Best Climbing Harnesses

Updated May 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

16 Models Considered
68 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
106 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best climbing harnesses

Last Updated May 2019

Rock climbing builds stamina, increases strength, enhances flexibility, and provides some excellent cardio while burning fat and reducing stress. The downside is it can be dangerous. Choosing the right climbing harness, along with following proper safety protocol and learning good climbing techniques, removes a great deal of the risk, making the sport statistically one of the safer outdoor options for adventurers.

Finding the best climbing harness for your body is all about the fit. Obviously, you need a unit that is durable and well built, but the safest climbing harness is one that is the appropriate size for you. A properly fitting, lightweight, comfortable climbing harness that offers uninhibited mobility is ideal.

If you're ready to buy, we've added a few notable climbing harnesses to this article for your consideration. If you'd like to go a little more in depth with features, fitting, and safety, continue reading.

A climbing harness won’t last forever. Keeping it clean, dry, and out of the sun will help it last longer.

Key considerations

Every aspect is important when it comes to choosing the best climbing harness. However, there are a few key considerations that are more vital to your safety than others. The following are the most important aspects you need to consider when choosing a climbing harness.

Fit

The most important consideration of all when choosing a climbing harness is the fit. If it doesn't fit properly, the climbing harness won’t support you properly, and that could lead to an accident. A harness that’s too large or too small is not an option. Also, if your climbing harness is causing you discomfort, it isn’t the right one for you. Climbing requires a great deal of strength and flexibility. If your climbing harness limits your mobility, it will prevent you from performing your best.

Adjustability: Often the main culprit for discomfort is the rise length. Besides having an adjustable waist belt and adjustable leg loops, you might want to consider a climbing harness with an adjustable rise length. Even slight fine-tuning may alleviate the unnecessary pressure (or pinching) created by an improper rise length.

Weight: Typically, cheaper climbing harnesses are bulkier, have more padding, and the materials doesn't tend to breathe as well. The pricier the harness, the lighter the weight, the more comfortable it is to wear, and the easier it is for you to climb.

Safety components

Screwgate carabiner: You may use a number of carabiners in climbing, but the one we're mentioning here is the one that attaches to your belay loop. This one needs to be a screwgate carabiner because your life depends on it not accidentally coming undone.

Wear indicator: Some climbing harnesses have a wear indicator. This is simply a red or orange layer located beneath the outer surface. If you can see this, it’s time to get a new climbing harness.

Type of climbing

There are many different types of climbing and the type that you do affects the climbing harness features you need to look at. Here, we've listed three types of climbing along with the most desired features in a harness for each type.

Sport climbing: The best climbing harness for sport climbing is lightweight with a maximum of two gear loops. The key is mobility, so you want a climbing harness that allows you to attempt a difficult move.

Traditional climbing: For this type of climbing, you want a harness that has at least four gear loops and a haul loop. Adjustable leg loops are preferred so you can remove or add clothing layers as you climb. Ideally, you still want something that allows for greater mobility, but you won't be trying moves that are as difficult as those you might attempt when sport climbing.

Ice climbing: The key feature to look for in a harness for ice climbing is a waist belt with ice clipper slots. Additionally, if padding or other parts of your harness easily absorb water, that water may freeze and stiffen up the harness.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Obsessively inspect your harness for fraying or any other signs of damage. If it looks, feels, or operates differently than the last time you used it, figure out why before you begin your ascent.

Climbing harness features

Your climbing harness is what keeps you connected to your rope during a climb. It is your only protection. To say you need a decent climbing harness is understating its importance. You should only desire the best. To understand what that entails, you first need to know how the various parts of a climbing harness serve you.

Waist belt: This is the part of the harness that wraps around your waist. It needs to be durable, adjustable, lightweight, and fasten above your iliac crest (the top of your hip bone) so it doesn't slip while climbing.

Leg loops: These are the only other two points of direct contact and support on most harnesses. Some climbers prefer non-adjustable leg loops because they’re lighter, but to get the best fit, or if you need to pull your climbing harness on over your boots, you want adjustable leg loops. For climbers who may spend a great deal of time resting, padded leg loops might be a better option.

Rise: Getting a climbing harness with the proper rise length is crucial to safety and comfort. These straps connect the waist belt to the leg loops and help provide stability and comfort. Some are adjustable, some are elastic, and some are removable so you can quickly take them off without unfastening them during a climb.

Belay loop: This is the strongest part of your harness. It is manufactured to handle hard falls. It is essential that the belay loop has no signs of wear. Nothing other than the gear (a screwgate carabiner) that is specifically designed to attach to the belay loop should ever be fastened or tied there.

Tie-in loops: These two loops are located on either end of the belay loop – one connects the belay loop to the front of the waist belt and the other connects the belay loop to the leg loops. These are also remarkably strong and should be inspected before every climb.

