Looking to replace your old worn-out harness, upgrade to something a little fancier, or make your first climbing gear purchase? We researched 50 of the newest, most popular, and most loved harnesses available for purchase today, eventually narrowing down our selection to the best 8 to purchase for comparative dissection in this in-depth review. Our testers logged countless days in these harnesses, taking more falls than they care to admit while logging hundreds of pitches at some of the United State's raddest and most famous crags. From Red Rocks to Ten Sleep, Smith Rock to the Gunks, we used these harnesses exactly how you will so we can recommend the best choices for hanging at a long belay, carrying a large rack, or endless belay duty at the gym. If you are looking for the same top performance in women's specific models, check out our Best Climbing Harness for Women Review.
The Best Climbing Harness of 2019
|Price||$52.46 at Backcountry|
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|$59.96 at Backcountry|
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|$149.96 at Backcountry|
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|$51.99 at MooseJaw|
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|$63.69 at REI|
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|Pros||Perfect feature set for any style of rock climbing, most comfortable harness for belaying, quite affordable||The best arrangement of functional features including gear loops, very comfortable design for hanging and belaying, versatile, relatively affordable||Very light, super packable, most mobile, versatile for all types of climbing||Unrivaled comfort while belaying, hanging, or chilling, super light, affordable||Versatile, relatively affordable, lots of gear storage|
|Cons||No ice clipper slots, not the lightest||Heavy and bulky, more annoying to wear while walking than lighter harnesses||Expensive, not as comfortable for prolonged hanging||Gear loops are small for carrying a large rack, not very versatile for other styles of climbing||Not super comfortable, stiff|
|Bottom Line||The best rock climbing harness that you can buy.||The optimal choice for long free routes, or anytime when carrying a large rack.||A lightweight, high-end harness with a top shelf price tag.||Without doubt the most comfortable harness you can buy, and our favorite for sport climbing.||A versatile and affordable harness for climbing in any season|
|Rating Categories||Petzl Sama||Petzl Adjama||Petzl Sitta||Solution||Technician|
|Hanging Comfort (35%)|
|Standing Comfort And Mobility (20%)|
|Belaying Comfort (15%)|
|Specs||Petzl Sama||Petzl Adjama||Petzl Sitta||Solution||Technician|
|Designed for these disciplines||Sport, indoor, trad||Trad, multi-pitch, mountaineering||trad, sport, mountaineering||Sport||Sport, trad, alpine, ice|
|Weight (size medium) (ounces)||13.7||15.8||9.7||12.3||13.8|
The newly redesigned Petzl Sama is the winner of our Best All-Around Harness award, and is our recommendation 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. We think it's very comfortable, regardless of whether one is hanging out that the base of a crag, or hanging at belay 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 last (orange) version of the Sama. Despite the fact that 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 easier to access rear gear loops that gave us plenty of room for storing all of our 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. 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
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. It uses Fusion Comfort Construction, meaning 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 it comes at a reasonable price of only $69 retail.
Worth mentioning, however, is that the Solution comes with the downside that its feature set (minimal small gear loops, no haul loop, fixed width leg loops), preclude 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. 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
The Petzl Adjama is a trad and multi-pitch climbing specific harness that is a very similar counterpart to our Best All-Around winner, the Petzl Sama. If all-day long adventures up the most classic and iconic formations are what you dream about, the Adjama is the harness that will take you there. With its five extra large, rigid, and easy to clip gear loops, one is able to carry far more gear on this harness than is probably necessary, or prudent, without encountering a logjam for space. Multi-pitch climbing is just as much about hanging at a belay as it is about the climbing, and our testing revealed this harness as one of the most comfortable for long sessions strapped to the side of a cliff. To top things off, at a retail price of only $80, it is around half the price of some of the other versatile multi-pitch harnesses, such as the Arc'teryx AR-395a.
Since it can handle everything needed for long free routes, the Adjama can of course also handle a day of sport climbing or an evening at the gym. But it is bulkier and heavier than the competition, and if we found ourselves sport or gym climbing more than plugging cams at Indian Creek or Yosemite, we would probably prefer to climb in the Sama instead. Its bulk is also a downside for long alpine missions, especially ones with a long approach, and for those, we might go with the much lighter and more versatile Petzl Sitta. If trad climbing is your only game, then no harness will suit you better than the Adjama, but if you like to dabble in all different disciples, we still recommend it as a valuable addition to the gear closet that you will be psyched you have next time you are racking up for the descent into the Black Canyon or a long day in the canyons of Red Rocks.
