The Best Climbing Harnesses of 2021: Staff Picks

Send confidently — and comfortably — in our favorite climbing harnesses.

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Two climbers wearing harnesses standing facing a rock wall.

For climbers, a good harness is forgettable. Once it’s on, it’s unnoticeable. It is light yet robust. The fit is firm-handshake snug. The features—gear loops and buckles, ice screw slots and tagline tie-ins—are exactly what the climb demands, no more.

But, while you should be able to forget that your harness is there, choosing one deserves attention. Like your rope, it’s one of the few pieces of climbing equipment for which there is no backup, no redundancy. A harness must stay put and secure you to the rope while on belay. Choosing the best harness for the climb ahead will help ensure it does. Read on for our staffers’ favorite harnesses for beginners, sport climbing, cragging and more, available at REI.

 

Staff Picks

Find our quick recommendations here or read on for our favorite climbing harnesses:

 

The Momentum is Black Diamond’s workhorse harness and a staple at most gyms and crags, for good reason. To describe this harness as basic undersells it. Beefy yet lighter than some high-end harnesses, the Momentum has everything most climbers need, at an approachable price. Arden O’Neil, a retail sales specialist at REI’s Gainesville, Florida, store who has been climbing in a Momentum for three years, praised the harness’s versatility. “This harness is made to accommodate a wide array of body types and proportions. That adjustability also allows a climber to add extra layers of clothing as they transition into climbing outside in colder environments, while avoiding the need to size up.”

The waistbelt and adjustable leg loops are well padded for hangdogging days, and the pressure-molded gear loops stay open for easy racking and clipping. (Some reviewers complained that the gear loops felt awkward for trad climbing, though). The primary strap remains threaded through the waistbelt buckle between uses, which reduces opportunities for mistakes. Also noteworthy: The men's XXL harness accommodates waists up to 45 inches. And for climbers heading into the snow, Black Diamond offers a model—the Momentum 3S—with leg loops that can be unthreaded. (Doing so allows a climber to harness up without taking off boots or crampons, or to answer the call of nature while staying tied in). Buy here and here.

 

Energy Nova Harness - Women's Energy CR-3 Harness - Men's

C.A.M.P. USA Energy Nova Harness

Best Climbing Harness for Beginners

Women's $49.95 Men's $49.95
  • Gear loops: 4
  • Weight: 345 grams (Nova), 375 grams (CR-3)

The Energy Nova (the men’s is called the Energy CR-3) from Italian-designed company C.A.M.P. USA works well for climbers new to the sport. Low-profile thermoformed padding on the waistbelt and leg loops keeps things comfy without feeling bulky. Full-function buckles on the leg loops allow for a custom fit, and the harness offers everything a climber needs to transition from the gym to the crag. Both harnesses are also sold as part of packages (men's, women's) that include a locking carabiner and C.A.M.P. USA’s Piu 2.0 belay device, which, unlike most belay devices included in starter sets, can be set up in an auto-block mode when belaying the second from above. Buy here and here.

 

A step up from Black Diamond’s base model, the Solution features smooth, buckle-less leg loops tensioned by elastic bands. Inside the waistbelt and leg loops, three strands of webbing spread out the force when a climber takes a fall, or catches one. This technology is a new offering from Black Diamond, and an addition to one of its mainstay harnesses. The auto-locking waistbelt buckle remains threaded between uses, making it simple to secure the harness. The waistbelt is tailored to body types, with the women’s version of the Solution shaped to ride higher on the torso than the men’s. One downside for some: The leg loops aren’t adjustable. Buy here and here.

 

The Petzl Luna (the men's is called the Petzl Adjama) is cushy enough to stay comfy during a long day at the crag and features fully adjustable leg loops that stay snug. Brittany Allman, a sales lead in REI’s Boca Raton, Florida, location who is on her third Adjama, praises the cushion in the harness’s waistbelt and leg loops: “It has more padding and has thicker straps on the waist and legs than most harnesses I have seen, which adds more comfort to falls and ‘takes’ when projecting difficult routes.” Like many Petzl harnesses, these include a large, fifth gear loop at the rear of the harness that’s great for lugging a cordelette, belay equipment or even shoes, keeping the easy-access loops free for draws and protection. Buy here and here.

