Related: The 8 Best Climbing Harnesses
The Best Climbing Harness for Women
|Price||$89.95 at Backcountry|
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|$69.95 at REI|
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|$49.57 at Amazon||$69.95 at Amazon|
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|$103.35 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Lightweight, comfortable, and versatile||Lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and highly mobile||Comfortable, easy to clip rigid gear loops, great value, adjustable leg loop system is light and easy||Padded waist belt is comfortable, made in the USA and customizable||Versatile, mobile, and compact|
|Cons||High-rise might not fit everyone, less durable than other harnesses||Might not feel great if the leg loops don't fit you||Waistbelt doesn't have the best ventilation||Heavy and a little buky||Thin leg loops dug into the back of our legs when hanging|
|Bottom Line||The best all-around harness in our test group - not specialized for any one thing but good at a lot of things.||A lightweight and thin harness that is comfortable to hang in.||One of the best and least expensive all-around harnesses in this review.||A comfortable traditional harness that gives you great all-day support.||Packs down small for lightweight adventures.|
|Rating Categories||CAMP Supernova||Solution||Momentum||Silhouette||Arc'teryx AR-385a|
|Standing Comfort (20%)|
|Hanging Comfort (20%)|
|Specs||CAMP Supernova||Solution||Momentum||Silhouette||Arc'teryx AR-385a|
|Designed for these Disciplines||Sport, Trad, Ice||Sport||Sport, Trad||Sport, Trad||Sport, Trad, Ice|
|Weight in ounces (size small)||12.8||12||11.8||15.4||13|
|Gear Loops||4 (rigid with flexible attachment points)||4 (rigid)||4 (rigid)||4 (rigid)||4 (rigid with flexible attachment points)|
The Camp Supernova is designed specifically for the female form, rather than simply being a tweaked version of a men's harness (a common scenario). This resulted in a highly comfortable climbing harness that ergonomically fits a woman's anatomy. The Supernova is lightweight and has great mobility, never constricting our testers while climbing, belaying, or lazing at the bottom of a crag. It has a 3mm layer of EVA foam padding, which is more than some of the other high-end sport climbing models out there. It also has a unique "No-Twist" belay loop so that your belaying carabiner never gets cross-loaded. The leg loops detach on the legs instead of the waistbelt, leaving your back buckle free, which is key when scraping your way up a desert chimney. There's plenty of room on the gear loops for a sport or trad rack, and also two ice clipper tool slots for some winter fun.
The main letdown we had with the Supernova was the durability of the material. While it held up well during our testing period, we've seen what it looks like after a year of the above chimney scraping against rough sandstone. Those ladies should look to the Misty Mountain Silhouette instead. If you like to climb a variety of routes and styles though, the Supernova will transition well from one discipline to another, making it our favorite all-around model.
Read review: Camp Supernova
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond Momentum - Women's
Black Diamond has produced several versions of the Primrose over the years, and the latest model, now named the Momentum Women's, does not disappoint. Earning our Best Buy Award, it's a versatile, all-around model that is comfortable, adjustable, and inexpensive. It has Black Diamond's unique trakFIT adjustable leg loops, which provides a bit of adjustability but still the security of a fixed-leg system. The plastic-covered gear loops are rigid and stick out from the waistbelt for easy clipping and unclipping, and there is a sturdy haul loop in the back.
The Momentum has a thickly padded waistbelt, which is great for hanging belays, but not so great on warm days. We always found ourselves with a sweaty back in this one. Keep that in mind if you climb in hot weather or tropical climates. Other than that, this affordable model is an excellent buy for anyone starting out or for those who would rather put some extra money into their rack or a new rope.
Read review: Black Diamond Momentum - Women's
Top Pick for Sport Climbing
Black Diamond Solution - Women's
While we don't love every harness that Black Diamond is currently making — we're looking at you Technician — we sure do love the Solution for sport climbing. The Solution is lightweight and breathable, and it is surprisingly comfortable considering how thin it is and how little padding is in it. The load is dispersed throughout the waistbelt and leg loops via three different strands of thin webbing so that you never feel a pressure point in one spot only. The elastic on the leg loops have great stretch and mobility, and they are tapered just the right amount for where they pass through your thighs.
Speaking of the leg loops, they are not adjustable, so if you have larger or smaller thighs relative to your waist, the Solution may not fit you well. And while it felt great while hang dogging and giving our friends epic belays, it wouldn't be our first choice for a Grade V with hanging belays. If you pretty much stick to 100-foot routes though, sport or trad, you'll appreciate the lightweight nature of this harness and the surprising level of comfort that it provides.
