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Last updated: February 15, 2021
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Finding the best climbing harness for you is not just about making your life simpler and more comfortable, it is about keeping you safe. It allows you to stay anchored to a point, meaning if anything should happen that makes you slip or fall, you shouldn’t be badly injured. You need to choose an option you know you can rely on, otherwise, your safety could be at risk. If you regularly find yourself climbing either for work or for pleasure, then it is vital that this is part of your kit.
In this review, we’ve focused on lots of the very best features for climbing harnesses and honed in on all of the different features which make a harness good quality. For instance, the leg loops and the loop which is designed to fit around your waist, whether these are comfortable and adjustable. The harness weight and also the type of harness. Plus, we look at gender and how comfortable these options are for men and women.
Our team spent weeks deciding on a final shortlist to present to you as the top rock climbing harnesses and options for other types of climbing, and have presented this information as a simple table with an overview of the options as well as detailed reviews of all of the products. We’ve followed this up with a full buying guide, which will help you to make a decision on which is most suitable for your needs.
We’ve started with our very best option, the editor’s choice, Petzl CORAX Climbing Kit. This is a very good quality harness which has pretty much every feature you could need whether you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned professional.
As well as having a screw-lock carabiner which is perfectly sturdy and easy to use, it also has chalk accessories making it good for those who use chalk when climbing to assist their grip. It has both a chalk ball and a chalk bag which easily attach to take on those long climbing trips.
It is unisex and comes in two different sizes, the sizing can be a little tricky to get perfectly right but this doesn’t matter too much as this is a totally adjustable piece of kit, meaning you can just set it to the waist and leg loop length you require to feel comfortable when using.
You can feel when this bit of kit is in your hands that it is good quality and reliable, and it is built to last. This should be able to come with you on many trips with no issues whatsoever.
The fact that this model, the Petzl CORAX, comes with so many different accessories is a real added bonus meaning it is great for all types of climbing.
What we liked:
Extremely robust and well-built meaning it should last a long time.
Great for beginners and pros alike.
Easy to adjust to the sizes you need and suit your body shape and size.
This is another package deal, the Mad Rock Mars Climbing Package makes our list as one of the top rock climbing harnesses, with accessories and features great for climbing rocks but also suitable for things like climbing trees.
The added bonus of coming with a chalk bag and chalk itself is great for those who like to use this for their grip, and like many of the options on the market these days, it also comes with a very strong carabiner to keep you in place.
This has four different gear loops for equipment, and though it is designed to be purely a mens model, there are women out there who find this comfortable, too.
That comfort is definitely aided by the fact that this has padded air pockets, meaning it doesn’t chafe or feel quite so hard on the tender areas a harness can sometimes cause pain within.
As well as being adjustable in general, there are five different sizes to choose from so you know there will be one to suit your needs. Some people buy a size below for a tight and secure fit.
What we liked:
Comes with accessories.
Padded air pockets make this more comfortable than many other harnesses.
Comes in five different sizes so you can match up your body type.
What could be better:
Chalk bag is not the best quality.
There is no specific sizing for women, though some women opt for the men’s sizing anyway.
We have nominated this as the best ice climbing harness. The Black Diamond Aspect Harness is very good for all of the seasons and pretty much any weather condition you could imagine.
Though it is good for all conditions, it has four slots for ice clippers which is one of the reasons it is best for icy conditions.
The comfort of the Dual Core XP has also been considered in a lot of detail by the manufacturer. The waistbelt has bands of webbing as well as a foam inside area which is designed to distribute your weight around the harness meaning there are no specific points where the pressure builds up and causes pain.
The buckles are extremely durable and have a fast releasing action in an attempt to minimize the time spent fiddling around with the adjustments.
The material has patches where wear is more likely and these are designed to be an incredible 20x more hard-wearing than nylon, a standard material for making harnesses.
This is available in four different sizes so you can ensure you get one close enough to your own specific size and body shape. The adjustable nature of the harness means you can further perfect the sizing.
What we liked:
Extremely durable material which is 20 times more hard-wearing than nylon.
