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Our team of lady rock crushers has tested over 20 of the best climbing harness for women over the past 7 years. This review features 8 of the best options available on the market for single- and multi-pitch rock and ice climbing. We wore each while tackling long alpine objectives and while clipping bolts at our local crag. We also tested each one at the gym and on icy, picked-out waterfalls. After spending several months comparing each side-by-side, we offer our expert recommendations to help you find a comfortable and functional harness that'll have you climbing high in no time.
Editor's Note: We updated this review on July 7, 2022, to assess our selection. One discontinued harness was removed from the review, and we updated the Edelrid Jayne review with information on an updated version.
Weight (size small): 14.1 ounces | Designed for: Trad
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable for hanging in
Low profile design is packable and comfortable for all-day use
REASONS TO AVOID
On the pricier side
If you inadvertently test the limits of your harness designed for sport climbing by climbing desert offwidths or Yosemite grovel-fests, the Black Diamond Solution Guide is a great option. Let's face it, most harnesses aren't designed to take a beating, but this harness proved durable. Even for that multi-pitch megaproject, the Solution Guide is our go-to for long missions. It's also a wise choice for sport climbing, especially if you're working on a new project. The well-padded, wide waistband provides comfort at hanging belays, and the extra-wide gear loops make sure there is ample room for a double rack, plus some. All of these features are packed into a sleek, lightweight package, which is really what makes it stand out in comparison to other harnesses.
The downsides to the Solution Guide are its lack of adjustability in the leg loops — making it hard to layer with — and its lack of ice clipper slots. These factors take away from its versatility, but we still like this harness for most rock climbing endeavors.
Weight (size small): 11.6 ounces | Designed for: Sport, Trad
REASONS TO BUY
Lots of padding in the waist belt and legs
Rigid gear loops make clipping easy
REASONS TO AVOID
The waist belt is not very breathable
An iteration of a harness that Black Diamond has been selling for years, the Black Diamond Momentum does not disappoint. It's a versatile, all-around model that is comfortable, adjustable, and inexpensive. It has Black Diamond's unique trakFIT adjustable leg loops, which provide a bit of adjustability but still the security of a fixed-leg system. The plastic-covered gear loops are rigid and stick out from the waist belt for easy clipping and unclipping, and there is a sturdy haul loop in the back.
The Momentum has a thickly padded waist belt, which is excellent for hanging belays, but not so great on warm days. We always found ourselves with a sweaty back in this one and something you certainly should keep in mind if you regularly climb in hot weather or tropical climates. Other than that, this affordable model is an excellent buy for a new climber who wants a guaranteed all-around versatile harness or for a seasoned rope climber looking to save money.
Weight (size small): 12 ounces | Designed for: Sport
REASONS TO BUY
Breathable and lightweight
REASONS TO AVOID
Leg loops aren't adjustable
While we don't love every harness that Black Diamond is currently making — we're looking at you, Technician — we'll admit we do love the Black Diamond Solution for both trad and sport climbing. The Solution is lightweight and breathable, and it is surprisingly comfortable considering the minimal amount of padding. The load is dispersed throughout the waist belt and leg loops via three different strands of thin webbing so that you never feel a pressure point in one spot only. The elastic on the leg loops have great stretch and mobility, and they are tapered just the right amount for where they pass through your thighs.
Speaking of the leg loops, they have some stretch but are not adjustable. If you have larger or smaller thighs relative to your waist, the Solution may not fit you well. And while it felt great while hangdogging and giving our friends epic belays, it wouldn't be our first choice for a Grade V with hanging belays. However, if single-pitch cragging is your jam, either sport or trad, you'll appreciate the lightweight nature of this harness and the surprising level of comfort that it provides.
Senior Review Editor Jane Jackson has spent years hanging around big walls and crags all over the world. From multi-day journeys up El Capitan in Yosemite to multi-hour belay sessions in Siurana, Spain, she has experienced the value of a comfortable harness and the downsides of an ill-fitting one. At the moment, Jane is based in Bishop, California, where her trad climbing routes are being challenged by the extensive amount of world-class bouldering that exists right out of town. That said, she put these harnesses to the test on long trad routes in Yosemite and sport climbing sessions in the Owen's River Gorge.
