The Best Climbing Harnesses of 2019

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We tested the best rock climbing harnesses sold at REI to bring you our favorites for beginners, sport climbers, gym climbers and more.

Beginner, expert, or somewhere in-between, you’ll find a climbing harness to suit your needs below. (Need some buying advice? Check out our tips and tricks at the bottom.)

To come up with this selection, we combed through every rock-climbing harness review on REI.com. We flagged co-op shoppers’ 10 favorites, then spent two weeks testing them in the field. After hours of hanging, taking and falling, we landed on these five standouts.

Black Diamond Solution Harness

(Women’s and Men’s)

Best for Sport Climbing

Black Diamond Solution harness

  • MSRP: $69.95
  • Weight: 330g
  • Features: Padded waist and leg loops, 4 gear loops, belay loop
  • Sizes: XS-L (womens), S-XL (mens)

When picking a harness for sport climbing, you want to find something lightweight and streamlined. Extra padding and strong haul loops aren’t necessary because you may not be hanging on the wall as much as if you were, say, trad climbing. You can also get by with fewer gear loops (but they should be well-positioned for quick grabs). Since sport climbing generally doesn’t call for layering underneath the harness, you can target one without adjustable leg loops.

Taking all that into account, the Black Diamond Solution is a clear winner—and ultra comfortable to boot. Thanks to Fusion Comfort Technology in the waistbelt and leg loops, the Solution maintains surprising cushiness, despite the barely-there feel. With Fusion Comfort Technology, Black Diamond layers three bands of webbing with EVA foam padding and a soft, wicking liner. (Even on a sweaty, 5.12, we weren’t able to wet it out.) The result is effective weight distribution and above-average comfort that we appreciated on long days working on a project or hangdogging. Caveat: Some website reviewers mentioned that the fixed leg loops were too tight, but we found that they loosened up.

We appreciated the integrated haul/chalk-bag loop—not only does it trim weight, but it lies flat against the waistbelt to prevent the chalk bag from hanging too low. 

“After a lot of research and trying out several friends’ different harnesses, [I thought] the Solution harness stood out by far as the most comfortable for long climbing days,” says REI reviewer Crispy. “Whether I was taking a fall or just hanging, [I thought] the design of the leg loops distributed the weight in a way that I never had any nerve pinching, and the harness itself is super light and comfortable to walk around in.”

Black Diamond Momentum Harness

(Women’s and Men’s)

Best for the Gym

Black Diamond Momentum harness

  • MSRP: $56.95
  • Weight: 350g
  • Features: Adjustable leg loops, padded waist and leg loops, 4 gear loops, belay loop
  • Sizes: XS-L (women’s), XS-XL (men’s)

If you’re spending most of your climbing hours in a gym, you want something super durable with a lot of padding. But, it’d be a bummer to have to go out and buy another harness for going outside, so look for something that could pull double-duty at the crag if needed.

The Black Diamond Momentum fills those needs. Our test sample is barely scuffed, and it notched a perfect score for its ample padding. We loved the trakFIT sliding, leg-loop adjustment—a system that allowed us to easily tweak the leg-loop sizing (like, for going from indoor to outdoor climbing), but was more streamlined than a traditional double-back buckle. The haul loop in the back and the large, pressure-molded gear loops work for trad, sport or top-rope climbing.

One thing to keep in mind: The elasticized risers have two hook-and-loop closures (one for each leg) that are meant to provide a quick release, but in reality are a pain to unhook and reattach when you need to, well, answer nature’s call. (You may need to swallow your pride and ask your partner for an assist.)

Petzl Corax Kit

Best for Versatility

Petzl Corax climbing harness kit

  • MSRP: $99.95 (kit) $59.95 (harness only)
  • Weight: 490g (size 1), 540g (size 2) 
  • Features: Adjustable leg loops, padded waist and leg loops, 4 gear loops, belay loop
  • Sizes: 2 sizes

A do-it-all harness, a belay device, a chalk bag and a chalk ball—buy this kit from Petzl and all you’ll need are a rope, a helmet and a partner. (We think the package deal would be great as a gift for a new climber.) But all that would be for naught if we didn’t love the included harness. Good thing we do.

The Corax has long been a popular choice as a first harness since the wide range of adjustability allows for various sizing options and the gamut of climbing disciplines. It’s padded everywhere, and we never felt pressure points or like we were off-kilter. An array of gear loops (two rigid, two flexible) allow for all sorts of racking options.