Read review: Black Diamond Solution - Women's
Top Pick for Long Routes
Misty Mountain Silhouette
If the thought of tall desert towers or Yosemite Grade V's in a day gets you more excited than a kid on Christmas morning, the Misty Mountain Silhouette is made for you. It has a thickly padded waistbelt that will save you from wanting to bail after that first hanging belay, and there's ample room on the gear loops for a double rack of gear.
The padding and sturdy materials make the Silhouette heavier than most other models, but those few extra ounces may just be worth it on a big day out. We also wish it had a fifth gear loop, but it does have a sturdy haul loop that you can clip more than one carabiner into. Best of all, this harness is fully customizable should you need smaller or larger leg loops relative to your waist size, or if you want to mix and match part of this harness with any of Misty Mountain's other waistbelts and leg loops you can do that as well. Pretty cool!
Read review: Misty Mountain Silhouette
Top Pick for Gym Climbing
If you're a dedicated gym rat, or if you don't like wearing your beefy trad harness in the gym, or if you feel mortified when climbing outside with your belay card girth hitched to your gear loop, the Mammut Zephir can help! This lightweight model is mobile and breathable, making it perfect for hot gyms and sweaty backs.
The Zephir isn't the most comfortable option for hanging belays, and we don't like the extra long gear loops either. They work okay on vertical terrain, but on steep routes your quickdraws shoot to the back of the gear loops and out of reach. If you're only gym climbing in it though, or in areas with fixed gear, this is no big deal, which is why we love this one for those applications.
Read review: Mammut Zephir
Great for Fast and Light Missions
Arc'teryx FL-355 - Women's
The Arc'teryx FL-355 and it's nearly identical sister, the Arc'teryx AR-385a, are the originators of the thin, tape-like harnesses. They have wide 4-inch waistbands with no padding, but since the load is distributed across the entire width, they are surprisingly comfortable in the waist. The gear loops lay flat against the hips, which makes it slightly easier to wear a pack over this model. Best of all, they pack down super small thanks to the thin design and tiny stuff sack that Arc'teryx provides.
This harness isn't perfect though. The FL version doesn't have adjustable legs, and they felt tight to us compared to other non-adjustable leg loops. The leg loops don't taper around the inner thighs either, leaving too much bulk where you least want it. They bothered us a bit when standing and a lot when hanging. They are also both very expensive, and we have a hard time justifying paying double or triple for something that's not the most comfortable thing ever. If the fit feels good to you though, you'll appreciate the small packed size and eye-turning design.
Read review: Arc'teryx FL-355 - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Review Editor Cam McKenzie Ring is no stranger to tying in for many types of climb, and she knows the value a comfortable and functional harness adds to everything from long trad routes to sport climbs. These days, you can find Cam in the sandstone landscape around Las Vegas with her two boys. She's also a five-year veteran of Yosemite Search and Rescue and an accomplished, 20 year climber with El Cap big wall routes on her resume.
We started off searching the market for all the models of women's harness we might want to include. We ended up with an initial selection of over 30, which we then boiled down to the most promising 13 models. We then spent four months putting them through the paces at local crags around our home base of Las Vegas, but also elsewhere and with an extended team of testers with decades of experience between them. We paid attention to comfort while standing up and hanging, mobility, versatility, adjustability, and also specific features that make a harness best suited to a particular discipline. We ended up with a comprehensive review that should get you into a great harness for your needs.
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you are selecting your first-ever climbing harness or getting ready to buy your 10th model after a lifetime of climbing, a lot of thought needs to go into this purchase. Not only is this something you will be wearing on a regular basis (hopefully!) but your life depends on it. With moderate use, a harness should last for around five years or so, which is a lot longer than you'll keep other major purchases around, like a rope or pair of shoes, so you'll want to make sure you select the right product for both your climbing style and physique.
Most manufacturers make several women's specific models to choose from; some even have a women's version of every men's model in their line-up. Whether you need a "women's" model depends on how your body is proportioned, and also what the manufacturer has deemed is the typical female climber's form (and they seem to all have different ideas of what that is). Don't be afraid to try on some men's or unisex versions when shopping - while you may prefer the more "girly" styling on the female options, or not, fit should come first and foremost when buying this essential piece of gear. In the rest of this article, we'll cover how the various models fared in our test metrics, as well as discuss what to consider when looking for an affordable model.
