Harness Buying & Care Guide
Harnesses are designed for specific types of climbing, including Sport, Trad, Ice and Mixed and Winter, so they can be engineered to accommodate different requirements.
Sport harnesses aim to be as ultralight as possible, requiring a minimal amount of gear, most will only have one or two gear loops and a stretchy material is sometimes used in place of buckles.
Traditional harnesses capitalise on space, having many more gear loops for larger racks than sport climbing, whilst remaining light weight and comfortable.
Winter harnesses offer lightweight versatility. With a waist loop and clip buckle system the harness can be put on and off quickly, without the frustration of removing your crampons.
Ice and mixed climbing harnesses are designed to cope with freezing conditions, using a robust closed cell foam that doesn’t absorb water. With numerous gear loops and ice clipper slots for multiple racking possibilities to accommodate winter gear such as ice screws and tools. Leg loops are adjustable providing room for your warmer layers.
Features Of A Harness
Learn about all the features that make a good harness and how to check for wear and tear…
Waist belts combine safety with comfort and weight. A well-fitting waist belt will comfortably support your weight around the lower back, with adjustable buckles to get the perfect fit.
Leg loops are adjustable so you can wear different layers depending on the season, beneficial when wearing warmer gear with alpine or winter climbing.
Padding in the leg loops of the harness will provide extra comfort when hanging in your harness or resting in between climbs.
Gear loops vary in number on a harness depending on the type of climbing you’re doing. They are usually made of tough rigid plastic or webbing, and are used to clip your rack too, but should never be used to tie into a belay from.
Belay loops are the strongest point of the harness, where you will belay your climbing partner from, also linking your waist belt and leg loops.
Buckles allow you to customise the fit according to your size and the number of layers you are wearing. Most modern harnesses have auto locking buckles, making it even easier to adjust the harness to fit you.
How To Care For Your Harness
Connecting you to the rock, your harness is your safety net, so it’s really important to regularly check it for wear and tear. The number of years you get from your harness depends entirely on the amount you use it. Climbing professionals may retire a harness after a year, while casual climbers could use it for many more years if they look after it.
For your safety you should retire your harness once it shows signs of excessive wear and tear or damage. It’s strongly recommended to retire a harness after a serious fall as the webbing may have stretched and there may be invisible material fatigue. Some harnesses have orange wear mark indicators beneath the tie-in points and the belay loop, a tell-tale sign that it’s time for harness heaven.
Storing a dry harness in its original bag or a stuff sack away from sharp objects and harmful substances will help to maintain its condition. A simple rinse should remove any dust and mud, for more stubborn dirt try hand washing in warm water and air drying.
Checking Your Harness For Wear & Tear
Checking the safety of a harness is essential, watch this video from the BMC showing you how to check your climbing harness for wear and tear. The three main areas you’ll want to check are the waist belt, leg loops and belay loop.
The waist belt webbing for cuts and abrasion, chemical damage and burns.
Turn it onto the flipside and check the webbing internally.
Leg Loops & Belay Loop
Check for any wear and tear or damage.
The load bearing stitching is easy to check as it is a different colour to the webbing.
Undo all the buckles and check for cracks and corrosion.
Make sure the gear loops are securely attached, so you don’t lose your racking whilst climbing.
Put it all back together and check it’s correct and adjusted to your size
by fastening the buckles, before roping up.