2015 Climbing Harness Review

With so many new harness models on the market in 2015, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. Our testers spent hours sending, falling, hanging and tromping around in these harnesses to bring you an honest look at seven new models. Our focus is geared toward rock climbing and cragging, but if the harness is good for ice/alpine/mountaineering, we’ve made note of it below. If something isn’t addressed in the text, feel free to leave a comment below.

Arc’teryx AR-395a

Arc’teryx completely redesigned their harness line for 2015, shrinking it down to only three models, two of which are available in men’s and women’s versions. The AR-395a is aimed at folks who want to use one harness for ice climbing, trad and sport.

The new harnesses all use Warp Strength Technology, which allows the load to be evenly distributed across the entire surface of the swami belt, virtually eliminating any pressure points. The material is much more supple than most of the harnesses we tested, meaning you get instant comfort from day one. They’ve also softened the top and bottom edges of the waistband, to prevent it from digging into your sides. The belay loop and tie-in points have wear indicators, a feature that’s quickly becoming standard on many harnesses, and takes away the guess work of when you should replace your harness. The thin webbing gear loop across the back makes for a nice place to store things like a belay device, and other multi-pitch tools you don’t need access to all the time.

If you have narrow hips, you might find that the tapered front of the waistbelt digs in uncomfortably, especially if carrying a full rack. The wide waistband in the back is comfortable, but modern harness design seems to be going in the direction of a wider waist belt on the sides and narrower in the back, since the hips take the most beating when you are hanging around a lot. It would have been nice if Arc’teryx had employed that design in these models, but it’s not a deal breaker. The front ice clipper slots are too far forward, but there is a second pair at the junction of the gear loops that is in the right spot.

This is a great all-around harness that should hold up to several seasons of full time abuse, from the sport crags to frozen waterfalls. If you don’t have bony hips, you’ll probably find it to be very comfortable as well. If you want a lighter version, the SL-340 ($119) is for sport climbing, with two gear loops, and the FL-365 ($145) is an all arounder without adjustable leg loops.

Best use: Ice, Alpine,Trad, Sport.
Retail is $159.
Weight is 395g / 13.9oz.
Available in sizes XS-XL.
More info.

Black Diamond Momentum

The Black Diamond Momentum harness is hailed as the company’s “most versatile, all-purpose harness,” and our testers found that to hold true. From single pitch cragging to five pitch towers, it’s light and comfortable, but can carry the heavy loads of desert trad climbs with ease.

The leg loops are adjustable via the trackFit system, some nifty, low-profile plastic buckles that eliminate the excess of having a load-bearing metal buckle along with all that extra tail material. They are literally a cinch to adjust, which can be nice when wearing thinner or thicker clothing.

Most importantly, the harness is comfortable, as the new Momentum features thicker padding in the waistbelt. Black Diamond touts a “Dual Core Construction [that] uses two slim bands of high-tensile webbing on the outer edges of the waistbelt, and a venting OpenAir foam insert in the center to balance comfort and breathability without pressure points.” This added comfort doesn’t mean added weight, which at 12 ounces was standard for this review.

The new Momentum performs well in a variety of situations and should become popular as a quiver-of-one rig for many climbers.

Best use: Sport, Trad.
Retail is $54.95.
Available in sizes XS-XXL.
Weight is 350g / 12oz.
More info.

Camp Energy

This harness quickly became a favorite, being lightweight and comfortable, without any flashy gimmicks. While it looks like a more technically advanced harness, it uses a standard piece of one-inch webbing surrounded by thermo-formed padding. At first glance it seems like there is no way this could be comfortable, but on everything from single pitch sport climbs to long trad routes it held its own and never felt like the webbing was digging in.

The gear loops are big, and withstood the Rob Pizem pull test*, so they seem plenty strong. There’s a haul loop as well, making this a versatile rig. The adjustable leg loops using a sliding buckle system, similar to the Black Diamond trackFit, which means you can change the size but don’t have the extra bulk of more traditional adjustable leg loops. There is a small haul loop in the back for those who want to use this for sport and trad.

When cinched down tight, it would be nice if there was another keeper strap for the extra webbing tail, as it flops around.

The most affordable harness in this review, it’s perhaps the most bang for your back and as such should make it appealing to a wide range of climbers.

Best use: Sport, Trad.
Retail is $49.95.
Available in sizes XS-XL.
Weight is 313g / 11oz.
More info.

*He grabs the gear loop with one hand, and pulls as hard as he can.

Grivel Apollo

Grivel launched three new harnesses in 2015, with the Apollo being the most geared toward rock climbers. All three use their Web Core technology to create a waistband of laminated material for optimum comfort. The gear loops are big and burly, and there is a small loop for a tag line in the rear.

The tie-in points feature wear indicators, a black webbing that will show through the yellow when it’s getting worn and time to replace it. There are two waist buckles, for maximum adjustability. While this seems like unnecessary added weight to us, some folks out there must like it because harnesses keep being made with this feature. We concede it does allow for a greater range of adjustability, and since the harness is only offered in two sizes, this is important. The leg loops are detachable via oversized plastic buckles. They feel bulky and out of place for rock climbing, however, if you are using this for ice climbing or mountaineering, they would be very easy to manipulate with gloves on.

A strange aspect of this harness was that the leg loops were fairly tight, but with the double adjustable buckles, the waist could get quite large. It’s hard to imagine someone with a 42 inch waist who had really skinny legs, but if that person is you, then there is finally a harness out there for you!

All joking aside, the Apollo is a comfortable harness with some nice features that sits right at the mid-range price point.

