Whether you are a seasoned rock climber or an amateur, a rock climbing harness is one of the most essential pieces of rock climbing gear you can get. It determines whether you get to survive should you lose your grip. As such, you need to ensure that the harness you use is dependable and durable.

Aside from the material quality and build aspect, you also need to ensure that it has the correct features for rock climbing usage, such as the waist buckle and the rope loops. Additionally, you need to ensure it is the right fit and design for your body shape. No one wants to develop a numb feeling in their legs when climbing a rock due to inappropriately sized leg loops or poor waist belt to leg strap ratio, among other factors.

As such, you need to ensure that you have the right rock climbing harness for you before you go rock climbing. This comprehensive guide aims to help to choose a rock climbing harness.

Parts of a Climbing Harness

Essentially, the waist harness connects you to the climbing rope. Its components are essential in making sure you stay on the rope and climb up with ease while staying safe. Here are the parts of the climbing harness;

  1. Waist belt

This is a thick strap that wraps around your waist to secure the harness to your body. Most waist belts are padded for comfort, but this tends to make them bulkier and heavier. There are waist belts that are not padded, but these are more common on alpine climbing harnesses.

  1. Leg loops

These are designed to stabilize your body when wearing the harness. This helps to distribute your body weight between your legs and pelvis. They help lessen the impact of a fall and make it easier to support yourself on a rope.

There is one loop for each leg, and they are usually attached to the front of the waist belt. The loops are designed to encase your thighs, and their fit can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the webbing, which runs through buckles.

  1. Buckle

The buckle helps to connect the harness to the rope and the leg loops to the waist belt. It is located at the front of the waist belt, just like in a regular belt. The buckle can be a single or double buckle.

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For increased safety, a double buckle is best for rock climbing as it prevents the harness from coming undone while you are rock climbing. Some buckles also come pre-threaded to make it easier to loosen and tighten your harness.

  1. Tie-in loop

This is a rigid loop sewn into the front of the waist belt to secure the buckle. It also helps to offer extra rigidity to the rope after it is tied to the harness. This is due to the rope threading technique, where the rope is passed through the leg loop cross and the tie-in loop. This, in turn, helps in weight distribution alongside the leg loop support.

  1. Belay loop

This loop attaches the leg loops to the waist belt. It is considered one of the most essential components of a climbing harness. It is used to attach a locking carabiner for belaying and rappelling purposes.

The belay loop is supposed to be extra strong to withstand climbing tugs, rubbing friction from the carabiner, and fall impact. It is crucial to replace the belay loop once it starts to get old and worn out.

  1. Gear loop

As the name suggests, this loop essentially stores your climbing gear, making it easy to access as you rock climb. The gear loop can either be a soft or rigid loop attached to the waist belt. You can use it to hold your quick draw, nuts, and cams.

Harnesses come with two or four gear loops. Smaller harnesses such as kids’ and women’s harnesses generally have two gear loops. Standard size men and unisex harnesses usually come with four gear loops. More loops equal better gear tracking. Ideally, you should not attach anything heavy to your gear loop.

  1. Haul loop

This is similar to a gear loop but is attached to the back of the waist belt. It is typically used to carry a second rope. Some harnesses have a full-strength sewn-in haul loop. While some have a plastic loop inserted into the waist belt for clipping a chalk bag or any additional gear.

  1. Leg loop cross piece

This is a piece of webbing used to connect the leg loops in front of the harness. It is adjustable using a threaded buckle and is also essential for threading the climbing rope for increased stability.

Types of Climbing Harnesses

The two main categories of climbing harnesses are the sit harness and the full-body harness.

Sit harness

As the name suggests, this is the harness worn around the waist and feels like you are sitting. It is also the primary type of harness used by both pro rock climbers and amateur rock-climbing enthusiasts.

Full body harness

A full-body harness is worn like a jumpsuit except in strap form. It is a combination of a chest harness and a seat harness. It helps to stabilize full-body posture while rock climbing, which is ideal for hauling a load when climbing. This harness type is mostly used for fire rescue.

Chest harness

This is the least common of all the harness types. This is a harness that is worn like a vest and used to hold the rope as you climb. However, there are too many risks involved as well as downsides. That it is best left to rock climbing pros. Rescuers mostly wear them in the event of a fall accident extraction or rescue attempt.

