Our Top Pick for 2019: Black Diamond Momentum SA Climbing Harness
While rock climbing does not require an exorbitant amount of gear, just a belay, chalk bag, shoes and a harness, the importance of your harness is clear to even the novice climber. A harness can literally save your life on a climb. They are relatively inexpensive, but the feeling of the right harness can make a large impact on your climbing experiences. Whether you just climb for fun, or need to climb trees, antennae or poles on the job, this article will show you not only some of the best harnesses on the market, but will guide you through what to look for in a harness.
Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:
#1. Black Diamond Momentum SA Climbing Harness
In our opinion, the best climbing harness on the market is the Black Diamond Momentum SA Climbing Harness. This harness offers something for everyone, whether a novice or experienced climber. Combine this with features that might appear to be small differences, but these small differences make all of the differences.
Compared to many harnesses, the Momentum SA is one of the lightest harnesses on the market, weighing in at only a little over 12 ounces. While most harnesses are only a few ounces heavier, that slight weight difference can feel like several tons more after a long day climbing.
The first thing you will notice when putting on the Momentum SA is just how easy it is to wear. The double buckle design on the waiststraps makes getting into this harness and adjusting its fit a snap. While in some harnesses, the ease of putting on and adjusting it might make for a harness that loosens unexpectedly. This is not the case with this harness, users report that straps stay tight until you decide to loosen them. As well, the trakFit leg adjustment system assures a safe and comfortable fit with little fussing and little constriction. Many users report that this harness feels like a part of their bodies when they are wearing it.
Another factor that contributes to that feel and makes this harness stand out are the large belay loop. This allows a lot more comfort and flexibility in your waist, hips and legs compared to most harnesses. This is not only great for the recreational climber, but also utility workers and other professionals who may find it simpler to stay in their harness for long periods of time.
Even with the light weight and other factors made for user comfort, this harness is more than capable of standing up to whatever usage it is put through on the trails. The haul loop is rated to 12 kilo-newtons, meaning that it will hold up to 275 pounds without breaking. On top of that strong rating, many users who have reported falling in this harness mention that it holds up well to the strain that those falls would place on it.
Many customers were impressed with the durability of the Momentum SA in general too. Even with regular use a few times a week, most people found that the harness was still in usable condition and passed safety inspections. While most harnesses are not priced in a way that makes their replacement incredibly difficult financially, the value of a harness that will hold up to the punishment that usage puts it through is something that can be appreciated.
Another impressive feature of this harness is that for its quality it is priced favorably to other harnesses in its class. There are many cheaper harnesses on the market that are not as durable or as easy to use and there are harnesses that may have a feature that makes it better for a specific type of climbing that cost more, but again, the value presented by the flexibility and quality of the Momentum SA make it the best choice for the average climber.
If there are negatives to this harness, a lot of them can be tied to its balance and not being made for specifically one type of climbing. Many reviewers who rappelled or performed frequent hanging belays did note that the padding was less than desirable for those uses. But in a harness that values weight and flexibility, the sacrifice of some padding is likely something that the general user will not take note. But considering that these are more specialized forms of climbing and most climbers do not spend their time falling, this is a minor concern. As well, there were issues reported sometimes with sizing as people between sizes did find some difficulty fitting into the harness if they were close to the upper threshold of that size. Even then, those same users said that once they put the harness on, they found that they were able to pull in some slack and get the desired fit.
#2. Edelrid Orion Climbing Harness
Not far behind the Momentum SA, the Edelrid Orion Climbing Harness offers a lighter harness preferred by many smaller climbers without skimping on the comfort and feel that many heavier harnesses posses. With Edelrid being a European company and typically catering to that customer base, there are features that make this belt great for ice climbing that many who rock climb might find helpful.
The primary feature of the Orion is what Edelrid refers to as its 3D-Vent technology. This gives this harness maximum comfort and fit as well as a breathability that is unparalleled for many belts. This technology also eliminates pressure points and the fatiguing pain that comes from harnesses that place pressure on them as you wear them. As well, the venting of this harness ensures that it will not become burdensome in higher temperatures.
Another advantage to this lightweight design that many users reported in their reviews was that this harness did not dig into their bodies or bunch up while wearing it. This is because the Orion, with its main belt being five smaller belts connected together, is designed to spread out the pressure placed on it by ropes and belays, ensuring comfortable usage.
