Seeking the best climbing harness for kids? Our family loving experts have researched 15+ different options before purchasing 10 full body and sit harnesses to test side-by-side. Family vacations across the USA, chasing warm weather, took us from North Caroline to Arizona, Utah, California, and Oklahoma. We handed these out to friends with children of all different ages. These kids tackled short and long top ropes, hung and swung around for hours, and some - even lead some routes. In addition to climbing for hours, we evaluate key metrics to objectively evaluate each product. Whether you're seeking a full-harness for your smallest or a sit harness for your largest, we've got great unbiased recommendations to help you in your quest.
The Best Climbing Harness for Kids
Best Overall Kids Sit Harness
Mammut Ophir - Kid's
As we did extensive side by side testing of the four sit harnesses, it became more and more clear that the Mammut Ophir - Kids held the top spot. Across the board, this harness does its job surprisingly well. The breathable mesh padding breathes remarkably well, and comfortably supports the weight of a hanging climber, while also moving with active kids while they run through the desert/woods/gym (Wait! No running in the gym!) between burns.
Bonus safety features include extra abrasion protection at tie-in loops and a red wear indicator hidden in the belay loop that, will tell the user when it's time for retirement. Slide-Bloc auto-locking buckles are easily operated by kids hands, unlike much of its competition, and do a great job of getting the leg loops and waist belt tightened up and comfortable. Dual waist buckles allow the harness to sit square on any size frame and assure the large gear loops stay even on the hips for quick access when the pump sets in and things get desperate! If you want the best harness for an intermediate or advanced kid climber, this should not be overlooked.
Read review: Mammut Ophir - Kids
Best for Versitallity
The Petzl Macchu is the most well-rounded harness in the test group and therefore has earned it the Top Pick Award for Versatility. 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's harnesses, it ends up having a more techy, finished appearance, and feel than some youth versions of harnesses. Regardless of skill level or age, you can't go wrong by including this harness on your short list.
Read review: Petzl Macchu - Kids
Best Overall Kids Full Body Harness
Kids 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 Editors Choice 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. Petzl added an extra tie in point on the upper back for specialty uses like skiing or for added security in exposed terrain. 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. While this harness won't fit bigger kids, it will, however, teach kids how to use a sit harness so they'll be ready to move up before outgrowing it.
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 Best Buy 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. While the more expensive Petzl Simba is highly adjustable, it doesn't have the comfort that this has, thanks to the well-padded leg loops.
Old-style manual double-back buckles may be a slight hassle to get adjusted, but once they are set up, kids can easily slip in and out because there is no buckle up front. The wide range of sizes it will accommodate makes sure it will fit until they are ready to move up to a more technical sit harness. This wouldn't be our first choice for older kids, but for new young climbers, camp fleet, gym rentals, etc., this harness works 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; 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 five and eight) 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. Now he is a certified AMGA SPI instructor, and has taught 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 ten kid's harnesses were purchased and in hand, Adam and family then proceeded to take them on an extended climbing trip that started in North Carolina and ultimately found them in Southern California. 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 kids 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 super technical options like 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 goals, we tested something that fits the bill. 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…
At OutdoorGearLab, we love to break down how the harnesses compare to each other in terms of value. Thus, we awarded the Trango Junior our Best Buy Award, as it's a great option for beginners. Our fleet includes higher scoring options for a similar price, like the Mammut Ophir, our Editors' Choice, or the Petzl Macchu.
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 they really give it their all. We used each harness for extended hanging sessions and evaluated how each dispersed the weight to the hips.
Some harnesses were comfortable enough for spending considerable time "working" hard routes while other harnesses were too painful for more than a few minutes of hanging. Most have some form of padding around the waist belt and leg loops to help cushion and transfer the load, 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 the reality.
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 ten harnesses to the test by scrambling around the rocks at the base of the crag as well as sitting in the dirt working on school work 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 Petzl Macchu 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 need 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 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 everything centered.
The Edelrid Finn II has gear loops like the rest, but at half the size, they limit the amount of gear that can be stowed on them. 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 Petzl Macchu 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 for advanced climbers that 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? Both the Editors' Choice Mammut Ophir and the Top Pick for Versatility, Petzl Macchu have similar versatility. Both will allow a climber to progress to leading or following routes.
Getting the right harness isn't about just choosing the Best Buy or Editors' Choice. It's important to take into account each metric and determine what your needs are. There is a harness for everyone. 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