The women's climbing harnesses that we tested in this review had a pretty significant price range. What do you get from an expensive one that you don't from a budget option? Sometimes not much! Some of the "cheaper" models might not have the most complicated waistbelt designs, meaning that they might not distribute the load well or be comfortable for prolonged hanging. But some, like our Best Buy winner, the Black Diamond Momentum, scored higher in our tests that the ultra-expensive Arc'teryx AR-385a. You can use our Price vs. Performance chart below to help you find good deals that still perform well. Look for models that fall on the bottom right of the chart, where they have a higher score (to the right) but a lower price (to the bottom).
We've given comfort a big part of our rating metric (40%!) but split it between standing and hanging. Why? While the hanging comfort is key, unless you're always stuck at hanging belays you'll likely spend more time standing around, belaying, or sitting down in your harness at the crag than you will be hanging in it. Since most climbers don't want to take it off after every pitch, we need it to be comfortable all the time.
The models that ranked the highest in this metric were (not surprisingly) the lightweight and minimalist ones. We like the Mammut Zephir and Black Diamond Solution best for standing comfort. The waistbelt on theZephir has split construction with open mesh in between, providing a lot of ventilation (left photo). We could almost forget we were wearing it. We also like the leg loops on the Solution, which are wide in the back but taper between the legs for minimal bulk in that area (right photo).
Other top models for standing comfort were the Arc'teryx AR-385a and FL-355, and our Editors' Choice winning Camp Supernova. These models were also all lightweight and breathable, which makes them less noticeable and more comfortable throughout the day. Some were also easy to wear under a pack and hike around in, and we preferred the Arc-teryx models when hiking or scrambling with our harness on.
One of the least comfortable models when standing is the Misty Mountain Silhouette, simply because it is so bulky and heavy. We also didn't like the waistbelt on the Petzl models and find that the wider waistband digs into us in the wrong places if we try to wear them on our waists. Those ladies that wear theirs a little lower and around their hips might find it more comfortable though.
This metric is often the deal breaker when purchasing a new harness. It may look and feel great on, but once you hang in it, if it doesn't feel right then you should move on to the next model. As manufacturers move to lighter and more intricate designs, often the padding is left by the wayside. We typically need some padding to soften the weight of our bodies against the harness' frame. It is no surprise that the models with more padding scored higher in this metric than the ones without.
The Misty Mountain Silhouette, Camp Supernova and Black Diamond Momentum were our favorites for hanging comfort. Those harnesses had ample padding and support, and no weird features that dug into or pinched us.
You might think that this metric is only important for people doing long multi-pitch routes with hanging belays, but sport climbers tend to spend a fair amount of time hanging in their harness as well, so this is a key consideration for most climbers. We also like the hanging comfort of the sporty Black Diamond Solution.
Typically, a climbing harness holds 70% of your weight on the leg loops and only 30% on the waist. So while manufacturers tout the comfort of the waistbelt above all, you want to be sure the legs are just as comfortable, if not more so. The Arc'tery models are comfortable in the waist, but the leg loops pinched our thighs and dug into the back of our butt, which is anything but pleasant.
The Black Diamond Technician also has a comfortable waistbelt, but the leg loops have too much webbing and not enough support, and we felt pinched them.
Climbing gear shops typically have a clip in point that you can use to do your own hang-test before making a purchase. This is a really important test, as our own testing has shown that what might feel good while standing and walking around in a store will not necessarily feel good when hanging. We would never buy a climbing harness that we haven't hung in first.
This rating metric looked at what type of climbing each model was designed for, and how well its features work for those disciplines. While some models might have a ton of features (ice clipper slots, extra gear loops, etc.) if you are looking for a sport harness you don't want or need all of those extras, but you do want something that is lightweight and that has easily accessible gear loops.
For a traditional-only harness, we thought the Misty Mountain Silhouette had the best features, including wide gear loops, an easy to use haul loop, and a waistbelt built for hanging belays. We could rack it full of gear and quickdraws, and still had room for our descent shoes, anchoring gear, and belay setups.
For the all-around models, we liked the features on the Camp Supernova, including a no-twist belay loop attachment and leg loops that detach at the legs and not the waist for less bulk. Note that the Supernova only has two slots for ice clipper carabiners though, so winter-climbing enthusiast should look to the Black Diamond Technician or the Arc'Teryx AR-385a instead for that use.