That lightweight design also is helpful if you need to wear layers or thicker clothing for warmth as the Orion will adjust and not become too restrictive. Again, this is not a concern of the average rock climber as that is done in warmer weather, but if performing mountaineering or ice climbing, it is something worth consideration.
Even with this focus on colder climbing, the Orion is a well-balanced harness with a great price point. The balanced offered by its lightweight design means that it, like the Momentum SA, are good not just for the expert climber, but for those just getting into climbing. As well, its pricing makes it easy on the wallet for even the casual, occasional climber.
Something else that makes the Orion stand out from the typical climbing harness is that it comes with four gear loops as opposed to the two on most harnesses in its class. This again is something that is more attuned to the need of mountaineers or ice climbers as they need to carry more tools on their climbs. Even then, those extra loops can be helpful, especially if one is using this harness on the job. Along with these loops, they are angled in a way that makes for ease of access and minimizing fumbling when removing or replacing tools. Being able to carry more tools and not risk dropping them is a great feature which if you have ever dropped a tool while climbing, you are likely to appreciate.
Again, with this being a lighterweight belt, there are some concerns about the belay, especially when it comes to falling. The belay loop is also considered by many to be on the small side, which slightly restricts some movements, especially compared to the Momentum SA. Also, with a lot of the weight reduction being done by removing padding, any climbing or other action which would require hanging by the belt will tend to become uncomfortable. But considering that most climbers do not want to spend their time falling, this is usually a minimal concern.
#3. Petzl Aquila Men’s Climbing Harness
Similar to the Orion, the Petzl Aquila Climbing Harness is made with more technical and alpine climbing in mind, meaning that a lot of their features will overlap. Even more so than the Momentum and the Orion though, the professional look of the Aquila is one of its biggest attractions.
But the Aquila is much more than a pretty harness. It is the same 12 ounces that the Momentum SA weighs and has similar construction to the Orion to maximize support and comfort. Its FUSEFRAME construction makes for a harness that allows for all day use without becoming uncomfortable. The lack of crossing seams on the belt means that there are no points on it that could create compression or friction on the back or hips while wearing it. As well, this harness is made with eco-friendly materials while remaining hygienic and maximizing potential safety.
Along with the look and weight, the Aquila gets high marks for its placement of its gear loops. In order to avoid pressure being placed on them by backpacks or other gear, the rear loops on the Aquila are placed on the belt to avoid them while allowing for ease of access and low potential for dropping tools. The other two, front, gear loops are similarly placed strategically to ensure that reaching for or placing tools will not be cumbersome.
Similar to the Momentum, users raved about the durability of the Aquila. The aluminum buckles not only stay secure, but stand up to use for a long time. The webbing of the straps are tested to ensure that they can being adjusted many times without showing signs of fraying or stretching. As well, the tie-in points and loops are made of high-tenacity polyethylene to withstand a lot of use without breaking or wear.
There are a couple of drawbacks to the Aquila compared to the Momentum and the Orion though which should be considered. Many users, especially bigger climbers had issues with the fit of the Aquila, citing that the legs were usually tight. As well, many users struggled with the sizing of this harness in belt. It tended to fit much smaller than most other belts. This problem really manifested itself when users had to go up in size and found that the belt and legs were difficult to get a completely secure fit. Most reported it as snug, but they were concerned it was not as tight as they normally preferred. This smaller sizing did tend to get favorable reviews from those shopping for teenaged climbers as many reported that this harness fit them better than most on the market.
Another factor to keep in mind with the Aquila is that they also have a women’s model of the Aquila as most of their climbing harnesses have. This is much more common on belts at a higher price point, but means that the proportions of the harness factor in the general differences physically between men and women which especially for those on the smaller side can help keep their belt and leg bands from riding up while in use.
So while there are a few concerns with the Petzl Aquila harness, it does offer a lot for its price especially for the climber on the smaller side it might be ideal.
#4. Black Diamond Momentum Harness
For those on a budget, the best choice would likely be the Black Diamond Momentum climbing harness. The standard Momentum model offers many of the same features as the SA, but with a few minor differences. These differences make this climbing harness much cheaper and may not matter to the more casual or beginning climber.
