If you’re looking for the best climbing harness that can really do it all, look no further than Arc’teryx AR-395A(Male)/AR-385A(Female).
I can’t tell you why Arc’teryx chose to give their best harness a serial number instead of a catchy name. That remains a mystery. But, its high adjustability, lightweight, durability, gear loops, quality materials, and comfort make this poorly named piece of gear worth the investment.
A good climbing harness doesn’t give up on you. When you want to hang on the wall visualizing the moves while a line forms below you, it’s there—keeping you comfortable and telling you it’ll catch you if you fall. When you lean back on your anchor and belay your brave friend up the sketchy runout pitch, it’s there—holding you tight while you fake confidence in them and yourself. When you’re lowering off the top after a long day, it’s there—saying good job and thanks for the view.
A harness keeps you safe as it holds you tight in its comfortable, secure embrace. Finding a good-quality harness that fits you—and the style of climbing you like best—is important. I searched the marketplace and found for you the best climbing harnesses to take with you up a big wall, alpine route, or single-pitch adventure.
The Climbing Harnesses We RAVE About
I’ll start by saying that every harness I’ve selected for my list of the 10 best climbing harnesses is safe. I don’t want you hundreds of feet up, a little too far from your last clip for comfort, thinking: “Man, I should have gone with the number one for safety instead of ‘Best on a Budget.’” These harnesses are all safe, some just come with a few more bells and whistles.
When choosing a harness, you want to look at a number of variables, with the biggest consideration being comfort. Harnesses aren’t exactly known for giving you spa-like sensation—let’s just say you won’t be tempted to sleep in it. You should, however, get a harness that fits your body well, so you’re not causing yourself more discomfort than necessary.
As far as sizing your harness and making sure it’s comfortable, you’ll ideally want to try it on. It should fit snug, but not too tight, and shouldn’t cause any pinching or pain. For more specifics on how to size your harness, see the FAQs (which you’ll find after the top 10 list).
Most harnesses are pretty adjustable, so as long as you get the general size correct you can tailor it to fit your body. That said, some harnesses don’t come with adjustable leg loops, so this is a priority if you need the option to adjust for warm clothing or you have extra-thick gams.
You also need to consider the type of climbing you generally devote your time to, as well as the amount of money you’re willing to spend.
First, consider material. Most harnesses use foam, which provides comfort both for hanging and falling. It’s also heavy, bulky, and—well—sweaty. Companies have compensated for this by adding materials such as mesh to give the harness more breathability, but as the foam degrades (which it does relatively quickly), the harness becomes less comfortable and will need to be replaced.
If you’re a newer climber and just want something inexpensive, a foam harness will be fine. But if you’re going to be using your harness frequently, consider investing in a higher-quality alternative.
Split webbing, pioneered by Arc’teryx and adopted by a number of other companies, is a higher-quality alternative to foam. By spreading the webbing horizontally, the climber’s weight is more evenly distributed without pressure points. It’s lighter, more breathable, more durable and—you guessed it—more expensive.
Next, you have a few loops to consider. Namely, a belay loop, haul loop, and gear loops.
All harnesses come with a belay loop that you use to connect your belay device, as well as your leg loops to your waist. Your decision comes down to thickness: choose a thinner belay loop if you’re more into sport, alpine, or ice climbing to shave down some weight and bulk. Choose a thicker loop (or better yet, a double belay loop) if you’re trad climbing or into big-wall stuff, since you’ll need your harness to be extra durable.
If your harness has a haul loop, it will be directly centered in the back, between your back two gear loops (more on that later). It’s used to attach a second rope, haul line, shoes, etc. during a multi-pitch climb. Some harnesses don’t come with this feature, so make it a priority if you can’t get enough of multi pitching. If you love gym climbing or short sport climbs, though, this isn’t a must.
Finally, gear loops. Gear loops are the feature to focus on when choosing a harness. It’s pretty straightforward: the more gear you use, the more loops you need. If you climb at the gym, or do shorter sport climbs where you just need a place for your quickdraws, a couple of gear loops will do the trick. If you’re a trad climber or spend days or weeks on the wall, make sure to have at least four gear loops and a haul loop.
To sum things up: Choose a harness that fits your body, budget, and preferred type of climbing. Take some falls, hang, belay, get outside, stay inside—do what brings you joy. Take care of your harness! And, in return, it will take care of you.
