This story originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of our print edition.
The fact that most harnesses on the shelves perform well, feel comfortable, meet strict safety standards, and last a few years at the very least makes picking the best of the bunch a rigorous exercise in sussing out details, ergonomics, weight, and all-day comfort. To make our readers’ retail decisions as easy as possible, the diligent test team went to work on a variety of terrain, from scary desert towers in Utah to whipper after whipper in the limestone paradises of Wyoming to eight-hour romps on the granite domes of California. In the end, these five sleek and affordable setups led the pack for comfort, versatility, durability, and overall performance.
To see a sampling of the climbing harnesses of yesteryear, check out The History of Climbing Harnesses.
Ladies’ Best in Show
Review: Edelrid Solaris
Whether you’re a sport climber taking huge falls, a traddie carrying pounds of gear, or a big waller hanging for hours, you won’t find a more comfortable, durable, or versatile setup. Read full review.
Burly, Comfy Trad
Wild Country Blaze
All-day gear-pluggers will love the pure comfort and large racking capacity of the Blaze, and wide-crack connoisseurs will be hard-pressed to find a more durable setup. Read full review.
It combines the sleekness of a slimmed-down sport harness with the adjustability and versatility of an all-around rig, so you can wear the Rebel in all seasons for any type of climbing. Read full review.
Belay Loop Failure
In October 2006, legendary climber Todd Skinner and partner, Jim Hewett, were rappelling down Leaning Tower in Yosemite. Hewett was above Skinner when he heard a snap, looked down, and saw his friend falling. Skinner fell several hundred feet and was killed on impact, his locked carabiner and belay device still hanging from the rope. It was clear that his belay loop had failed. What wasn’t clear, was why. A few days prior, Hewett had noticed that Skinner’s belay and leg loops were frayed; Skinner said he had a new harness on the way. Investigation of the belay loop remnants by the National Park Service eliminated chemical contamination and animal tampering as the cause of failure. However, a sling was found girth-hitched to the belay loop. Hewett said it had been in place for a while. This would have prevented the belay loop from rotating, and created a concentrated wear point. Plus, a broken keeper strap on the leg loops would have led to them sawing against the belay loop in the exact same spot over time. Moral of the story: Don’t leave any soft goods girth-hitched to the belay loop or tie-in points of your harness. Whenever you take off your harness, remove all the soft goods as well. Do regular inspections of your equipment, looking for any signs of wear. If any part of your gear is questionable, replace it. —Caroline Meleedy