Petzl Sitta Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Very light, super packable, most mobile, versatile for all types of climbing
Cons: Expensive, not as comfortable for prolonged hanging
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sitta is remarkable because it remains very comfortable even though it is so thin and meager. Its light weight and total lack of bulk translate directly into comfort and freedom of movement when climbing and on the ground, making it an ideal choice for alpine climbing and mountaineering, but in no way excluding it from use for sport or trad cragging, where it also shines. It is made so light by using Petzl's Wireframe construction, which means that it has many thin pieces of polyethylene (dyneema) cord arranged in parallel through the waistbelt and leg loops, which serve to diffuse the weight of the climber.
You can see these orange cords through the thin white fabric on the outside of the waistbelt, and this design is not totally unlike the Fusion Comfort Construction found in the comfortable Black Diamond harnesses, which use strips of thin webbing instead of cord to accomplish the same effect. Regardless, the waist and legs are unpadded, also aiding in the low bulk feeling that is noticeable in comparison to highly padded waist belts found on many less expensive models, and makes it both more mobile while climbing and less intrusive to walk or hike in. Despite its lack of padding, this harness is our first choice for alpine climbing and mountaineering, and we also loved wearing it on a sport climbing trip to the overhanging limestone of Spain.
Despite its thinness and lack of padding, the Sitta is surprisingly comfortable to hang in. The thin leg loops cut off circulation to our lower legs slightly more than most of the harnesses we tested, a problem common to all harnesses if you hang out long enough, but that is just about the only complaint we have. The Wireframe construction is very effective at spreading out the load, and we also find that the thin waist belt means that it doesn't ride up as high over our kidneys or lower ribs while hanging, and so isn't as uncomfortable as some of the fatter waist belts we tested.
We don't think the "lack" of hanging comfort is any reason to dissuade one from using this harness on long multi-pitch routes that have hanging belays. That said, it is not as comfortable to hang in as the other, less expensive Petzl harnesses, which use a fatter, more padded waist belt and leg loops made with Endoframe technology.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
The Sitta is the most mobile harness in this review and the most comfortable to wear while hanging out or hiking. Its lack of bulk is highly noticeable, and indeed compared to many of the other harnesses, it hardly feels like we are wearing anything at all. The waist belt is very thin and sits flat against the body, and the rear gear loops are also flexible and rest against the body, ensuring comfort when worn with a pack.
The leg loops are not adjustable, but have a very wide expansion range of elastic, so that they are comfortable to wear regardless of how many layers of clothing one has on. For us, they feel far different and less noticeable, in a good way, than the snugger auto-cinching elastic leg loops on a comparable Arc'teryx harness. For hanging out around the crag, roped scrambling, or roped glacier travel, the comfort of the Sitta cannot be beaten.
The Sitta ranks at the top when it comes to the performance of its features. We love how there are three keeper loops for the tail end of the waist belt webbing, so that no matter what your waist size, there is no tail dangling into your gear. We also like how the two front gear loops are rigid, easy to clip, very large, and have two moveable dividers that help you to more easily sort gear on your harness. For example, you can rack cams in front of the dividers and slings behind, making it easier to quickly grab the piece of gear you need without having them crowd on each other.
Like most Petzl harnesses, the Sitta has large, flexible rear gear loops that sit flat against the body, so they don't get in the way of wearing a pack, as well as a flat rear gear loop big enough for carrying shoes. It has two ice clipper slots, one on each side, to accommodate ice and alpine climbing as well. There are truly no features we feel are missing from this harness that would make it better, and the ones it has work as well as they possibly can.
Due to its very thin leg loops, thinner than on any other harness, the Sitta is not the most comfortable harness for putting in extended belay duty. Of course, no harness is truly comfortable for this task, but our Editors' Choice winner is certainly more comfortable if a lot of top rope or hangdog belaying is in your future.
We have found that when holding someone while belaying, the forces are localized on the inside of the leg loops where they wrap over the femoral artery region, and in this area, the Sitta leg loops are very narrow. While there are no sharp-ish edges that bite into our crotch, nevertheless, the forces are focused due to the narrowness so that it feels less comfortable than wider, softer leg loops do.
This harness is the most versatile one we have ever tested. It is capable of everything that the far larger and bulkier Arc'teryx harnesses are, but is far lighter, more mobile, and easier to carry, making it an even better consideration for alpine climbing and any adventure where you need to do a long approach. Its light weight and mobility also make it a better choice for sport climbing, and indeed we often see people sport climbing in this harness at the crag.
One downside compared to other versatile options is the lack of adjustable leg loops. However, among the fixed leg loops harnesses tested, this one has by far the largest range of stretch, and we appreciate the weight and bulk savings by not having two extra buckles and webbing on our legs. If you truly want only one harness that is an ideal choice for any style of climbing, the Sitta is your best bet.
This harness retails for far more than any other harness in this review. If you want a high performing, serviceable harness for the least amount of money, then look towards one of our other award winners instead. However, considering its distinct advantages, we still think the Sitta presents good value, just not for those who are on a budget.
The Petzl Sitta is the most versatile harness that we have tested, in large part due to its extremely light weight and amazing packability. Not only do these qualities make it a great choice for alpine and mountaineering expeditions when all weight must be carried in, but they also add to its mobility. We found nothing about this harness that we didn't like, except its price tag, but sometimes you need to pay more to get the best.
— Andy Wellman