Activity-based harness categories

These are types of harnesses designed for various kinds of active sports such as mountaineering or sport climbing. They have subtle differences in design as per the specific needs of the sport. And the type of clothing you need to wear with the harness.

Here are the main types of harnesses commonly found in the market;

All-round harness

This is a harness that is suitable for types of sports. You can use it indoors or outdoors, and it usually comes with standard harness components. The harness is mid-weight and usually features adjustable loops and a waist belt compatible with different climbing gear.

Winter harness

This is a water-resistant harness designed to withstand freezing weather. They are mostly made out of closed-cell foam that does not absorb moisture.

This makes them water residents, but they cannot be used in hot weather due to their inability to breathe, making them unbearable, especially if you tend to rock climb in summer.

Alpine harness

This harness is designed to be used for mountaineering, glacier climbing, and skiing. It is made from simple webbing to reduce its weight, and it is made from wet weather-resistant materials. It also has an easy-wear design and can be worn over full skiing gear.

Trad harness

This is a traditional climbing harness built for camping rock climbing outdoor adventures. They tend to have at least four gear hoops for tracking gear and a large rack to accommodate extra loops. They feature adjustable leg lops and rear haul loops.

Sport harness

Unlike the other harnesses, this one is designed to be light to reduce energy consumption when participating in climbing for sports purposes. This type of harness usually has a minimal amount of hardware, and it is stripped down to the bare essentials depending on the climbing terrain and environment.

They usually feature fixed leg loops, breathable foam padding, and at most two gear hoops, as you mainly need the quickdraws when sport climbing. It is also popular among alpine climbers.

Things to consider when choosing a climbing harness

  1. Fit

Ensure that the harness you select fits you and will still fit you should you need to wear it with extra clothing layers. It should also have wiggle room to ensure you are comfortable, especially when wearing it for a longer climb.

  1. Type of harness

Getting the right type of harness for your rock climbing needs is necessary. Ensure you get a harness with the right components, such as the right number of gear loops, as it is crucial to haul your climbing gear hands-free.

  1. Quality of the harness

A good quality harness should be made from durable tear-resistant material that can withstand harsh weather elements and constant friction, especially the loops.

How to size for a climbing harness

The general rule of thumb is to have enough wiggle room in your harness to fit three-five fingers after the straps are buckled. The key is to have a snug fit that is not too tight. Bear in mind that you will not be wearing layers of clothing when trying on your harness, and you might need to wear layers of clothes when rock climbing.

You should also have a bit of tail on your waist belt and leg loops. This wiggle room is essential when rock climbing. The harness should sit above your hip bones, and it should have enough belt strap for cinching and then some.

Once the harness is buckled, it should not be able to slip past your hips. The leg loops should also be snug enough to slip your hand between the leg and the loop. Once you find a size that fits you from a particular brand, you should be able to purchase a harness online with ease.

If shopping in-store is not an option, here is an easy guide to help you measure yourself to determine your correct harness size;

Items needed

  1. Clothes tape measure
  2. Notepad and pen

Steps

  1. Waist measurement

Measure your waist around your iliac crest areas, which is the area just above your hip bone. Leave enough wiggle room to ensure your waist belt is not too tight when buckled. It should also not be roomy enough that it can slip past your crest.

The measurement should be extra for the extra strap length as you do not want to be cinched to the end of the waist belt. This will ensure that your gear loops have attachment room. You should also account for layers of clothing when noting down your ideal waist belt size.

  1. Leg loops measurement

Measure the circumference of your thighs and allow for wiggle room to leave room for clothing layers. This is only necessary if you are buying a harness with adjustable leg loops. A harness with elastic leg loops does not require wiggle room addition.

  1. Rise measurement

The rise is the distance between your thighs and the waist belt. While it is necessary to have a loose rise between the waist belt and the leg loops, it is essential to ensure that it is too short or too long.

The former can cause you to tip backward, while the latter will exert pressure on your waist belt due to poor weight distribution. This is especially difficult when shopping for harnesses for a child or if you are a woman. This is because women ten dot has a smaller waist and a larger rise due to the curved silhouette. This makes it extremely crucial for you to get the correct fit before picking a harness. On the other hand, kids have a smaller body making a full-body harness the best option.