As with the Momentum SA, this harness possesses many of the same features as far as durability, fit and construction. But where they differ is in their construction as the base-level Momentum is made a little heavier than the SA by a couple of ounces. While this puts this model more in line with its contemporaries, those making longer, sustained climbs should consider this factor when making their purchase.
Along with the weight disparity, the basic Momentum is designed with a monotone look. Unlike most more expensive harnesses which tend to improve their look aesthetically with multiple colors, this harness is all about function. Its force threshold enables it to hold up 250 pounds in a dead hang, which is not as good as the SA, but still more than sufficient for most users.
With this being a basic, cheaper model, compared to other models in the article, this harness will be slightly less comfortable and durable. Even then, most users report getting roughly two years of steady use out of this harness without breakage or wearing out. These are also users whom used the belts regularly, as opposed to a more casual climber who might only use it a couple of times a year. There are still concerns as far as longer-term use of this belt in those situations, but as long as proper care is taken, this belt will hold up well to storage.
For those looking to start rock climbing or other hobbies that need a climbing harness or those who may need a harness occasionally for work, a reasonable price might be the most important feature. This harness is just as functional as more expensive harnesses, even if it is missing a few of their features.
The most important factor to consider when purchasing your climbing harness is easily going to be cost. While cost can simply come down to affordability, another important aspect of your purchase is how often you expect to use your harness. If you are just starting out or only planning on climbing infrequently or a couple of times a year, it is likely that you can consider a cheaper, more basic harness.
On the other hand with cost, a more expensive harness tends to be more durable or for more specialized climbing. As well, if you plan on rapelling, ice climbing or other forms of climbing, you may want to look to spend more money for a harness better suited for that kind of climbing.
Size and Fit
Another important component of your climbing harness purchase is how well the harness fits your body. Any harness might be great in general, but if a harness does not fit well, it likely to detract from your enjoyment of climbing. It is likely important that until you are familiar with different brands of harnesses, you will likely want to go to a store where you would be able to try on different harnesses to find the ideal fit for you.
How you plan on wearing your harness is the most important aspect of your harness’ size and fit. People tend to wear the belt part of the harness either on their waist or around their hips. Usually this comes down to waist-hip proportions of your body. There are belts better suited to wearing one way or the other and it is important for both comfort and safety that you make sure the belt part of your harness fits where you want to wear it.
Along with how you wear your belt, you need to know how a belt should fit around your middle. The gear and belay loops should be symmetrical and equidistant. As well, the haul loop on your back should be lined up with the center of your back. If it is off-kilter, your belt does not fit correctly.
The other part of your harness that you need to be sure on its fit are the legs. Leg loops tend to vary in size in relationship to waist. More harnesses are changing their designs to incorporate leg loops instead of buckles. This means that there is not as much adjustability in those harnesses on the legs.
Comfort tends to go hand-in-hand with size and fit, but does bring other factors into consideration. Making sure that along with fit that your harness offers you the desired range of motion, has your gear loops where you need them and can easily reach them and does not bunch or create pressure points on your body while you are climbing, sitting or climbing are all things that you should consider.
Many stores geared to the climber tend to offer rental equipment which may give you a chance to try out a desired harness which is an economical way to find out if a specific harness is right for you.
While the average rock climber will have to worry as much about weight of a harness, more intense or professional climbers will want the difference in feel and comfort that a couple of fewer ounces will provide them. If you are planning on climbing a lot, carrying a lot of other gear or climbing in extreme heat or cold, then weight becomes a greater concern and a lighter belt is more important. Conversely, if you are planning on doing a lot of hanging by your harness, you may want a heavier, better padded harness for added comfort.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
The right harness can make the difference between enjoying your climb and having an awful time at what should be a fun hobby. With the factors we have laid out, you can feel confident in our picks for the best climbing harnesses. As well, we have give you considerations that you should make before buying your climbing harness in case you need more specific needs met.
Finally, as one last piece of advice, the climbing community can be very helpful and knowledgeable in helping you with finding the right harness, as well as advising you based on needs that you do not know you might have. Never be afraid to ask others with experience to guide your decision as nothing can compare to face to face advice.