 

The Petzl Corax’s size range makes it extremely adaptable and well-suited to a growing climber. A double-buckle waist closure allows for an uncommonly broad range, size wise, and the leg loops are similarly adjustable. It’s a particularly good choice as a loaner harness for climbers who like to introduce others to the sport. Its mix of gear loops—rigid in the front, soft in the rear—accommodates a backpack well, making it ideal for a follower on a multi-pitch route. The harness pairs well with Petzl’s Caritool Evo ice screw clip for those looking to extend the climbing season. Buy here.

 

The Edelrid Jayne III (the men's is the Edelrid Jay III) does everything a climbing harness is supposed to do, while treating the planet a bit more gently. Both harnesses are constructed using bluesign-approved® materials, which have been independently assessed to use fewer harmful, environmentally hazardous chemicals in their manufacture. The certification also demonstrates, among other things, that the factories have taken significant steps toward efficiency and pollution reduction. (Read more about Edelrid’s sustainability efforts). Edelrid has padded out the top of the waistbelt to eliminate that lower back harness bite. One selling point is the wide range of adjustments you can make to the waistbelt—up to 41.3 inches—while keeping the gear loops centered on your hips. “I have a 40-inch waist and not many climbing harnesses run that large!” says one customer reviewer. “This one is comfortable for my larger body, and super comfortable on my larger thighs as well.” Buy here and here.

 

This seat-style harness is built to keep smaller children secure when they’re on the rock or in the gym. The Petzl Macchu is all about adjustability. It features Petzl’s double-buckle waist closure, which helps keep the tie-in loops centered while allowing the waistbelt’s wave to break over the hips. Allman, the sales lead from our Boca Raton store, says: “Since the waist and leg loops adjust up to four inches, I tell parents the harness will most likely last longer than their children’s school shoes.”

Smaller children or those with a flair for getting inverted, can couple the Macchu with matching shoulder straps made by Petzl. The straps help keep a li'l climber upright during a fall, and, along with a snug hipbelt and leg loops, prevent them from sliding out of the top of the harness. Buy here.

 

Buying Advice

 

Fit, Fit, Fit

When buying a climbing harness, nothing matters as much as fit; specifically, the fit of the waistbelt. The belt needs to land above your hips, and it needs to be snug. Ideally, your waist circumference will be somewhere near the middle of the harness size range. When you are buying, consider whether you’re likely to wear the harness over heavy clothing. If you’re on the bubble, go smaller rather than larger.

Here’s why: Your harness has to stop a standard, feet-down fall and also handle the pull of a catch when you're on belay. But it also must be able to hang on to you if you wind up—ugh—falling upside down. And that does happen: A foot caught in the rope can flip a lead climber who falls. Seconds who are traversing—or being belayed poorly—can also end up upside down. A right-sized harness will help keep you from slipping out, when it matters most.

Consider Your Objective

Climbing harnesses are one of the few multipurpose items in a climber’s closet. Most harnesses can go from the gym to the crag to an alpine adventure smoothly. A climber with five pairs of shoes, four ropes and three styles of belay devices often can get by with one harness. That said, it's worth considering how they differ.

When shopping for a harness, think about what you want it to do best. Are you a gym climber who takes an annual trip to the crag? Get a harness with gear loops that stay out of the way. Do you live for alpine adventure? Take a harder look at the weight of the harness and consider how small it can pack down. Ice screw clips might see some use, too.

Get Comfy

As with climbing shoes, shopping for comfort is underrated when it comes to harnesses. Thin, light harnesses are great for climbers who are looking to send as hard as they can. For the rest of us, though, a little extra weight isn’t going to have much impact on performance, and a little extra cushion will keep climbing fun. The weight differences between harness brands can seem a bit large—Black Diamond harnesses tend to be on the lighter side, Petzl on the heavier—but that may only amount to the weight of a couple locking carabiners. Consider the padding at the waist and legs: A little squish will let you keep things tight all day long without pinch points. Don’t neglect the fabric either, since it may end up against your skin. Get something you’ll happily wear all day.

 

Our Process

We polled staffers across the co-op for their favorite climbing harnesses for all types of vertical adventure. They reported back with these harnesses available at REI.com.

 

Article written by Levi Pulkkinen.