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Curious about the best climbing harness? Our expert climbers have worn and tested over 40 different models in the past nine years, so we have a good idea about the make up of an exceptional harness. This review features 14 of the very best on the market, with ideal all-around options, top alpine selections, great harnesses for simple sport and trad cragging, and recommendations for the gym. We've tested and rated every harness for comfort while hanging, standing, and belaying, and evaluated their features and versatility. Whether you like pulling on small crimps while clipping bolts, plugging cams into splitter cracks, or summiting large mountains in remote wilderness, this review can help you find the best harness for your climbing dreams and adventures.
Designed for: Rock, Ice, Alpine | Weight (size medium): 13.3 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable for both hanging and belaying
Improved, lower profile wais tbelt design
Tons of features
Versatile for all styles of climbing
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the lightest
The Arc'teryx C-Quence is their first new climbing harness design in many years, and is a successful all-around model that improves on many of the popular Arc'teryx features, such as the Warp Strength Technology waist belt design. This waist belt sits flat against the body and has minimal to no padding inside, but disburses the weight of a climber over the entire area of waist and leg loops to greatly increase comfort while also reducing bulk and heat trapped by foam cushioning. The fixed leg loop design is low bulk, while having the ability to stretch to a much wider fit to easily accommodate added clothing.
Like most Arc'teryx products in general, and harnesses in particular, this one is fairly pricey. That said, it isn't their most expensive harness, and virtually everyone we know who owns one is happy regardless of the purchase price. We were also surprised to learn that our size medium weighs 13.3 ounces, which is on the heavier side of the spectrum, and not nearly as light as the super-thin construction would lead us to believe. Despite these qualms, we think this is easily one of the most comfortable harnesses you can buy, and is very well suited for absolutely any climbing activity.
If sport climbing is your primary jam, the Black Diamond Zone harness has everything you need for a day of hang dogging, long belay duties, and then some. We also wore this harness on plenty of trad routes, and found it tough enough to handle offwidths and chimneys, while the gear loops easily accommodate a double rack plus a few extras. This harness also has a modestly sized rear loop for a tag line or light weight jackets. We climbed some multi pitch routes and found the zone sufficiently supportive. While tooled for sport climbing, we think of the Zone as the ultimate cragging harness, plus it’s light and crams down pretty small in a backpack.
While the leg loops and waist belt do a good job of evenly distributing your weight, they are a little thin, and if you’re exclusively climbing longer routes, you’ll want something a little beefier. Ditto for hauling, as this harness will do a number on your hips after hauling days worth of supplies. Aside from those minor gripes, we’re very impressed with the versatility of the Zone, and if you do limit yourself to only clipping bolts, this harness will be more than satisfactory.
Lots of rigid gear loops for ideal rack management
Adjustable leg loops
Made with bluesign-certified materials
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the most comfortable for belaying
Waist belt is not as breathable as some
The Edelrid Sendero is a new climbing harness from Edelrid that does a fantastic job blending comfort with lightweight construction, in a package that makes it an ideal fit for any style of climbing. We think so highly of it that we are happy to call it the best all-around harness. In particular, we like how light it is, even considering the adjustable leg loop buckles that ensure it fits properly while wearing any amount of clothing. We also dig the rigid flat gear loops that are durable and easy to clip, as well as the fifth loop in the back that ensures that we have plenty of room for all the essentials on a long climb. The two very low profile ice clipper slots don't interfere with the gear loops at all, which once again adds to the versatility. All of this comes at a pretty reasonable price.
While we have minimal complaints, one would be that the waist belt doesn't breathe quite as well as some super light options, and you can still expect to get a little sweaty when climbing on the hottest days. While this harness isn't our top choice specifically for either sport or trad climbing, we found it does both better than any other option, at a lighter weight, which makes it an excellent all-around choice.
Designed for: Sport, Trad | Weight (size Medium): 13.7 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable, especially for belaying
Good arrangement of gear loops for any style of rock climbing
Less bulky and more mobile than the previous version
REASONS TO AVOID
Waist belt rides up a bit when hanging
Not the best choice for ice, alpine mixed, or mountaineering
The Petzl Sama is a great choice for pretty much any kind of rock climbing. While there are other, less expensive harnesses available, the performance they offer is nowhere near that of the super comfortable Sama, and it's still a bit cheaper than most other alternatives. Whether one is hanging out that the base of a crag, or hanging at belays many pitches off the ground, this is one comfortable harness. We also love how the elastic fixed leg loops allow for greatly increased mobility without any noticeable constrictions of movement. Although it's designed primarily for sport climbing, it's also a solid choice for trad climbing, thanks to the wide, rigid front gear loops, and large, easy-to-access rear gear loops, which give you plenty of room for storing all of the long route necessities.