I kept a few things in mind when making my top picks for the best climbing harnesses. A combination of these factors goes a long way to an overall solid harness, but if you like to do one specific type of climbing only, you should prioritize specific features to find the harness that works best for you.
Weight: Unlike with your climbing helmet, when you reduce weight you often reduce comfort as well. This presents a double-edged sword: a lightweight harness is more ideal for obvious reasons, but is it worth sacrificing that cushy foam? If you spend a lot of time sitting in your harness, don’t have long approaches, and don’t have the budget for a split-webbing model, you may want ignore weight altogether. For the rest of us, I took a lighter-is-better approach.
Comfort: Comfort is a bit of a balancing act as well. More comfort often means more weight to haul to the crag and up the wall, and a generally more restrictive harness. I looked for harnesses that were some balance between these. That said, if you just do short sport climbs and don’t hang much, prioritize a lightweight, thinner harness over comfort. And, a harness that fits will always be more comfortable.
Price: I believe investing in a higher quality split-webbing model is worth the extra dollars, as it will last you longer and keep you more comfortable. That said, I recognize this isn’t always an option for everyone, and if you keep racking up early birthday/holiday presents you’ll regret it on the actual day when you’re sad, alone, and empty handed. Is this an unrelatable aside for all the real adults reading this? Sorry. Anyway, I picked some affordable options as well, which will keep you just as secure in the end.
Durability: The more durable the better, right? Well, that depends. Durability comes in the form of a thicker, bulkier, heavier harness. Totally worth it when you’re trad or big-wall climbing, where it’s your harness versus the rock most days. If you’re just sport or gym climbing, however, a thinner, “less durable” harness is more than okay. And, as I said before, harnesses that don’t use foam (or use less foam) last longer.
Extra Features: Again, this comes down to what you need. If you’re gym/sport climbing, you really don’t need a lot of extra loops. But you’ll want to prioritize extra features if you have a lot of gear to carry.
The Best Climbing Harnesses
This harness is my top choice for the best climbing harness, and it gets the coveted “Best Overall” award because it’s the most versatile harness on my list. Versatility is a very valuable trait in a harness. Most climbers want to buy one harness and not think about it again for five years. If you’re like most climbers, this is your harness.
It’s comfortable, lightweight, durable, and has all the features you need for multi-pitch, ice, alpine, gym, and sport climbing. It comes at a higher price point—at which you could justifiably purchase two more specific harnesses instead.
But, if you’re looking for a high-quality harness that will do it all and last you until forced retirement, consider investing in the Arc’teryx.
- All the loops you need
Black Diamond Solution (M/F)
Black Diamond found a good balance with the Solution: it’s lightweight, ultra-comfortable, and very affordable. It’s uses “Fusion Comfort Technology,” which is essentially split webbing at half the cost.
With four gear loops, the Solution is perfect for your basic gym and sport climbing needs. And it’s widely known to be one of the more comfortable climbing harnesses on the market.
That said, its leg loops don’t adjust, which is an issue if you have particularly skinny or wide legs. It also doesn’t have the storage for trad, multi-pitch, or ice climbing.
If you like these disciplines as well, consider paying a few dollars extra for the Black Diamond Zone. It’s essentially the same harness with a few extra features (i.e. ice clipper loops) and just costs about $30 more.
- Leg loops don’t adjust
- Not as versatile
Rounding out the top three best climbing harnesses is the Sitta, which is unique in that it’s constructed using flat-lying spectra strands instead of foam. This makes it lightweight and durable without sacrificing comfort. With plenty of gear loops and a rear haul loop, it also utilizes a minimal design without sacrificing extra features. What’s best: it’s so lightweight and comfortable that it can be used in alpine, mountaineering, and sport climbing.
Where the Sitta loses points is in price. It’s expensive. And it doesn’t have all the features you’d need for extensive trad climbing, so it’s not as versatile as I’d hope for at that price. But if you’re willing to splurge on a minimal sport harness, the Sitta is an excellent choice.
- Very expensive
- Not as versatile
Black Diamond Momentum
The Momentum is one of the best selling climbing harnesses, and for good reason. I’m willing to bet that a big reason for this comes down to the price. It’s inexpensive. But that’s not the only thing it has going for it. It’s comfortable and has a very functional design—its gear loops are the perfect size, and it’s easy to adjust.
One drawback to the Momentum is in its durability—the comfort level drops quickly as the foam degrades. But with a low price point and high functionality, the Momentum is an excellent choice for both beginning and seasoned climbers.
