The History of Climbing Harnesses

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We’ve come a long way, baby—from the (literally) gut-wrenching swami belts and painful chest harnesses of old to sleek, comfortable models weighing less than a pound. To see how good we have it today—with upgraded features and materials like comfortable padding, breathable mesh liners, and laser-cut webbing—peep these antique (but state of the art in their time) rigs on display at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado. Then get psyched to check out our modern harness picks and find your next upgrade.

Edelrid Chest Harness Copy

Eastern European copy of an Edelrid chest harness
Homemade, can take apart to use rope and cord.
1967-68

Bill Forrest Waistbelt Harness

Bill Forrest Waistbelt
sold separately from leg loops (below) for precise sizing.
1968

Bill Forrest Harness Leg Loops

Bill Forrest Leg Loops
These and the waistbelt were always used together.
1968

Whillans Sit Harness

Whillans Sit Harness
Made by Troll of England, designed for the first ascent of Annapurna South.
1970

Clan Robertson Harness

Clan Robertson Harness 
Made by Brian Robertson in Boulder.
Early 1970s

Troll ABS Harness

Troll ABS Harness
Has a wide range of adjustment buckles that can’t be fully undone for safety.
Late 1980s

Photos by Ben Fullerton. Special thanks to Gary Neptune and Neptune Mountaineering.