Best Climbing Harnesses: The Top 7 of 2019

Climbing Harness Score Leg Loops Weight (Size M)
Top Pick: Petzl Sama
86
Fixed 415 g
Arc’teryx FL-365
85
Fixed 365 g
Black Diamond Chaos
83
Fixed 360 g
Best Value & Best Beginner Climbing Harness: Edelrid Jay II
82
Adjustable 437 g
Best Lightweight Climbing Harness: Petzl Sitta
79
Fixed 270 g
Black Diamond Solution
77
Fixed 330 g
Black Diamond Momentum
73
Adjustable 350 g

For months, I lived with seven of the best climbing harnesses on the market. I racked up for everything from gym topropes to multipitch trad. In the end, the Petzl Sama was my all-around favorite.

In general, I came away impressed. Many of these harnesses come with compromises, but they’re all strong contenders.

Along with climbing shoes, your climbing harness is one of your most important and frequently used pieces of gear. It’s worth getting one that suits not only your preferences, but the type of climbing you do most. For full details and reviews, read on.

The seven climbing harnesses we tested.

The seven climbing harnesses we tested.

Top Pick: Petzl Sama

Petzl Sama

For an all-around climbing harness, it doesn’t get much better than the Sama. The older generation was a solid performer, and Petzl has only improved the design.

The Sama didn’t outright win any categories, but it was a top performer in all of them. It’s on the heavier side of our test, but that only puts it an ounce or two above average.

The weight buys excellent comfort. The Sama was among the most comfortable climbing harnesses to fall in, and it remained comfortable even on longer hangs. Although generously padded, the design is low-profile and moves well.

Another highlight was the gear loops. The front loops are spacious and gently sloped toward the front of the harness. Gear sits nicely, and there’s plenty of room for a full rack. Even while carrying gear, the Sama remained at the top of the comfort scores. It even comes with a big haul loop.

There are no ice clipper slots, which (along with the lack of adjustable leg loops) will turn off winter warriors. The only other minor con is the rear gear loops, which are a little floppy compared to some designs. In the scheme of things, these are minor quibbles.

To cap it off, the Sama retails for an affordable price. It’s one of the cheapest climbing harnesses in our test, making it excellent value. This is a harness that works well in the climbing gym, but it’s just as comfortable on sport or trad.

For an all-around performer, we couldn’t ask for more.

Product Specs

  • Leg Loops: Fixed
  • Weight (Size M): 415 g
  • Haul Loop: Yes
  • Ice Clipper Slots: No

Best Value & Best Beginner Climbing Harness: Edelrid Jay II

Edelrid Jay II

The Edelrid Jay II is an ideal generalist and top beginner climbing harness. It combines good comfort and features at an attractive price.

The Jay’s strengths begin with well-placed and spacious gear loops. These easily swallowed a full rack, and the Jay carried the load comfortably.

It wasn’t the most comfortable harness on whips, but on longer hangs it was stable and supportive, second only to the Black Diamond Chaos.

The Jay has adjustable leg loops for full customization. It also uses a sliding belt design, which means that the main webbing belt can slide through the frame of the padding.

This allows you to keep the gear and belay loops centered no matter how tightly the buckle is cinched. I had to change my cinching motion to avoid any accidental sliding, but I did appreciate the adjustability.

The Jay’s other unique feature is the lower tie-in point, which is bolstered by a rigid plastic semicircle. This is usually one of the first points to wear out on a harness. While testing didn’t last long enough to know if it makes a difference, the detail is a nice nod to durability.

The Jay even has ice clipper slots, although it doesn’t have a haul loop. The other disadvantage is bulk — the Jay weighs 437g, which is the heaviest in our test.

It doesn’t pack down small, but on the wall I didn’t notice a difference to most other harnesses. Especially for newer climbers, the trade-off between comfort and weight is well worth it.

As of this writing the Jay is the second cheapest climbing harness in our test, only slightly more expensive than the Black Diamond Momentum.

Even as a budget or beginner climbing harness, the Jay II can keep up outdoors and across disciplines. That’s great value.

Note: Edelrid released an updated version of this harness during our testing. We haven’t tested the Jay III yet, but the Jay II is still widely available online.