Those looking for a sport harness will appreciate the gear loops and minimalist design of the Black Diamond Solution. It's lightweight but can still carry a ton of draws, unlike the Petzl Selena and Mammut Zephir with their hard to reach rear gear loops. We did like the plastic protector found on some harnesses, like the Mammut Ophira and Zephir, and the Edelrid Jayne II. It prevents wear in a hard-to-see spot and should help increase the longevity of your harness.
As with standing comfort, this metric is where some of the lighter and sport-specific models excelled. We found the designs that had elastic closures on the legs loops, like the Mammut Zephir and Black Diamond Solution, particularly mobile in the legs, and we were able to high step and heel hook with ease.
The Camp Supernova is also mobile for a model that doesn't have elastic leg loops. Its lightweight nylon material is very supple, unlike the stiffer Mad Rock Venus and Misty Mountain Silhouette.
We also like the mobility on the Arc'teryx FL-355. The ultrathin design conforms to the body, and we barely noticed it when climbing. We can't say, however, that there was ever a time that we felt very limited by the material or structure of the models that we were testing — these are not the climbing harnesses of old that were bulky and confining. Instead, all of the models have movement and fluidity built into their design. Where we would pay particular attention to this metric is if we were looking for a climbing harness that we were going to use mostly for alpine adventures, say a season in the High Sierras in California. Since much of the climbing there often involves scrambling in between technical pitches without a lot of hanging belays, we'd want a harness that is lightweight, minimalist, easy to move around in and comfortable under a pack, like the FL-355 or the AR-385a.
This is an important metric for anyone who likes to do a lot of different types of climbing, or for someone new to the sport who is not sure what style they like best and wants to try it all. It's also a key consideration for those of us who don't have a lot of money to spend on gear and would prefer to own only one harness and have some more money to spend on a set of cams or quickdraws.
The most versatile climbing harnesses that we tested were the all-around models, like the Camp Supernova, Black Diamond Technician, Edelrid Jayne II, and the Arc'teryx AR-385a. All of these models can do pretty much everything, and do it well. In particular, the Supernova is light and mobile enough to be a high-end sport climbing harness but has all the features we want in a traditional model, and it even has two slots for ice tool holders. Note that the Petzl Luna no longer has ice clipper slots, since the new Caritool Evo from Petzl clips around the entire waistbelt.
The Black Diamond Momentum is slightly less versatile, as it does not have ice clipper slots, but it's still suited to traditional or sport climbing. While the Arc'teryx FL-355 has the slots for ice climbing, you might not be able to get the non-adjustable leg loops over a pair of winter pants. Both the Mammut Zephir and Ophira models scored low in this metric, as their lack of a haul line loop and fixed leg loops made them suitable mostly for sport climbing and not much else.
Our final rating metric evaluated how adjustable each model was to accommodate different layers of clothing as well as different body types. This is a key consideration if you plan on climbing in various climates, and if your proportions are not what the manufacturer has deemed to be "standard" or "average." For example, the Arc'teryx FL-355 model has very tight fixed leg loops — it only fit those of us with the skinniest of legs. However, the AR-385a has adjustable leg loops that can accommodate a 4-6 inch difference in leg circumference. Adjustable legs allow us to wear the same harness to the gym in leggings one day, and out on an ice climb over long underwear and softshell pants the next.
It's no surprise that the models with adjustable leg loops scored higher in this metric than the ones without, but not all adjustable leg loops are created equal. We want something that still provides padding around most of our thighs whenever possible. The Camp Supernova delivers that, but the Black Diamond Technician does not. The Technician has less leg loop and more webbing, which made it uncomfortable to hang in.
While adjustable leg loops add more weight to a climbing harness — the adjustable Luna weighs about two ounces more than the non-adjustable but similar Selena — that difference is pretty minimal all things considered. The Black Diamond Momentum has a trakFIT closure that combines the functionality of an adjustable leg loop with the lighter weight of a fixed one. There is a sliding buckle that can tighten or loosen the fixed loop with elastic attached underneath it for stretch. While we like this system, it does not offer as much adjustability as a buckle system (2-3 inches instead of 4-6).
A harness is a necessity for all climbers. The fact that it can keep you alive makes the decision-making process that much harder. It is important to find a model that not only fits your climbing style but also your build. We hope that you were able to use the information in this review to make an informed decision about the type of harness you need.
— Cam McKenzie Ring