Read Review: Petzl Adjama
Best Lightweight Harness that is Super Versatile
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 were always 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 today and found that it was 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, we found it to be shockingly comfortable considering how small it is.
The glaring downside to this harness is its exorbitant price tag. At $200 retail, 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
The Black Diamond Momentum harness retails for a mere $55, making it the second most affordable climbing harness in this review. However, what really makes it worthy of our Best Bang for the Buck Award is the fact that it scored almost the same as the high-end Black Diamond Chaos harness, which retails for more than double what the Momentum does. You read that right — the Momentum offers high-end performance at a basement level price! This harness is also notable for the fact that it has the simplest and easiest to adjust leg loops, has all the features you need for most kinds of climbing, and is pretty comfortable as harnesses go.
Worth noting is that this harness was not as comfortable for hanging sessions and logging belay duty as the Petzl Sama or Black Diamond Solution. 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 is a perfect choice for a beginner 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
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 five 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. For this review he spent many hours talking about different harnesses with people he saw at the crag, helping him research and narrow down over 50 models to the 12 best and most popular to include in our review. He spent hundreds of hours climbing in these harnesses to gain the knowledge shared here, backed up by his 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 popular alternatives. Testing took place at many different single-pitch crags and on the long free routes of Eldorado Canyon, CO, and Red Rocks, NV, over a three month period, and we extended the testing for a couple harnesses on a sport climbing trip to Spain. Many friends contributed their insights to these harnesses, whether after a day of testing or after a few seasons of full-time use. To read more about our specific testing strategies, check out our How We Test Article.
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. The individual metrics that we graded for, including what percentage they accounted for a product's final score, and the best performers for that metric, are described in greater detail below.
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 very wide price range, and spending a lot of money doesn't necessarily guarantee you are getting the best harness. Check out the table below for a comparison of value for each product.
As you can see, many of our award winners, including the Petzl Sama, Black Diamond Solution, and Petzl Adjama, offer great 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. Check out the table below to see how the competition stacks up when it comes to hanging comfort.
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 great 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 we have suffered 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 other half is taken by the lower back. 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 also worked to diffuse the load in the same way that its waist belt does. Leg loop designs that are thinner or diffuse the load with a single strap of webbing, especially where the loops ran inside the legs and across the femoral artery, led to cut off circulation and were noticeably less comfortable, immediately. The wide and well-padded leg loops on the Petzl Sama, and 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.
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 hanging 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. Check out the table below to see where each contender ranks for Standing Comfort and Mobility.
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.
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 extra 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 important metric to the performance and enjoyment of a harness, we weighted this metric as 20% of a product's overall score.
Climbing harnesses have some distinct features that make them more (or less) comfortable or versatile and allow you to carry the gear you need when climbing. Some of these features include adjustable leg loops, auto-locking double-backed safety buckles, reinforced tie-in loops, gear loops, a haul loop, and slots to add on ice clippers to hold ice screws and tools in the winter. The particular features included on each harness, and how they perform, plays a large role in differentiating whether a harness will be a good choice for particular disciplines, such as sport vs. alpine climbing. Look closely at the subtle features of a harness before purchasing to be sure you get one ideal for what you want to use it for. The table below shows how the competition stacked up.
To rate for features, we look at what features a harness has and assess how well they work compared to the competition. We don't penalize a product for having fewer features but do reward products that have more features, as long as they work well. We can't stress how important this is: for instance, the BD Solution, one of our favorite harnesses, has a feature set suitable only for sport climbing, and would be a disappointing purchase for a person wanting to primarily climb long free routes.
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'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. How each harness stacked up to our tests can be seen in the below chart.
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 for "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. 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.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Petzl Sama and Petzl Adjama, both redesigned in the last year, are the most comfortable for holding a climber for a long period 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. 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 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 most versatile harness by far, and the one that we chose to recommend for this purpose is the Petzl Sitta. It is 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.
There are so many different climbing harnesses available on the market today that choosing the right one probably rates up there at about .10b or so. We did the work of sifting through the countless choices for you, and hope that this comparative review of the twelve best and most popular harnesses has been helpful for your decision. To get the most out of this review, we encourage you to consider your own needs and likely uses to find the harness that best suits you. Happy climbing!
— Andy Wellman