Women’s version: Edelrid Jayne II

Product Specs

  • Leg Loops: Adjustable
  • Weight (Size M): 437 g
  • Haul Loop: No
  • Ice Clipper Slots: 2

Best Lightweight Climbing Harness: Petzl Sitta

Petzl Sitta

The Petzl Sitta is an impressive harness. Although not a top scorer, it manages to combine a surprising amount of usability with shockingly low weight.

I generally don’t feel like other harnesses weigh me down, nor am I the type to shave grams when I head into the mountains. But I noticed a difference when I wore the Sitta.

You hardly feel this harness when you’re wearing it. It achieved a perfect score for mobility and breathability, and it packs down to a bundle about the size of two fists.

The Petzl Sitta packed away in its carrying bag.

The Petzl Sitta packs down to a bundle about the size of two fists. Here it’s shown in its carrying bag with a Grigri for scale.

For the size, it’s much more comfortable than I expected. The Sitta didn’t score well in the whip test thanks to thinner leg loops, but load distribution was good enough to make hangs livable.

In longer hang tests, it even managed to outscore some of the larger climbing harnesses. It’s no big-wall couch, but even decent comfort is an achievement for a harness this minimalist.

The front gear loops are large, rigid, and feature dividers halfway down. They’re spacious enough to carry a full rack, and I liked the dividers more than I thought I would.

The rear gear loops are structureless and finicky, but I suppose compromises must be made somewhere.

The Sitta held up well over the testing period, but durability may be a concern if you plan to scrape up enough chimneys. The other obvious concern is price — the Sitta is the most expensive harness in this test by miles. You could buy three of our Best Value pick for its price.

The Sitta makes sense for two specialized applications. The first is alpine rock climbs, where lightness and packability make the Sitta an asset (it does have ice clipper slots, but the lack of adjustable leg loops rules it out for true mountaineering). The other is high-end sport climbing, where mobility and freedom are at a premium.

For these disciplines, the Sitta is the best on the market — as long as you can afford the price of entry.

Product Specs

  • Leg Loops: Fixed
  • Weight (Size M): 260 g
  • Haul Loop: Yes
  • Ice Clipper Slots: 2

Reviews of the 4 Other Climbing Harnesses We Tested

Arc’teryx FL-365

Arc'teryx FL-365

Arc’teryx is known for their premium quality and premium prices, and the FL-365 is no exception to either. It’s a well-designed and likable harness.

The first thing you notice about the FL-365 is the thin padding that forms both the waist belt and the leg loops. After the Sitta, this harness was the least obtrusive.

Despite its low profile, the FL-365 remains reasonably comfortable. It wasn’t a top scorer in the comfort department, but it was above average across the board.

Even better are its gear-carrying capabilities. The gear loops are wide and shaped to funnel gear toward the front of the harness. The FL-365 was the easiest harness to rack up with, and it comes with a wide haul loop that’s effectively a fifth gear loop. It even has four ice clipper slots.

The FL-365 is named for its weight, which puts it in the middle of the pack. Arc’teryx also makes an adjustable-leg version, the AR-395a. The company is known for their build quality and attention to detail, and it shows — everything from the butt straps to the cinching system is intuitive and solid.

In the end, it was only the FL-365’s average comfort scores that put it just below the Sama in the tally. The Arc’teryx does have some advantages, namely its wide gear loops and packable profile. The downside is the price — the FL-365 is expensive. For dedicated outdoor climbers, however, it may be worth the splurge.

Women’s version: Arc’teryx FL-355

Product Specs

  • Leg Loops: Fixed (Arc’teryx offers an adjustable-leg version, the AR-395a)
  • Weight (Size M): 365 g
  • Haul Loop: Yes
  • Ice Clipper Slots: 4

Black Diamond Chaos

Black Diamond Chaos

The Chaos narrowly missed winning an award in this review. As BD’s high-end trad harness, it very nearly gets the formula right.

The biggest reason to buy the Chaos is comfort. On long hangs, the Chaos was the most comfortable climbing harness in our test. The thick padding is supportive and plush, and it makes a real difference over time.

For all its comfort, the Chaos remains free and mobile. It’s chunkier than the Arc’teryx FL-365, but it’s actually slightly lighter.

Where the Chaos lost points was its gear loops, which are adequate but tight for bigger racks.