Nothing is ever truly perfect, however, and the Sama still comes with a couple of tiny flaws. We would really love it if it included a larger, but still low profile, fifth gear loop in the back. It also isn't a great choice for alpine and ice climbing due to a lack of ice clipper slots. Whether you prefer plugging cams, clipping bolts, or hanging at the gym, and especially if you prefer all of the above at an affordable price, the Sama will not disappoint.
Highly versatile for all different climbing disciplines
REASONS TO AVOID
Not as comfortable for hanging belays
Climbing is a game where every ounce matters, which is why you should seriously consider investing in the Petzl Sitta. We have seen this harness at the crags for years and in Youtube videos being worn by professional climbers of all varieties, but have always been convinced that a harness so small and dainty couldn't possibly be comfortable for actually climbing in. Turns out we were wrong. When walking or hanging out, it's so light and form-fitting as to be virtually unnoticeable, making it an excellent choice for alpine climbing, mountaineering, or skimo, where glacier travel and staying roped up while walking is necessary. That said, it has just as much gear storage capacity as the Petzl Sama, as well as ice clipper slots, ensuring that you can find plenty of room for a large rack or even ice tools for alpine missions.
The glaring downside to this harness is its price tag. However, we still think it presents a good value, as it can be used literally any day you go climbing, no matter what type or style it is, and is a better value as a mountaineering or alpine climbing harness. We aren't going to argue this is a harness that will suit everyone, but if you care about light weight and love all styles of climbing, the Sitta is one to consider.
Designed for: Trad, Multi-pitch, Sport | Weight (size medium): 14.1 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Similar comfortable design and construction as the Solution
Five larger gear loops allow plenty of room for carrying a large rack and multi-pitch necessities
Very durable fabric
Also versatile for sport climbing
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the most comfortable for long belay duty
Not quite as light or mobile as Solution
The Black Diamond Solution Guide is the best climbing harness you can buy if multi-pitch climbing or trad cragging is your jam. The front two gear loops are slightly bigger, allowing for a bit more rack to fit near the front where you can reach it quickly, while BD has added a fifth gear loop that spans the back of the harness for clipping multi-pitch items like a windbreaker, shoes, and water. The entire harness is constructed out of "Super Fabric," which has strong plastic fibers woven throughout that provide "protection shields," greatly enhancing the durability — a key component for those who often chimney or off-width climb. All in all, this harness has everything one would need to turn the most comfortable harness — the Solution — into a multi-pitching machine.
As with most things, these benefits come with a few small trade-offs. The shape of the leg loops where they taper to meet at the front of the harness is subtly different, with the net effect of being much less comfortable for extended sessions of belay duty. We also found that the large leg loops sometimes catch on each other while we walk around, a minor annoyance that doesn't really affect performance. Lastly, you will have to shell out a bit more money than the Solution, or even the lightweight all-around Edelrid Sendero, but we think it's worth it!
Heading up this review is Andy Wellman ], a senior gear reviewer at OutdoorGearLab for the past eight years. Andy is a lifelong climber, and has pursued climbing as a career and passion for the past 22 years. As a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he majored in the traditionally protected climbs of Eldorado Canyon State Park, frequently studied abroad on the large granite walls of Yosemite, and took more than one break in order to "expand his studies," learning about things such as limestone and mixed climbing. Eventually, he left CU with a piece of paper that said BA in English Literature. The subsequent years involved traveling the world to climb rock and tall mountains, a stint as an alpine guide, and starting a guidebook publishing company called Greener Grass Publishing, writing and publishing guides to the fine sandstone of the Southeast. He now uses and tests climbing and trail running equipment for a living in the mountains of Southern Colorado. Rounding out the review is Matt Bento, a previous Search and Rescue member in Yosemite. After spending copious amounts of time in Yosemite, he now resides in Bishop, where he continues to go on various climbing adventures.
Our climbing harness testing is analyzed based on five metrics:
Hanging comfort tests (35% of overall score weighting)
Standing comfort and mobility tests (20% weighting)
Features tests (20% weighting)
Weight tests (15% weighting)
Belaying comfort tests (15% weighting)
Versatility tests (10% weighting)
Testing climbing harnesses is a year-round process that takes place every month in locations all around the world. Matt and Andy stay up to date with the changes in the climbing world and add new products into this review constantly as they become available and he has a chance to use them. The harnesses you read about here have been tested in places such as Smith Rock, Red Rocks, Squamish, the Bugaboos, Spain, Greece, the Colorado Rockies, and countless other crags and destinations, big and small. They also have friends and partners wear these harnesses to get second opinions, and when necessary, conduct side-by-side tests in a more controlled setting, such as determining the nuances of which harnesses are the most comfortable for hanging. What really sets this review apart is that we purchase the items you see here, rather than receiving them for free, so our experts can tell it like it actually is, and give you the very best advice, rather than simply the advice that a particular company wants us to give.
