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How To Choose A Climbing Harness

A harness is how a climber attaches to the rope, well that's the obvious stated... But not only has it got to be able to securely hold you in a fall, it must be comfortable to wear and move in. Harnesses vary from different manufacturers as do our body shapes, and different models from manufacturers may also differ in how they fit.

Climbing harnesses come in various styles for different types of climbing. So please take the time to consider what you will be using the harness for, indeed some climbers will have a light Sport harness and another harness for trad climbing. Though if you are new too climbing this is not a necessity. In fact for a beginner an all round fully adjustable harness is perfect.

Types Of Climbing Harnesses

Multi use harnesses - Most climbers start with this type of harness as they can be used for all disciplines of climbing, right from indoor through to multi pitch and Alpine routes. This style of harness is fully adjustable, from the waist to the leg loops. If you intend to use this for winter climbing please ensure that you size it so it fits over winter clothes.

Multi use harnesses are ideal for Traditional climbing whether single or multi pitch as they generally have four or more gear loops. Generally they have good levels of padding which provides a level of comfort.

The Black Diamond Momentum

Sport Climbing Harnesses - If you are doing a lot of Sport climbing, or indeed indoor climbing then a dedicated harness is a good idea. The main advantage is that they weigh a lot less and offer excellent freedom of movement. Generally they have two gear loops as only quickdraws are required. The leg loops are not adjustable, but because this type of harness is not worn over bulkier clothes this should not be an issue. Narrow webbing reduces weight further. As Sport harnesses are minimalist in their construction their life span is shorter compared to other harnesses.

The Petzl Hirundos Climbing Harness

Alpine Climbing Harnesses - Alpine climbing may involve being out for several days and these harnesses are designed with this in mind, the waist bands, along with the leg loops offer greater adjustment. In order to reduce weight they are quite minimalist in their design , but in a different way from Sport harnesses. The non absorbent materials used are more abrasion resistant with no padding.

The Black Diamond Alpine Bod

Fitting a Harness

Ensuring a comfortable and safe fit is essential. If the harness is too tight it will restrict movement, hinder breathing and may even affect blood flow. If the harness is lose it may cause chafing but if you were to become inverted you may even fall out of it.

Waist belt - This sits above your hips, it must not be worn on the hips as this is dangerous. When the belt is buckled up you should have a tail of at least 7-8cm of webbing through the buckle, this is purely for safety. If the buckle is a one piece buckle then the extra webbing must be doubled back, this will prevent it from slipping through in a fall. A lot of modern buckles are now two piece and will lock when pulled tight. You should not be able to pull the harness down over your hips, this is essential, but it should not be so tight as to restrict breathing.

Adults with narrow hips and children should use a chest harness in conjunction with their harness, or a full body harness. This will prevent them from falling out should they become inverted in the harness.

The Petzl Ouistiti is a full-body harness for children

Fitting a Harness

Leg loops - Adjustable leg loops should be tightened so they feel snug around the thighs but not tight. To check for restrictions lift your legs up and down, you should be able to move freely. The buckles will probably be the same design as the waistbelt, if they are single buckles please ensure the excess webbing is doubled back and there is a tail of 4 - 6 cm.

Sport harness leg loops do not adjust though there may be some elastic just to hold them in place. These should not be tight, and allow good freedom of movement.

The Rise - The length of the belay loop will also be a factor, though they all pretty much look to be the same they do vary slightly. This combined with the height of the connecting strap of the leg loops (the part of the leg loops that pass through the belay loop) is called the 'rise'. If a harness has a rise that is too short for you then the harness will feel bunched at the front.

Women Specific - It is important to note that there are harnesses available that are shaped for women. It is in the Rise of the harness where this difference is most noticeable. Though some women are fine in a mens harness it might be worth looking at a woman's specific harness.

The Petzl Luna Climbing Harness

Safety

Climbing harnesses have full strength buckles, it is essential that these buckles are done up properly. Please take the time to read the manufacturers instruction and to familiarise your self with them. If buckles are not secured correctly there is possibility that they may come undone which could result in injury or death.

Please ensure that you tie correctly into your harness using a suitable knot such as the Figure of Eight or Bowline. Again read the instruction and become familiar with how the rope runs through the waistband and leg loops.

Check your harness for wear and tear, do this every time you put it on, if you have any doubts do not use it, some harnesses have markers that become visible as the fabric wears, such as the Arcteryx range. A harness with average use should last around two years, but if you climb a lot or use lighter sport harnesses please expect to replace them more frequently

Looking after your harness

Harnesses when not in use should be stored away from direct sunlight and away from damp and chemicals that my compromise strength of the material.

Please keep the harness in the bag it has been supplied with, this keeps it clean and helps prevent it form becoming tangled.

Should you need to clean your harness, then use warm water with soap. DO NOT use detergents.

Please see our full range of climbing harnesses.