Best Climbing Harness for Kids of 2020
Best Overall Kids Sit Harness
Mammut Ophir - Kid's
After putting all the of the sit harnesses head to head, it was obvious that the Mammut wasn't playing around, prompting us to give it our top award. Across the board, this harness does its job surprisingly well. We have put this harness through the paces on everything from overhanging gym routes to Joshua Tree slots, Following multi-pitch adventure routes, and top-roping with friends. The Ophir is loaded with great features like wear indicators in the belay loop that add safety and tell the climber when it's time to retire, dual waist adjustment buckles that help keep the gear loops square on the hips, and breathable panels that help keep air flowing. All of these add extra value to an already great option.
The Kids Ophir has a lot going for it. Honestly, it's hard to find much wrong with the harness. Sure, I could say its not the lightest option in the test, or that the huge gear loops arent the biggest, but all that seems a bit nit-picky unless those are your main reasons to buy a harness. All in all, the Ophir is one of the best all-around harnesses that should be considered by anyone looking for a kids sit harness.
Read review: Mammut Ophir - Kids
Best for Versatility
The Petzl Macchu is the most well-rounded harness in the test group. No other harness in our test would work for such a wide range of users. Not only will it work for super little kid first-timers (if used in conjunction with the Petzl Body - Kids chest harness), but it's also perfect for intermediate climbers and experts alike. Two large gear loops, that stay centered on the hips due to dual waist belt buckles, stand off the hips well and can hold as many as ten carabiners each making it possible for kids to lead long sport routes and follow all but the longest, most gear-intensive trad pitches.
The soft, flexible waist belt and leg loops move well with active kids for when they are more focused on the game of tag in the woods than with what's going on at the cliff. Since Petzl uses the same materials and construction methods as with their adult harnesses, it ends up having a techier, finished appearance, and feel than some youth harnesses. Regardless of skill level or age, you can't go wrong by including this harness on your shortlist.
Read review: Petzl Macchu - Kids
Best Overall Kids Full Body Harness
Kid's full-body harnesses have come a long way from the old basic webbing variety. Sure, those styles may fit a wider size range of climbers, but they won't do it as comfortably or offer all the other perks that our top awarded full-body harness does. The Petzl Ouistiti is the perfect harness to help kids transition towards a sit harness due to its sit harness style waist belt and lower positioned tie in point. Because of that, lowering in the Ouistiti will feel a little more like the way a sit harness feels. Padded panels all around help to give a comfortable, yet supportive fit for both hanging and off the wall and fully functional gear loops (x2) provide a place to clip gear, whether its a belay device, rack of draws, or Jack, the stuffed dog. We also found this to be one of the most secure harnesses tested. The double-backed buckles are located on the upper back of the child making sure idle, fiddly hands don't mess with them.
This harness is one of the higher-tech full-body harnesses available, but due to the limitations in its size range, this harness is mainly used for young kids. Slightly older kids who may be top-heavy and benefit from a full-body harness may not fit and would have to go with another option. However, other than limited size range, this harness does a great job of keeping little kids safe and comfortable for a good day on the wall.
Read review: Petzl Ouistiti - Kids
Best Bang for the Buck
It's hard to beat the price of the Trango Junior. Not only is it the cheapest full-body option in our group, but it also offers a lot of security and comfort for young climbers, earning it our outstanding value award. This basic harness has fully adjustable shoulder straps and leg loops that allow it to fit kids of all sizes from 25 lbs up to 8o lbs. Once the harness is set up, kids can easily slip in and out, and the buckles offer quite a bit of adjustment range to accommodate growing climbers or a wide range of kids.
The Junior is the only harness in our test that still uses the old "double back" style non-sliding buckles. With 20+ years of sliding buckle use behind us, the Junior shows how dated it is. While the design is old-school, the function is great, and comfort is pretty decent. We would recommend this harness to the casual climber not looking for the highest-end gear, but rather one looking for a basic functional harness. This wouldn't be our go-to choice for older kids, but for new young climbers, a camp fleet, or gym rentals, this harness would work really well and for a great price.
Read review: Trango Junior - Kids
Why You Should Trust Us
Who would be the best reviewer of kid's harnesses? Naturally, that person should have kids and have family friends with kids; second, family climbing should be a central part of their lifestyle; and third, they should be familiar with gear in general. This review's author, Adam Paashaus, checks all these boxes. He travels and climbs full time with his wife and two girls (ages seven and nine) around the country, from their bus-converted-to-house, Skoolie. Earlier on, Adam worked in the outdoor industry for some time and in several capacities, so he's well-versed when it comes to gear--he even makes some of his own. He caught the bug for long periods spent in wild places via long-distance backpacking and gained his first exposure to rock climbing in Yosemite almost twenty years ago. Until recently, he held an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor certification AMGA SPI, and for years worked for a national outdoor school.
We started by looking at what kid's harnesses were currently on the market, compiling a group of more than 20 models. We then narrowed this selection to the strongest 10 contenders from this group. Once these kid's harnesses were purchased and in hand, Adam and his family then proceeded to take them on an extended climbing trip throughout the south and southwest with a considerable amount of time in Joshua Tree, CA. The harnesses were rated on a handful of traits that are considered essential. These include comfort while standing or hanging, and also versatility and usefulness of features. We're sure you will find this study to be a useful resource to utilize while readying your little ones for the gym or crag.
