Want to know what is the best climbing harness? Our expert climbers have worn and tested over 40 different models in the past nine years, so we have a good idea which are the best choices. Our 2020 review features 12 of the very best you can buy, with ideal all-around options, top alpine selections, great harnesses for simple sport and trad cragging, and even for the gym. We've tested and rated every harness for comfort while hanging, standing, and belaying, as well as for the excellence of their features and for how versatile they are. Whether you like pulling on small crimps while clipping bolts, plugging cams into splitter cracks, or summiting large mountains in remote wilderness, this review will help you find the best harness for your climbing dreams and adventures.Related: Best Climbing Harnesses for Women
Best Climbing Harness of 2020
Best All-Around Harness
The Arc'teryx C-Quence is their first new harness design in many years, and is a successful all-around model that improves on many of the popular Arc'teryx features, such as the Warp Strength Technology waistbelt design. This waistbelt sits flat against the body and has minimal to no padding inside of it, but disburses the weight of a climber over the entire area of waist and leg loops to greatly increase comfort while also reducing bulk and heat trapped by foam cushioning. Compared to previous Arc'teryx models with similar designs, the waist belt is not nearly as broad, and is even more comfortable. It also comes with tons of clipping space for draws and cams on four easy to clip plastic molded gear loops, and a fifth gear loop for extras in the back. The fixed leg loop design is low bulk, while having the ability to stretch to a much wider fit to easily accommodate added clothing. These leg loops are far more comfortable than all other Arc'teryx designs we have tested in the past, especially for belaying, effectively fixing what was our number one complaint with the design of the AR-395a.
Like most Arc'teryx products in general, and harnesses in particular, this one is fairly pricey. That said, it isn't their most expensive harness, and virtually everyone we know who owns one is happy regardless of the purchase price. We were also surprised to learn that our size medium weighed 13.3 ounces, which is on the heavier side of the spectrum, and not nearly as light as the super thin construction would lead us to believe. Despite these qualms, we think this is easily one of the most comfortable harnesses you can buy, and is very well suited for absolutely any climbing activity. Use it for cragging or in the gym, long trad routes, alpine adventures, frozen pillars, or even glacier walk ups, and you won't be disappointed.
Read review: Arc'teryx C-Quence
Best at Blending Comfort and Light Weight
The Sendero is a new harness from Edelrid that does a fantastic job blending comfort with lightweight construction, in a package that makes it an ideal fit for any style of climbing. We think so highly of it that we are happy to call it the best all-around harness. In particular, we like how light it is, even considering the adjustable leg loop buckles that ensure it fits properly while wearing any amount of clothing. We also dig the rigid flat gear loops that are easy to clip and durable, as well as the fifth loop in the back that ensures that we have plenty of room for all the essentials on a long climb. The two very low profile ice clipper slots don't interfere with the gear loops at all, which once again adds to the versatility. All of this comes at a pretty reasonable price.
While we have few complaints, one would be that the waist belt doesn't breath quite as well as some super light options, so you can still expect to get a little sweaty when climbing on the hottest days. We also don't find the leg loop design to be the absolute most comfortable for long belay sessions, but we didn't find its performance to be totally out of line with other top choices. While this harness isn't out top choice specifically for either sport or trad climbing, we think it does both better than any other option, at a lighter weight, which makes it an excellent all-around choice.
Read review: Edelrid Sendero
Best Bang for the Buck
The Petzl Sama is a great choice for pretty much any kind of rock climbing. While there are other, less expensive harnesses available, the performance they offer is nowhere near that of the super comfortable Sama, and it's still a bit cheaper than most other alternatives, ensuring it's a great value. Whether one is hanging out that the base of a crag, or hanging at belays many pitches off the ground, this is one comfortable harness. We also love how the elastic fixed leg loops allow for greatly increased mobility without any noticeable constrictions of movement. Although it's designed primarily for sport climbing, we also think it's a solid choice for trad climbing because of the wide and rigid front gear loops, combined with large and easy to access rear gear loops that give one plenty of room for storing all of the long route necessities.
Nothing is ever truly perfect, however, and the Sama still comes with a couple of tiny flaws. In some instances, we found the Black Diamond Solution to be a hair more comfortable. The Sama also weighs a couple of ounces more than the lightest harnesses that we tested, and we would really love it if it included a larger, but still low profile, fifth gear loop in the back. It also isn't a great choice for alpine and ice climbing due to a lack of ice clipper slots. Whether you prefer plugging cams, clipping bolts, or hanging at the gym, and especially if you prefer all of the above at an affordable price, the Sama will not disappoint.