The Best Rock Climbing Harness Recommendations in The Market

Best Rock Climbing Harness for Women

A woman’s silhouette is different from a man’s, making it difficult to rock climb comfortably in a man’s or unisex harness. While the standard harness may work for some women (primarily those with an athletic build), the regular woman’s body shape tends to be petite and curvier, making standard harnesses ill-fitting.

  1. Black Diamond Women’s Technician Harness

Black Diamond Women's Technician Harness

You can use this harness for climbing sport routes, big granite walls, steep ice, and alpine faces. It features adjustable leg loops and lightweight support courtesy of the Fusion Comfort Technology used to manufacture the harness.

The materials used are quick-drying, and its durable shell can withstand abrasive rock and foul conditions. The harness also features speed buckles on the waist belt and leg loops. This offers a wide range of adjustability to accommodate changing layers throughout the seasons.

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The harness also has four gear loops, a fifth rear loop, and four Ice Clipper slots to secure any sized rack.

Features

  • Adjustable leg loops
  • Fusion comfort technology
  • Speed buckles
  • Four pressure-molded gear loops
  • Rear fifth loop
  • Four ice clipper slots
  • Adjustable releasable elastic risers

Pros

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Quick-drying
  • Superior comfort and range of motion

 Cons

  • The waist belt is not suitable for people with a belly.
  1. Black Diamond Primrose Women’s Harness

Black Diamond Primrose Women's Harness

The Black Diamond Women’s Momentum Harness is an all-around female rock climbing harness.  It features a time-saving design for all types of climbing. It features a pre-threaded Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle that saves time and eliminates error when tying in.

It also has a Dual-Core Construction that emphasizes comfort, even when you’re posted up at a hanging belay. Its TrakFIT leg-loops can easily adjust for cold fall days at the crag or blazing summer days on long multi-pitches.

Additionally, the four pressure-molded gear loops and a haul loop perfect for all types of climbing. It also an adjustable rear elastic riser and a women-specific rise.

Features

  • Padding: Dual Core Construction
  • Buckles: Speed Adjust and Pre-threaded
  • Adjustable Leg Loops: yes
  • Gear Loops: 4
  • Haul Loop: yes
  • Four pressure-molded gear loops
  • Women’s-specific rise
  • Weight: 350 g (12 oz)

Pros

  • Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle
  • Adjustable rear elastic riser
  • Durable
  • Haul loop

 Cons

  • Limited adjustment

Best Rock Climbing Harness for Men/Unisex

  1. Black Diamond Momentum Harness

Black Diamond Momentum Harness

This harness features a pre-threaded Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle that saves time and eliminates error when tying-in. The Bullhorn-shaped waist belt is built using Dual Core Construction. This makes it more comfortable even when you are in a tricky position.

The harness’ TrakFIT leg-loops easily adjust, making it perfect for chilly fall days at the crag or blazing summer days on long multi-pitches. Its time-saving design makes it suitable for all styles of climbing. The harness also features four pressure-molded gear loops and a haul loop. It is made from a CLPE foam insert and a durable, abrasion-resistant nylon shell for versatile performance.

Features

  • Pre-threaded Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle.
  • Bullhorn-shaped waistbelt built using Dual Core Construction.
  • Patent-pending TrakFIT adjustment
  • Adjustable rear elastic riser
  • Four pressure-molded gear loops
  • Haul loop
  • Nylon shell
  • Versatile performance

Pros

  • Time-saving design
  • Suitable for all styles of climbing
  • Easy leg loop customization
  • Maximum support and comfort
  • Durable
  • Abrasion-resistant

Cons

  • The size runs small
  1. PETZL – Men’s SAMA Climbing Harness

PETZL - Men's SAMA Climbing Harness

This advanced climbing and mountaineering harness for climbing indoors, at a crag, or on a multi-pitch route. It features a padded waist belt and leg loops that provide comfortable positioning. It has elasticized leg loop straps and flexible connection straps that allow maximum mobility.

The waist belt is flexible and slimmer in front. It has two rigid equipment loops in front and two flexible ones in the back for carrying the required climbing gear. The harness is made using ENDOFRAME Technology construction that allows excellent weight distribution. It has also been CE EN 12277 type C, and UIAA certified.