The Arc’teryx FL-365 Men’s climbing harness is wonderful for those looking for a lightweight and flexible sports climbing harness. It is very smartly designed to weigh a lot less but still offer loads of support and allow you to feel as comfortable as possible.
The technology driving the FL-365 is called ‘warp strength’ and is designed to help to even out your weight and stay strong throughout. This model may not be quite as good in situations like icy conditions, however, it is designed for moving fast and provides plenty of protection in alpine areas.
If you’re looking to move quickly in a sport or competitive scenario, then this is a good option due to the weight. It is relatively comfortable as it distributes weight very well.
The buckles are self-locking so they are extremely quick to operate. If you are looking to climb at the top speed, a harness like this can really help.
If you are worried about the price or looking for a cheap harness, it might be worth looking elsewhere as this has definitely not been made to target the budget end of the market.
It is available in two different colors and five different sizes and the adjustable straps make it possible to fit virtually whatever size you are.
What we liked:
Extremely durable in spite of being lightweight.
Quick to operate and move around, making it good for those who want to competitively compete in climbing competitions.
Comes with a breathable storage bag that allows the harness to dry off.
What could be better:
Definitely one of the more expensive options on the market.
Extra features: FUSEFRAME construction ensures optimal weight distribution and minimizes pressure points; breathable foam waistbelt; eco-friendly design using materials that meet strict environmental standards
In this day and age, it is more important than ever to pay attention to environmentally friendly products. It is sometimes tough to find extremely durable products which have been built with eco-friendly materials but this harness does exactly that.
It has a clever FUSEFAME which helps it to distribute all of the load around and make it very comfortable to use. This is combined with a breathable foam belt which doesn’t chafe or feel too uncomfortable even if using it for a length of time. The waist belt has been designed not to have any crossing seems which can cause pressure to build in individual areas and can be very uncomfortable.
The DoubleBack HD buckle is easy to adjust and can be perfect for speed as well as ease of use.
The leg loops are a bit different to most of the other options on the market. Though they are elasticated and have some level of flexibility, they are not totally adjustable, so it is very important to order the right size and get a fit which is perfect for you. This can be a bit tricky, especially as it is unisex.
What we liked:
Available in five different sizes.
Quick to adjust.
Made entirely out of eco-friendly materials and rigorously tested.
What could be better:
Not adjustable and not as perfect in terms of sizing as some other options.
Many climbers love to take their kids with them. If this is going to be on the agenda for you, then it is so important that you opt for a good quality kids harness. Safety is so important when it comes to doing sports like this with your kids!
This harness is ideal for young kids, and any child up to 65 lb in weight can fit inside. As is normally the case for a children’s harness, it fits a whole body rather than just being used around the waist. This is absolutely brilliant when it comes to durability.
It has a semi-rigid structure so it isn’t uncomfortable for the kids to stay attached, and it has a color coded system to help you with putting it on and taking it off. It is comfy to wear whether your kid is starting off on the ground or is totally in a state of suspension.
The double buckles around the back of this are out of reach for children so they can’t accidentally loosen themselves, causing a hazard. It also doesn’t need any specific added connectors to keep your kid securely in place.
The comfy and adjustable nature means that it can be used by kids of multiple sizes as long as they don’t get over 65 lb.
What we liked:
Very comfortable for kids and no hazardous straps or buckles they can reach.
Very durable, you can rest assured your child is safely in position.
What could be better:
Cannot be used with children over the weight of 65 lb.
Not a huge amount of the products out there are specifically designed for women. Those that are tend to share a lot of characteristics with the Black Diamond Primrose Women’s Harness, which has slightly higher leg loops and a more adjustable waist. This is designed to be flexible enough no matter what type of body shape you have, so that you can enjoy climbing in perfect comfort.
It is available in five diffeent colors so if you are bothered about getting the right look when you’re out and about climbing.
The trakFIT adjustment system allows for extremely easy leg loop adjustments to be made.
This is a very lightweight choice, which is good for those who don’t want to lug around something heavy around their waist, however, it may sacrifice a bit of durability for this. It is perhaps best suited to more lightweight climbers.
