We tested the each of the climbing harnesses over a four-month period, taking input from several different testers with decades of climbing experience between them. We wore them while sport and trad climbing at the local crags around Las Vegas, Nevada, and also on some climbing trips to other locales. Here's how we specifically tested the various metrics that we used to evaluate the different models.
We wore each harness for an entire day out and paid close attention to how comfortable we felt throughout the day. We considered whether we could easily walk in the different models, with or without a pack on, if it pinched us anywhere, and whether we felt constrained by it, or if we barely noticed that it was on. Since a large part of the standing comfort is also dictated by the fit of the harness (rise, leg loop circumference), we did a lot of measuring to see what really constitutes a women's specific fit. After measuring as many rises out there as we had friends, we tried to come to a consensus for what fit the majority of women best. We also weighed the harnesses ourselves (the manufacturer's stated weight is not always correct).
We evaluated hanging comfort by several methods. We spent a lot of time hanging in each harness when working a route and belaying someone who was hang-dogging their project a lot. We also set up a free-hanging test in our living room. We clipped ourselves into a secure point in the ceiling and hung out for ten minutes, or longer if we could stand it.
Discipline Specific Features
If a harness was specifically designed for one type of climbing, we evaluated how well it performed in that specific discipline. Some harnesses are sport-specific models and might not have ice clipper tool slots, but if you are only looking to use it for sport climbing, it would be unfair for us to compare it to an all-around model. For sport harnesses, we mainly considered the placement and ease of access of the gear loops. For all-around harnesses, we considered the gear loops as well, looking to see how much we could carry on them, as well as the number and usability of ice tool clipper slots.
This metric was evaluated by climbing in each of the test models and noting how well we could move in each on, and if there were any areas that were pinching us or impeding our movement.
We tried these different models on steep single-pitch sport routes, long vertical climbs, and single and multi-pitch traditional routes. Then we rated them based on the number of disciplines that they would be useful for. The Mammut Zephir received a low score for versatility as it works best in the gym and not much else, but it is a great harness for the gym, so if you only need a harness for one particular application, this metric may not be so important to you.
For this metric, we compared the adjustment options in the waist and leg loops and tried each model on over a variety of clothing and on different ladies. Could we wear this over leggings and thicker pants? When the leg loops were let out larger were they still comfortable? How was each model sized compared to the other?