Best use: Trad, Sport, Ice, Alpine.
Retail is $79.95.
Available in sizes M/L & L/XL.
Weight is 310g / 10.9oz.
More info.

Mammut Zephir

A comfortable, lightweight and super-breathable harness that’s equally at home at the sport crag or in the alpine.

Without using fancy industry terms, the waistbelt and leg loops are literally see-through because the webbing straps are split by mesh in the middle, reducing weight and providing good air flow. Elastic leg loops and a super secure buckle on the waistbelt make it an easy harness to take on and off in between sport climbing burns. The front gear loops are rigid plastic that easily hold draws and other gear while the rest of the harness is more minimalist, with slim rear gear loops and a barely noticeable haul loop. The back of the harness is perfectly suited for wearing a pack over the harness as there is little to dig into your back, even with a large pack on.

Our tester loved this harness so much he took it with him on this recent AMGA Alpine Guide Course. Because of its superb breathability and low profile features, it was a great harness for long alpine approaches, sweaty climbs up steep couloirs and comfortable pack wearing.

The front gear loops are a little awkward, and there are more comfortable rigs in the same weight class out there, but it gets high marks for the breathability, lightweight, and its ability to be worn with a pack.

Those looking for a lightweight alpine rig or sport redpoint harness should give this a look.

Best use: Sport, Alpine.
Retail is $89.95.
Available in sizes S-XL.
Weight is 295g / 10.4oz.
More info.

Petzl Aquila

A good harness for hard redpoint burns or long days in the mountains, it isn’t one you’ll want to spend a lot of time hanging around in.

The Fuseframe technology fuses the fabric with the foam that is used, making it one seamless piece that eliminates any pressure points. The reinforced tie-in points should hold up to many days of use. For those who want to take this into the alpine, the adjustable leg loops, as well as the plastic buckles that allow the leg loops to be detached from the back of the harness for those times when nature calls, are nice features.

Comfort is where this harness suffers, and as such it’s not a great one to spend a lot of time hanging around in, due to the design of the leg loops. The thin, tapered construction in the front causes the leg loops to dig in hard around the groin when holding a partner on belay for very long. This problem doesn’t seem quite as bad when hanging while climbing, which is likely due to subtle differences in body position.

The webbing for tightening the leg loops is slender and slick, which allows it to slide through the buckle when the end isn’t tucked into a secure point. Perhaps this will change once the harness is more broken in. The sizing runs small, and given the minimalist design – the swami is approximately 3.5 inches wide in the back and tapers down to an inch at the hips – it looks even smaller than it actually is. If you are on the bigger side of medium, for example, you’ll want to get this in large.

If you’re looking for something light and efficient for banging out a lot of mileage on your favorite sport routes or on a mountain ridge, it’s a pretty good choice. If you’re planning to spend a lot of hang-time on a mega-proj – or have to belay a partner on a long project – then you might be more comfortable in a bulkier harness.

Best use: Sport, Alpine.
Retail is $125.
Weight is 345g / 12.2oz.
Available in sizes XS-XL.
More info.

Singing Rock Onyx

Singing Rock offers several model harnesses, and the Onyx is positioned as the flagship of their line, and was one of the best all-arounders in this review.

The padding is very comfortable, making it ideal for all day outings, or hanging in your harness trying to figure out which of the chalked up holds you are actually supposed to use. It was comfortable right out of the bag, unlike some harnesses which feel really stiff at first. The braided gear loops are stout and don’t feel like they will fall off when you load them up.

A unique aspect of this harness is the BMI system, which allows you to adjust the position of the buckle so you can minimize that extra flap of harness you sometimes get on the inside when cinching the buckle down tight.

There’s no haul loop, which makes it less versatile than it could be, but if you want a quiver-of-one harness, this is worth taking a look at. Also the loop that holds the extra slack from the buckle is too small and makes pulling the webbing out to take it off a bit more challenging than it should be.

For long trad climbs or projecting sport routes where you’ll be hanging around a lot, this is a great harness that offers a high level of comfort at a great price.

Best use: Sport, Trad.
Retail is $49.95.
Weight is 340g / 12oz.
Available in sizes XS-XL.
More info.

Mike Schneiter and Derek Franz were additional contributors on this review.

Disclaimer: In the spirit of full disclosure, these products were provided to SplitterChoss.com for the purpose of reviewing. Don’t worry, though, our integrity can’t be bought!

7 Responses to 2015 Climbing Harness Review

  1. Wait so which one am I supposed to buy?

    Kevin September 22, 2015 at 5:04 pm
    • Whichever one fits you best! That being said, if you mostly ice climb, the Arc’teryx. If you want comfort, the BD or Singing Rock. For sport, probably the Camp.

      BJ Sbarra September 22, 2015 at 5:40 pm
  2. What happend to Arc’teryx S220?

    bg October 5, 2015 at 5:44 am
    • All the old harnesses have been replaced by these new ones.

      BJ Sbarra October 5, 2015 at 9:57 am
  3. No misty mountain?!?

    Bryan Manning October 12, 2015 at 12:09 pm
    • Unfortunately not this time around!

      BJ Sbarra October 12, 2015 at 5:53 pm
  4. I work in the industry, but I have not heard a thing about Singing Rock. It ‘looks’ vibrant, comfy, and suitable for my climbing needs (Sport and Trad climbing). However, the sheer lack of reviews on other sights lead me to think it might not be worth my time… All of my coworkers suggest petzl harnesses for every aspect of my job… But I cannot justify the price, even with my ProDeals. Thoughts?

    Chris Pachella April 21, 2016 at 8:19 am
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