Whether you’re top roping in the gym, projecting 5.14, or climbing Cerro Torre in Patagonia, you’ll want the right harness for the job. In addition to being a vital part of every climber’s safety, harness characteristics and features differ significantly including weight, padding, adjustments, and gear loops. Our picks for the best climbing harnesses of 2018 below highlight a diverse selection of leading models for all disciplines including sport, trad, big wall, alpine, and the gym. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
 

1. Arc’teryx FL-365 ($145)

Arc'teryx FL-365 men's harnessWeight: 12.9 oz.
Padding: Foamless “Warp Stretch Technology” webbing
Buckles: 1 autolocking buckle on waist belt
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: An incredibly comfortable harness, slim profile, very packable, and premium construction.
What we don’t: More than double the cost of some of the budget models below.

The sleek Arc’teryx FL-365 is the gold standard among climbing harnesses. It’s lightweight, comfortable, moves with your body, and packs down small. Yes, it’s $145, and for that price you could buy multiple Black Diamond Momentum harnesses and they will keep you just as safe. But like many Arc’teryx products, the extra cost is worth it for those who get out climbing a lot and really put their gear to the test.

What differentiates the Arc’teryx FL-365 from the harnesses below? The “Warp Strength Technology”—essentially a piece of webbing teased apart vertically across the lower back—spreads the load out across the entire waist belt and provides a great amount of comfort without bulky padding. We think Arc’teryx does this better, and with less material, than any other company. And just about everything else on the FL-365 is picture perfect: the gear loops are big but not obtrusive, the leg loops are comfortable and stretchy enough to fit an assortment of bodies, the rear elastic releases with a hook for quick bathroom breaks, and the haul loop and ice clipper slots allow for versatility. For serious climbers who spend a ton of time in their harness, we think the high performance FL-365 is well worth it.
See the Men's Arc'teryx FL-365  See the Women's Arc'teryx FL-355

 

2. Black Diamond Chaos ($125)

Black Diamond Chaos climbing harnessWeight: 12.5 oz.
Padding: Thin EVA foam with “Kinetic Core Construction” webbing
Buckles: 1 autolocking buckle on waist belt
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: An excellent all-rounder and $20 less expensive than the FL-365.
What we don’t: It’s not the FL-365.

The Chaos is the harness that Tommy Caldwell wore when he sent the Dawn Wall, which certainly says a lot. Black Diamond’s top-of-the-line model is their answer to the Arc’teryx FL-365 above. Its 3D mesh padding gives the harness breathability, and the “Kinetic Core Construction” spreads out the load over the width of the waist and leg loops, eliminating pressure points as you hang. This harness only has one buckle—the leg loops have a portion of elastic to make them easy to get on and off. Additionally, the rear risers release, allowing you to keep your harness on when nature calls.

Considering the $20 price difference between the BD Chaos and Arc’teryx FL-365 above, it was a close call and both are excellent climbing harnesses. We prefer the Arc’teryx because the waist belt and leg loops are significantly wider—providing a more comfortable fit during hanging belays and while projecting sport climbs—without the added weight and bulk of foam. We also like the gear loops on the FL-365 better than the smaller ones of the Chaos (if you’re racking cams and draws straight onto your harness, big gear loops are a really nice feature). All that said, the Chaos is a fantastic harness, and it’s not much of a loss to come in second to Arc’teryx’s top offering.
See the Men's Black Diamond Chaos  See the Women's Black Diamond Ethos

 

3. Petzl Sitta ($180)

Petzl Sitta climbing harnessWeight: 9.5 oz.
Padding: “Wireframe Technology”
Buckles: 1 autolocking buckle on waist belt
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: One of the lightest harnesses on this list and great for sport climbing.
What we don’t: More expensive than the Arc’teryx but not as multi-faceted.

The Petzl Sitta initially was created as a superlight alpine climbing and mountaineering harness, but quickly was adopted by high-end sport climbers looking for something light and sleek for sending tough climbs. Upon first glance, you’ll probably question how such a dramatically light harness can provide ample and comfortable support. The answer: “Wireframe Technology,” a new Petzl innovation that uses parallel strands of strong and ultralight spectra to distribute the load over the waist belt and leg loops. Unlike Black Diamond’s construction, the Sitta offers durability and comfort without the weight or bulk of foam padding.