Accessories can be included, with four gear loops and also, for bigger things to be carried around there is a haul loop. This is a very versatile harness suitable for a few different conditions.
This may not last for decades, but it is exceptionally good if you are looking for something flexible. For curvy women and making adjustments to perfectly suit your body type the black diamond primrose could be worth thinking about.
We’ve covered a full-body kids harness, but there are also waist options for kids looking to graduate to a solo-style of climbing and to try and become more independent wherever they are.
Whereas the previously mentioned full-body harness covers children up to 65 lbs, this is a suitable choice for kids up to 88 lb meaning that as they get older, they can also make the most of the Petzl Macchu. As you can tell if you read through our list, this is a brand that can be trusted, and they make a huge amount of harnesses which we are happy to recommend.
As is more needed with kids who tend to grow at all kinds of diffeent rates, this is a harness which is very adjustable. It also has shoulder straps which can be added and help with other types of climbing such as lead climbing. It is the same design as some adult harnesses in their range meaning you can simply move your kids on once they are too big for this.
It has two ‘doubleback’ buckles which are easy tie-in points. It also has two gear loops which can be used as required.
What we liked:
Perfect for preparing older children to moving on to adult harnesses.
Suitable for children up to 88lb in weight.
What could be better:
Though it has a good level of adjustability, it can take a little while to get right.
Leg straps can sometimes be a little uncomfortable.
This is the second Black Diamond to make our list. This is a great manufacturer of affordable products and the Black Diamond Momentum Harness gets our vote as being the best budget choice. It has a huge amount of adjustability. The trafkit adjustment system is actually patent-pending as the company has developed its own simple way to adjust the waist and leg.
Four gear loops and a haul loop also make it easier to carry things around when you are on the go.
This is great for some of the larger sizes, too. In spite of being lightweight, there are an impressive six different size options which means even if you are larger you should find an option to suit you. This is marketed as a men’s harness but some women also find it comfortable and easy.
The comfort of this product is also one of its main selling points. It has two bands which go around the waist to create lots of support and spread out the weight it needs to carry, and this also stops pressure points from building up and causing pain. There is also a CLPE insert which helps to create an extra level of comfort in spite of the lightweight design.
What we liked:
Lightweight but still durable enough.
Designed for men but may fit women too.
An impressive six sizes available.
Very affordable compared to many other models.
What could be better:
Sizes come up a little small so you may want to order one size up.
This model, the EDELRID – Jay II Climbing Harness, has made our list as being one of the best options for beginners. It doesn’t have too many unbelievably high-end features, and users will probably eventually look to graduate onto the best harness for the type of climbing they like, for instance a climbing harness for tree climbing or ice climbing, depending on how they eventually choose to specialize.
For a beginner, who hasn’t quite found their way, this is a wonderful starting point for a harness. It is comfortable and easy to use, even if you’re lacking in experience.
It has 3D padding along the upper side which can make life a lot more comfortable. Three buckles are in place which is more than most, and this allows for security and keeps these in place throughout so you don’t feel yourself coming loose.
The waist padding can be moved around to perfect it for your body and the tie-in point.
It also has fixed gear loops and you can choose the positioning of these. There is an extra abrasion protector which is designed so that even in the tough areas where you tie-in don’t get worn easily. If you want to climb in ice then ice screwing clips are available. You can also attach a chalk bag loop if you want to use chalk in your climbing.
What we liked:
Lots of adjustable additions and accessories.
Durable with three buckles to stay in the same place and extra sturdiness.
A good option for beginners.
What could be better:
Not as flexible and lightweight or fast as some others.
From a product we recommend for beginners to one we absolutely don’t recommend unless you have a lot of experience! This lightweight harness is great for professionals and has speed in mind. The Black Diamond Vario Speed Harness is very different to any of the other options on our list in terms of design.
Firstly, it is exceptionally lightweight at just over 10 oz. This helps add to the speed and lightweight action.
The buckles on both the legs and around the waist are “quick-adjust”. They don’t need you to double back or loop them around, they simply and easily adjust into the position you want.
