobile, we loved...
With a super comfortable fit that is highly mobile, we loved stemming up dihedrals in the Solution Guide.

Andy Wellman