Keep in mind that the Sitta isn’t quite as versatile as some of the other harnesses on this list, with non-adjustable leg loops and minimalist gear loops. That said, for alpine rock and sport climbing, it’s one of the best harnesses money can buy. It’s shockingly light (3 ounces less than the options above), surprisingly comfortable, and features some great new technology like the separated gear loops and leg-loop height adjuster. The Sitta, however, is expensive at $180 and probably not a good choice for hanging belays.  
See the Petzl Sitta

 

4. Black Diamond Solution ($70)

Black Diamond Solution men's climbing harnessWeight: 11 oz.
Padding: Thin EVA foam with Fusion Comfort Technology
Buckles: 1 autolocking buckle on waist belt
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: Beautiful, streamlined, comfortable harness for a good price.
What we don’t: Sport-climbing specific.

The Black Diamond Solution appeared on the scene a couple of years ago, and we’ve been seeing it all over the crags ever since. Differing slightly in construction from the BD Chaos above, the Solution is designed with three separate strands of low-profile webbing designed to move with your body while providing load distribution and comfort. It’s been getting rave reviews—the Solution is the closest any harness has come to emulating Arc’teryx’s technology and aesthetic, and at a much cheaper price point.

Simply put, the Solution is rather… simple. It doesn’t have a rated haul loop or adjustable leg loops, nor does it have ice clipper attachment points. But what it does, it does extremely well. The leg loops are wide for support and comfort, and the waistband contours around the body: it’s wide on the sides where most of the pressure lies, and narrower in the rear to save weight. In addition, the material is breathable and quick drying and won’t sweat you off your project. Overall, this is our top pick for harnesses under $100, and it’s a nice option for entry-level and sport climbers who don’t need the added performance offered by the more expensive models above.
See the Men's Black Diamond Solution  See the Women's Black Diamond Solution

 

5. Edelrid Jay II ($60)

Edelrid Jay harnessWeight: 14.6 oz.
Padding: Overlapping, movable thin 3D mesh padding
Buckles: 3 autolocking buckles (1 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops
What we like: A well-constructed and highly adjustable entry-level harness.
What we don’t: Not lightweight or packable.

If you’re looking for a quality harness with a customizable fit that won’t break the bank, the Jay II is our top pick. The Jay—or the female version called the Jayne—is Edelrid’s top all-around workhorse harness, great for everyone from gym and sport climbing to trad and ice. The Jay is one of the best fitting harnesses on our list—one of our favorite features is the ability to cinch the harness tight and then adjust it so that the belay loop always is down the center of your body. Additionally, the Jay is the only harness in our top 5 with adjustable leg loops, a feature that many will find necessary. The men’s version comes in 3 sizes and the women’s in 4, meaning that no matter what your body type, this harness should fit well.

The Jay II differs from the harnesses above in its weight and bulk. It’s just not a lightweight, compact harness, nor is it trying to be. While this harness would never be our first choice to take to the alpine, we think it makes a great cragging rig. Recently we saw a crew of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) students at the crag and they were all wearing the Jay. This is yet further proof that this is a long-lasting, durable choice that works for many disciplines of climbing. It’s worth noting that the plastic cap on the lower tie-in point pops off easily, but the harness functions well without this feature and we wonder why Edelrid included it in the first place.
See the Men's Edelrid Jay II  See the Women's Edelrid Jayne II

 

6. Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe ($105)

Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe climbing harnessWeight: 20 oz.
Padding: Polyethylene foam
Buckles: 3 double-back buckles (1 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: Literally bombproof. Clip or tie into anything and it should hold you.
What we don’t: Bulky, heavy, and cumbersome.

The Metolius Safe Tech diverges significantly from our top choices on this list by going heavy for a climbing harness. That said, if there was ever such thing as a foolproof harness, this is it. Literally everything on the Safe Tech is rated to catch a fall of at least 10 kN, even the rope locator strap on the lower tie-in point. No other harness on this list comes anywhere near this level of safety (usually only the tie-in points, belay loop, and maybe the haul loop are rated). The end result is maximum security whether sketching out or simply bungling the tie-in job (something beginners and expert climbers do alike). Metolius is the only company that makes such a harness, so we think it’s worth giving the Safe Tech a serious look.