- Relatively comfortable
- Good gear loops
- Not the most durable
- Not the lightest
- Not the most comfortable
Black Diamond Big Gun (M)
When I look at this harness, I can’t help but think it looks like something you’d go hunting in. I know, that makes no sense. But it really is that big, bulky, hulk-harness that’s made to survive long days shimmying up tight spaces with a heavy rack on your waist.
With an extra belay and gear loop, this climbing harness has more features than the other products on this list. It’s also really comfortable and has good ventilation, which is an essential feature if you plan on wearing it all day.
The drawback to the Big Gun is that it’s not for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t strap this thing on and try to redpoint my sport project. It’s also expensive. And, sorry smaller ladies and smaller people in general, this only comes in a “men’s” version. But if you’re set on big missions outside, the Big Gun will keep you comfortable—and it will last.
- Loaded with features
- Not versatile
Metolius Safe Tech Deluxe
Like I said earlier, every harness on this list is safe. But the Safe Tech Deluxe is…well…extra safe. Every piece of webbing and stitching on this harness is safety rated, so if you accidentally clip into the wrong part of the harness, it’s still certified to protect you. This is a huge plus because, as my mother would say, “Everyone makes mistakes.”
It also has all the features for big wall climbing, including dual belay loops so you have a backup if one fails. It’s durable, comfortable, and made to last. But, this comes at the expense of a few drawbacks. Namely, it’s bulky and heavy, so not ideal for sport or alpine climbing.
If you want an everyday climbing harness that you can take outside for long days and will last, consider playing it safe with the Safe Tech Deluxe.
- “Safe Tech” rating
Edelrid Orion (M)/Solaris(F)
The Orion reminds me of a person in their early 20s—it’s still trying to figure itself out and cares a little too much about its appearance.
The Orion is a lightweight trad harness that’s fairly comfortable and breathable when it fits your body properly. It’s made for trad climbing, but also features ice clippers for more versatility. It has an interesting design that actually complements the human body in a certain way.
This, however, is achieved through exposed webbing—which makes it less durable. That’s a pretty big downfall for a trad harness, which is going to take a beating on a regular basis. It’s also expensive.
So, if the harness fits, go for it. Just keep an eye out for damage.
- Interesting look
- Not durable
- Could be more comfortable
Black Diamond Chaos(M)/Ethos(F)
The Chaos/Ethos is BD’s luxury harness, using “Kinetic Core Construction” to distribute weight in the most comfortable way possible. It’s a workhorse harness—it’s made to last and keep you comfortable throughout the day.
That said, it doesn’t have enough gear storage to be considered super versatile. It’s also expensive, and the use of foam makes it bulkier than I’d like. But if durability and comfort are important to you, this harness will treat you well.
- High-quality technology
- Lack of storage
Blue Ice Choucas Light
I included this harness for all the alpine and ice climbers out there. Personally, if I can’t feel my fingers and toes, I am no longer having a good time. Why you’d want to subject yourself to this torture (aside from the insane views I’ll only ever appreciate in pictures) is beyond me.
But for those rugged souls out there who like to suffer—meet the Choucas Lite. It fits in the palm of your hand and weighs next to nothing. Its leg loops are designed so you can put them on without lifting your feet and maneuvering them up your legs. They’re designed this way specifically so you can get them on and off easily with your snow gear, or change for weather without taking the harness off. Or—for the ladies out there—you can go to the bathroom without taking it off! We like that.
It has two gear loops and two ice screw holders, and it’s relatively inexpensive. But when I say this harness is specific, I mean it’s very specific. It’s not comfortable for hanging at all, and the gear loops aren’t big enough to carry much. So if you’re getting more than one harness, or you just like to kick and punch ice all day (sorry, but that’s what it looks like to me), this harness is for you.
- Easy to get on/off
- Not versatile
- Bad gear loops
And rounding out my list of the very best climbing harnesses on the market is the Petzl Corax. I love recommending the Corax for climbers who are just starting out, as well as climbers who mostly stay indoors. It’s very adjustable and fairly comfortable and, priced under $60, it’s one of the least expensive climbing harnesses on my list. It also comes with plenty of storage space for quick draws and trad racks, but there’s nowhere to put ice climbing gear.
Because it uses a thick foam for comfort, it’s heavier and bulkier than the higher-end harnesses. Since foam degrades quicker, it’s also less durable. But if you’re looking for a pretty good all-around harness without spending much, the Corax is a good option.
