In the winter of 2018, Petzl updated their already popular Sama harness, improving the fit and comfort level while holding on to what made it one of our favorites. We now think that it is the best overall harness for climbing that money can buy, and are happy to bestow upon it our Editors' Choice Award for Best All-Around Harness. The Sama is a fixed leg loop harness designed for sport or gym climbing, but also includes a feature set of large gear loops and a rated haul loop that make it an ideal choice for trad cragging or long free routes as well. Whether hanging, climbing, or belaying, it is hard to find a harness more comfortable than the Sama, one of the major reasons it is our highest rated in comparative testing. If you need a new harness versatile enough for all styles of rock climbing, the Sama is where we recommend you begin the search.
Petzl Sama Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Perfect feature set for any style of rock climbing, most comfortable harness for belaying, quite 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 even higher. 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 our Top Pick for Trad and Multi-Pitch Climbing, the Petzl Adjama. They use the same Endoframe technology in the waist belt and leg loops, and are both among the most comfortable tested. The Adjama has a fifth gear loop on the back and much larger front gear loops, as well as adjustable leg loops, which make it bulkier and slightly heavier, but also the logical choice for long free routes where carrying lots of gear is a must. The Sama still has plenty of carrying capacity for long routes as well, and is a more versatile choice. If we only needed a sport climbing harness, we would likely choose the Black Diamond Solution as our first choice. If we mostly go trad and multi-pitch climbing, we would choose the Adjama to buy. But if we enjoy both styles of rock climbing with relative frequency, the Sama is easily the way to go.
When it comes to hanging comfort, the Sama is close to the best. With its newly redesigned fixed leg loops, we find 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 find that this harness certainly has 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 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 or BD Solution. When hanging, we find that the waist belt tends to ride up a bit into our kidneys in a way similar to the Petzl Aquila, but not nearly as severe as we experience with the Petzl Corax. Overall this was one of the "least uncomfortable" harnesses to hang in, pretty much the same as the Adjama.
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, we find that it doesn't sit quite as comfortably underneath a pack's waist belt as the AR-395a. Overall we feel this was one of the weakest aspects of this harness, and it is not nearly as mobile or feather light as the Petzl Sitta.
After using these 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, like the Black Diamond Technician 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, in contrast to the much-too-easily-released buckles found on the Petzl Aquila.
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 of time in the Arc'teryx AR-395a or the Edelrid Zack. In fact, only the BD Solution and of course the very similar Adjama could match it in this department, with a slight edge 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, a large reason why we call it the best "all-around"" option. 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. If we were planning to also do a lot of mountaineering or glacier travel and still only wanted to buy one harness, the one we would choose is the Petzl Sitta, the most versatile of all harnesses but which comes with a very high price tag.
The Petzl Sama is designed to be used primarily for sport climbing and in the gym, and for that purpose it works excellent. However, its comfortable fit and perfectly designed features also mean that it is an ideal choice for long free or alpine rock routes, as well as simple trad cragging. For any style of rock climbing, this harness is an optimal choice. If you are looking for a harness for ice climbing, mountaineering, or alpine mixed climbing, we don't think you should consider the Sama as your first choice, and we direct you instead to the Sitta, Arc'teryx AR-395a or FL-365, or Black Diamond Technician.
The newly re-designed Sama retails for $70, up $5 from the previous version. This makes it about $20 more expensive at retail price than the most affordable choices we reviewed, but 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 the highest rated harness in this review, leading us to award it our Top Overall Award. It is the most versatile climbing harness for rock climbing, and is being sold at a pretty reasonable price considering the performance. 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 while testing it.
— Andy Wellman