We have been testing and reviewing climbing harnesses at OutdoorGearLab for the past nine years. Many of the models tested have the same name as versions that we've tested in the past, although the manufacturers have updated them over that time. We test harnesses pretty much year-round, on all of our climbing adventures, and in the past year, we conducted testing at a bunch of cool climbing areas, including Smith Rock, Leonidio, Greece, Trout Creek, the Bugaboos, Squamish, Skaha, the Fins, and Lumpy Ridge.
The majority of the testing we do is intensive field-testing, which in this case means pitch after pitch of rock climbing. The head tester spent many days climbing in each of these harnesses, and we also loaned them out to friends and climbing partners to garner a broader perspective. In some cases, we conducted more objective, side-by-side tests, to solidify results and comparative ratings, which are described below. While we do speculate at times as to whether a particular harness will be good for ice or mountaineering, we disclose that we did not test these harnesses for these activities. Where recommendations for specific purposes have been made, they have been based mostly on extrapolations based on the experience of the head tester, who has over 20 years of climbing experience in every discipline. In no case should any of the recommendations made be taken as safety advice, but merely as informed advice for a purchasing decision.
We hung on routes, at hanging belays, and rappelled in each of these harnesses. To test them side-by-side, we set up a mock hang at the base of a crag and spent ten minutes hanging in each harness in a position that mimics a hanging belay or hanging after a fall, one after the other, to gain clearer insight to differentiate the relative comforts of each product.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
This metric is an amalgamation of many different tests. We wore each model, used them, and took copious notes that led to comparative ratings. We analyzed and compared them while rock climbing, standing around and walking in shorts and a t-shirt, doing the same while wearing pants and a jacket, standing, moving, and climbing with a massive rack on the harness, and also while wearing a climbing pack with the waist belt buckled. This metric is meant to convey the comfort for all times when not hanging or belaying.
For each harness, we identified each feature found on it, and then tested it conscientiously while out climbing. We made a note of whether a whole double rack plus water, a jacket, and shoes could fit in the gear loops; how easy or hard the gear was to clip or unclip from the loops; whether the haul loop was easy to clip and unclip; how easy the buckles adjusted and stayed locked in place; and many other such tests of literally every feature available.
Over the years we have realized that how comfortable a harness feels while hanging is different than when belaying, so we decided to rate this important consideration separately. To test them side-by-side we top-rope belayed a person as they hung in place for a number of minutes, in each harness, one after the other.
We tested each of the buckles on all of the harnesses side-by-side to get a thorough understanding of which were the most adjustable, and which buckles worked best. For the other features, we climbed both sport and trad routes, and in situations where we were not able to test, like ice climbing, we racked up as if going climbing anyway, to test how versatile the features were.