Read review: Petzl Sama
Most Comfortable Harness for Sport Climbing
Black Diamond Solution
Looking for the most comfortable harness you can find, regardless of whether you are belaying your buddy for hours on his project, hanging and repeatedly falling as you suss out the crux moves, or simply hanging out at the base of the crag day after day? Look no further than the Black Diamond Solution. It features a thin and lightly padded waist belt that is far wider than most and mimics this design for the leg loops as well. Featuring Fusion Comfort Construction, it employs three very thin strips of webbing spread out through the waist belt and leg loops to help diffuse the pressure against the back, hips, and hamstrings. The result is the most comfortable harness we have ever worn, and we love that it also comes at a very reasonable price.
Worth mentioning, however, is the notable downside that its feature set (minimal small gear loops, no haul loop, fixed width leg loops), precludes it from extensive use on larger climbing objectives. While there is room on its gear loops for a light rack if you happen to find yourself out for a day of trad cragging, it would not be the harness of choice for long free or alpine routes. If you love the Solution, but do want the versatility for adventuring, be sure to check out the Black Diamond Solution Guide. But if your climbing days are primarily spent clipping bolts or hitting the gym, we don't feel there is any better harness you could buy.
Read review: Black Diamond Solution
Best Harness for Traditional and Multi-Pitch Climbing
Black Diamond Solution Guide
Do you love the Black Diamond Solution, but wish it included the feature set needed for carrying a trad rack and climbing multi-pitch routes? Well now it does! The Black Diamond Solution Guide is the best harness you can buy if multi-pitch climbing or trad cragging is your jam. The front two gear loops are slightly bigger, allowing for a bit more rack to fit near the front where you can reach it quickly, while BD has added a fifth gear loop that spans the back of the harness for clipping multi-pitch items like a windbreaker, shoes, and water. The entire harness is constructed out of "Super Fabric," which has strong plastic fibers woven throughout that provide "protection shields," greatly enhancing the durability — a key component for those who often chimney or off-width climb. Finally, the waist belt is slightly fatter than a regular Solution for better weight diffusion while hanging at belays. All in all, this harness has everything one would need to turn the most comfortable harness — the Solution — into a multi-pitching machine.
As with most things, these benefits come with a few small trade-offs. The shape of the leg loops where they taper to meet at the front of the harness is subtly different, with the net effect of being much less comfortable for extended sessions of belay duty. We also found that the large leg loops sometimes catch on each other while we walk around, a minor annoyance that doesn't really affect performance. Lastly, you will have to shell out a bit more money than the Solution, or even the lightweight all-around Edelrid Sendero. But we think it's worth it! As an all-around rock climbing harness designed for trad and multi-pitch, but plenty versatile to serve as a primary sport harness as well, the Solution Guide is the one to pick.
Read review: Black Diamond Solution Guide
Best Lightweight Harness
Climbing is a game where every ounce matters, which is why you should seriously consider investing in the Petzl Sitta. For years we have seen this harness at the crags and in Youtube videos being worn by professional climbers of all varieties, but have always been convinced that a harness so small and dainty couldn't possibly be comfortable for actually climbing in. Turns out we were wrong! Especially when walking or hanging out, it's so light and form-fitting as to be virtually unnoticeable, making it an excellent choice for alpine climbing, mountaineering, or skimo, where glacier travel and staying roped up while walking is necessary. That said, it has just as much gear storage capacity as the Petzl Sama, as well as ice clipper slots, ensuring that you can find plenty of room for a large rack or even ice tools for alpine missions. And while it isn't as plush and comfy to hang in as the Black Diamond Solution, it's shockingly comfortable considering how small it is.
The glaring downside to this harness is its exorbitant price tag. It's around three times the price of an average climbing harness. However, we still think it presents a good value, as it can be used literally any day you go climbing, no matter what type or style it is, and is a better value as a mountaineering or alpine climbing harness because of its low weight and how small it packs down for carrying. We aren't going to argue this is a harness that will suit everyone, but if you care about light weight and love all styles of climbing, the Sitta is one you should open the checkbook for.