To provide our overall ratings, and to best understand the relative performances of each harness, we tested and assessed each one based on five different metrics: hanging comfort, standing comfort and mobility, features, belaying comfort, and versatility. Each harness was compared to the others, and since this is the finest collection of harnesses we could assemble, just because a product received a low score doesn't mean it's a bad product. It's likely that you have slightly different priorities than us when selecting a harness, so be sure to assess what type of climbing you will most likely use it for, and give those pertinent considerations greater value.
Harnesses come at a wide range of price points, and many of our top choices and recommendations are not the most expensive. While high-priced harnesses usually have perks and features that may be lacking on others (such as very low weight), the reality is that you can get the very best harnesses for much, much less than the most expensive choices.
Particularly good values are the Edelrid Sendero, which is an excellent all-around choice, the Black Diamond Solution, or the Petzl Sama, another very solid all-around choice. While the lowest-priced options are decent choices for newer climbers, we think it's worth it to spend a little bit more money for one of the best choices, that will, of course, also serve beginners very well for many years.
We're going to let you in on a simple truth when it comes to hanging in a climbing harness: it is not comfortable, at least not for very long. While this truth may not register in your consciousness as you work your way up a steep sport climb, anyone who has spent an hour or so at a hanging belay waiting for their partner to finish their lead can attest to the significant discomfort of hanging in a harness for a long period. Climbing harnesses have fabric that wraps around the waist, lower back, and back of the thighs, which is necessary for safety. But the fact remains that these parts of your body are not designed to directly hold weight for long periods, and the pressure put on them becomes uncomfortable or even painful rather quickly. While each harness uses a different strategy to diffuse or pad against the load, none of them come close to the sensation of sitting in a chair or on the couch. Perhaps this metric should be better thought of as least hanging discomfort, rather than "hanging comfort."
To conclusively say which harnesses are the least uncomfortable while hanging in them, we posted up at the bottom of a local cliff and spent 10 minutes successively hanging in each harness, one after the other, in a position that mimics a hanging belay (and also how you would hang at the end of the rope or while rappelling). Evident to us is that in this position, a person's weight is distributed between the waist belt and the leg loops pretty evenly. About half of the weight rests on the person's upper legs and hamstrings, while the lower back takes the other half.
The "Fusion Comfort Construction" of the Black Diamond Solution proved to be the most comfortable harness to hang in. A large part of this is because it has the widest leg loops that diffuse the load in the same way that its waist belt does. Although they have slightly different dimensions, the Black Diamond Solution Guide and Zone are made the same way and provide equal levels of comfort while hanging.
Leg loop designs that are thinner or diffuse the load with a single strap of webbing, especially in the leg loops, lead to cut off circulation and are noticeably less comfortable, immediately. The wide and well-padded leg loops on the Petzl Sama and Petzl Adjama also allow for a relatively comfortable hanging experience, as does the thin Warp Strength Technology employed in the Arc'teryx C-Quence. We feel that this is the single most important aspect when considering the performance of a harness, and so weighted this metric as 35% of a product's overall score.
Standing Comfort and Mobility
If you are wearing a harness but aren't hanging at a belay or rappelling off a cliff, then chances are you are moving around, climbing, walking, or merely standing about at the base of the crag or chilling in the gym. This metric is designed to assess how comfortable a harness is during all of these non-hanging moments, which turns out to be the majority of the time while you wear a harness.
There is no question in our mind that the super lightweight and "barely there" Black Diamond airNET is the most comfortable harness while standing around, mostly because you can barely tell you have it on. It's also really comfortable for walking in since the Infinity Loop belay ring doesn't catch as you move your legs, and the gear loops are so minimal they sit really easily under a pack.
A far more versatile option is the Petzl Sitta, which is also very comfortable. Its stretchy leg loops expand comfortably if you are wearing thicker clothes, and the fluidity that we maintain while walking in this harness makes it an excellent choice for mountaineering. The Black Diamond Zone is also one of the most comfortable harnesses for all of the non-hanging times, which is a good thing because that's mostly what a day of sport climbing is! Its waist and leg loops are very minimally padded so that there is no bulkiness to impede movement or provide a distraction. Its thin waist belt sits comfortably under the hip belt of our climbing pack, and it holds a rack of quickdraws without sagging or putting pressure on the hips. As an essential metric to the performance and enjoyment of a harness, we weighted this metric as 20% of a product's overall score.