The models in this review are our favorites from the dozens of women's specific harnesses available online. After months of testing out this year's top models, paying attention to comfort, versatility, adjustability, and discipline-specific features, we have ended up with a comprehensive review that should guide you toward the harness of your belay-duty dreams!
Analysis and Test Results
This review focuses on women's specific harnesses for rock, gym, aid, and ice climbing. Some are built for ultralight alpine missions while others offer lots of loops for maximal comfort. To objectively compare each in our testing, we rate them on hanging comfort, standing comfort, features, versatility, and adjustability. This article offers advice and compares each product in-depth.
The women's climbing harnesses that we tested in this review had a pretty significant price range. What do you get from an expensive one that you don't from a budget option? Sometimes not much! Some of the "cheaper" models might not have the most complicated waist belt designs, meaning that they might not distribute the load well or be comfortable for prolonged hanging. The high-value Black Diamond Momentum performs the best of all lower-priced options and is functional for all types of climbing. The Edelrid Jayne II is another lower-cost model, but it falls below in performance for its bulkier and less functional rear loop. This one is better for the beginner that plans to climb only occasionally.
We've given comfort a big part of our rating metric but split it between standing and hanging. Why? While the hanging comfort is key, unless you're always stuck at hanging belays, you'll likely spend more time standing around, belaying, or sitting down in your harness at the crag than you will be hanging in it. Since most climbers don't want to take it off after every pitch, we need it to be comfortable all the time.
A Note Fit for Women's Specific Models
Most manufacturers make several women's specific models to choose from; some even have a women's version of every men's model in their line-up. Whether you need a "women's" model depends on how your body is proportioned, and also what the manufacturer has deemed is the typical female climber's form (and they seem to all have different ideas of what that is). Don't be afraid to try on some men's or unisex versions when shopping - while you may prefer the more "girly" styling on the female options, fit should come first and foremost when buying this essential piece of gear. In the rest of this article, we'll cover how the various models fared in our test metrics, as well as discuss what to consider when looking for an affordable model.
The models that ranked the highest in this metric were (not surprisingly) the lightweight and minimalist ones. We like the Black Diamond Solution best for standing comfort. We like the leg loops on the Solution, which are wide in the back but taper between the legs for minimal bulk in that area.
Another top model for standing comfort was the Arc'teryx AR-385a. It was lightweight and breathable, making it less noticeable and more comfortable throughout the day. Some were also easy to wear under a pack and hike around in, and we preferred the Arc'teryx model when hiking or scrambling with our harness on.
We don't love the waist belt on the Petzl models and find that the wider waistband digs into us in the wrong places if we try to wear them on our waists. Those ladies that wear theirs a little lower and around their hips might find it more comfortable.
This metric is often the dealbreaker when purchasing a new harness. It may look and feel great on, but if hanging in it doesn't feel right, you should move on to the next model. As manufacturers move to lighter and more intricate designs, often the padding is left by the wayside. We typically need some padding to soften the weight of our bodies against the harness's frame. It is no surprise that the models with more padding scored higher in this metric than the ones without.
The Black Diamond Solution Guide and Black Diamond Momentum were our favorites for hanging comfort. Those harnesses had ample padding and support, and no weird features that dug into or pinched us.
You might think that this metric is only important for people doing long multi-pitch routes with hanging belays, but sport climbers tend to spend a fair amount of time hanging in their harness as well, so this is a key consideration for most climbers. We also like the hanging comfort of the sporty Black Diamond Solution.
Typically, a climbing harness holds 70% of your weight on the leg loops and only 30% on the waist. So while manufacturers tout the comfort of the waist belt above all, you want to be sure the legs are just as comfortable, if not more so. The Arc'teryx AR-385a harness is comfortable in the waist, but the leg loops pinched our thighs and dug into the back of our bum, which is anything but pleasant.