Read review: Petzl Sitta
Why You Should Trust Us
Heading up this review is Andy Wellman ], a senior gear reviewer at OutdoorGearLab for the past eight years. Andy is a lifelong climber, and has pursued climbing as a career and passion for the past 22 years. As a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he majored in the traditionally protected climbs of Eldorado Canyon State Park, frequently studied abroad on the large granite walls of Yosemite, and took more than one break in order to "expand his studies," learning about things such as limestone and mixed climbing. Eventually, he left CU with a piece of paper that said BA in English Literature. The subsequent years involved traveling the world to climb rock and tall mountains, a stint as an alpine guide, and starting a guidebook publishing company called Greener Grass Publishing, writing and publishing guides to the fine sandstone of the Southeast. He now uses and tests climbing and trail running equipment for a living in the mountains of Southern Colorado.
Testing climbing harnesses is a year-round process that takes place in every month, and at locations all around the world. Andy stays up to date with the changes in the climbing world and adds new products into this review constantly as they become available and he has a chance to use them. The harnesses you read about here have been tested in places such as Smith Rock, Red Rocks, Squamish, the Bugaboos, Spain, Greece, the Colorado Rockies, and countless other crags and destinations, big and small. He also has friends and partners wear these harnesses to get second opinions, and when necessary, conducts side-by-side tests in a more controlled setting, such as determining the nuances of which harnesses are the most comfortable for hanging. But what really sets this review apart is that we purchase the items you see here, rather than receiving them for free, so our experts can tell it like it actually is, and give you the very best advice, rather than simply the advice that a particular company wants us to give.
Related: How We Tested Climbing Harnesses
Analysis and Test Results
To provide our overall ratings, and to best understand the relative performances of each harness, we tested and assessed each one based on five different metrics: hanging comfort, standing comfort and mobility, features, belaying comfort, and versatility. Each harness was compared to the others, and since this is the finest collection of harnesses we could assemble, just because a product received a low score doesn't mean it's a bad product. It's likely that you have slightly different priorities than us when selecting a harness, so be sure to assess what type of climbing you will most likely use it for, and give those pertinent considerations greater value.
Harnesses come at a wide range of price points, and many of our top choices and recommendations are not the most expensive. While high priced harnesses usually have perks and features that may be lacking on others (such as very low weight), the reality is that you can get the very best harnesses for much, much less than the most expensive choices.
Particularly good values are the Edelrid Sendero, which is an excellent all-around choice, the Black Diamond Solution, which is our favorite for sport climbing, or the Petzl Sama, another very solid all-around choice. While the lowest-priced options are decent choices for newer climbers, we think its worth it to spend a little bit more money for one of the best choices, that will of course also serve beginners very well for many years.
The principle function of a climbing harness is to catch you when you fall and to hold you safely against the cliff when needed. All harnesses do a fantastic job at this task, and one need not worry about the safety of the harness, if used correctly, when climbing. On the other hand, how comfortable a harness feels while hanging in it varies drastically.
We're going to let you in on a simple truth when it comes to hanging in a climbing harness: it is not comfortable, at least not for very long. While this truth may not register in your consciousness as you work your way up a steep sport climb, anyone who has spent an hour or so at a hanging belay waiting for their partner to finish their lead can attest to the significant discomfort of hanging in a harness for a long period. Climbing harnesses have fabric that wraps around the waist, lower back, and back of the thighs, which is necessary for safety. But the fact remains that these parts of your body are not designed to directly hold weight for long periods, and the pressure put on them becomes uncomfortable or even painful rather quickly. While each harness uses a different strategy to diffuse or pad against the load, none of them come close to the sensation of sitting in a chair or on the couch. Perhaps this metric should be better thought of as least hanging discomfort, rather than "hanging comfort."
To conclusively say which harnesses are the least uncomfortable while hanging in them, we posted up at the bottom of a local cliff and spent 10 minutes successively hanging in each harness, one after the other, in a position that mimics a hanging belay (and also how you would hang at the end of the rope or while rappelling). While this amount of time doesn't compare to an actual hanging belay, where it's not uncommon to suffer through hours long belay sessions (ever been aid climbing?), we can assure you it is plenty of time to understand the merits or detractions of each harness and compare them fairly, especially as we are observing them one right after the other. Evident to us is that in this position, a person's weight is distributed between the waist belt and the leg loops pretty evenly. About half of the weight rests on the person's upper legs and hamstrings, while the lower back takes the other half. With this in mind, both the design of the leg loops and the waist belt play a critical role in how comfortable a harness will be to hang in.