Haul loop: This loop can be found on the back side of the harness. It is often used as a guide to keep the rope out of your way. Additionally, it can be used to carry items while you climb. It is not strength rated or designed to be load bearing.

Metal buckle(s): The waist belt must have a metal buckle. It is usually located a little off to the side. The leg loops may also feature metal buckles, but those are optional.

Gear loops/ice clipper slots: These loops and slots are located on the waist belt and they allow you to carry essential climbing gear. The best gear loops can be moved (or removed) to anyplace on the waist belt that the climber desires. Gear loops are not designed to support any appreciable weight and should never be clipped into anchors.

EXPERT TIP

Some harnesses have wear indicators in strength-rated areas. Always check these areas to be certain that no red or orange is visible.


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Climbing harness prices

The prices of climbing harnesses can be confusing. At a glance, it seems the more you pay, the less you get, and in a way that’s true.

Inexpensive: From $15 to $25, you can find entry-level climbing harnesses. These come with a bevy of buckles so you’re able to make numerous adjustments. The more cumbersome a climbing harness is, however, the less desirable it will be as your skill level increases.

Mid-range: In the $25 to $50 range, you can find more padding, fewer buckles, and some with upper body support. Although this may provide emotional comfort, unless the climber is a child, it doesn't make the harness safer in most situations.

Expensive: As you move beyond the $50 mark, you’ll find climbing harnesses that feature very little material and few buckles. These types of harnesses are designed to be lightweight and allow for greater mobility.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

If the shape of your harness is even mildly questionable, it's time to retire it for a new one. Always err on the side of caution.

Tips

  • Fit is everything. The most important consideration of all when choosing a climbing harness is the fit. If it doesn't fit properly, the climbing harness won’t support you properly, and that could lead to an accident. The best-fitting harness for you is comfortable. If you have to fight your harness, even just a little, to remain upright, that's a red flag that your harness does not fit. Beginning climbers might prefer to use a padded harness for a more comfortable fit.
     

  • Waist and thigh measurements are most important. There are just two measurements you need to take when purchasing a climbing harness: waist circumference and thigh circumference. When measuring your waist, remember the size you want is above your iliac crest (the top of your hip bone). Your waist belt needs to fasten tightly enough so it can’t slip over your iliac crest. The sizing for leg loops isn't as critical as the waist measurement, but these loops should still fit comfortably. If you prefer, you can purchase a harness with adjustable leg loops to ensure maximum comfort.
     

  • Rise is important. The distance between the back of your leg loops and waist belt is the rise. If it’s too short, you'll tip backward; if it’s too long, it will be uncomfortable and force your waist belt to bear too much weight.
     

  • Choose a harness based on your build. Climbing harnesses come in men's, women's, and children's models because the body proportions are different. However, if you’re a male who needs a longer rise, get the harness that fits properly, no matter which gender it happens to be labeled.

Other products we considered

Because there is such a wide assortment of climbing harnesses available and so many different types of climbers, we wanted to offer you a few more highly recommended options. The Black Diamond Momentum Harness is a sleek, lightweight climbing harness that’s designed to increase comfort while providing balance. This harness weighs just 12 ounces and features a no-buckle trakFIT sizing technology for effortless adjustments. Black Diamond also offers a complete line of climbing harnesses proportioned for women. The Black Diamond Primrose Women's Harness is a highly rated model that’s lightweight, easy to adjust, and comfortable. The versatile PETZL CORAX Harness is fully adjustable so you can fine-tune the fit to whatever body type you happen to be.

Never take a harness for granted. Although you’ll use it most often while resting and to carry gear, its primary function is to save your life in the event of a fall.

FAQ

Q. How long does a climbing harness last?
A.
If you take a hard fall, a climbing harness may last as little as one climb. If you take care of your harness and only climb a few times each month, your climbing harness could last up to three years. If you only use it for a couple of climbs each year, you might be able to get up to seven years of use out of it. However, never use these numbers arbitrarily. You must always inspect your harness before every climb to determine if it’s still safe to use.

Q. Besides inspecting my harness, is there anything I can do to help stay safe?
A.
It's a good idea to keep a log. This document (or file) should include the date, conditions, and other details of every climb. If you fall, for instance, log how far you fell. You might tend to discount falls of less severity, but you should log absolutely everything.

Q. How do I put this thing on?
A.
With its multiple loops, a harness can be confusing, especially if some of those loops are tangled. However, if you take your time to first untangle it, a climbing harness easily slips on – similar to the way you would step into a pair of pants – one leg at a time. Step through the waist belt and into the leg loops, being sure to keep the belay loop in the front. It’s important that the waist belt is above your iliac crest (top of the hip bone); otherwise the harness could slip down to an unsafe position while you climb.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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