: Sport, Trad | Weight (size Medium)
: 13.7 oz.
Very comfortable, especially for belaying
Perfect arrangement of gear loops for any style of rock climbing
Less bulky and more mobile than previous version
Waist belt rides up a bit when hanging
Not the best choice for ice, alpine mixed, or mountaineering
The Petzl Sama was freshly redesigned in 2018, and remains the same for 2019, recognizable by its grey coloring and denim-esque patterning. It wins our Best All-Around Harness award and is a great choice for pretty much any kind of rock climbing. If you are only looking to buy one harness that will cover all your bases on the rock, this is the one that we would pick. It's very comfortable, regardless of whether one is hanging out that the base of a crag, or hanging at belays many pitches off the ground. We also love how the elastic fixed leg loops allow for greatly increased mobility without any noticeable constrictions of movement, a notable improvement over the previous (orange) version of the Sama. Although it's designed primarily for sport climbing, it's also 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. We can honestly say that for a rock climbing harness, this is the closest one to perfect that we have ever worn.
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. These flaws are so minor as to hardly be worth pointing out, though. Whether you prefer plugging cams, clipping bolts, or hanging at the gym, and especially if you prefer all of the above, the Sama will not disappoint.
Read review: Petzl Sama
Most Comfortable Harness for Sport Climbing
Black Diamond Solution
: Sport | Weight (size Medium)
: 12.3 oz.
Fusion Comfort Construction in both waist belt and leg loops make it the most comfortable for hanging and hanging out
Light and packable
Gear loops too small for frequent use as a trad climbing harness
Features don't accommodate other climbing disciplines, usable pretty much only for sport and gym climbing
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
: Trad, Multi-pitch, Sport | Weight (size Medium)
: 14.1 oz.
The same comfortable design and construction as the Solution
Five larger gear loops allow plenty of room for carrying a large rack and multi-pitch necessities
Very durable fabric
Also versatile for sport climbing
Not the most comfortable for long belay duty
Not quite as light or mobile as Solution
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 has replaced the old BD Chaos in their harness line-up and 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 very comparable Petzl Sama. 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 certainly a Top Pick.
Read Review: Black Diamond Solution Guide
Best Lightweight Harness that is Super Versatile
: Trad, Sport, Alpine | Weight (size Medium)
: 9.7 oz.
The lightest and most compact harness
Highly versatile for all different climbing disciplines
Not as comfortable for hanging belays
Climbing is a game where every ounce matters and no harness is lighter than 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! Our curiosity got the best of us, and we put it to the test alongside the best and most popular harnesses available and found that it is easily one of the most comfortable and versatile. Especially when walking or hanging out, it is 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
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond Momentum
: Sport, Trad | Weight (size Medium)
: 11.9 oz.
Offers nearly the same performance as harnesses costing more than double the price
The simplest and easiest to use leg loop adjustment buckles
Rigid and flat gear loops make for easiest clipping and unclipping of carabiners
Waist belt sizing seems to run on the small side
Foam padding bulkier than most harnesses
Gear loops on the small side for carrying a full trad rack
Want a super comfortable and easy to adjust harness that is also among the most affordable that you can buy? Don't we all! We recommend checking out the Black Diamond Momentum, our Best Bang for the Buck Award winner. It offers an excellent value by sticking to the simple formula of comfort and functionality, while also being one of the most affordable featured here. Not convinced? We know unsponsored 5.14 climbers who use the Momentum as their primary harness simply because they don't feel the need to spend any extra money when this simple option is plenty comfortable enough. It has a well-padded waistband complete with four rigid gear loops that are easy to clip, and also has the easiest to adjust leg loop buckles of any we tested. These buckles are simple pieces of plastic that slide right or left, looser or tighter, with virtually no effort, ensuring a perfect fit.
While we are convinced that worn alone, everyone would find this harness to be comfortable, we will admit that when we compared it closely, side-by-side to other options such as the Petzl Sama or Black Diamond Solution, it wasn't quite as comfortable for hanging sessions and logging belay duty. It also has disappointingly small gear loops if you are hoping to carry a whole trad rack. For this reason it wouldn't be our first recommendation for long rock routes or alpine climbing, but we think it's a perfect choice for a climber who doesn't want to break the bank, as it offers above-average performance whether you are using it to climb in the gym, at the sport crag, or for moderate trad cragging.