What features a climbing harness has plays a large role in dictating what sort of climbing it is best used for. Features such as adjustable leg loops, ice clipper slots, and many large gear loops allow one to carry a lot of protection, including ice screws or even ice tools.
They also have the most adjustable and customizable fit for wearing with multiple bulky layers — all desired attributes for mixed, ice, or alpine multi-pitch climbing. On the other hand, small gear loops that rest close to the body, combined with fixed elastic leg loops, allow one to cut down on weight and bulk and keep a harness streamlined and simple — ideal for sport and gym climbing.
Since we recognize that harnesses designed for different purposes will have different feature sets, we mostly graded a harness's features based on how well they perform. The baseline is the competition, meaning that when assessing how well a certain feature works, we simply compared it to the same features on other harnesses.
A number of harnesses that we've tested have excellent and diverse feature sets. The Arc'teryx C-Quence has an ideal feature set for almost any type of climbing, which is why we call it the best all-around option. Rigid, easy to clip gear loops (five of them) and super low-profile ice clipper slots are some of the things that all work really well. The Petzl Sitta is another harness with a multitude of features that all work perfectly as advertised. As one of the most differentiating aspects of harness design, we weighted features as 20% of a product's final score.
There's no avoiding it — belaying is as much a part of climbing as the actual climbing itself. Holding a climber while belaying puts a substantial upward pull on your harness that localizes the force almost entirely in the leg loops, especially as they wrap around the inside of the leg to meet at the belay loop in the front. The diffusion of this pressure is completely different than that found while hanging in a harness, so we decided to rate harness comfort separately for belaying.
Once again, holding a person for a long time while belaying is not what most people would call comfortable. We've come to realize that assessing choices as "least uncomfortable" is a bit more accurate than thinking in terms of "most comfortable." Besides all of the belaying we've done during our test period, we like to compare each harness more accurately side-by-side, so compared them one after another by holding a climber on top rope for a few minutes at a time in each harness. We found that the best harnesses have the most comfortable leg loops that sit flat against the leg as they wrap around the inside to meet at the belay loop.
The most uncomfortable leg loops feel like we are being gouged by the sharp edge of a piece of webbing, which might be exactly what's happening. Worth noting is that with a properly fitting harness, dudes can rest assured that all of these harnesses are designed to allow everything to hang right and not get pinched or crushed when belaying, although we noticed that when wearing pants with bulkier or thicker material, there is a greater chance that some adjustment will be necessary.
According to our testing, the Petzl Sama, Petzl Adjama, and Arc'teryx C-Quence are the most comfortable for holding a climber for long periods while belaying. If a lot of belaying is in your future, consider these choices first. The Black Diamond Solution is also one of the most comfortable for this purpose, but its non-adjustable leg loops fit slightly more snug and apply a bit more pressure on the inside of the leg than the very best while belaying. As a metric that is not quite as important as the three we described above (as all harnesses work well at belaying), it accounts for 15% of a product's final score.
All of these harnesses are designed to be used for climbing, but the truth is that there are many different forms of roped climbing: sport, gym, trad, ice, alpine rock, alpine mixed, and mountaineering. It is possible to buy a harness specifically designed for and tailored to each of these purposes, and indeed some of the harnesses here only fit a narrow range of use.
When assessing for versatility, the first thing we consider is how many of the above genres a harness is suitable for. Harnesses with ice clipper attachment points and large gear loops can be used for ice climbing and alpine climbing better than ones with tiny gear loops and no attachment points. A secondary consideration is how adjustable the harness is. Adjustable leg loops and highly adjustable waist belts ensure that no matter what the temperature and amount of clothes you are wearing, you can fine-tune the fit. A final consideration is weight and bulk.
The most versatile harness by far and the one that we chose to recommend for this purpose is the Petzl Sitta. It's an ideal choice for any sort of climbing, whether that is sport, trad, ice, or alpine. In particular, its very low weight and bulk make it super packable for adventure climbs, but we also love how minimal yet comfortable it feels while clipping bolts. The Arc'teryx AR-395a is another super versatile choice, with a ton of gear carrying capacity, adjustable leg loops, and a low profile that is easily packable. The Edelrid Sendero is far more affordable than either of those options and has all the tools to be used for literally any type of climbing. As an important consideration, but nowhere near as vital as comfort and individual features, we weighted this metric as only 10% of a product's final score.
While we've done our best to offer you solid recommendations for the best harness depending on whether you are looking for the best value, the best all-around harness, one for sport climbing, multi-pitch climbing, or the lightest harness, the truth is that the best harness for you will be the one that matches your needs and is the most comfortable (or least uncomfortable!) on your body. We hope that the information provided here has been useful in your search, and we wish you happy climbing!
Below is our choice for Ultimate Rock Climbing Rack. We...
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.