This is made out of wide nylon webbing, and though it feels like it should be flimsy based on the size, it is anything but! However, where it does fall down a little is the fact that it is not the most comfortable. Due to being so nimble and lightweight the manufacturers have not worried too much about spreading the weight around or giving extra padding. If you fall or are suspended, you can end up with this digging in and causing some discomfort.
If you’re looking for speed at all costs, this could be great for your needs.
What we liked:
Simple to adjust and very fast to make changes.
Quick adjust buckle with no need for doubling back.
What could be better:
No attachments or clips.
Can be uncomfortable when used for long periods of time as there is no padding in place.
This is a model of harness which is great for use either in the gym or when out climbing, it is designed for children and though it advertises itself as ‘one size’ the Black Diamond Kids’ Momentum Climbing definitely comes up small and should therefore be used mainly by younger children. It certainly isn’t designed for kids who are between 10 and 16 years of age or larger children out there.
The features are decent, though, it is a synthetic fabric which is good for keeping lightweight yet rugged. It has a rear riser which is elastic and is totally adjustable. Like many of the other Black Diamond products it has their patent pending trakFIT adjustment system around the legs, for adjusting these to the right size. This is something really important for kids as they all develop very differently.
There are two gear loops on this Momentum harness for carrying things around.
Plenty of people have a lot of respect for the Black Diamond brand, and the good thing about this is that it has the same level of features that the adult versions of the same brand have, this means as your kid gets older and needs a larger product, they are able to just transition straight into the adult sizes, some of which are small enough for adolescent kids to wear.
In general, this is a good quality harness for smaller kids, if your children are 10 or over then be prepared for them to struggle to fit.
What we liked:
Same features as the adult models.
Two gear loops.
Easy to adjust to the right size for kids.
What could be better:
Too small to fit most children over 10 years old.
Things to Consider
We’ve taken you through the top options on the market for climbing harnesses, but we’ve also put together a buying guide for you to help outline exactly what it is you might need from your own climbing harness. These products aren’t all built the same. The fact is that there are a lot of different factors to consider, including how varied the different styles of climbing are and how our bodies are different. For instance, a large climber who generally likes to go outside and hike through ice is likely to need something very different from a climber with a small build who just uses climbing walls in the gym. The buying guide is designed to help you to establish what you need from your harness and how to approach your buying decision no matter your budget, features you need or your own shape and size.
Reasons to get a sturdy and comfortable climbing harness
As we’ve already alluded to, there are a number of reasons you should ensure you purchase a climbing harness you can rely on. These are such an important piece of equipment in a hobby which can lead to you putting your safety on the line and risking injury. A sturdy climbing harness is an absolute essential for making sure you don’t get injured and that you make sure there’s always a safety net (almost literally).
Another huge reason to get a sturdy harness is that you want something that is going to last you a long time. It is not worth buying something that you can’t rely on in the long term. It is worth investing in durability and a product to last years. If you have to go into the market for a new harness every year or so after using it, then it can be far more expensive in the long run. Simply purchasing a quality model is definitely a better option.
Comfort is absolutely essential, too. Whether you’re buying this for a kid or you want to go climbing yourself. You may think a little bit of discomfort won’t cause you any issues, but actually, once you are out for a long day of scaling peaks then you will definitely know all about it if you do not have a comfortable harness. It can make such a huge level of difference in terms of your enjoyment of the hobby and may make you less likely to want to go out and enjoy your climbing. If you have an extremely uncomfortable harness you may even risk getting some minor injuries from the repeated strain on areas of your body.
Features to consider when choosing a climbing harness
The following are the main features we’ve taken into account when deciding on the best climbing harnesses for men, women and children. There are many different factors to think about and these features are all explained below. There is a little bit of jargon and technical knowledge which comes into it and we’ve tried to lay out what each of the features means below.
Type of climbing harness & how will you be using it?
The types of climbing harness include models for women, models for men and those for children. There are also unisex options.
The main difference between an option designed for men and for women is the waist belt. This is usually longer on a women’s model of climbing harness – this is because they have a wider range of sizes between the hips. This isn’t to say women are always bigger around the hips, just that the sizing difference is in place to allow for more variation.
