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Hands-on Gear Review
Petzl Sama Review
Cons: Padding on waist and legs a bit bulky, not quite as mobile as others
Bottom line: A very comfortable harness that can do it all and carries a rack really well.
While Petzl calls their Sama harness ideal for sport climbing, we found it to be the best choice for traditional climbing as well. With four larger than average gear loops, an easy to clip haul loop, and heavily padded leg loops and waist belt that made it quite comfortable for hanging, no other harness offered such versatility combined with great comfort. As the second highest scorer in our review, we recognized it as the Best Overall Harness for Trad Climbing, but think it works equally as well for clipping bolts. If you are looking for an extremely comfortable harness that can also hold an entire double set of cams, we encourage you to begin your search with the Sama.
RELATED REVIEW: The 8 Best Climbing Harnesses
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Petzl Sama was the second overall highest scorer in our testing, and we awarded it our Editors' Choice Award for Best Trad Climbing Harness. The truth is, this harness is very versatile and can be used equally as well whether plugging cams into cracks at Indian Creek or clipping bolts in Maple Canyon. It uses Petzl's Endoframe technology in the waist belt to help distribute a climber's weight when hanging. While this dual-strap system was indeed effective and comfortable, the extra foam padding made it feel slightly bulkier and less mobile than our Editors' Choice Award winner for Sport and Gym Climbing, the Black Diamond Solution.
What set it apart from that harness was merely the fact that the gear loops are significantly larger, plenty big enough to rack up all the cams you might need no matter what your climb. And while we found it to be extremely versatile, it wasn't as low-profile or easy to pack as our Top Pick for Versatility, the Arc'teryx AR-395a, which was better while carrying a pack and also had adjustable leg loops. If you want the most comfortable harness you can buy and love to place your gear, then this is the harness we recommend for you.
When it came to hanging comfort, the Sama ranked up there with the best. With its very fat and heavily padded fixed leg loops, we found that the majority of our body weight felt reasonably well distributed across our legs. The truth is that no harness is super comfortable to hang in for very long, but we found that this harness certainly had more comfy leg loops than the Arc'teryx AR-395a.
When hanging at a belay or on route, or while rappelling, we estimate that the leg loops will hold 60% of your weight, and the other 40% rests on the lower back supported by the waist belt. The Endoframe construction of this waist belt is essentially a very fat strap that runs across the top, with a much smaller subsidiary strap that splits off to the bottom of the waist belt to help with load distribution. These two straps are heavily padded on the inside, and the result is quite comfortable, but not quite as form fitting as the thinner, fatter waist belts found on the Arc'teryx or BD Solution. When hanging, we found that the waist belt tended ride up a bit into our kidneys in a way similar to the Petzl Aquila, but not nearly as severe as we experienced with the Petzl Corax. Overall this was one of the "least uncomfortable" harnesses to hang in, and so we gave it 8 out of 10 points.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
When standing around, the Sama hugs the body snugly and comfortably but offers a significantly more noticeable presence than we experienced with the Solution. When holding a full rack on the gear loops, the extra weight produced no sagging, nor did it cause the waist belt to drop away from the waist at all, and this was the most comfortable harness we tested for this purpose, a significant reason why we awarded it best Trad Climbing Harness. With its bulkier waist belt, we found that it didn't sit quite as comfortably underneath a pack's waist belt as the AR-395a.
This harness has fixed, non-adjustable leg loops that were a bit snugger than some of the others we tested. They were tighter than the legs on the Black Diamond Chaos, but seemed to allow for more significant unimpeded movement of the legs in all directions. Regardless, exactly how they fit on you depends mostly on the shape of your body, and so it's probably a good idea to try fixed leg loop harnesses on before buying. The tighter than average legs combined with the bulky padding forced us to rate it at a mere 6 out of 10 when it came to standing comfort and mobility.
After using these harnesses at climbing areas across the country, we concluded that the Sama has the best feature set of any harness we tested. While it doesn't have quite as many ice clipper slots as the Arc'teryx AR-395a or adjustable leg loops, we never-the-less could not find anything to complain about with any of its features.
We loved how the tie-in point is specially reinforced with slippery polyethylene fiber, and that the lower tie-in loop has a red wear indicator that lets you know when you need to move on to a new relationship, uh, harness. It has two gear loops on each side, with the front ones offering convenient rigid clip-ability, and the rear ones providing a more considerable amount of space for all-day adventure essentials.
The haul loop is easy to blindly clip and go, and two ice clipper slots give versatility to the winter climber. Finally, its single auto-locking waist buckle was simple to use and worked great, in contrast to the much-too-easily-released buckles found on the Petzl Aquila. Overall we thought this harness had nearly perfect features and gave it 9 out of 10
With nearly a lifetime of experience holding the rope for other people, we have learned that harness comfort while belaying has a large part to do with how the leg loops sit against the inside of your legs. With its large, well-padded leg loops, the Sama was the second comfiest in our dedicated belay comfort testing.
Despite the design that has the leg loops pinching down to a thin connector as it rides around the inside of the leg and over the femoral artery, the shape didn't allow for the gouging we felt while belaying for long periods of time in the Arc'teryx AR-395a or the Edelrid Zack. In fact, only the BD Solution outmatched it in this department, so we gave it 8 out of 10 points.
When it came to versatility, the Sama was one of our top choices, behind only our Top Pick for Versatility, the Arc'teryx AR-395a. Our only knock against it was that it employed fixed leg loops instead of adjustable ones.
Large gear loops, an easy to clip haul loop, and dual ice clipper slots, made this harness an excellent choice for most styles of climbing, and make it a great choice for climbers who only want to buy one harness, but never want to be held back.
As one of the most versatile harnesses that we tested, as well as one of the most comfortable, this harness, is great for most climbing disciplines. As the Best Overall Harness for trad climbing, we think it's an optimal choice for either single pitch trad cragging or multi-pitch adventures. It's a fantastic choice for gym or sport climbing, and also makes a great ice harness. While it will certainly work for alpine mixed and mountaineering, it wouldn't be our first choice due to the bulkiness of the waist belt sitting under pack straps.
This harness retails for $65. It is slightly more expensive than the most affordable choices that we reviewed but far less expensive than some "high end" harnesses. Since it was one of our highest scorers and comes at a reasonable price, we think it is a good value.
The Petzl Sama is our Editors' Choice for Trad Climbing because it is very comfortable and has all the features and gear storage capabilities needed for carrying an entire rack. It is also one of the most versatile harnesses we tested and makes a great choice for clipping bolts or getting a workout in the gym. Our only complaint is that it features more bulky padding than some, but this doesn't affect how well it climbs. For a great harness for all styles of climbing, we heartily recommend the Sama.
— Andy Wellman
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