If you are planning for rock climbing, chances are your mind will run wild thinking about how to choose a climbing harness. 

The climbing harness takes care of a number of functions of which safety is the top concern.

They also come with handy loops that help you attach horses of additional gears into the harness for effortless access while moving.

When considering what kind of harness will fit your needs, you need to factor in various aspects like the kind of climbing you are going to indulge in, what should be the preferred weight of the harness, whether it should be fixed or adjustable, how many gear loops should be there, and many others. 

We will delve deeper into it but before that, let’s learn a bit about the climbing harness. 

How to Choose a Climbing Harness
How to Choose a Climbing Harness?

What Parts Does a Climbing Harness Have?

Many don’t realize that the climbing harness, which simply connects the human body to the climbing rope, is a complex gear piece. 

It is equipped with numerous part-straps, loops, and buckles.

The important parts of a climbing harness are:

1) Leg loops

They refer to the two broad and padded loops that keep your upper thighs encased.

You can adjust these loops by tightening or slackening the webbing that runs through harness buckles. 

Its cross piece also fastens the leg loops to one another before the harness. 

2) Waist belt

It’s a thick slab that winds across your waist.

Sometimes, it’s sewn and given padding for extra comfort, particularly on big wall climbing harnesses where you can hang the gear for days together. 

Some lightweight waist belt comes without padding.  

3) Tie-in loop 

It refers to the length of webbing securing the buckle attached to the harness loop.

As you tie the rope to the harness, it becomes threaded via a crosspiece at the lower end and again at the tie-in loop. 

This tightly secures the rope of the harness to its two parts for even distribution of weight. 

4) Buckle 

A climbing harness can come with either a single or double harness attached to the front part of the belt.

It is generally threaded with some amount of webbing on the belt. 

It is very important to check if the harness belt is double-secured through the harness buckle. 

5) Gear loops

These are small plastic parts that remain attached to the waist belt. 

They could either be flexible or rigid depending on the requirements.

It’s meant for hanging your climbing gear, like quickdraws or carabiners. 

6) Haul loops

This is optional, and some climbing harness lacks it but works just as fine.

At times, they are used for enduring a fall and may be used for hauling ropes ok big wall climbing. 

7) Belay loops

It refers to the circular piece of wide webbing that connects the dual hardpoints.

As it goes with the name, it is the part where you connect the belay device when rappelling. 

It is the strongest part of a harness, and in order to be certified for climbing, it must hold a minimum of 15kN.

8) The rise 

The distance between the waist belt and the leg loops is called rise. 

It appears in the form of thin elastic bands, and their primary function is to tie the leg loops to the belt encircling your waist.

Adjustments of the rise can cast an impact on your position in gear. 

What Are the Different Types of Climbing Harness?

Climbing harnesses are devised for particular climbing styles, and these include.

1) Gym harness 

When you have to choose a climbing harness, you can go for a gym harness as it’s lightweight and suitable for a gymnasium or outdoor sports. The features include.

  • Double-back waist-belt or single automatic which makes it easier to take on and off
  • Dual gear loops since minimal equipment are required
  • Belay loop
  • Reduced leg adjustability

2) Traditional harness 

It requires much more equipment compared to the ones used for sport climbing.

This implies that a conventional harness boosts space while being comfortable and light. The features include:

  • Adjusted leg loops equipped with buckles
  • A higher number of gear loops for holding much gear
  • Thick padding for enhancing comfort
  • Additional lumbar padding for stabilizing the lower back
  • Haul loop if you want to carry a second rope

3) Ice climbing harness

Also referred to as mixed harness, ice climbing harness is similar to conventional harness but devised for coping with harsh weather conditions of colder climates.

The features include:

  • Adjusted leg loops equipped with buckles
  • A higher number of gear loops for holding much gear
  • Thick padding for enhancing comfort
  • Additional lumbar padding for stabilizing the lower back
  • Haul loop if you want to carry a second rope

4) Mountaineering or Alpine harness 

These harnesses are suitable for all seasons.

These climbing harnesses are lightweight and come with adjustable leg loops for easy taking on and off. The features include:

  • Completely adjustable waist-belt and leg loops for easy on and off
  • Four or fewer gear loops so that you can carry the needful gear
  • Thin material so that you can wear it with a pack
  • A thin belay loop helps in saving weight
  • Haul loop if you want to carry another rope

Are There Special Harnesses for Women and Children?

When you are thinking about how to choose a climbing harness, you will see that choosing the right piece of gear takes some sincere research along with much trial and error. 

The climbing harness meant for women is supposed to perform the same action, but it’s contoured to fit a woman’s body. It has not been many years since specific models were constructed for women. 

And women had to adjust themselves to uncomfortable models that were designed according to the man’s proportions. 

Thankfully, a rising number of women are indulging in this recreational activity, and makers started delivering models suitable for a woman’s physique.

In the first place, the rise of a woman’s waist is typically longer. 

Further, the distance is more where the loops rest and the waist belt sits.