Analysis and Test Results
Shopping for a kid's harness? Maybe for a new kid crusher or an upgrade, perhaps? Wondering where to start? We've got you covered! Climbing has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and with more and more kids entering the sport, it's only fitting that the kid's harness category grows as well. Harnesses are now available for kids in the most basic styles, such as the Petzl Simba full-body style, as well as more technical options such as the Mammut Ophir. Not every kid is a climbing prodigy, some kids just wanna go play on some rocks with a scout group, but regardless of their skill level or long term climbing goals, we tested something that will be a perfect match. Some kid out there is about to find climbing and go on to become the next Adam Ondra. It would have been a shame if Adam found harnesses uncomfortable and had lost interest…
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we try our best to give you a good idea of the value of a piece of gear. In this test, we break down how the harnesses compare to each other in this regard. Thus, we gave the Trango Junior our outstanding value award, as it's a great option for beginners and comes with an affordable price tag. Others that cost more, many times, will have more features or better comfort, and therefore will also carry a good value to the consumer.
The amount of hanging comfort a harness offers can make or break the experience of a new climber.
Having a comfortable seat will keep a climber looking up at that hold that's just out of reach, before they go for another burn, whereas an uncomfortable harness can discourage a climber into calling down "lower me" before really giving it their best shot. We used each harness for extended hanging sessions and evaluated how each dispersed the weight to the hips and thighs.
Some harnesses were comfortable enough for spending considerable time "working" hard routes while other harnesses were too painful for more than a minute or two of hanging. Most have some form of padding around the waist belt and leg loops to help cushion and transfer the weight, but some of the full-body harnesses just use wide nylon webbing, which tends to be less comfortable. We want kids to find the most comfortable option available, so they can more fully enjoy what climbing offers, and regardless of the style of harness, we evaluate how well they perform when stacked up against the rest. Hanging comfort represents 40% of the total score.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
To a non-climber, watching climbing is worse than watching paint dry. Images of adrenaline junkies hucking themselves all over the wall just isn't real life.
In reality, the climbing can be slow, and every climber spends more time not slowly climbing as they spend… slowly climbing. This metric is used to define how comfortable the different harnesses are for all the time that isn't spent hanging. Our testers put the eleven harnesses to the test by scrambling around the rocks at the base of the crag as well as sitting in the dirt working on schoolwork while mom put up the next top rope.
Some harnesses were so comfortable that they were forgotten between climbs, while others felt cumbersome and obtrusive. We documented any issues we found. We paid close attention to whether any harnesses restricted movement while scrambling and climbing. If a harness has gear loops, we tested how well they carry a heavy load. Unsurprisingly, the ones with wider, more supportive hip belts offered more support for a heavier rack. But generally, the softer and most flexible harnesses were the most comfortable for normal wearing.
The Black Diamond Momentum was a super comfortable harness that does a great job of moving with active kids due to having a soft, yet supportive padding.
Not every kid needs a fully-featured harness with gear loops and high tech molded panels. Some harnesses focus on more basic features like buckles that are easy to adjust to help kids get in and adjusted easily, or buckles that are purposefully located away from fiddly kid hands, and rightfully so.
Some harnesses allow kids to easily slip in and out of them, while others have buckles that don't slide very well, requiring an adult or a bit more time to adjust. Sit harnesses in our test all have similar features, and we broke down which harnesses do a better job of making their features usable. For instance, the gear loops on the Black Diamond Momentum don't sit square on the hips due to the waist belt only having one auto-locking buckle combined with a cut that doesn't center for most kids. The Mammut Ophir deals with this issue by adding a second waist buckle so it can be tensioned equally on both sides, keeping those gear loops centered.
Full-body harnesses offer a larger variety of features. Some basic models have super easy quick adjustments for getting a secure fit. Others like the Petzl Ouistiti have secondary attachment points, gear loops, and foam padded body panels to add comfort. There is a harness for every style kid climber out there. Crushing hard sport leads at the Red on the weekend? The Mammut Ophir might be just what you are looking for.
Maybe your three-year-old really enjoyed attending her classmate's birthday party at the climbing gym, and you want to encourage her new interest. The easily adjustable Petzl Simba might be more your kind of harness.
To measure versatility, we used two different main criteria. First, how wide of a fit range does it have: a harness like the Petzl Simba that can expand to grow with a kid or fit every kid at camp will be naturally more versatile. A harness that isn't user-friendly scored lower. Second, as a child progresses, will this harness perform well as they advance as climbers and need a different set of features?
Again user-friendly characteristics are important. Are the gear loops accessible and easy to pull gear from?
Do the buckles slide smooth enough for the climber to tighten them easily, or does it require extra fiddling or help from mom or dad? The Mammut Ophir has great versatility and will allow a climber to progress to leading or following routes.
Getting the right harness isn't about just choosing from top award winners. It's important to take into account each metric and determine what your needs are. There is a perfect harness for just about every kid. We hope that our review gives the information needed to help you in purchasing a harness. Remember, the harnesses in our test are the most popular harnesses available, and no option in our test would be a poor choice if the features and comfort match the style of climbing the child will be doing.
— Adam Paashaus