To learn more about the characteristics and types of climbing harness, we will answer a series of questions that will help us choose among the different models available on the market.
You will also learn how to wear a climbing harness or how to take care of it to ensure that it is properly maintained, and that it does not affect our safety.
Table of Contents
- What is a climbing harness?
- What types of climbing harnesses are available?
- What are the main parts of a climbing harness?
- What is the difference between a climbing harness for men and a climbing harness for women?
- How to choose the right size of climbing or mountaineering harness
- How to put on a climbing harness?
- How do I maintain and clean a climbing harness?
- What are the most recognized brands of climbing harnesses?
- Criteria for buying a climbing harness
What is a climbing harness?
The harness is a safety gear used in climbing, but also in other fields such as speleology, mountaineering and rafting, kitesurfing (a kite is used to move an athlete on a board in the water) or to perform rescues – mainly by the emergency services.
What types of climbing harnesses are available?
There are several types of harnesses depending on the type of climbing we are going to practice.
We can even use some for different climbing categories, such as the so-called “versatile” harnesses, which save space and are made with the best quality materials.
But let’s focus on this chart of climbing harnesses of each type.
|Criteria||Sports (rock or climbing wall)||Classic and traditional||Big walls||Ice or mixed (rock and ice)||Mountaineering (high mountain)|
|Benefits||They are quick and easy to put on and take off.||To facilitate their transport, they take up little space.||They must give priority to comfort since being suspended for many hours.||Designed to withstand extreme conditions||They are ultralight and take up a minimum of space.|
|Comfort||They are light and facilitate freedom of movement.||It’s characterized by its lightness and comfort.||Good padding at the waist and adjustable and foldable leg loops.||They are equipped with special ice clipper slots.||The belt is usually narrow and flexible.|
|Features||They have buckles only at the waist and the leg loops are usually elastic.||The back ring is reinforced and has good padding in the lumbar area.||They are usually equipped with double anchor straps for greater safety.||The legs are adjustable and the lumbar padding is waterproof.||The legs are adjustable and can be folded down when changing clothes.|
|Tool holders||They have few gear loops.||They have 4 or more gear loops.||Robust gear loops, one of which is reinforced at the back.||You must have the necessary gear loops.||You should not carry too many tool holders.|
What are the main parts of a climbing harness?
The climbing harness is composed of different parts, all of which are of great importance for the safety and comfort of the climber.
It is necessary to be aware of their proper functioning and to follow the instructions to keep them in excellent condition.
These are the principal parts :
- Waist belt: This is the main part of the harness, it supports most of the weight and it’s where all the other parts are tied to. It must offer a balance between comfort and lightness.
- Loops: Their functionality depends on the climbing style. Those that currently exist have a self-locking system.
- Legs loops: They are usually padded, and you can adjust them with an elastic or buckle system, which makes changing clothes easier.
- Belay loop: This is a ring that passes through both attachment points, making it the strongest area of the unit.
- Gear holders: These are used to carry equipment or accessories necessary during climbing. Their number depends on the style practiced or the needs of the climber.
- Attachment points: These are two loops that connect to the belay loop. The rope is sometimes passed through them and the weight is correctly balanced.
What is the difference between a climbing harness for men and a climbing harness for women?
Although some models can be designed for both genders, it is advisable to get a product that offers the characteristics required for each sex.
With women, their center of gravity is lower and they need to balance the harness to feel more comfortable and safer.
We also find that females are generally thinner and place the harnesses on the hips, so we need to test the distance between the waist and the legs.
In short, we need to look for gender-specific patterns, just as we do for children.
The famous German Climber, Wolfgang Güllich, once said:
The brain is the most important muscle for climbing.
How to choose the right size of climbing or mountaineering harness
- Put on the harness.
- Check that it fits snugly and that the gear holders are symmetrical. If it is not the case, the harness is the wrong size. In this case, change the size and/or choose a harness with 2 belt buckles.
- Try the harness when hanging. It should not cut too much blood in your legs (it will necessarily do so a little) and it should not go up too much at the belly level (otherwise it will crush the ribs).
- For the rest, it’s by feel.
How to put on a climbing harness?
Wearing a climbing harness is not a very complicated task.
However, it must be done with great care, because our safety and comfort depend on it.
These are, in a synthetic and simple way, the key steps to follow to put on a harness :
- Enter: legs in the legs loops making sure not to cross them and that the belay loop is in front.