Women also have slightly longer legs than men, and thus, harnesses for women require a distinct waist: leg ratio.

Lastly, all these measurements are quite variable in women, and it is quite higher compared to men. 

The same is applicable to children’s climbing harnesses, and they are useful for ensuring their sense of safety.

These harnesses are simple to use and perform the same function as a regular climbing harness. 

Most children’s climbing harness comes with dual buckles on the lower back.

Experts suggest that if your kids are climbing for the first time or are not confident, it’s recommended to opt for a full-body harness for children. 

How to Test a Climbing Harness?

When you have to choose a climbing harness, it’s imperative that you inspect the gear.

As a responsible climber, you must test it before and after every climb to reduce the chances of risk. 

Before you hit the gym again, you cannot miss a comprehensive inspection of your climbing harness.

This will help you determine if your harness is suitable for reuse.

Let’s take a look at the steps involved in testing the climbing harness. 

Step 1: Find out the history of the equipment 

The first step is to think about whether you have used the harness in an exceptional condition in the past. 

This could be a fall, extreme temperatures, modifications, or repairs.

This step is only applicable if you are going for a preowned climbing harness. 

Step 2: Observe thoroughly

Look for the CE mark and whether you can read the serial number.

The serial number can be written in either of the two styles and checked to whether they are legible. 

Step 3: Check for the right size

Your climbing harness should have a snug-fitting without being too tight.

There should also be at least s tail space of 5-finger on all the straps after you buckle them up. 

Some people prefer a 3-finger distance though.

Having very little tail space on the leg loops or the waist belt can be very dangerous.

When you spend most of the time at a hanging belay, the belt may start slipping.

You must not take chances with this and choose a climbing harness that fits. 

Step 4: Check for the suitable fitting

The perfect climbing harness will sit right above the hip homes and be tight enough so that you may cinch it without having to run out of a belt. 

As you secure the harness, it mustn’t come down over the hips.

The leg loops should also be snug enough for slipping a hand between the loop and the legs. 

Step 5: Testing out first 

Before you settle for a particular piece of gear, testing out the harness is very important.

This will give you an idea of the zones that can press or pinch in an undesired manner.

See whether there are any hot spots or pressure points. 

No matter if you are a seasoned climber or starting with this recreation, you will have to spend a considerable amount of time hanging in the harness.

So, testing out everything is very crucial. 

How to Try a Climbing Harness?

  • In the first place, you must loosen the straps of both legs and then strap them again using the waist belt. 
  • Make sure that the belay loop doesn’t twist, and the leg loops don’t cross while you step into the harness. The belay loop of your harness must face the front part of the harness. 
  • Place the waistbelt a little above the iliac crest. With the waistbelt right above the knee ensures that it will not slip out of the harness in case you fall upside down. 
  • There shouldn’t be more than a 2-finger gap between the waist and harness. The buckle must be doubled back. 
  • Next, you have to adjust the loops, one at a time. Some climbing harnesses do not come with adjustable leg loops and tend to use pieces of elastic so that the leg loops can stretch.
  • The tighter the leg loops, the more comfortable you will feel while hanging around. 
  • Lastly, make sure that you have doubled back the buckles on either loop. Now, the harness is ready for testing.

What Are the Safety Standards for a Climbing Harness?

In the early times, the swami belts were made of nylon webbing, and today climbing harnesses are generally constructed from polyester, foam, and of course, nylon.

In some cases, you may find a harness made of other materials, but nylon still forms the backbone of the strength of the climbing harness.

Nylon 6 is the strongest stretchable material discovered by man, and it is widely used for the construction of climbing ropes. 

Harness available in Europe and North America comes with a safety standard code, and it is printed on the harness.

In most climbing harnesses, you will see codes like EN-12277, UIAA-105, CE 0082.

For the CE/UIAA certification, a climbing harness has to cater to the minimum strength requirements. 

The European Economic Committee (CE) is the authority framing up standards for goods circulating in Europe.

Each piece of gear and equipment sold in the European countries has to meet with CE 0082 standard. 

Even though this is not mandatory in North America, all manufacturers still cater to it.

The CE is responsible for enforcing the standards, and the UIAA creates them. 

The belay loop of the climbing harness should be able to endure at least 15kN of force, while the waistbelt should be able to withstand 10kN of force before breakage. 

Most reputed manufacturers attempt to exceed these minimum requirements.

It’s worth noting that a kN refers to Kilonewton, and 1kN is about 223 lbs.

This implies that for 15kN, the force amounts to 3372 pounds. 

Final Thoughts on How to Choose a Climbing Harness

Your climbing harness is a significant piece of equipment when it comes to rock climbing.

How to choose a climbing harness can appear a bit daunting in the beginning. 

So you must break it down to what you truly need and then choose stuff that matches your preferences.

You may decide on a harness specifically designed for some activity like gym climbing or aerial acts or a more comfortable piece for cragging

Once you find the perfect piece of equipment, you must take proper care of it so that the harness keeps serving you for many years. 

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