Skip to main content

Guide to Buying a Climbing Harness

 

 

It goes without saying that your harness is a very important part of keeping you safe when climbing, and with so many options available it can seem overwhelming. While all our harnesses at Pinnacle Sports meet the appropriate safety standards and specifications, it’s worth taking the time to choose the harness that best suits your needs now, and into the future, as if you take care of your harness you should have it for several years.So what’s the difference between a basic harness and what makes a harness the bees knees? This guide is here to help.

GEAR LOOPS

Most harnesses come with 4 gear loops as a standard which is perfect for sport climbing. Some harnesses will have a fifth gear loop at the centre which adds additional racking space for gear. The Mammut Sender Fast Adjust  which is specific for sport climbing has 2 larger racking loops which easily take 8-10 quickdraws but 2 smaller flat gear loops on the back.

If you’re going to be adventuring into the world of trad climbing, sport multi-pitch or guiding you will want at least four reasonably-sized gear loops, perhaps more. The Black Diamond Big Gun, Wild Country Synchro and Ocun Wee Bee Quattro each have 6-7 gear loops. The additional racking space allows easier organisation of gear.

BELAY LOOPS & TIE-IN POINTS

Unlike a typical group style harness, most climbing harnesses feature a belay loop that’s separate from the tie-in points. The belay loop is the strongest part of the harness and is generally only used, as the name suggests,to belay from. There is debate around whether or not personal safety lanyards should be attached to the belay loop or the tie-in points, with many manufacturers recommending that the tie-in points be used instead. If in doubt, consult the instruction manuals of your specific equipment.

Some lightweight harnesses forego the belay loop entirely and only have two tie-in points. These are great for those hardcore climbers who don’t want to carry any extra grams, but the average climber is probably going to see more downside than benefit in this style of harness as it makes belaying difficult or even impossible in some cases.

Some big wall harnesses have two separate belay loops: when you’ve got more gear than you can shake a nut tool at hanging off you, the extra belay loop really helps with organisation.

ADJUSTABILITY

Adjustability – how much do you want? Sports specific harnesses will have fixed leg loops which assists with making the harness lighter. 

Adjustable leg loops is a personal preference. They offer a great range of size which is advantageous if climbing in variable weather conditions as they will more easily accommodate layered clothing. They’re also preferable if your legs are bigger than what the manufacturer thought they should be (read cyclists etc)!

If you’re sharing a harness, have growing kids, like a harness that’s easy to centre or fluctuate in size a double buckle harness might be just the ticket. These harnesses usually come in 2 sizes which will range from an extra small to mediumish and mediumish to extra large. The dual buckles make centering the harness quicker as you’re equalising the waist belt from 2 sides. A classic example in this style is the Petzl Corax.

Want to introduce friends to top rope climbing or do you run an organization that caters for multi ages and sizes?  A group style harness will allow you to fit multiple sizes in the one harness from children to adults of a waist of around 95 to 120cm (sizing varies, refer to the manufacturer’s specifications) The disadvantage of this style of harness is that they are not the most comfortable items (usually no padding). This style of harness is also not suitable for lead climbing.

WEIGHT & COMFORT

When you’re pushing your physical and mental limits on a tough climb, every gram counts. But when you’re spending all day in your harness while on a big wall adventure, you might be willing to carry a bit of extra weight for that additional support and comfort. Like most things in life, there’s always a trade off.

KIDS' HARNESSES

Don’t let kids stop you from climbing, pack them up and take them to a child friendly crag.

Depending on their age there are two styles of harness available: these being full body harnesses or sit harnesses (miniature versions of a padded adult harness).

Full body harnesses are suitable for younger children usually under 5/ 6 years (check the manufacturer’s sizing). This style of harness offers more support particularly when children this age are usually top heavy. Note that these harnesses are suitable for a weight range of up to 40 kg. Options include the Edelrid Fraggle III or the Black Diamond Momentum Kids Full Body.

For older children usually in the age bracket of 5-10 years a kids specific harness will work a treat. These harnesses have a weight limit of 40-50kg (this may vary per manufacturer). Black Diamond make the Momentum Kids and Edelrid make the Finn.

Another option for kids or tweens or if you’re sizing harnesses for multiple kids would be a double buckle harness in a Extra Extra Small to Small or Extra Small to Medium eg. Black Diamond Momentum 4S as this gives a wider range of adjustability. This would also be multi purpose if you took friends out (providing it fits their waist).

LIFESPAN

As a general rule of thumb harnesses have a life span of 10 years from the date of manufacture, even if the harness is not used at all. This time frame excludes wear and tear. Usage and care of your harness will determine the exact amount of time that you get out of your harness. As with all safety equipment, it’s the responsibility of the user to inspect before and after use. 

Of course, like with climbing shoes, the only way to be sure of comfort and sizing is to try it on! Pinnacle has a rope attachment so you can hang in the harness in store.  Click here to browse our range of climbing harnesses. 

Note that as harnesses are safety equipment, we do not accept returns on this gear for change of mind or incorrect sizing as we can no longer verify the history of the item. Of course if there is a manufacturer issue please contact us.