Black Diamond Solution Guide Review
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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Black Diamond Solution Guide wins our Top Pick award 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.
— Andy Wellman