Read review: Black Diamond Momentum
Rappelling off the top of Bugaboo Spire, with Snowpatch Spire in the background, wearing the Petzl Sama, a versatile and super comfortable all-around harness.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our men's harness review is led by head tester Andy Wellman, a senior review editor at OutdoorGearLab for the past six years. Over the past 22 years, Andy has spent more time hanging on the end of a rope or chilling in his harness at the crag than most of us have spent driving. As a longtime guidebook publisher and author before entering the gear-testing world, the climbing crag has literally been his office since the day he graduated from college (which took him a few extra years, because he was, you know, out climbing). Over that time he has spent years honing his craft in all of the main climbing disciplines, from redpointing sport routes at Rifle and Smith Rock, to fiddling in trad gear in Eldorado Canyon, projecting boulders at his limit at the Stone Fort and Horse Pens 40, vertical camping on the side of El Cap in Yosemite, drytooling in Vail, ice climbing in Ouray, and going really big on the 6000m peaks of Peru. He spent hundreds of hours climbing in these harnesses to gain the knowledge shared here, backed up by the literally thousands of days he has spent climbing.
In 2019, we expanded our review of eight harnesses to 12, testing newly updated versions of our previous award winners, as well as adding in some great alternatives. Testing the multi-pitch versatility took place on long free routes in destinations such as the Bugaboos, Eldorado Canyon, Red Rocks, Lumpy Ridge, Squamish, and Index, while we put these harnesses through the daily project and belay grind at other awesome areas such as Smith Rock, the Fins, Trout Creek, Skaha, and a handful of limestone areas in Spain. Many friends contributed their insights to these harnesses, whether after a day of testing or after a few seasons of full-time use.
Related: How We Tested Climbing Harnesses
Analysis and Test Results
To represent which were the best overall harnesses, we graded each for five individual metrics on a scale of 1-10. We then weighted each metric based upon how important it was to the overall performance of a harness and added all the scores together to come up with an overall score between 1-100. In all cases, scores were awarded based on performance compared to the competition. A low scoring harness may not be a bad product at all but simply didn't perform as well as the others. Many of the harnesses tested are designed for specific purposes, so just because a product has a high (or low) overall score does not mean it is or isn't the best choice for you. Delve deeper into the individual metrics to find the harness that best fits your needs.
Whether multi-pitching or cragging, winter or summer (or dry rock in the winter, as in this photo), the FL-365 makes for a versatile choice. Stefan pulling the pitch 2 crux of Levitation 29.
One important consideration before making any purchase is the value you are getting. Year after year, performing thousands of gear reviews, we have found that when it comes to performance, you do not always get what you pay for. We are always surprised to find high performing gear at low prices, and just as often scratch our heads when a high-priced item doesn't stack up. Harnesses are no exception, as they come in a vast price range, and spending a lot of money doesn't necessarily guarantee you are getting the best harness.
As you can see, many of our award winners, including the Petzl Sama, Black Diamond Solution, and Petzl Adjama, offer high performance at a relative bargain.
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. 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 test hanging comfort, sometimes we just decided to take a break. Here on top-rope in the San Juan Mountains. The Momentum didn't let us down, but wasn't one of the most comfortable for hanging around in.
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 its 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 roughly even. 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.
Hanging in a harness is usually not all that comfortable. We hung in each model for lengthy periods of time to test how they felt, and there is no doubt the BD Solution is among the most comfortable.
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 basically 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 where the loops run inside the legs and across the femoral artery, lead to cut off circulation and are noticeably less comfortable, immediately. The wide and well-padded leg loops on the Petzl Sama, as well as the Petzl Adjama, allow for the second least uncomfortable hanging experience. 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.
The triangle of fabric shown in this photo does a good job of keeping the leg loops in place as they wrap around the front of the leg. Despite its relatively thin design, the Petzl Aquila was indeed a comfy harness to hang in.
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.
While we initially conceived of this metric as "mobility while climbing," we find that while actually climbing, we are always so engaged in what we are doing that we never notice our harness at all! This is a good thing, but doesn't give us much to use when comparing models. So we instead chose to rate their comfort during moments when we do notice them: standing around, walking about, and hiking. We also include in this metric how comfortable each harness is when carrying a full rack while wearing heaps of extra clothing, and while carrying a climbing pack. To test them, we took detailed notes while doing each of the above things wearing each harness and then amalgamated the findings into an overall Standing Comfort and Mobility Rating.