- Place: the belt above the hips, almost at navel level, to avoid slipping if you are upside down. Tighten it well, leaving no more than two fingers of slack.
- Adjust: the leg loops with an elastic part in case they are not adjustable. The tighter they are, the more comfortable you will feel when hanging, even if it reduces your mobility.
How do I maintain and clean a climbing harness?
The first thing to do is to read the instruction booklet for all the components that come with the harness.
Before each use, we must check every detail to make sure that each part works and in good condition, because over time, certain elements can wear out and endanger our physical integrity.
As for cleaning, we can immerse it in water for two hours using a neutral soap and a brush if the stains are resistant.
Then we will rinse it with water and let it dry in a ventilated place, but not in direct sunlight.
After these steps, make sure, again, that all components are working properly.
What are the most recognized brands of climbing harnesses?
The Petzl company is one of the most important brands on an international level.
It is a French company with over 50 years of experience in the manufacture of harnesses for sports such as climbing, but also for professional activities.
The company offers a wide range of products, where quality, safety and comfort are paramount.
Another important company in this sector is the Italian company Climbing Technology, which applies modern development and production techniques to guarantee maximum safety for the climber.
Finally, Black Diamond, a US company with its innovative gear designs, is the most requested harness manufacturer on the market, especially in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Criteria for buying a climbing harness
Before buying a climbing harness, we must consider a series of important criteria for our safety and comfort.
For example, the use we want to make of it, i.e. the style of climbing we are going to use it for.
We must also look for the right size, with a perfect fit, or the weight most appropriate for our needs.
Climbing can be done on different terrains and in different circumstances.
We must therefore look for a harness that adapts to the characteristics of the climbing category we want to practice.
Let’s not forget the importance of harnesses for safety.
They are therefore designed to meet different performance requirements depending on the use the climber will make of it.
We use more comfortable and practical harnesses on artificial climbing walls, while lighter models that do not hinder the ascent in sport climbing.
Traditional climbers must give priority to comfort and storage space when carrying them.
As for use on ice, they need special gear supports and adjustable leg loops.
The size of the climbing harness is fundamental because our safety depends on it.
It must fit perfectly.
We must check that the waist belt does not slip from the hips when we are upside down.
We must also take into account the physical differences that exist between men, women and children.
Besides safety, we need the right size to benefit of the necessary comfort.
Sometimes we will spend many hours with the harness on, suspended in activities such as high mountain climbing.
On the other hand, we will avoid the scratches or discomfort that a small size can produce.
Sir Edmund Hillary, the first mountaineer to reach the summit of Everest, once said:
It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
Leg loops are another element to consider when purchasing a climbing harness, although they are not as important as other parts such as the waist belt, belay loop or anchoring points.
The leg loops can adjustable or not. The latter are usually the most common, although their elasticity allows you to use them for all kinds of activities.
One of the main advantages of leg loops, apart from their comfort, is that they avoid friction that can cause discomfort or injury, and they make it easier to change clothes, which is very important if we take into account the differences in temperature or time that can occur during an ascent.
Gear loops, which are generally used outdoors, are on the waist belt of the climbing harness.
It is usual to carry a minimum of 4 gear loops to carry all the equipment we will need during the climb, although the number may vary up or down depending on the needs of each climber. But it can also be used to carry your helmet or climbing shoes when going from one climbing site to another.
Climbing or mountaineering harnesses must comply with the safety standard UNE-EN 12277.
In order to ensure that the product chosen complies with the standards required by national and international organizations, you must check this by consulting the label of the harness.
These regulations divide harnesses into four categories :
- Type A : Full body harness. For people who carry a lot of weight, have a high center of gravity or are in bad shape.
- Type B : Full body harness. For users weighing less than 40 kilograms. Normally used for children.
- Type C : Waist harness at the waist. It must have the appropriate characteristics for each style of climbing or mountain sport.
- Type D: Chest harness (or combination). Usually used in rope progression activities where it is necessary to use a chest blocker. Must always be used in conjunction with Type C harness.
The climbing harness is a product guaranteed by safety rules.
This means that all the models on the market have them, even if we have to make sure by reading the label.
In any case, we must always be attentive to safety, and checking the condition of our equipment before each use.
Therefore, the research to find the right item for us must focus on other aspects such as the comfort or the practice.
The first point is of great importance because we will spend several hours wearing a harness, sometimes hanging on a wall.
We also need to look at the sizes and determine whether the model is for women, men or children.
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