How to Choose a Rock Climbing Harness

Knowing how to choose a climbing harness will help improve your comfort and safety when you're out climbing. All harnesses serve the simple purpose of keeping you attached to gear to protect any falls you may take. While the function of all harnesses are similar, you'll want to choose the right harness for your intended application.

best harness, rock climbing harness

Before purchasing a harness, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much padding is in the hip belt and leg loops?

  • Does the harness have adjustable leg loops?

  • How much does the harness weigh?

  • How many gear loops does the harness have?

  • Does the harness fit well?

Let's take a look at each question individually.

How Much Padding is in the Hip Belt and Leg Loops?

If you're just starting out, you may want to choose a harness with more padding in the hip belt and leg loops. The extra padding will ensure that you remain comfortable if you need to hang in the harness at any point along the route.

Newer climbers tend to feel fatigue faster, so it's common to need to take breaks before tackling harder moves. Having a padded waist belt and padded leg loops will help you enjoy a more comfortable day of climbing. The extra padding can also be helpful for multipitch routes and routes that require hanging belays.

More experienced climbers may want less padding in the hip belt and leg loops to keep the harness lighter. A lighter harness makes it easier to move up the route quickly.

padded hip belt and leg loops Hip Belt and leg loops

Does the Climbing Harness Have Adjustable Leg Loops?

Adjustable leg loops ensure maximum versatility, but it comes with a weight trade off. The buckle that allows the leg loops to be adjusted makes the harness slightly heavier. Adjustable leg loops can offer great advantages to people who enjoy ice or mixed climbing because these activities usually require that you wear bulkier cold-weather clothing. The added adjustability means a more secure fit no matter you need to wear underneath your harness to regulate your body heat.

Adjustable Leg Loops Buckle for adjustable leg loops

How Much Does the Climbing Harness Weigh?

Lightweight harnesses won't weigh you down and typically offer greater mobility. Heavier harnesses are usually more comfortable, but they can slow you down.

How Many Gear Loops Does the Climbing Harness Have?

climbing harness gear loops

Harnesses for crack climbing, also referred to as traditional climbing (trad climbing), usually will have four gear loops.

crack climbing

The gear loops allow you to carry up climbing gear that can be placed in the rock to protect you in case of a fall.

A harness for face climbing, also referred to as sport climbing, will usually only have two gear loops. Sport climbing doesn't require as much gear, so eliminating the extra loops saves weight and simplifies your harness.

Face Climbing

Does the Climbing Harness Fit Well?

A harness that doesn't fit well isn't safe, so take extra care to make sure you have purchased a harness that fits.

There are women specific harnesses that are designed specifically for a woman's physique. Women specific harnesses have a differently shaped waistbelt, increased rise, and other characteristics that provide women with a proper fit.

For the young climbers, there are children's harnesses. For children under 80lbs it's usually best to use a full-body harness since children have a relatively high center of gravity. The full body harness keeps them from tipping upside down.

Put the harness on and pull it up so that it sits just above your hips. Next tighten the waist belt so that it's snug. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers in between your waist and the harness. Once you have the proper adjustment, make sure that you still have room for adjustment either way. If you're near the end of the harnesses' adjustability, consider going up or down in size. Your harness shouldn't move around and it should provide a fit that feels secure.

When shopping online, be sure to look at the manufacturer's sizing recommendations. These sizing recommendations are a great place to start and can save you a lot of guesswork.

For more information about how to choose a climbing harness, watch Justin from The Bro'd Trip explain how to choose a climbing harness.

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