Racking on these loops wasn’t as pleasant as using our award winners or the FL-365. If you’re one to carry a lighter rack (or if you’ll only be sport climbing), you may not mind.

My other quibble with the Chaos was its speed buckle system. Although easy to cinch, the buckle was much more difficult to release than the other harnesses. This made getting out at the end of the day a pain.

Ultimately, these flaws lost the Chaos top honors. They’re not dealbreakers, but we expect a little more attention to detail on a trad climbing harness in this price range. A haul loop helps, but it’s not as nice as those on the Sama or FL-365, and the Chaos has no ice clipper slots.

Still, the Chaos remains a good climbing harness overall. If comfort is your top priority, it should be on the shortlist.

Note: Black Diamond recently discontinued the Chaos, replacing it with the Solution Guide (which hopefully has bigger loops). The Chaos is still widely available online.

Product Specs

  • Leg Loops: Fixed
  • Weight (Size M): 360 g
  • Haul Loop: Yes
  • Ice Clipper Slots: No

Black Diamond Solution

Black Diamond Solution

Another near miss, the BD Solution could have been among the best climbing harnesses in this test.

It starts off strong — this was the most comfortable harness in our whip test, and in most scenarios it ranked well for comfort. My only gripe was on longer hangs, when the thin edges tended to ride up and dig into my torso.

It’s also very light and mobile. At 330 grams, the Solution is the second lightest climbing harness in our test after the Sitta. It hugs the body, and it’s deceptively supportive for how low-profile it is.

Even more than the Chaos, however, the Solution struggles in the gear department.

The gear loops on this harness are best described as vestigial, resembling gear loops the way a penguin’s flippers resemble wings. Only about an inch in depth, the loops cannot handle much. I did manage to stuff a rack on, but it would have been a nightmare to climb with. The front loops got crowded with just six quickdraws.

Previous generations of the Solution didn’t suffer this problem. I can’t imagine why BD made the change, except to differentiate the Solution from their (more expensive) trad climbing harnesses.

As it stands, the Solution is suitable only for gym and possibly sport climbing. It’s a decent pick for these disciplines, although personally I’ll take the weight sacrifice of the Sama in exchange for easier racking.

Again, if comfort is a top priority, the Solution is worth a look. If you need to carry any significant amount of gear, look elsewhere.

Women’s version: Black Diamond Solution Women’s

Product Specs

  • Leg Loops: Details
  • Weight (Size M): 330 g
  • Haul Loop: Yes
  • Ice Clipper Slots: No

Black Diamond Momentum

Black Diamond Momentum

A classic budget warrior, the BD Momentum is a common sight at climbing gyms. There’s a good reason — it’s a solid harness at an affordable price.

Like the Edelrid Jay II, the Momentum is a bulky beast. Chunky padding fills both the waist belt and the leg loops.

Although the Momentum remains lightweight, the extra bulk is noticeable on the body. The padding is comfortable on falls and short hangs, but it gets uncomfortable quickly on longer belays.

Still, the Momentum has a full feature set. The leg loops are adjustable and intuitive. Racking space is average but adequate, and the Momentum even gets a haul loop.

For the price, that’s a decent package. The Momentum was outclassed in this test by the Edelrid Jay II, which is slightly more expensive but offers more comfort and racking space. All the same, the Momentum is decent value and a viable budget pick.

Women’s version: Black Diamond Momentum Women’s

Product Specs

  • Leg Loops: Adjustable
  • Weight (Size M): 350 g
  • Haul Loop: Yes
  • Ice Clipper Slots: No

Summary

Here are the best climbing harnesses:

  • Petzl Sama
  • Arc’teryx FL-365
  • Black Diamond Chaos
  • Edelrid Jay II
  • Petzl Sitta
  • Black Diamond Solution
  • Black Diamond Momentum

How to Choose the Best Climbing Harness for Your Needs

Types of Climbing Harnesses

Rather than falling into discrete categories, climbing harnesses tend to operate along a spectrum.

Far at one end are lightweight alpine and mountaineering harnesses. Sometimes just a few pieces of webbing and straps, these are designed only to provide safety in case of a fall.

At the other end are dedicated big-wall harnesses, which are designed to remain supportive and comfy over long aid-climbing days.

