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Curious about the best climbing harness? Our expert climbers have worn and tested over 45 different models in the past ten years, so we have a good idea about the makeup of an exceptional harness. This review features 15 of the very best on the market, with ideal all-around options, top alpine selections, great harnesses for simple sport and trad cragging, recommendations for the gym, and mountaineering harnesses. 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 large): 13.7 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable for both hanging and belaying
Plenty of mobility
Tons of features
Versatile for all styles of climbing
REASONS TO AVOID
Not the lightest
The Arc'teryx C-Quence is a great all-around harness that improves on many popular Arc'teryx features. We love their Warp Strength Technology waist belt design, which utilizes very little padding yet manages to evenly distribute the climber's weight across the waist belt and the leg loops. This design sits flat to the body and is comfortable while also reducing the bulk and heat that are typically trapped by foam cushioning. The fixed leg loop design is low bulk but still has the ability to stretch to a much wider fit to easily accommodate added clothing.
Like most Arc'teryx products in general, 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 large weighs 13.7 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 it's very well-suited for any climbing discipline.
Designed for: Sport, Trad | Weight (size large): 14.8 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Very comfortable, especially for belaying
Good arrangement of gear loops for any style of rock climbing
REASONS TO AVOID
Waist belt tends to ride up when hanging
Not the best choice for ice, alpine, mixed, or mountaineering
The Petzl Sama is a great choice for sport or trad climbing. While there are less expensive options out there, 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 hanging out at 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 few small 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. But if 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 worn by professional climbers of all varieties, but we've always speculated 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 won't argue that this is a harness suitable for everyone, but if you care about weight and love all styles of climbing, the Sitta is one to consider.
Designed for: Trad, Multi-pitch, Sport | Weight (size large): 15.1 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable for hanging
Large gear loops
Very durable fabric
REASONS TO AVOID
Can't be used for alpine or mixed climbing
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 wide, 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 climb chimneys or off-width. All in all, this harness is a multi-pitching machine.
As with most things, these benefits come with a few small trade-offs. The large leg loops sometimes catch on each other while we walk around, a minor annoyance that doesn't really affect performance. It's also on the heavier side, which doesn't matter that much, but it makes this harness less suitable for alpine climbing. But if you spend most of your time climbing on trad and multi-pitch routes, or want a harness that is versatile enough to be used for sport climbing too, the Solution Guide is the best option.
Designed for: Sport, Indoor | Weight (size large): 13.3 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent comfort for climbing or belaying
Holds enough quickdraws for long routes or multipitch sport
REASONS TO AVOID
On the heavier side for sport climbing
The Black Diamond Solution has everything we want in a sport climbing harness. The leg loops and waist belt are super comfortable, both while climbing, walking around the crag, or belaying your partner on their project. The molded gear loops are easy to clip, and while they won't hold enough gear for most trad climbing, they hold plenty of quickdraws and associated belay and rappelling gear for multi-pitch sport climbing. The Solution also makes a great gym harness.
As a harness designed strictly for sport climbing, this isn't a very versatile option. If heading out trad, alpine, ice, or mixed climbing, we opt for a different harness. Also, its features make life at the crag easy, but they add on the ounces, as this is one of the heavier sport-climbing specific harnesses out there. But if hanging and climbing comfort is most important to you for your sport climbing addiction, this is the best harness you can buy.
Easy to put on without taking off crampons or skis
REASONS TO AVOID
Uncomfortable for hanging
Only good for niche use
Light on gear loops
The Blue Ice Choucas Light is a lightweight specialty harness that excels for use while skiing technical terrain, traveling on glaciers, or climbing easy mountaineering routes. Its low weight and small packed size help this harness disappear into a pack when not needed. When it's time to put the harness on, you can do so without taking off skis or crampons, and the thin waist belt and leg loops make the harness unnoticeable when walking, skinning, or climbing.
This harness isn't very comfortable to hang in, but it won't bother you to do a couple rappels or hang at a stance for a little while. For routes with minimal hang time and where the chance of falling is negligible, this harness is a lightweight dream. However, for routes with any extended hanging, you'll wish you had a more comfortable harness. The tiny gear loops can hold enough gear for easy mountaineering routes, but not much more than a light rack and belay kit. This minimalist design prevents this harness from being versatile enough for most climbing applications, but for users who want a niche harness for their lightweight ski mountaineering missions, this is the best option.
We've reviewed climbing harnesses for the last ten years, and have tested over 45 models in that time. We stay up to date with the changes in the climbing world and add new products into this review constantly as they become available. We buy each product at retail price and test them head-to-head in a variety of objective and subjective tests to get a good idea of how they stack up. We take them sport climbing, trad climbing, gym climbing, and alpine climbing. We also weigh each model carefully, and note how many pieces of gear each gear loop can hold. We also gather information from a wide variety of testers to make sure our judgments are accurate.