The "Fusion Comfort Construction" of the Black Diamond Solution proved to be the most comfortable harness to hang in. A large part of this is because it has the widest leg loops that diffuse the load in the same way that its waist belt does. Although it has slightly different dimensions, the Black Diamond Solution Guide is made the same way, and provides equal levels of comfort while hanging. Leg loop designs that are thinner or diffuse the load with a single strap of webbing, especially in the leg loops, lead to cut off circulation and are noticeably less comfortable, immediately. The wide and well-padded leg loops on the Petzl Sama and Petzl Adjama also allow for a relatively comfortable hanging experience, as does the thin Warp Strength Technology employed in the Arc'teryx C-Quence. We feel that this is the single most important aspect when considering the performance of a harness, and so weighted this metric as 35% of a product's overall score.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
If you are wearing a harness but aren't hanging at a belay or rappelling off a cliff, then chances are you are moving around, climbing, walking, or merely standing about at the base of the crag or chilling in the gym. This metric is designed to assess how comfortable a harness is during all of these non-hanging moments, which turns out to be the majority of the time while you wear a harness. Also considered is how comfortable the harness is when it has a whole rack hanging from the gear loops, which can alter the way it sits on the hips, and how appropriate a harness is to wear with a pack on, or while walking for long distances, as you would on a glacier.
There is no question in our mind that the super lightweight and "barely there" Black Diamond airNET is the most comfortable harness while standing around, mostly because you can barely tell you have it on. It's also really comfortable for walking in since the Infinity Loop belay ring doesn't catch as you move your legs, and the gear loops are so minimal they sit really easily under a pack.
A far more versatile option is the Petzl Sitta, which is also very comfortable. Its stretchy leg loops expand comfortably if you are wearing thicker clothes, and the fluidity that we maintain while walking in this harness makes it an excellent choice for mountaineering. The Black Diamond Solution is also one of the most comfortable harnesses for all of the non-hanging times, which is a good thing because that's mostly what a day of sport climbing is! Its wide waist and leg loops are very minimally padded so that there is no bulkiness to impede movement or provide a distraction. Its thin waist belt sits comfortably under the hip belt of our climbing pack, and it holds a rack of quickdraws without sagging or putting pressure on the hips. As an essential metric to the performance and enjoyment of a harness, we weighted this metric as 20% of a product's overall score.
What features a climbing harness has plays a large role in dictating what sort of climbing it is best used for. Features such as adjustable leg loops, ice clipper slots, and many large gear loops allows one to carry a lot of protection, including ice screws or even ice tools and allows for the most adjustable and customizable fit for wearing with multiple bulky layers — all desired attributes for mixed, ice, or alpine multi-pitch climbing. On the other hand, small gear loops that rest close to the body, combined with fixed elastic leg loops, allow one to cut down on weight and bulk and keeps a harness streamlined and simple — ideal for sport and gym climbing.
Multi-pitch trad climbing harnesses, or simple all-around harnesses designed to be versatile, fall somewhere in between, usually by nixing the adjustable leg loops but adding carrying capacity in the form of more or larger gear loops. Considering what sort of climbing you intend to do in your harness (most frequently anyway) can help you decide which feature set is most appropriate for you, and narrow down your potential selection.
There are other features found on some harnesses, such as wear indicators, double waist belt buckles (rather than the more common single waist belt buckle), or more durable fabrics, that simply add usefulness to a harness, without necessarily affecting its performance for a certain specific style of climbing.
Since we recognize that harnesses designed for different purposes will have different feature sets, we mostly graded a harness's features based upon how well they perform. The baseline is the competition, meaning that when assessing how well a certain feature works, we simply compared it to the same features on other harnesses.
A number of harnesses that we've tested have excellent and diverse feature sets. The Arc'teryx C-Quence has an ideal feature set for almost any type of climbing, which is why we call it the best all-around option. Rigid, easy to clip gear loops (five of them) and super low profile ice clipper slots are some of the things that all work really well. The Petzl Sitta is another harness with a multitude of features that all work perfectly as advertised. Other high scorers are the Petzl Adjama and the Edelrid Sendero. As one of the most differentiating aspects of harness design, we weighted features as 20% of a product's final score.