- Highly adjustable
- Less durable
How Can I Be Sure My Harness Will Catch Me?
Although there’s no legislated standard for climbing harnesses in the U.S., these brands ensure they meet or exceed the standard set by the European Committee for Standardization. Companies first test the raw materials before the harness is constructed, and then test the harness itself.
The harness is attached to a dummy, which undergoes 15 kilonewtons (kN) of force in two intervals. One kN is about 220 lbs of force—so that’s a lot of weight. If it maintains its structure and doesn’t budge more than 20 mm, it passes the test.
“What if I’m a big boy or girl and take a massive whipper, exerting an epic amount of force they didn’t think to test for?” you ask. The human body cannot physically handle 15kN of force. So if you somehow manage to stir up that much force, the word is probably being absorbed into the space time continuum, and your harness is the least of your worries.
How Should I Size My Climbing Harness?
To try on your harness, loosen the straps on the leg loops and waist belt. Make sure the harness isn’t twisted in any way, step in, and pull the harness up to about your belly button. It should be above your hips—you don’t want to slip out if you’re accidentally turned upside down. Tighten the straps until it fits pretty tight, with no more than two fingers between your waist and the material.
Unlike the waist belt, the leg loops are a matter of personal preference and comfort, rather than safety. Loose leg loops will allow you more mobility on the wall, but will be less comfortable when you’re hanging.
Once you’ve made sure all the buckles are double backed, you can (ideally) test your harness. A lot of outdoor-sports stores have a rock wall or station where you can test out how the harness (or harnesses) you’re considering feels in use.
With your weight in the harness, you should be able to sit upright without using your abs too much, or experiencing pinching, pain, or pressure. It’s not going to feel like you’re sitting in a bean bag chair, but it also shouldn’t feel like “The Rack” from the Saw franchise. In other words, if you notice pressure points, you’ll want to try a different harness.
How Should I Take Care of My Harness?
First of all, you shouldn’t let your dog use your harness as a chew toy—but I’m guessing this one is obvious. You should always allow your harness to dry before storing it, and don’t store it in extreme temperatures or direct sunlight. If you have a drawer filled with overflowing harsh chemicals, don’t store it there.
To clean your harness, rinse it with water. If you still notice stubborn dirt that’s not washing off, hand wash it with a mild soap. Allow your harness to air dry. Remember: Don’t use bleach. And don’t leave it to dry in the sun.
When transporting your harness, make sure to always use a harness bag of some sort and keep it separate from sharp objects (i.e. ice screw, crampons, your PB&J knife).
When Should I Replace My Harness?
A good rule of thumb is that you should replace your harness every 5-7 years at a minimum, even if you never wear it. The materials start to degrade over time, so unlike your first sweetheart who just needed time to “figure it out,” it doesn’t get better with age.
That said, if you use your harness a lot, you’ll likely want to replace it before then. Make sure to always check for wear and tear. If you notice fraying or discoloration, it’s better to replace your climbing than to test your luck.
Maybe you’re a mountain guide, or maybe you’re just a dirtbag—either way, if you’re climbing full time, you should replace your harness annually. And, if you take a huge fall, replace it immediately.
Is There a Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Climbing Harnesses?
Yes. Women’s harnesses have a higher rise, smaller leg-to-waist ratio, a shaped waist belt, and are generally cuter and better at listening (kidding!). In all seriousness, men’s and women’s bodies are typically shaped differently—especially when it comes to the hips. Women’s harnesses are tailored to fit the female form.
You’ll want to choose a harness that fits your body and subsequent characteristics. If that means you’re a man who fits best in a women’s harness, or a woman who fits better in a man’s harness, it doesn’t matter. Just get what fits you best. And make sure to try it on first.
Before you go, take a look at a few more pieces of climbing gear that have earned the RAVE seal of approval:
- Gold Coast Gear Harness Bag: Most harnesses come with their own bag. Buy this one if you’ve lost it, or your harness came sans bag. This will help you maintain your harness’s condition. You can also use an old pillow case if being classy isn’t exactly your thing.
- Petzl Grigri 2: This is my belay device of choice because it’s easy to use and offers assisted braking. Some people will judge me for this, but I feel safer with a Gri.
- Petzl Shunt: It’s no secret that a lot of accidents happen while repelling. Use this device to back up your repels without friction.
- WINNER OUTFITTERS Camping Hammock: Use this portable hammock to relax a sore butt that’s been hanging in a harness too long. Remind yourself that hanging can be fun!