Our climbing harness testing is analyzed based on five different metrics:
Hanging Comfort (30% of overall score weighting)
Standing Comfort and Mobility (25% weighting)
Features (20% weighting)
Versatility (15% weighting)
Weight and Packability (10% weighting)
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. Rounding out the review is IFMGA Mountain Guide and reviewer Jeff Dobronyi, who climbs and guides all over the world, both on long vertical rock climbs and committing alpine climbs. He has guided climbers on peaks from the Alaska Range to the Tetons, San Juans, Alps, and Andes.
Analysis and Test Results
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, versatility, and weight and packability. 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 also 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, the reality is that you can get a great harness for much less than the most expensive choices.
Particularly good value can be found with the Petzl Sama, which performs nearly as well as the best harnesses on the market, and for a fraction of the price. This harness excels at every rock climbing discipline, and our testers would have no problem using this harness for the rest of our lives on the rock. The Black Diamond Solution is also a great value, considering its top performance for sport climbing. If all you do is gym climb indoors and sport climb outdoors, this is an inexpensive option that will satisfy your every desire. If you need a four-season harness that can also perform on ice and mixed climbs, the Edelrid Moe isn't a bad choice.
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 went to 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). In this position, a person's weight is distributed evenly between the waist belt and the leg loops. About half of the weight rests on the person's upper legs and hamstrings, while the lower back takes the other half.
Black Diamond's "Fusion Comfort Construction" employed on the Solution and Solution Guide offered some of the most comfortable hanging experiences. A large part of this is due to the wide leg loops that diffuse the load in the same way the waist belt does. Both of these harnesses come closest to making us forget that we are hanging off the side of a cliff or hanging on a belay device while our partners work out the moves on their project.
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. All of these harnesses provide excellent hanging comfort.
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 at the base of the crag or 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.
The super lightweight and "barely there" Black Diamond airNET is super comfortable while standing around, mostly because you can barely tell you're wearing it. 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 Solution is also one of the most comfortable harnesses to climb in. Its waist and leg loops are very minimally padded so that there is no bulkiness to impede movement or provide a distraction. Its wide 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. All of our favorite harnesses are comfortable to stand or climb in.
Of all the harnesses in our review, the minimalist mountaineering-specific harnesses are by far the most comfortable for movement. These harnesses are almost in a class by themselves for mobility. Without padding or stiff loops, these products, including our favorite Blue Ice Choucas Light, allow complete range of motion without even noticing that the user is wearing a harness at all.
Features play a large role in dictating what sort of climbing a harness is best suited for. 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. 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.
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. It even has a divider in the front gear loops that helps you stay organized, separating cams from slings and keeping critical gear near the front of the harness where it is easily accessible.
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 the fit can be fine-tuned to suit the temps and amount of layers you're wearing. A final consideration is weight and bulk.
The most versatile harness by far is the Petzl Sitta. It's an ideal choice for any climbing discipline — 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 C-Quence is another super versatile choice, with a ton of gear carrying capacity, ice clipper slots, and a low profile that is easily packable.
Most other harnesses aren't as versatile as these choices. Many harnesses eliminate ice clipper slots and adjustable leg loops needed for ice climbing to shave weight for rock climbing. The Black Diamond Solution Guide has great gear loops that are large enough to hold a big rack while trad or multi-pitch climbing, and the harness is also suitable for sport or gym climbing.
Weight and Packability
With lightweight materials and construction constantly decreasing the weight and packed size of climbing gear, many climbers pay attention to how much their gear weighs. Every ounce that isn't carried up the mountain improves our performance on our objectives. The longer the approach and the harder the climb, the more weight matters.
The lightest harnesses in our review are the mountaineering and ski-specific harnesses, including the Choucas Light,Black Diamond Couloir UL, and Petzl Fly. These harnesses weigh a fraction of the fully-featured climbing harnesses and pack down to the size of a fist. If long approaches to easy climbs or ski mountaineering are on your list of hobbies, these harnesses are light enough to make your days in the mountains more enjoyable. However, they don't perform well in most performance metrics like hanging comfort or versatility.
The Petzl Sitta is the best lightweight option among the more vertically-suited harnesses. This harness has all of the features of a regular climbing harness, including four gear loops and ice clipper slots, but it weighs only ten ounces. This is our preferred harness for long alpine routes and anything that requires a strenuous approach.
We've done our best to offer you solid recommendations for the best harness for the money, the best all-around harness, one for sport climbing, multi-pitch climbing, or the lightest harness. However, remember 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 the information provided here has been useful in your search, and we wish you happy climbing.
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.