Beyond that, it’s all about the rest of the gear in the kit: The Verso belay/rappel device uses assisted-braking technology (i.e., it has extra friction where the rope passes over the edge of the device), and the AMD Screwgate Carabiner has a screwing lock. (These systems are our top choices for new climbers because they build good habits with belaying and safety checks.) The included chalk bag is pretty basic, and we love the chalk ball, which cuts down on the amount of dust released into the environment (compared to loose chalk).

Runner up: We’d be remiss to not call out the Black Diamond Momentum Kit (available in women’s and men’s) as well, which comes with Black Diamond’s ATC-XP belay device and a RockLock screw-gate carabiner. It also has a Mojo Chalk Bag with a handy, zippered pocket where we kept nail clippers, hand balm, a cellphone or a map. The kit comes with loose chalk. (Gear hack: DIY a “chalk ball” by snagging an old white sock and filling it with loose chalk. Boom.)

Mammut Ophir 3 Slide Harness

(Women’s and Men’s)

Best for Beginners

Mammut Ophir Slide 3 harness

  • MSRP: $64.95
  • Weight: 350g (women’s), 370g (men’s)
  • Features: Adjustable leg loops, droppable leg loops, padded waist and leg loops, 4 gear loops, belay loop
  • Sizes: XS-L (women’s), S-XXL (men’s)

If you’re in the market for your first harness, you want one that can do it all so you don’t find yourself in the same situation looking for a second down the road. Things to look for: padding; a flexy, breathable waistbelt; plenty of options for adjusting; and a light weight. In other words, you want a versatile workhorse that maybe isn’t the best at any single discipline, but is reliable no matter where you’re climbing. Mammut’s Ophir 3 Slide Harness fits the bill.

The Ophir 3 Slide won our approval not only for its laundry list of features but for its comfort. Despite its light weight, the harness is padded (and backed with breathable mesh) and has adjustable leg loops. Our testers appreciated the reinforcement at the tie-in point because it reduces friction, providing us with mental comfort and confidence—perfect for a first harness.

“I’m a huge fan of the adjustable leg loops, as I have larger thighs, and I found that the harnesses with static leg loops were too tight,” says REI customer Katrina. “The Mammut Slide Bloc buckles really do allow for quick adjustments while maintaining the correct double-back configuration; the harness [has never loosened, even] over three hours of climbing at the gym. Plus, I love the colors.”

Black Diamond Big Gun Harness

Best for Big Walls

Black Diamond Big Gun harness

  • MSRP: $119.95
  • Weight: 660g
  • Features: Adjustable leg loops, droppable leg loops, padded waist and leg loops, 7 gear loops, 2 belay loops
  • Sizes: S-XL

If you have dreams of being on Tommy Caldwell’s (very vertical, very long, very run-out) level, you’re going to want all-day comfort and tons of room for gear. Our top pick for such pursuits? The Black Diamond Big Gun

Wide padding, two layers of gear loops and an included hammer holster make this harness perfect for long days on the wall. Although we didn’t get to take it up El Cap (one day!), one tester did put it through its paces setting a route. He sat in the Big Gun for more than 12 hours over the course of two days, route setting for competition climbing—and the Big Gun was comfortable the entire time. 

Harness Buying Guide

How important is it to follow the “Best For” recommendations?

Start with these recommendations, but remember that comfort rules when selecting a harness. Amara Gorman, an experienced climber and former Camp and Climb Manager at the REI Seattle Flagship store, urges new climbers to consider their current climbing skills and future goals when buying a harness. “Think big picture,” Amara says. “You only top-rope right now, but will you get into multi-pitches?” If the answer is yes, pay more attention to the usage recommendations (like alpine, mixed or ice climbing).

What’s the difference between Men’s, Women’s and Unisex?

First, assume “unisex” means the harness has a men’s fit. But are women-specific harnesses really that different? Or is it just color?

“As women have a higher and more forward iliac crest, the rise in a women’s harness compared to a men’s is longer,” explains Brian Block, a Director of Sales for Black Diamond. The “rise” refers to the length of the belay loop—generally, women will need a slightly longer one for the waistbelt of the harness to sit safely above their hip bones. But the only way to know is to get a proper fit: “[Putting] on and hanging in a harness is more important than the size or sex of the product,” Block says. Try on a bunch of harnesses and see what fits best. If you’re not sure, you can always ask an REI employee.

I still don’t know what type of harness I want.

That’s OK—if you’re just starting out, rent a harness at your local gym to see how you like it. If you’re climbing outside with friends, ask if you can borrow a harness from a more experienced climber (have them check the fit before you climb).

For more helpful tips, check out our Expert Advice article on choosing climbing harnesses. And if you just bought a new harness and want to maximize its lifespan, see our article on how to care for climbing harnesses.

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