This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of our print edition.
With more than 200 years of combined climbing experience, our 11 testers took 14 harnesses on routes from Smith Rock, Oregon, to Rumney, New Hampshire, visiting a few dozen crags in between. They took countless falls (in the name of testing, of course) to find the best combinations of fit, features, durability, comfort, convenience, and last but not least, price. Your harness is one of your three most important pieces of gear (along with your shoes and rope), so choose wisely based on your personal climbing goals, whether they involve 30-footers or no-fall zones. After more than six months of testing, we were able to narrow the contenders down to the following five rigs that will keep you safe and happy on everything from single-pitch topropes to multi-day big wall excursions.
Big Wall Comfort
Review: Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe Climbing Harness
The best built harness for redundancy, durability, and robust features; take this on your next big wall adventure. Read the full review.
Review: Black Diamond Momentum Climbing Harness
With plenty of cushion to keep testers comfy but a very light feel, this harness shines in any conditions and any location, from the gym to all-day routes in Yosemite at a nice price. Read the full review.
Review: Arc’teryx AR 395A Climbing Harness
Progressive construction, customizable fit, and optimal comfort help justify a slightly higher price, making it an excellent choice for gym, sport, trad, or ice. Read the full review.
How is a Harness Made?
The goal of a well-built harness is always the same. It’s safety first, followed closely by comfort and convenience. The two construction types are tube-style and seam-taped. The former starts with a fabric tube that is sewn inside out. Foam is added as a filler, then the tube is pulled over the foam so the seams are on the inside. The foam and fabric provide comfort and structure by spreading the load out evenly, but once the body fabric is damaged or worn, the harness should be replaced immediately. Seam-taped styles start with a length of webbing that provide strength to the waistbelt and leg loops. The inner and outer fabrics are laminated to a piece of foam that wraps around the initial webbing, and then the waistbelt webbing with the buckle gets applied to the outside. The inner webbing is the strongest part of the harness, and it’s heavier, but this style has a longer lifespan according to our tests.