One of the best parts about the very thin design of this harness is how flush it sits next to your body, making it an ideal choice for carrying a pack, or in this case the rope and some rack, on an approach up the slabs in Red Rocks.
The Petzl Sitta, which we recognized as the best lightweight harness that is also the most versatile, is easily the most comfortable for hanging out and especially hiking in. 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 harness 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.
The Arc'teryx AR-395a, and its little cousin, the Arc'teryx FL-365, are also very comfortable harnesses for hanging out, and are especially good choices for hiking with a pack on. They are made with exceptionally thin fabric and no padding; a design called their Warp Strength Technology. The low profile doesn't feel as bulky as other padded harnesses, and the flexible gear loops sit flat against the body and present little obstacle for pack straps. As an essential metric to the performance and enjoyment of a harness, we weighted this metric as 20% of a product's overall score.
Whether sport climbing, as shown here in Chulilla, Spain, or walking on glaciers or climbing alpine rock, the Sitta harness is the most mobile and comfortable for walking and hanging out in.
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.
The Adjama is our favorite harness for trad climbing due to its extra large gear loops that make it especially easy to carry and organize a full rack.
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. While there are a few harnesses that have features that are especially well designed, each harness has its pluses and minuses, so be sure to carefully read details on the features of each harness, as well as what we like and don't like about how they function.
The easy slider method of these leg loops is the simplest and most effective way to quickly adjust leg loops that we have seen, and we wish it was found on more harnesses. Simply side the black plastic buckle back and forth to adjust the sizing.
Two particular harnesses have the most amount of features that also worked exceptionally well — the Petzl Sitta and the Petzl Adjama. The Adjama has the most carrying capacity with its five extra large gear loops, the front two of which are flat and rigid for easier clipping and unclipping. Its rear gear loop is the largest of any that we tested, and it also features adjustable leg loops that make it easy to wear with different layers. The Sitta has a comparable amount of gear racking space, despite its diminutive size, and also has two ice clipper slots for use on ice or alpine climbs.
The Petzl Sama is another harness with lots of features that all work exactly as one would expect. The two harnesses we tested made by Arc'teryx also have tons of features, especially gear racking space and ice clipper slots, making them good candidates for multi-pitch or alpine routes, but we also found a lot of flaws with how their features perform compared to the more refined Petzl harnesses. As one of the most differentiating aspects of harness design, we weighted features as 20% of a product's final score.
You can see many of the features found on this harness here, including the ice clipper slots. You can also see how the keeper loops for the tail of the waist belt buckle tends to hang in the way of the gear loops, which we wish wasn't so. You can also see how the gear loops with a low point tend to cluster the carabiners together, which we find makes them slightly harder to quickly and easily unclip.
You can't eat a PB&J sandwich without the jelly, and you can't go climbing without also belaying. 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. Like when comparing harnesses for hanging comfort, we soon realized that assessing choices as "least uncomfortable" is a bit more productive. Besides all of the belaying we did during our test period, we wanted 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.
Not lacking for views! Testing the Edelrid Zack's comfort while belaying. Due to a very stiff and not super comfortable padding system, it was not one of our top choices for extended belay duty.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Petzl Sama and Petzl Adjama are the most comfortable for holding a climber for long periods while belaying. This is one of the main reasons we recommend these harnesses as two of the best that you can buy. 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.
Top rope belaying can really test the comfort level of a harness, especially on the inside of the legs. Unfortunately, we didn't find this one to be the most comfortable because the leg loops easily dug in, but this was only an issue if we belayed for far too long anyway.
All of these harnesses are designed to be used for climbing, but the truth is that there are many different forms of 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 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 Solution Guide is an ideal harness for getting high off the deck, no matter what sort of protection you are using. It is ideal for long multi-pitch and trad routes, although is perfectly versatile for use at the sport crag as well. Here hoping not to take the whip on one of the many stunning aretes at Smith Rock -- Kings of Rap.
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-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 Arc'teryx FL-365 has a similarly versatile feature set, but has fixed leg loops. The Black Diamond Technician is a harness similar in design to the Solution, but has more gear carrying ability and a number of ice clipper slots, making it a versatile choice as well. 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.
The Arc'teryx AR-395a is a versatile harness that is equally as home on long multi-pitch climbs, cragging near the ground, or on icy winter alpine climbs. Here testing it in the sun on Levitation 29 in Red Rocks.
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, or 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!