There's no avoiding it — belaying is as much a part of climbing as the actual climbing itself. Unless your partner is named Alex Honnold, you're probably going to spend a fair chunk of your belay time holding your partner as they dog on lead or take a break while top-roping. Holding a climber while belaying puts a substantial upward pull on your harness that localizes the force almost entirely in the leg loops, especially as they wrap around the inside of the leg to meet at the belay loop in the front. The diffusion of this pressure is completely different than that found while hanging in a harness, so we decided to rate harness comfort separately for belaying.
Once again, holding a person for a long time while belaying is not what most people would call comfortable. We've come to realize that assessing choices as "least uncomfortable" is a bit more accurate than thinking in terms of "most comfortable." Besides all of the belaying we've done during our test period, we like to compare each harness more accurately side-by-side, so compared them one after another by holding a climber on top-rope for a few minutes at a time in each harness. We found that the best harnesses have the most comfortable leg loops that sit flat against the leg as they wrap around the inside to meet at the belay loop.
The most uncomfortable feel like we are being gouged by the sharp edge of a piece of webbing, which might be exactly what's happening. Worth noting is that with a properly fitting harness, dudes can rest assured that all of these harnesses are designed to allow everything to hang right and not get pinched or crushed when belaying, although we noticed that when wearing pants with bulkier or thicker material, there is a greater chance that some adjustment will be necessary.
According to our testing, the Petzl Sama, Petzl Adjama, and Arc'teryx C-Quence are the most comfortable for holding a climber for long periods while belaying. If a lot of belaying is in your future, consider these choices first. The Black Diamond Solution is also one of the most comfortable for this purpose, but its non-adjustable leg loops fit slightly more snug and apply a bit more pressure on the inside of the leg than the very best while belaying. Despite having very similar designs, both the BD Solution Guide and the Black Diamond Technician dig into our femoral region more fiercely than the normal Solution, so while they are versatile enough to use while sport climbing, are still not the best option if sport climbing is your most common pursuit. Unfortunately, we found that the thin and flat strips of fabric found on inside of the leg loops of the Arc'teryx AR-395a bit into our femoral region more viciously than most, a blemish that keeps it from being one of the top overall scorers. As a metric that is not quite as important as the three we have already described (as all harnesses work well at belaying), it accounts for 15% of a product's final score.
All of these harnesses are designed to be used for climbing, but the truth is that there are many different forms of roped climbing: sport, gym, trad, ice, alpine rock, alpine mixed, and mountaineering. It is possible to buy a harness specifically designed for and tailored to each of these purposes, and indeed some of the harnesses here only fit a narrow range of use. On the other hand, the vast majority of climbers we know certainly do not have an entire quiver of harnesses, and so picking one that is versatile enough to serve you on every adventure is a bonus.
When assessing for versatility, the first thing we consider is how many of the above genres a harness is suitable for. Harnesses with ice clipper attachment points and large gear loops can be used for ice climbing and alpine climbing better than ones with tiny gear loops and no attachment points. A secondary consideration is how adjustable the harness is. Adjustable leg loops and highly adjustable waist belts ensure that no matter what the temperature and amount of clothes you are wearing, you can fine-tune the fit. Speaking frankly, having fixed elastic leg loops has never been a detrimental issue for us, they have always stretched as far as we need them to in order to be comfortable, even with extra clothes on. However, we can't argue that adjustability is beneficial. A final consideration is weight and bulk.
The most versatile harness by far and the one that we chose to recommend for this purpose is the Petzl Sitta. It's an ideal choice for any sort of climbing, whether that is sport, trad, ice, or alpine. In particular, its very low weight and bulk make it super packable for adventure climbs, but we also love how minimal yet comfortable it feels while clipping bolts. The Arc'teryx AR-395a is another super versatile choice, with a ton of gear carrying capacity, adjustable leg loops, and a low profile that is easily packable. The Edelrid Sendero is far more affordable than either of those options and has all the tools to be used for literally any type of climbing. As an important consideration, but nowhere near as vital as comfort and individual features, we weighted this metric as only 10% of a product's final score.
While we've done our best to offer you solid recommendations for the best harness depending on whether you are looking for the best value, the best all-around harness, one for sport climbing, multi-pitch climbing, or the lightest harness, the truth is that the best harness for you will be the one that matches your needs and is the most comfortable (or least uncomfortable!) on your body. We hope that the information provided here has been useful in your search, and we wish you happy climbing!
— Andy Wellman