While not as light or inconspicuous as the other models on this list, the Metolius Safe Tech will deliver a lot of comfort over its lifespan. It may add bulk and weight to your climbing pack, but the benefits are real. It’s a great choice for beginners and climbers of higher skill levels as the beefy padding really supports you through hanging belays and route projecting. It’s not an alpine harness, it’s probably not for sending your 5.13 sport projects, but the Safe Tech is a nice choice for an everyday harness.
See the Men's Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe  See the Women's Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe

 

7. Mammut Ophir 3-Slide ($60)

Mammut Ophir 3-Slide climbing harnessWeight: 15.1 oz.
Padding: “Split Webbing Technology” foam
Buckles: 3 autolocking buckles (1 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 high-strength haul loop
What we like: Breathability and comfort at a low price.
What we don’t: Foam has a shelf life.

The Ophir is a solid all-around harness from Mammut and offers a few more features and higher quality construction than the other $60 harness on our list (the BD Momentum below). First, the “Split Webbing Technology” makes the waist belt and leg loops super comfortable and completely adequate (if not as luxurious as the models above) for projecting sport routes. The technology provides extra space for breathability as well, making it a great harness for hot weather climbing. Meanwhile, the Ophir is decently light at just over 15 ounces and packs up small enough to be a nice option for crags with longer approaches, such as the Monastery in Colorado’s Front Range.

In this most recent version of the Ophir, the designers changed the gear loops, though in our opinion, not for the better. They are now slightly more rigid, angled, and not coated in plastic (similar to the gear loops on Petzl harnesses). On the bright side, the Ophir sports a drop seat buckle, unlike many of the entry-level harnesses on this list, allowing for quick bathroom breaks without removing the harness. Mammut also has included abrasion indicators so you know when it’s time to retire your harness. You can expect comfort to deteriorate over time as the foam support ages, but we love the value. 
See the Men's Mammut Ophir 3-Slide  See the Women's Mammut Ophir 3-Slide

 

8. Petzl Adjama ($80)

Petzl Adjama men's Climbing HarnessWeight: 14.8 oz.
Padding: EVA Foam supported Dyneema.
Buckles: 3 autolocking buckles (1 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: Great sport climbing harness, excellent construction.
What we don’t: It’s basically the Ophir, but more expensive.

The number of similarities between the Petzl Adjama and Mammut Ophir above is striking. Both are mid-range harnesses from top climbing companies, both weigh approximately 15 ounces, and both have three autolocking buckles and similar construction on the waist belt and leg loops. In addition, both are made with a double-webbing frame to distribute the load and provide comfort while hanging.

Really, the only ways the Ophir and the Adjama differ are fit and price. Some people swear by the fit on Petzl harnesses, so much so that they refuse to buy from any other company (for a certain kind of body, Petzl harnesses are just right). And the Adjama is $20 more expensive than the Ophir, which is why we rank it here. If you’re looking for a happy medium, the Petzl Sama (or women’s Selena) is very similar to the Adjama but with non-adjustable leg loops and a $70 price tag.
See the Men's Petzl Adjama  See the Women's Petzl Luna

 

9. Black Diamond Technician ($80)

Black Diamond Technician harnessWeight: 13.3 oz.
Padding: Fusion Comfort Technology
Buckles: 3 autolocking buckles (1 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: A trad climber’s version of the popular Solution.
What we don’t: Did we need another BD harness?

Black Diamond’s Solution harness above was an instant hit, and climbers love its simplicity and comfort. The company must have sensed that they were onto something, and in the fall of 2017, released the Technician. Calling it the “4-season Solution,” this harness uses the same Fusion Comfort Technology but adds ice clipper slots, adjustable leg loops, a haul line loop, and more durable fabric for scraping up off-widths and chimneys. Essentially, the Technician is BD’s answer for those who love the Solution but want to take their harness on trad, alpine, and ice climbing adventures.

While the Technician is a great harness, we’re slightly confused as to why Black Diamond needed yet another trad climbing harness in its line-up. The Technician will compete with the Chaos, and at $45 cheaper, could eventually make BD’s top-of-the-line harness obsolete. We also see Black Diamond doing this with the Solution and their ultralight sport climbing harness, the Zone—they’re flooding the market with models with slight variations. That said, we’re excited about the Technician, and in particular its affordable price and versatility.
See the Men's Black Diamond Technician  See the Women's Black Diamond Technician

 

10. Misty Mountain Cadillac ($135)

Misty Mountain Cadillac harnessWeight: 18.7 oz.
Padding: Cordura fabric with foam padding
Buckles: 4 double-back buckles (2 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 6 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: Super high quality, comfortable, and hand-made in the U.S.
What we don’t: Archaic features and weight.