The Black Diamond Technician also has a comfortable waist belt, but the leg loops have too much webbing and not enough support, and we felt pinched by them. The Black Diamond Solution Guide performs well in this metric because of its wide waistband and well-padded, stiff leg loops. This is an excellent option for multi-pitch and trad.
Climbing gear shops typically have a clip-in point that you can use to do your own hang-test before making a purchase. This is a crucial test, as our own testing has shown that what might feel good while standing and walking around in a store will not necessarily feel good when hanging.
This rating metric looked at what type of climbing each model was designed for, and how well its features work for those disciplines. Some models have a ton of features (ice clipper slots, extra gear loops, etc.). If you are looking for a sport harness and don't want or need all of those extras, but you do want something lightweight with easily accessible gear loops, consider the feature set.
For a traditional-only harness, we thought the Black Diamond Solution had the best features, including wide gear loops, an easy-to-use haul loop, and a waist belt built for hanging belays. We could rack it full of gear and quickdraws, and still had room for our descent shoes, anchoring gear, and belay setups.
Those looking for a sport harness will appreciate the gear loops and minimalist design of the Black Diamond Solution. It's lightweight but can still carry a ton of draws, unlike the Petzl Selena, with its hard-to-reach rear gear loops. We did like the plastic protector found on some harnesses, like the Edelrid Jayne II. It prevents wear in a hard-to-see spot and should help increase the longevity of your harness.
We can't say that there was ever a time that we felt very limited by the material or structure of the models that we were testing — these are not the climbing harnesses that were old, bulky, and confining. Instead, all of the models have movement and fluidity built into their design.
Where we would pay particular attention to this metric is if we were looking for a climbing harness that we were going to use mostly for alpine adventures; say a season in the High Sierras in California. Since much of the climbing there often involves scrambling in between technical pitches without a lot of hanging belays, we'd want a harness that is lightweight, minimalist, easy to move around in, and comfortable under a pack — like the AR-385a.
Versatility is an important metric for anyone who likes to do a lot of different types of climbing, or for someone new to the sport who is not sure what style they like best and wants to try it all. It's also a key consideration for those of us who don't have a lot of money to spend on gear and would prefer to own only one harness and have some more money to spend on a set of cams or quickdraws.
The most versatile climbing harnesses that we tested were the all-around models, like the Black Diamond Technician, Edelrid Jayne II, and the Arc'teryx AR-385a. All of these models can do pretty much everything, and they do it well. Note that the Petzl Luna no longer has ice clipper slots, since the new Caritool Evo from Petzl clips around the entire waist belt.
The Black Diamond Momentum is slightly less versatile, as it does not have ice clipper slots, but it's still suited to traditional or sport climbing.
Our final rating metric evaluated how adjustable each model was to accommodate different layers of clothing as well as different body types. This is a key consideration if you plan on climbing in various climates, and if your proportions are not what the manufacturer has deemed to be "standard" or "average."
The Arc'teryx AR-385a has adjustable leg loops that can accommodate a 4-6 inch difference in leg circumference. Adjustable legs allow us to wear the same harness to the gym in leggings one day and out on an ice climb over long underwear and softshell pants the next.
It's no surprise that the models with adjustable leg loops scored higher in this metric than the ones without, but not all adjustable leg loops are created equal. We want something that still provides padding around most of our thighs whenever possible. The Black Diamond Technician does not. The Technician has less leg loop and more webbing, which made it uncomfortable to hang in.
While adjustable leg loops add more weight to a climbing harness — the adjustable Petzl Luna weighs about two ounces more than the non-adjustable but similar Petzl Selena — that difference is pretty minimal, all things considered. The Black Diamond Momentum has a trakFIT closure that combines the functionality of an adjustable leg loop with the lighter weight of a fixed one. There is a sliding buckle that can tighten or loosen the fixed loop with elastic attached underneath it for stretch. While we like this system, it does not offer as much adjustability as a buckle system (2-3 inches instead of 4-6).
A harness is a necessity for all climbers; the fact that it can keep you alive makes the decision-making process that much harder. It is crucial to find a model that fits not only your climbing style but also your build. We hope that you were able to use the information in this review to make an informed decision about the type of harness you need.
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