On top of this, women’s leg loops are usually higher up to allow for the shorter size of their legs. Again, this is a generalization. It is definitely fair to say that certain women’s body types are more suited to wearing men’s or unisex harnesses. The majority of products on the market are in some way adjustable, and this means that you should pay more attention to the sizing as opposed to whether it is for males or females. This is true if you are female yourself, if you are male, you will want to look for unisex or specific male options.
Naturally, there are plenty of children’s options out there, and these harnesses can be either full body or waist harnesses. Waist harnesses are more common than full body for adults, and often kids will wear full body options in order to prepare themselves for the future. Kids need to offer a lot of support. They also have maximum weight capacities, which are not something to take any risk with. It is vital to stick to the capacities as these are in place to keep the children using them safe. Some options, such as the Petzl Macchu Kids’ Climbing Harness, can hold children up to 88 pounds in weight, and no more.
Number of gear loops
The gear loops around the harness are where you can clip things on to take out and about with you. Naturally, when you are climbing, there is no opportunity to use your hands to carry things and it is not sensible to try and keep things in pockets.
It is worth paying some attention to the gear loops, especially if you plan to do a lot of climbing outdoors. In a gym, you may not need as many gear loops as it could be the case that you are just leaving your stuff in a locker, but if you are going out this won’t be the case.
Some harnesses don’t have any gear loops but a standard number is between two and four. Products such as the Black Diamond Primrose Women’s Harness have four different gear loops, great for clipping stuff onto you when going on your trip.
Ice clipper slots
Ice clipper slots are, as you might expect, designed for those who enjoy climbing around in the ice, which needs its own unique set of tools. For instance, an ice clipper slot can let you put picks and other ice tools easily around the harness ready for when you need to use these to scale the heights when out on the ice. The Black Diamond Aspect Harness is great for ice climbing and features 4 ice clipper slots.
Adjustable vs. fixed leg loops
This is one of the big decisions to make when you are choosing your harness. Each one will have some form of leg loop: this is where the legs enter the harness itself. However, which type of leg loop you go for will probably depend on personal preference. The two main types are fixed and adjustable.
Fixed leg loops will stay more or less in the same place but have an elasticated nature so they can, to an extent, flex to your needs and the size of your leg. An example of a fixed leg loop which does this is the Petzl HIRUNDOS Climbing Harness which is made out of eco-friendly materials and though it doesn’t have a buckle to let you adjust, it is quick to get on and off, as long as you have selected the correct size. It can, however, be a little more difficult if having to get it on over large boots such as snow boots.
Adjustable leg loops will have a much more flexible nature. Think of the way that you change the size of rucksack straps – a lot of these adjustable leg loops work in exactly this way.
They may have a buckle and allow you to tighten them perfectly to size. This is great for people who need to change the size to perfect the harness to suit their body. If you have an unusual body type or are between sizes, this could be a good option.
There was a time when the main way these harnesses were made was two have double-back buckles. In modern harnesses, there are often speed-adjust options instead. Naturally, these make it a lot quicker and easier to make the changes you need. Buckle systems are another matter of preference.
If you use a one-buckle system with speed-adjust, then you will have a very quick and nimble system for changing your buckle. A lot of harnesses seem to be cropping up which only have one buckle.
If stability is the number one aim, double buckle systems will help you to keep your loops centered and stop you from getting in any sort of tangle no matter what tightness you set up the climbing harness.
It can be tempting to just see the ‘medium’ or ‘large’ size and think that it is the same as a clothes size and go ahead and order. This is not quite as simple as you would think.
Different brands all have their own guidelines when it comes to size and it is well worth measuring yourself with your climbing and hiking gear on so you know what size you will need to fit on your clothes.
Also, the fact that you have unisex, men’s and women’s options further complicates things! Many harnesses have some adjustable features but they are not all 100% adjustable, you shouldn’t rely on this alone to get the sizing right, you need to find a size close to suitable before you make the minor adjustments.
