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How to buy the best harness for rock climbing

How to buy the best harness for rock climbing

As with all climbing equipment, it is best to put in the homework before buying gear.

When buying a harness for rock climbing there are a few things that you must consider to make sure that you make the best choice for you depending on your requirements. We have put this guide together to help you reach that decision as quick as possible!

You can also view our review of our favorite top 5 climbing harnesses according to the guidelines in this article! Just click here (COMING SOON)


One of the most important things when buying a harness for climbing is the fit. It is crucial to find a harness that will be comfortable on your uniquely shaped body and that is right for the type of climbing that you want to do.

There are two main types of harness for climbing

1. The more Comfortable All-round harness with a lot of features and more weight. – These are intended for more heavy-duty climbing with long routes, possibly for mountain climbing or alpine ice climbing.

2. The less comfortable sport climbing harness with less features and therefore more lightweight. – These are designed to more high-performance style with a more optimized approach. Think ‘Diet coke’ as opposed to the regular full fat coke of comfortable harnesses.

Both have their pros and their cons, and both are intended for different purposes. Decide which type of climbing you intend to do before buying a harness!

Weight and Size

As mentioned above, the main differences between the two types of harness for climbing are the weight of harness. It is important to work out which weight of harness would suit you best as obviously on shorter sport climbs, you would not want such a heavy harness with a lot of features that would only get in your way.

As for size, it is essential that you try on your harness before buying as any pain or discomfort that you experience in store will only be 100x worse when you are on the rock face, especially on those longer climbs.

It is advisable to try and find a store with the facilities to allow you to hang from the harness to test the fit and the comfort over a period of 5-10 minutes so that you can get an idea of which harness will be most comfortable for you.

Be aware of manufacturers sizes as they can differ – You may be a medium with one manufacturer and you could be a medium/large with another. Again, testing is crucial to finding the right sized harness. If you can’t get to a mountaineering store, then try and find sizing charts for the brand you would like to buy.

Below is the size chart that Mammut use for their harnesses.

Harnesses Size Chart

Mammut Harness Sizing charts                                                                              Credit:Mammut

Note: Most retailers will not allow you to return them once you have purchased them due to safety reasons, So remember this when buying online!


As we mentioned before, choosing a comfortable harness is massively important. However, this is more than just getting the size of the harness right.

Different types of harnesses will provide different padding; Sports harnesses will provide almost no padding around the leg loop straps as they are designed to be worn on shorter climbs and need to be as light as possible.

If you are looking to climb for longer then you should go for a more padded harness. Obviously these will generally be heavier than the sports harnesses.


The price on harnesses depends greatly on the features of the harness and the style.

The more all-round harness with lots of padding are usually the cheapest whereas sport harnesses are a lot more expensive as they have a lot more technology in them to optimize for weight AND performance as well as comfort where possible.

We found that for beginners, an all-round harness was better suited, not least for the price but also for the features provided.

Leg LoopsAdjustable leg loops

The main difference in leg loops on climbing harnesses are usually to do with the adjusting systems.

Some will have Adjustable leg loops, some will have fixed leg loops, here is a comparison of the two:

If you have big legs for you waist size, then adjustable leg loops will be better for you and will allow a better fit.

If you do alpine climbing, then getting the harness on over crampons will certainly be easier with adjustable leg loops but it is not impossible with fixed leg loops.

Fixed Leg Loops will decrease the weight and clutter of the harness – every little counts!

Basically, try the harness on, if the legs are too tight, choose a harness with adjustable leg loops! Otherwise fixed leg loops will suffice whether sport climbing, multi-pitch climbing or just indoor climbing.

Leg Loop Elastic Release

Different harnesses have different ways of adjusting or stretching the leg loops for when the body is in the seated position.

This is a feature that is mostly designed for women who have to sit down to go to the bathroom whilst wearing the harness.

Try sitting down in the harness for a while when you try it on in store to see how the harness adapts to the change in body shape.

Safety Features

This is a big one and is a section which is constantly adapting and being upgraded by manufacturers who regularly add more and more safety features to the harnesses that they produce.

The most important safety feature we believe is the self-locking adjusting strap on the harness which makes it impossible to forget to safely put the harness on.

There are many other safety features and we will mention the specific safety features of each harness in our Top 5 best climbing harness review (Coming soon)

When looking for a harness in-store you should ask the qualified staff about the safety features of each particular harness.

Other safety features include:

– Indicators that show wear and tear and allow the user to determine the lifespan of a climbing harness – This eliminates the possibility that the harness will wear down to unsafe standards.

– Reinforced tie-in points that make the harness more secure and more reliable and giving the harness a longer lifespan.

– Instructional graphics on the harness so that the wearer knows what the features are and how to use the harness properly and safely.

BucklesBelay loop self locking buckle

As mentioned above, modern harnesses will usually come with self-locking buckles. This is an excellent feature which rules out any possibility for life-threatening human error when wearing the harness.

Those harnesses with adjustable leg loops will also tend to have self-locking buckles on them as well.

Gear LoopsGear loop

Before you buy a harness, you should think about what sort of gear you will need to carry. If you are doing a shorter sport climb then you won’t need as much gear but if you are alpine climbing or multi-pitch climbing then you may want a lot more gear.

Sport harnesses tend to have only 1 or 2 gear loops whereas an all-round harness will usually have 3 or 4.

Haul Loops

If you need to use your harness to help you transport gear (such as a backpack) then you need a haul loop you can trust.

Sport harnesses usually don’t have the highest grade haul loops on them, so if you think that you will be hauling a lot, go for a big harness with a high-grade haul loop that will give you the confidence to lift your gear.


If you feel that you need the high performance features of the sport climbing harnesses, then buy one that fits for you.

Otherwise we would advise to go for the all-round harness with all the features as this will leave the most room for opportunity and you will find that these harnesses are generally less expensive which is good if you are just starting out.

Thanks for reading, you should check out our guide to the top 6 climbing harness review.

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