If Black Diamond represents the elite alpine culture of its hometown of Salt Lake City, Misty Mountain is as Western North Carolina as it gets: unflashy, down home, and totally legit. This small company has been hand-crafting harnesses and sewn climbing gear for over 30 years, and if you’re into supporting local business and craftspeople, Misty Mountain is your jam (it doesn’t hurt that they make exceptionally high quality and durable products). The Cadillac is Misty Mountain’s most popular harness, and right away you’ll notice that it’s not lightweight or packable, the buckles are double-backing (not autolocking), and it doesn’t come in flashy colors. That said, it’s as comfortable as any harness on our list, is built extremely well, and offers all the features we’re looking for in a trad or aid climbing harness.

The Cadillac was made for all-day missions on North Carolina’s slabby granite domes—its 6 gear loops make it a perfect multi-pitch harness, and the padding offers a high amount of comfort for hanging at belays and projecting routes. The harness is surprisingly supple and allows for freedom of movement better than some of the more padded harnesses on our list (the Big Gun below for example). However, the Cadillac is heavier and bulkier than most sport or alpine climbing-specific models, and we wouldn’t recommend it for steep bolt clipping or carrying deep into the mountains. It’s also worth noting that Misty Mountain customizes harnesses, adding belay loops or extra gear loops, ice clipper slots, and adjusting leg and waist sizes. Whatever idea you come up with, they’ll listen.
See the Men's Misty Mountain Cadillac  See the Women's Misty Mountain Cadillac

 

11. Edelrid Orion ($120)

Edelrid Orion harnessWeight: 14.1 oz.
Padding: Foam-supported “3D Vent Technology”
Buckles: 3 autolocking buckles (1 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: Comfortable and breezy.
What we don’t: Exposed webbing which makes this harness less durable

The Orion is Edelrid’s premier harness and definitely worth considering. Similar to the Petzl’s new Wireframe technology, the Orion manages the load of falls or hangs efficiently by distributing it over a grid of structural webbing strands that Edelrid calls 3D Vent Technology. The Orion, however, ups the comfort quotient by including super well-ventilated foam, which not only is durable but as comfortable and breezy as the name of the technology implies.

One glaring problem with the Orion is that the structural component of the webbing is exposed externally to abrasion. All other harnesses on this list cover their structural components in thin fabric to protect them against wear and tear. We’re not sure why Edelrid didn’t follow suit, but at first glance, it seems somewhat problematic—like a rope without a sheath. This construction shouldn’t pose a problem for sport climbers, but for trad climbers dragging their harnesses through off-widths and chimneys, we have a hard time recommending the Orion. Additionally, many climbers report that the waist belt padding doesn’t meet at the front. Instead, webbing bridges the gap under the front buckle, causing it to dig into your stomach. The Orion looks and feels like a top harness in every other way, but for these reasons, we’d be hard-pressed to rank it higher.
See the Men's Edelrid Orion  See the Women's Edelrid Solaris

 

12. Beal Rebel Soft ($80)

Beal Rebel Soft climbing harnessWeight: 11.5 oz.
Padding: Web-Core technology
Buckles: 6 autolocking buckles (2 on waist belt, 2 on each leg)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops
What we like: Beal’s much more affordable counterpart to the current high-end harness market.
What we don’t: Webbing on waist belt might dig into waist.

So as not to get left behind, Beal joined the party of streamlined harness technology with the Rebel. Web Core, as Beal calls it, attaches two smaller pieces of webbing (the straps you pull to adjust) to each end of the wider mesh-lined piece of webbing that wraps around your waist. Their design includes two buckles instead of one, so that the harness stays centered and keeps the gear loops squarely on either side. Parts of the Rebel feel as streamlined as the Arc’teryx FL-365 above, and it is indeed as lightweight as the harnesses at the top of our list.

