When you’re redpointing at your limit, you don’t want to be thinking about your gear. It follows, then, that a lighter, form-fitting harness is the ideal ally for your projects. In 2020, Black Diamond will be releasing the AirNet ($160, blackdiamondequipment.com), created by Adam Ondra and the BD athlete team specifically for competition climbing and redpointing. We’ve had two out for testing, with a male tester and myself over the past two months, and are pretty excited about what we’ve seen.
First off, the harness is light—only 8.3 ounces for the men’s version and 8.0 ounces for the women’s. By the same token, its weight-bearing surfaces are wide enough to comfortably support you while you hangdog and whip. This is made possible with a “load-sharing” Dynex net that comprises both the waist belt and leg-loops, and that is in turn clad in a breathable, abrasion-resistant mesh shell with a “no-sew” bonded edge tape on its upper and lower borders. Using this technology, Black Diamond has been able to create a harness that feels almost weightless without being dental floss that becomes uncomfortable the moment you weight it.
The other major advent with the AirNet is the Infinity Loop belay loop. By cutting and folding tubular Dynex, Black Diamond has created a seamless belay loop—no bulky bar tacks for your belay/rappel biner to catch on, and thus no need to manually readjust the loop to optimize belaying/rappelling. Furthermore, with its consistent, slender, half-inch width, there’s simply less loop to get in your way while tying in and doing gymnastic moves at your limit. It should also be noted that since this harness was specifically designed with competition in mind, the seamless belay loop will function great for speed climbing, allowing climbers to clip and go without a second thought.
Here at Climbing, everyone who’s taken this harness into the field has made it their go-to for projecting sport climbs. Our other tester worked one of the hardest climbs he has in a while in the AirNet. “On the climb’s power laybacking, radical heel hooks, and big drop knees, there was zero—as in zero—chafing or binding,” he said, “It really felt like I had nothing on, but when I bombed off the route above the crux, taking a 25-footer, I felt plenty supported as I hit the end of the rope.”
I also wore the AirNet as I pushed my limits this summer. After about five years of climbing, I have felt plateaued for a while now, but over the best few months have felt a noticeable increase in my strength, confidence, and ability to send harder climbs. As I push into steeper terrain, the AirNet has been catching a lot of falls, most recently on a 5.11b project. This last session yielded a send more easily than expected, a fact I can’t attribute to my harness. However, the fact that I wore a harness so light I could almost forget it was there, and that I knew a fall would be comfortably cushioned, definitely helped. My one issue was admittedly a minor one and really only applies to the women’s model: The elastic cords that connect the leg-loops to the waist-belt cannot be disconnected. For all the ladies out there, this means you must take the AirNet off completely every time nature calls. However, this minor inconvenience is worth the AirNet’s lightness and comfort.
This harness is incredibly comfortable at its weight and moves naturally with your body, making it perfect for redpointing. Our other tester also reported that it has also been “comfortable enough” during hanging belays and was even serviceable while bolting and cleaning new climbs, though the lightweight leg loops did have his legs going numb earlier than usual. (Note: All harnesses will eventually make your legs go numb while bolting—trust us.) With all this in mind, our verdict is that the AirNet is the among most exciting sport/gym/competition harnesses we’ve seen come to market in some time. If cutting ounces is important to you for gym or crag climbing, then this should be your jam.