So, did you just watch the Dawn Wall and get super hyped for some epic climbs, or maybe you read about how “Climbing is the new golf” and thought you’d give it a whirl?
One of the first bits of kit you’ll need to get will be a climbing harness, so here is your guide from our outdoor store in Christchurch, on what to look for in a climbing harness and where to start.
What sort of climbing are you doing?
Gym and sport climbing don’t use as much gear as other types of climbing so 2+ gear loops on the harness should be enough. You can also be a more focused on just getting the send and nailing the climb so lighter weight harnesses with fixed leg loops will be perfect for this. If you’re looking for a bit more comfort though look for a bit more padding and more adjustability, the Petzl Corax and Edelrid Jay and Jayne are great starting harnesses.
Trad & Multi-pitch
You’re likely to spend a while in this type of harness, hanging out at a hanging belay or just taking a longer while on each pitch so you want something with nice comfortable padding and adjustable leg loops so you will be comfortable no matter what pants the weather demands. Trad gear and equipment to make anchors takes up a lot of space on your harness so you’ll want at least 4 gear loops. A haul loop is a useful addition too if you plan on setting up fixed lines for multi pitch.
Ice & Mixed Climbing
Ice climbing harnesses are similar to trad harnesses with 4+ gear loops but will ideally have ice clipper slots for racking your ice screws. You’ll also need adjustable leg loops for the harness to fit comfortably over bulkier winter clothes.
The name of the game for alpine harnesses is light weight. Your gear will generally be minimal so 1 or 2 gear loops will generally be enough. So that the harness doesn’t get in the way of your pack, go for a harness with little or no padding. Adjustable leg loops are crucial for mountaineering harnesses so you can put them on without skis or crampons getting in the way.
Touring harnesses are uber light weight and low profile so they can be worn easily with a pack. Designed to be easy to put on and off they’ll be fully adjustable, perfect for short roping when the terrain demands it.
You nearly got me, that’s a trick question though! You don’t use a harness when you’re bouldering, you use a boulder pad to cushion your fall instead.
Other Important Stuff
A lot of brands also have women specific harnesses. They’ve been ergonomically designed to better fit a woman’s body, with a longer rise between the leg loops and waist belt for better comfort around the waist. Women’s harnesses also tend to start at a smaller size than men’s options, as well as a bit more padding (brand dependant). If you’re looking for a harness, keep in mind that women’s specific harnesses are out there and a fantastic option to consider. But there are still a lot of unisex and men’s harnesses that could still fit you and work perfectly.
Size matters when it comes to harnesses. You want the harness to be snug around your waist. If you are looking at a harness that only has a buckle on one side check that the gear loops sit roughly evenly around your body, on a two-buckle harness it is a little easier to balance the symmetry of the harness. On any harness you want to make sure that as much of the padding as possible covers you, if you have a harness fully extended you might end up with a lot of webbing that is less comfortable to hang out on. Harnesses generally have a brand specific size guide which is handy, but the best thing to do is try the harness options on if you can, get some advice on fit and see how comfortable each one is for you, everyone’s body is different so each harness will feel different.
My personal approach has been to go for a harness that I’m happy with for just about anything. I have the Petzl Luna harness. The 5 gear loops are perfect for racking up all my sport gear and as I start building up my trad rack there’s room to grow. The adjustable leg loops mean that I can whip it on comfortably over as many layers as I need on; perfect for everything from gym climbing to colder days outdoors all the way up to the alpine environment. As a jack of all trades harness my Luna works fantastically with the only problem being its weight, in the alpine environment I would prefer something that’s lighter with a bit less padding for under my pack. But realistically it excels right where I need it to as a comfortable indoor/sport/trad harness that still serves me well in the mountains, after all I can just give my dad the rope to carry!
How to choose the right climbing harness for you depends on what king of climbing you’re doing, comparing comfort and padding to how light weight you need your harness to be and thinking about fit. Harnesses come in different sizes and unisex, men’s and women’s models so it’s important to try your options on if you can. If you come into our Christchurch store you can try on the harness to check for fit and comfort as well as get advice about what will best suit you and your needs. If you can’t come see us though, that’s ok too you can call us for more info if you want to find out more. All our harnesses can be shipped out to you wherever you are in New Zealand, ready for your next climbing adventure