The Beal Rebel, however, has a few glaring omissions that keep us from recommending it more highly. First, the mesh-lined webbing does not extend under the belay loop, and we found that the harness dug into our waists uncomfortably. Additionally, the leg adjustment buckle can slip, causing the leg loops to loosen over time. The Rebel is a bit limited in its versatility too, without a haul loop, ice clipper attachment points, or large gear loops. But when worn over layers of clothing, the Rebel is comfortable, and we love that it’s priced considerably lower than its lightweight competition.
See the Men's Beal Rebel Soft  See the Women's Beal Venus Soft

 

13. Black Diamond Momentum ($55)

Black Diamond Momentum harnessWeight: 12 oz.
Padding: Dual Core construction, OpenAir EVA foam insert
Buckles: 1 autolocking buckle on waist belt, 2 slide buckles on leg loops
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: One of the least expensive harnesses on the market.
What we don’t: Quality and comfort are sacrificed for price.

What makes the Black Diamond Momentum so special isn’t what it is, so much as what it isn’t. To start, this is a pretty plain harness. The Momentum is fairly average with a couple cool features like Dual Core construction and TrakFit leg adjustments. All in all, it’s reasonably comfortable and versatile enough to be used indoors, outdoors, for trad, or sport.

That’s what the Momentum is, so now let’s talk about what it isn’t. It isn’t $145, like the FL-365. It isn’t $125, like the Chaos. It isn’t $100, or $75, or even $60. The Momentum is a $55 harness and you can often find it on sale for even less. If you’ve been climbing for years and spend tons of time in your harness, you probably will want to drop a bit more cash on a more performance-oriented model. And if you’re willing to shell out a few extra dollars, we certainly think the Edelrid Jay/Jayne offers more quality, comfort, and durability for an entry-level model. But if you find the Momentum on sale, or try it on and like the fit, it’s another nice budget option.
See the Men's Black Diamond Momentum  See the Women's Black Diamond Primrose

 

14. Grivel Apollo Harness ($80)

Grivel Apollo harnessWeight: 10.9 oz.
Padding: Web-Core technology
Buckles: 2 autolocking buckles at waist
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: Excellent price for such a lightweight harness.
What we don’t: Non-adjustable leg loops.

Grivel’s Apollo is the third lightest harness on our list, and at only $80, is a solid value. If weight is the most important factor for you in choosing a harness, the Apollo certainly is one to consider. Unlike some ultra-light models, this harness doesn’t eliminate too many features: it boasts easily removable rear elastic risers, large gear loops, and a highly adjustable waist belt.

There are, however, some design quirks on the Apollo that have us scratching our heads. It weighs less than 11 ounces, but with the double buckle on the waist, large gear loops, and bulky leg loops, doesn’t necessarily scream “streamlined.” We see many areas where Grivel could have shaved off even a few more ounces, and these ounces could have been added back on to make it more comfortable. Additionally, while the waist can expand and cinch down to fit a huge range of sizes, the non-adjustable leg loops offer very little room for variation. This simply does not make sense to us, especially given that the harness is only available in two sizes. That said, if you try on the Apollo and it fits, it’s a well-priced harness for fast-and-light climbers.
See the Grivel Apollo Harness

 

15. Black Diamond Big Gun ($120)​

Black Diamond Big Gun harnessWeight: 23 oz.
Padding: Thermoformed foam bullhorn waist belt
Buckles: 1 double-back buckle at waist, 2 on legs
Gear loops / Haul loop: 7 gear loops, 1 haul loop, hammer holster
What we like: Highly-featured for all your aid climbing needs.
What we don’t: Not as comfortable as the Cadillac and less bombproof than the Metolius Safe Tech.

Like the Misty Mountain Cadillac and Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe above, the Black Diamond Big Gun offers a wider and more padded waist belt and leg loops. It’s the most fully featured of the trio too: 7 customizable gear loops allow for multiple racks of cams, aiders, draws, carabiners, shoes, water bottles, and more. Two belay loops accommodate multiple daisies and a fifi hook, and removable leg loops allow you to sleep comfortably with your harness still on. And even the haul loop is rated, so you don’t have to worry about your tag line falling off your harness.

