The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

How We Tested Climbing Harness for Women

By Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Saturday March 16, 2019

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.

Gear testing women's harnesses in Red Rock Canyon  Las Vegas. Going to "work" every day was definitely not a chore.
Gear testing women's harnesses in Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas. Going to "work" every day was definitely not a chore.

Standing Comfort


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).

Sometimes you spend more time standing around the crag than you do climbing. We rated each model based on how comfortable they felt while belaying  walking  and "hanging" around.
Sometimes you spend more time standing around the crag than you do climbing. We rated each model based on how comfortable they felt while belaying, walking, and "hanging" around.

Hanging Comfort


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.

It didn't take long for us to feel uncomfortable hanging in some harnesses. We hung extensively in each one to figure out which felt the best when free hanging.
It didn't take long for us to feel uncomfortable hanging in some harnesses. We hung extensively in each one to figure out which felt the best when free hanging.

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.

We looked at all of the features that a harness had  and how useful and functional they were.
We looked at all of the features that a harness had, and how useful and functional they were.

Mobility


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 did a lot of high-stepping and heel hooking to figure out which models had the best movement.
We did a lot of high-stepping and heel hooking to figure out which models had the best movement.

Versatility


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.

We climbed in each model in a variety of areas and disciplines to see how versatile they were.
We climbed in each model in a variety of areas and disciplines to see how versatile they were.

Adjustability


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?

Our Editors' Choice winning Camp Supernova is a very versatile women's harness. We took it on multi-pitch trad climbs one day and short sport routes the next  and it even has two slots for ice tool holders.
Our Editors' Choice winning Camp Supernova is a very versatile women's harness. We took it on multi-pitch trad climbs one day and short sport routes the next, and it even has two slots for ice tool holders.