Most harnesses fall in between, ranging from lightweight sport/alpine to beefier trad harnesses. In general, trad climbers look for comfort and racking space, while sport climbers prioritize mobility and lightness (although comfort doesn’t hurt).

Of course, any harness can cross disciplines. Within these loose categories, a few features distinguish harnesses.

Fixed vs. Adjustable Leg Loops

Deciding on fixed or adjustable leg loops is one of the main choices for harness selection. Adjustable leg loops used to be the standard, but fixed leg loops have gained popularity in recent years.

The advantage of fixed leg loops is simplicity. There’s no need to readjust the legs every time you don or doff your harness, and there’s no buckle to loosen over time. Fixed-loop designs have an elastic band instead of a buckle, so there’s still some flexibility in diameter. Fixed-loop designs are lighter.

Adjustable leg loops allow more customization. They’re easier to adjust over multiple layers, and they’re preferable for climbers with leg diameters far from the size norm. On the flipside, they’re heavier, require more adjustment, and can gradually slip over time.

Mountaineers also prefer adjustable leg loops because they allow harness entry without lifting the feet. Neither of the adjustable-leg harnesses in our test allow the strap to slip through the buckle, making this impossible — but most mountaineers will have a dedicated alpine harness anyway.

Gear Loops

Harnesses may have different numbers of gear loops. Four is the standard, and all harnesses in our test have four loops.

That’s not to say that all gear loops are created equal. Gear loops vary widely by size, shape, and construction. Your preferences will likely depend on how much gear you need to carry. Trad climbers should make sure that their rack fits on their loops.

Sometimes, a haul loop can be used as a fifth gear loop. Which brings us to:

Haul Loops

Haul loops are extra attachment points diametrically opposite the belay loop. They’re generally used in trad and big-wall climbing for attaching a tag line while leading.

Haul loops can also be a handy place to clip gear out of the way, from an anchor setup to a pair of shoes. Again, not all loops are created equal. The loops on the Arc’teryx FL-365 and Petzl Sama are practically extra gear loops, while the loops on the Black Diamond harnesses are harder to access.

If your harness doesn’t have a haul loop, don’t worry about it. For most climbing situations, they’re not required.

The wide haul loop of the Arc'teryx FL-365.

The FL-365’s haul loop is a good spot for anchor or self-rescue gear.

Ice Clipper Slots

These are pretty self-explanatory — for those brave enough to climb frozen water, a specialized racking system is needed for ice screws. Ice clippers slide into slots on the sides of harnesses to provide a place to rack screws. Some clippers may be attached to any harness, but most require dedicated slots.

Ice clipper slots are usually small and unobtrusive, and they don’t get in the way of any warm-weather duties.

Buckle Systems

Double-back buckles were once the convention, but almost all modern climbing harnesses use speed-adjust buckles.

Instead, the main choice to be made nowadays is between one or two buckles. One-buckle systems are simpler, lighter, and more streamlined, while two-buckle systems allow you to keep loops centered no matter how tight the harness is.

More harnesses these days have gone the one-buckle route. All the harnesses in our test use only one buckle, but the Edelrid Jay II utilizes sliding webbing at the waist to preserve full adjustability.

How We Tested

Whip Test

This test is exactly what it sounds like: I found an overhang and took the same big whip on every single harness. I scored each one based on comfort.

Hang Test

Hang-testing the Edelrid Jay II.

Just hangin’ around.

I rigged some slings in my basement, set up a timer, and just…hung out. I hung suspended for ten minutes in each harness (I had some podcasts to catch up on). I made notes and ratings on comfort over time.

Racking Test

Trying to fit a trad rack on the Black Diamond Solution's gear loops.

The Solution’s tiny loops get crowded in a hurry.

Although I did climb outdoors with these harnesses, I wanted to standardize gear testing. I took the exact same set of gear (a full trad rack) and racked up on each harness. I rated each harness on how easy it was to rack, how easy it was to access the gear, and how comfortable it was to carry the gear.

Field Testing

I wore these harnesses from the gym to the crag, for long and short sessions, on gymnastic overhangs and delicate slabs. I assessed each for comfort, mobility, breathability, ergonomics, and carrying ability.