Despite its bulk, the Big Gun hugs the body, breathes well, and offers freedom of movement. It’s slightly less supple than the Misty Mountain Cadillac, but still is a top choice for climbers projecting on big walls or for those alternating between aiding and freeing, such as while speed climbing El Cap. That said, we certainly don’t recommend it for sport climbing or days when you’re trying to go fast and light in the alpine. And if you need a harness for pure aid climbing, there are far beefier models available, though you wouldn’t want to be caught free climbing in them.
See the Black Diamond Big Gun

 

16. CAMP USA Air CR EVO ($90)

Camp USA Air CR EVO climbing harnessWeight: 8.5 oz.
Padding: EVA foam, 3D mesh
Buckles: 3 autolocking buckles (1 on waist belt, 2 on legs)
Gear loops / Haul loop: 4 gear loops, 1 haul loop
What we like: Light and compact.
What we don’t: It may be safe to hang in, but that doesn’t mean you actually want to try.

The CAMP USA Air CR EVO sure has a lot of acronyms in its name, but that’s about the only thing that’s complicated about it. At 8.5 ounces, the Air is the lightest harness on our list, and it’s about as simple as they come. Keep in mind that this harness is not built for most styles of climbing. But we wanted to include it here for moderate alpine rock climbing or mountaineering, and specifically for when you need a very simple harness but don’t plan on hanging in it much or at all.

Without a doubt, the elements we like most about the Air are its weight and compact nature. However, this minimalist harness also has some key features we look for in a harness: gear loops, an autolocking buckle, a haul loop, adjustable leg loops, and even attachment slots for ice clippers. CAMP even has upgraded the padding on the Air for comfort and durability. This isn’t your everyday cragging harness, but it’s worth a look for those taking long trips into the mountains and trying to shave weight and bulk from your pack.
See the CAMP USA Air CR EVO

 

Climbing Harness Comparison Table

Harness Price Weight Padding Buckles Loops Best Uses
Arc’teryx FL-365 $145 12.9 oz. Webbing 1 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Sport, trad, alpine
Black Diamond Chaos $125 12.5 oz. Foam, webbing 1 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Sport, trad, alpine
Petzl Sitta $180 9.5 oz. Webbing 1 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Sport, alpine, ice
Black Diamond Solution $70 11 oz. Foam 1 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Sport
Edelrid Jay II $60 14.6 oz. Foam, 3D mesh 3 autolocking 4 gear Gym, sport, trad
Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe $105 20 oz. Foam 3 double-back 4 gear, 1 haul Trad, big wall
Mammut Ophir 3-Slide $60 15.1 oz. Foam, webbing 3 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Gym, sport
Petzl Adjama $80 14.8 oz. Foam, webbing 3 double-back 4 gear, 1 haul Sport, alpine
Black Diamond Technician $80 13.3 oz. Foam 3 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Trad, alpine, ice
Misty Mountain Cadillac $135 18.7 oz. Foam 4 double-back 6 gear, 1 haul Trad, Big wall
Edelrid Orion $120 14.1 oz. Foam, 3D mesh 3 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Sport, alpine, ice
Beal Rebel Soft $80 11.5 oz. Webbing 6 autolocking 4 gear Sport, alpine
Black Diamond Momentum $55 12 oz. Foam, webbing 1 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Gym, sport, trad
Grivel Apollo $80 10.9 oz. Webbing 2 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Alpine
Black Diamond Big Gun $120 23 oz. Foam 3 double-back 7 gear, 1 haul Trad, big wall
CAMP USA Air CR EVO $90 8.5 oz. Foam, 3D mesh 3 autolocking 4 gear, 1 haul Mountaineering

 

Climbing Harness Buying Advice

Types of Climbing

The first thing to consider when choosing a harness is the kind of climbing that you will do most. Climbing companies make harnesses for a wide variety of climbing styles, and the differences from style to style can be sizable. While there is often some overlap (gym and sport, sport and trad, trad and big wall, for example), you'll find that most harnesses are manufactured with a particular climbing discipline in mind. Here's what to look for in a harness in each type of climbing.