A lot of climbing harnesses have some level of weight capacity. If you are a larger adult, then it might well be worth checking whether there is an overall capacity of your harness which can allow you to be certain that it can take your weight. Weight capacities are more common and prominently advertised with options of climbing harness which are for children. Smaller, kids’ harnesses are often only able to go up to certain weight capacities before you should upgrade, a bit like having a kids bike!
Materials and construction
The construction of your climbing harness is so important. It needs to be sturdy and reliable and not something that will fall apart, break or make you feel uncomfortable. wpmfc_cab_ss]There are a number of different materials used here, but the ideal thing for your waist is that the harness is padded in some way.[/wpmfc_cab_ss]This will mean that it is likely to feel a lot better and there are less pressure points which can make specific areas sore. Mad Rock Mars Climbing Package is an example of a breathable, padded harness and this has air pockets which can help you to feel more comfortable.
Strength is another huge part of the construction. The belay loop is the main, strong area around your harness. This is what the weight capacity and load testing comes from. This is normally made out of strong nylon webbing material.
All of the products on our ‘best of’ list have been considered for build quality. There is no room on this list for products which haven’t been made well!
How to care for your harness
It would be easy to assume that you don’t have to do anything to look after a product like this, but this is wrong! With something that you are so reliant on for safety, it is vital that you should do a little bit of maintenance. There are a few simple steps you should go through to make sure you are properly caring for your harness and reducing the chance of any issues arising in the future.
Only ever keep a harness for seven years. They all degrade, and seven years is about the length of time that is the very maximum they are likely to survive for.
Do a visual check after each use for any signs of excessive wear. If you see fraying and discoloration of any sort of nylon webbing, then don’t take any risks. Sometimes you will just have to say goodbye to the harness – it isn’t worth the risk of keeping it going.
If the harness has become wet, never store it in this wet state, as it could much more easily become moldy and then degrade as a result. It is key that you dry it off thoroughly before storing.
Store the harness in its own bag, usually one that it comes with upon purchase. It may not sound like a big risk, but if you simply throw it into the trunk of a car or in a big bag with a lot of kit, there is always the chance it could get snagged or become damaged, just give that little extra bit of storage security with a case or bag.
If it needs to be cleaned, do so with soap and water. You won’t need to use bleach or any sort of other cleaning products. Once again, ensure it has been thoroughly dried.
There are no specific rules on this, but often it may be the case that a woman finds a men’s harness more comfortable. It depends largely on body shape, and it is important to match up a design to your own specific body. If you are a man, however, it is very unlikely that you are going to find a product which is designed for women but is going to be comfortable for you, as they will often have higher leg loops that don’t suit the male anatomy.
This is totally a matter of personal preference. Nobody could say you absolutely need chalk, but it might help you. Chalk is used to dry sweat or other types of moisture and make it so that you have better grip. If you are climbing somewhere that is very hot and you are then likely to sweat a lot, then chalk might come in handy. Also, if you are the sort of person who perspires a lot then this could also be very useful.
The harness is a huge part of high comfort levels when you are climbing. Find one which is the right size and therefore isn’t likely to dig in and cut off your circulation. Also, find one which has a lot of padding and good weight distribution to avoid sores and pressure areas building up. If you can, twin this with good quality climbing clothes which are soft on the body.
As you can see, Petzl and Black Diamond branded climbing harnesses dominate our list, and two of the top three products are from these brands.
Our top rated model on the list is the Petzl CORAX Climbing Kit, it comes with everything you could need to get started and is wonderful for beginners and pros alike, which is why we have given it a rating of 9.9. We love the fact that this comes with accessories like carabiners and even chalk, so it is a good value-for-money climbing kit as well as harness.
Another of the great choices at the top of the market is the Mad Rock Mars Climbing Package which we’ve rated 9.7. This also comes with many accessories and is designed with clever air pockets that make this far more comfortable than most of the competition out there.
Another of our highest rated harnesses is the Black Diamond Aspect Harness. This is designed to be good in a wide variety of different weather conditions and is also the best on this list for ice climbing as it can stand up to tough conditions and has space for ice-related climbing accessories. We’ve rated it 9.6.
We hope we’ve helped you find the best climbing harness, whatever your needs may be!