Petzl Sama Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Perfect feature set for any style of rock climbing, most comfortable harness for belaying, affordable
Cons: No ice clipper slots, not the lightest
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The changes made to the newest version of the Petzl Sama are unquestionably improvements that helped boost our opinion of this harness. Most noticeable is a shift away from the dreadfully ugly old bright orange colors to a soft grey denim-esque fabric pattern that looks both fashionable and unassuming. Also reworked is the elasticized section of the fixed leg loops that now include a larger, looser fit that is more comfortable and allows for greater mobility without constriction. The leg loops have also been made slightly thinner and less bulky, and have a tapered design toward the front that makes this the single most comfy harness for extended belay duty. Lastly, the configuration of the waist belt has changed, with larger rigid front gear loops than before, rear gear loops that are closer to the front for easier access, an easier to clip haul loop, and a removal of the ice clipper slots.
This harness is very similar to the Petzl Adjama. They both use the same Endoframe technology in the waist belt, and leg loops and are both among the most comfortable tested. Although it lacks the large fifth gear loop, the Sama has plenty of carrying capacity for long routes and is a more versatile choice. While there may be better choices if you are strictly focused on buying a harness for sport climbing, or strictly for trad climbing, there is no doubt that if you enjoy both styles of rock climbing with relative frequency, the Sama is a good way to go. Furthermore, it provides excellent value considering its relatively low price.
When it comes to hanging comfort, the Sama is close to the best. With its fixed leg loops, the majority of our body weight feels reasonably well distributed across our legs. The truth is that no harness is super comfortable to hang in for very long, but we find that this harness certainly has more comfy leg loops than the vast majority of the competition.
When hanging at a belay or on route or while rappelling, we estimate that the leg loops hold roughly half of your weight, and the other half 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 padded on the inside, and the result is quite comfortable, but not quite as form-fitting as the less padded, wider waist belts found on the Arc'teryx harnesses that we've tested. When hanging, the waist belt tends to ride up a bit into our kidneys, although some other harnesses are certainly worse in this regard. Overall this was one of the "least uncomfortable" harnesses to hang in.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
The newly designed fixed leg loops on this harness are noticeably more comfortable than the previous (orange) version, allowing for a much wider range of un-constricted mobility, as well as accommodating climbers with thicker thighs better than before.
When holding a full rack on the gear loops, the extra weight produces no sagging, nor does it cause the waist belt to drop away from the waist at all. However, with its bulkier padded waist belt, it doesn't sit quite as comfortably underneath a pack's waist belt as those harnesses with unpadded waist belts. We feel this was one of the weakest aspects of this harness, and it is not nearly as mobile or featherlight as the very lightest options.
After testing harnesses at climbing areas across the country, we conclude that the Sama has the best feature set of any harness we tested. While it no longer has any ice clipper slots or adjustable leg loops, we never-the-less cannot find anything to complain about with any of its features.
We love 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. Finally, its single auto-locking waist buckle is simple to use and works great.
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 while standing. With its newly designed, thinner, and perfectly tapered leg loops, there is no doubt that the Sama is the most comfortable harness that we tested for logging belay duty.
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 doesn't allow for the gouging we feel while belaying for long periods in less comfortable options. In fact, very few other harnesses could match it in this department, with the overall highest score going to the Sama.
When it comes to versatility, the Sama is one of our top choices. It is one of the most versatile rock climbing harnesses. Our only knock against its versatility was that it employs fixed leg loops instead of adjustable ones and that it no longer has ice clipper slots, which are very handy to have when ice climbing. That said, Petzl now has the Caritool EVO ice tool clippers, which work with this harness by attaching to the entire waist belt, rather than needing specific slots.
The Sama's large gear loops, easy to clip haul loop, and exceptional comfort made this harness an excellent choice for any style of rock climbing, and make it a great choice for climbers who only want to buy one harness, but never want to be held back.
The Sama is genuinely affordable. While it is slightly more expensive at retail price than the most affordable choices we reviewed, it is still far more affordable than the collection of purported "high end" harnesses available today. As the cream of this crop, you will certainly find good value in this purchase.
The Petzl Sama is one of the highest-rated harnesses in this review, and combined with its low price, is an easy choice for our Best Bang for the Buck Award. It is versatile for rock climbing and is sold at a pretty reasonable price when you consider the performance it offers. The new improvements will be appreciated by both longtime users and those climbers new to this harness, and we had a nearly impossible time finding anything that could be improved upon.
— Andy Wellman