Features

  • Padded waist belt and leg loops
  • Elasticized leg loop straps
  • Flexible connection straps
  • Two rigid equipment loops
  • ENDOFRAME Technology construction
  • Four equipment loops

Pros

  • Comfortable positioning
  • Maximum mobility
  • Excellent weight distribution
  • Ideal for indoor and outdoor climbing

Cons

  • The leg loops are very small.

Best Rock Climbing Harness for Kids

  1. PETZL Ouistiti Full Body Climbing Climbing Harness

PETZL Ouistiti Full Body Climbing Climbing Harness

This full-body climbing harness is easy to put on and adjust. It features a semi-rigid structure that is color-coded (gray foam interior and blue exterior) for easy donning. It is adjusted on the shoulders using double-back buckles.

The harness has a quilted closed-cell foam structure on the leg loops, which are crucial for positioning the waist belt and shoulder straps. It does not require connectors to remain fastened, allowing the child to keep wearing the harness for playing without hindrance.

Its front tie-in point is reinforced and lower for greater comfort when climbing, particularly during descents.

Features

  • Semi-rigid structure
  • Double back buckles
  • Weight capacity: up to 30kg
  • Front tie-in point
  • Material(s): high-strength polyester webbing, closed-cell foam, polyester
  • Certification(s): CE EN 12277 type B, UIAA

Pros

  • Easy to put on and adjust
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor climbing
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Difficult to put on
  1. EDELRID Fraggle III Full Body Climbing Harness – Kid’s

EDELRID Fraggle III Full Body Climbing Harness - Kid's

The Edelrid full-body climbing harness features 3D mesh padding and soft webbing edges that offer optimum comfort. The mesh padding ensures that the harness is dimensionally stable and can be put on and taken off incredibly quickly.

It has two Slide Block buckles for quick and easy harness adjustment. The harness’ attachment point at the back offers extra safety in steep terrain or while skiing. It is made of blue sign-certified materials. And its “Growing” construction design ensures it has an optimal and secure fit even as your child grows.

Features

  • 3D mesh padding
  • Soft webbing edges
  • Two slide block buckles
  • Stiff construction
  • Fixed leg loops
  • Two large tie-in loops

Pros

  • Optimum comfort
  • Quick and easy harness adjustment
  • Blue sign-certified materials
  • It comes with a free sports bag

Cons

  • Ideal for small toddlers

Best Rock Climbing Harness for Beginners

  1. Black Diamond Momentum Harness

Black Diamond Momentum Harness

This harness is best for all-around climbers.  It has a time-saving design, and you can use it for all styles of climbing. It features a pre-threaded Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle that saves time and chances of error when tying the belt.

Its Dual Core Construction increases comfort even while hanging belay. The TrakFIT leg-loops easily adjust and can be used on cold days and hot summers. It also features four pressure-molded gear loops, and a haul loop makes this our most popular all-rounder.

Features

  • Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle
  • Dual Core Construction
  • TrakFIT leg-loops
  • Four pressure-molded gear loops

Pros

  • Suitable for all-around climbing
  • Adjustable waist belt
  • Time-saving design

Cons

  • Runs a size small
  1. PETZL Corax Climbing Harness

PETZL Corax Climbing Harness

The Petzl climbing harness is designed for comfort with FRAME Technology design, allowing the weight to be distributed between the waist belt and the leg loops. The pressure points are lined with soft fabric and padded with closed-cell foam.

You can use it for rock climbing, mountaineering, or alpine climbing. It is easy to use, comfortable and adjustable. The durable construction works for summer and winter climbing activities. The waist belt has two Double Back buckles which easily adjust and center the harness, keeping the equipment loops in the optimal position.

It also features adjustable leg loops that allow for easy adjustment of the harness to suit different body types and clothing.

Features

  • Adjustable leg loops
  • High-capacity equipment loops
  • Lined with soft fabric
  • Material: closed-cell foam
  • Adjustable Waist and Leg Loops
  • Certification(s): CE EN 12277 type C, UIAA

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Adjustable
  • Versatile climbing functionality
  • Designed for comfort with closed cell foam padding
  • Numerous loops for carrying and organization of equipment

Cons

  • Not ideal for slender individuals

Conclusion:

You should also remember that sizes vary from brand to brand, so make sure you know what size fits for multiple harness brands that you prefer to use. It is always best to buy your first harness in store if you are unsure how to measure yourself.