Gym Climbing
Gym harnessA gym climbing harness should be three things: comfortable, inexpensive, and durable. Don’t worry about fancy gear loops, crazy weight-shaving technology, packability, or features such as haul loops and ice clipper slots. You’ll probably be falling and hanging more often—it’s a lot easier to consistently push yourself indoors than outside—so you don’t want to skimp on padding. What you're really looking for in a gym harness is the baseline model from most companies. Save the frills and steeper purchases for the gear you take outside.
Recommended: Edelrid Jay II/Jayne II, Black Diamond Momentum/Primrose

Sport Climbing
Everyone loves clipping bolts—it's just pure climbing fun. If you’re predominantly a sport climber, you’ll want to focus on finding a harness that gives soft catches, is lightweight, and moves with your body. Look for minimalist models that put the emphasis on climbing comfort rather than hanging comfort. You can get away with smaller gear loops on a sport harness too, since you'll only ever carry quickdraws or slings. You can expect a good sport harness to be a step up in price from a gym harness.
Recommended: Petzl Sitta, Black Diamond Solution

Trad Climbing
Trad climbing harnesses should be a bit beefier than sport harnesses—trad is just a scrappier sport. You'll likely grunt your way through some heinous off-widths and gnarly chimneys (so your harness should resist abrasion well), and begin to spend unreasonable amounts of time in hanging or semi-hanging belays (so your harness should be extra-comfortable while loaded). While you do want a lightweight harness for trad due to long approaches, you still want it to be durable and strong. This will take you up a notch in price. Finally, make sure your trad climbing harness has at least four gear loops and a rear haul loop—you'll need all of them.
Recommended: Arc’teryx FL-365, Black Diamond Chaos, Black Diamond Technician

Big Wall Climbing
So you want to climb El Capitan. Unless you're planning to go for the Nose In A Day (NIAD), you're going to want a harness you can spend a few days in. Big Wall harnesses are over the top in every way you can imagine, and that is why we love them. They are ultra-padded and comfy for long hanging belays and nail biting aid pitches, feature lots of gear loops for efficient racking of all your protection, come with a load-bearing haul loop (just one more safe clip-in point), and often feature double belay loops. If you're going to spend all day hanging in your harness, nothing else will do. They're not fast and light, but neither is Big Wall climbing. Expect to pay a bit more for these.
Recommended: Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe, Misty Mountain Cadillac, Black Diamond Big Gun

Alpine Rock Climbing
Think trad climbing but ultralight. Fast and light is the name of the game in alpine climbing, and your harness should be no exception. You’re looking for a lightweight and packable model, but one that also offers durability, large gear loops, and a haul loop as well. Additionally, if you tend to layer up in the mountains, you’re looking for a model with adjustable leg loops.
Recommended: Arc’teryx FL-365 (or their more adjustable AR-395a)

Mountaineering
There are two things you really don't want to do much of in mountaineering: hanging and falling. If you find yourself doing either, you probably have bigger things to worry about than the comfort of your harness. Your mountaineering harness should be more comfortable for walking than climbing, and easy to take off and put on (especially over boots and crampons). Finally, since mountaineering is such a grueling sport where every ounce counts, you'll want your mountaineering harness to be as light as possible. Mountaineering harnesses are pretty minimal, so expect a lower price than other types of harnesses.
Recommended: CAMP USA Air CR EVO

Ice Climbing
With all of the innovation happening in the world of outdoor gear, it surprises us that no one has stepped up to make an ice climbing-specific harness. That said, over half of the models on our list double as ice climbing harnesses. Ultimately, you’re looking for one main feature: ice clipper slots (Petzl, for example, now makes all of their harnesses with this adaptability). We also recommend harnesses with adjustable leg loops to accommodate winter layers.
Recommended: Petzl Sitta, Edelrid Orion, Black Diamond Technician
Harness (mountaineering)

Climbing Harness Materials and Features

Once you've narrowed down the type of climbing you're doing, you'll still have a plethora of different harnesses to choose from. The next step is to go through the different pieces of the harness, figuring out what specific features and styles to look for in the kind of harness you want.

Waist Belt
Waist belts typically use a mixture of padding and webbing to distribute the shock of a fall across the small of your back and upper iliac crest. Keep an eye out for where the load-bearing part of the harness lies. Is it two thin strips at the top and bottom of the waist belt? Is it an inch-wide swath going through the middle? Foam breaks down over time, so unless the load-bearing material is distributed evenly throughout the waist belt, you'll end up getting sore spots as your harness ages. Also, make sure the waist belt is the right size for you. Most companies break their harnesses into small, medium, and large, and give the corresponding pant sizes.

