I Review: Climbing Harnesses (Old, Petzl, Edelrid)
This isn't a typical gear review because I will be talking about two specific climbing harnesses (I will review a Petzl and Edelrid harness) that I have extensive experience with and general tips for what to look for in a harness. Let's start things off right with some truth- you don't need a fancy harness to be generally safe and safety is the main concern with all climbing gear. However, some harnesses are drastically more comfortable than others and some features actually can provide more safety in the form of ease of gear access when you are leading. I would also like to point out that harnesses are a piece of gear that makes sense to have gender specific. I buy women's harnesses because men's and women's hips are shaped drastically different so, if companies are actually doing their job in engineering, each gender's specific harness should work better for them.
Should I review the first harness I ever owned and what I climbed in for years? Let's do it.
This bad boy is vintage OG. This is what my dad climbed in for many years and it is at least 40 years old. Do I recommend climbing in a vintage harness. No, no I do not. Do I still use my dad's 40 year old cams (that are original Chouinard)? Yes, yes I do. But I have moved on harness wise. Old fabric deteriorates no matter how well you care for it.
My next harness I bought when I was like, okay I'm gonna do this climbing thing, let's keep me alive. Enter the Petzl Luna Harness.
Am I having a great time belaying my buddy flopping around on a 5.12 lead here? Yes. It is because I love my harness. NO. This is the harness you will be sold if you go to REI and are like hey I need a harness. It seems like it's a good one because it's $80. Don't be fooled, it sucks. A couple reasons I hate this harness:
1) The gear loops are set super far back on the belt so when you are leading, or just trying to access your atc or whatever else you've slung around your hips, it's difficult to get stuff off. You can't reach the back gear loops because they are so far set back so you have to put everything on the front two which are still pretty difficult to get to. Now, you might say, Annie you are a vain shopper and you bought a harness that is too small for you and that is why the gear loops are so far back. NAY! This harness would need to be tightened all the way on me and those back loops evaded me like all the cats in the world who can tell I don't like them. (To be clear, I don't dislike all cats, but the one I do definitely know it).
2) This harness would always get lopsided where the left side of the belt would creep forward and then I would only be able to access my left two gear loops and the right two would be behind me. Impossible to plan for.
3) This harness hurts! Despite it looking like it has padding (which makes it annoyingly bulky) it realllllly digs into my hips on a hanging belay and goes straight into the crotch when I am catching someone. Truly, I would end up with bruises from this harness.
Moral of the story: Don't buy this harness no matter what the cute REI guys says while you're hanging delicately from the ceiling like a harness fairy.
I don't like spending money so I wore this harness for a lot of years. Eventually I had enough of the pain and annoyance and found a like new harness for sale on Craigslist that would solve my gear loop problem. The Edelrid Jayne Harness has "movable foam waist padding centers and aligns the tie-in point and gear loops." Oh joy! Oh ecstasy! My gear loops are centered! These gear loops are also set further forward so another win!
This harness isn't a magic solve for the pain of a hanging belay but it is drastically more comfortable and less bulky. I have learned a few things that I think are really important to look for when buying a harness by comparing these two:
- Make sure the gear loops sit on your body at an appropriate spot.
- The movable waist is great for being able to have a perfectly centered harness/gear.
- Look for a wide waistband and leg bands - padding doesn't help as much as surface area when it comes to comfort.
- Walk in your harness and make sure nothing is rubbing between your legs.
- Make sure to get a size with ample room so you don't have to have a lot of space between the waist band on the front and your gear loops will sit farther forward.
- Don't waste your time with a harness with less than 4 gear loops.
- Make sure the placement of the waist is comfortable for your hip placement (buy from REI so you can return it if it's a true bust, don't wait in pain for 4 years like I did).
- Get something low profile so you can wear a backpack over it.
- Get one with adjustable leg loops.
Alright that is the gambit of my harness wisdom. Feel free to chime in if you have more advices! Get a harness you can chillax in bc you know you will.