Gear Loops
The gear loops on a harness are the small plastic rings along the waist belt. These are where you'll hang your protection. If you are primarily gym and sport climbing, you can get away with just two gear loops. If you are trad or alpine climbing, four should be sufficient (and a haul loop for a tag line). Finally, if you are big wall climbing, look for at least four gear loops and a rated haul loop on the back of the harness.
Climbing harness (gear loop)

Belay Loop
The belay loop is pretty straightforward: it's a super-strong ring of webbing that connects the waist loop and leg loops. It’s also the point from which you hang your belay device for belaying or rappelling. If you are looking for a lightweight sport, alpine, or ice harness, look for a skinny belay loop. For trad or big walling, look for a fatter belay loop or double belay loops.

Leg Loops
Most leg loops follow suit with the same technology as the harness' waist belt. The major things to look for on leg loops are how adjustable they are (buckles or elastic?), and how they are kept elevated on your legs (usually with a slight elastic strap on the back of each loop). If you have powerful legs, or want to be able to add or subtract layers, keep an eye out for adjustable leg loops as not all harnesses have this option. One way or another, leg loops should fit comfortably and not restrict circulation.
Climbing harness (leg adjustment)

Buckles
Harness buckles come in two styles: double-backing and autolocking. The double-backing style is pretty archaic and out of fashion, but you can still find them on some models like the Misty Mountain Cadillac. If you are considering a double-backing style harness, just make sure you are aware how to properly dress the buckles. Most harness buckles nowadays are autolocking, and do not need to be re-dressed after loosening or tightening.
 

Comfort vs. Weight

Obviously we want our climbing harnesses to be comfortable. We hang in them, take whippers in them, offer long belays in them, and spend extended days in them. It makes sense that we would want the harness to be barely noticeable through all those scenarios, and indeed, the best harnesses out there are. You never want your harness to restrict movement or cut into you when you hang in it.

That said, comfort exists on a sliding scale that is typically offset by weight and packability. In other words, lighter, smaller, lower-profile harnesses often are less comfortable to hang in for long periods of time. They are, however, more comfortable to climb in. You should do a quick calculation in your head and take a guess at whether you spend more time whipping and hanging, or more time climbing and walking. If it’s the former, you’ll want a beefier harness like the Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe. If it’s the latter, consider something like the Arc’teryx FL-365 or Petzl Sitta.
 

Sizing

Sizing your harness appropriately is as important as getting the right harness. There’s a lot more that goes into it than simply saying, “Well, I wear a medium in men’s pants, so I’ll get a medium-sized harness.” Sizing involves everything from the number of buckles (leg buckles will allow more dynamic sizing on the leg loops for people with large legs), to the length of the belay loop (shorter ones force the leg loops higher into the crotch, which is uncomfortable for people with high hips), to the physical shape of the waist belt.
Climbing harness (on wall)

As with anything you wear, it’s a good idea to try some harnesses on before you buy them. Go into the store, put it on, adjust it properly (the waist belt should sit higher than you wear your pants, upon the iliac crest, and should be snug but not tight), and actually hang in it—most climbing shops and gyms are set up to do so. If you have the option, try to take some falls in the harness and see how that feels. Try it with shorts on, then with heavy pants, in a t-shirt, and then over a puffy jacket. All of these harnesses are adjustable to a degree, but some won’t accommodate cold-weather clothes as well as others.

For women, definitely try to shop for women’s-specific models. The construction of these harnesses is completely different and tailored to what are generally perceived as more feminine features.
 

Price

One useful tool for thinking about harnesses is to consider them according to price, rather than style, type of climbing, or materials. Paying attention to the price of a harness doesn’t simply exclude models outside your budget. It also can tell you a ton about what a harness is best used for, and how much you should consider spending on a harness for the kind of climbing you do.

For harnesses $50 or less, think entry-level gym models. Mountaineering harnesses often also fall into this category, as well as sale items from past-year models. In the $50-100 bracket are your typical mid-range harnesses. You can get a really good sport climbing harness here, and some nicer trad harnesses as well. Big wall harnesses tend to hover right around $100, give or take 20 bucks. Finally, in the $100+ category are top-of-the-line harnesses for serious climbers. If you are shopping here, you are probably planning to spend a lot of time in your harness, and to take it to some pretty extreme places. Be wary of anything above $160, as most of the top harnesses we can think of are just below that number (one exception is the Petzl Sitta). The most expensive harnesses can be multi-faceted, or used for specific applications. Either way, unless you really spend a ton of time in your harness, you can probably get away with a cheaper model.
Back to Our Top Climbing Harness Picks  Back to Our Climbing Harness Comparison Table

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