Tips for choosing a harness

How to choose climbing harness

Buying a climbing harness is now no longer difficult - there is a large selection of brands and stores. You just need to spend a little time studying the issue before purchasing so that the item fits and meets the objectives. In this review, we have collected some information that may be useful to you when choosing a harness for mountaineering.

So, there are three main types of climbing harnesses:

Seat harness
Full body harness
Chest harness

Each of these groups has variations according to the type of use. Below we will take a closer look at the types of safety systems and tell you what to look for when choosing and purchasing.

Seat harness (arbor)

This is the most common type, which can be used in almost all mountain disciplines; sport climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, via ferrata, etc. If the harness complies with the standard requirements of EN and UIAA, then in principle there should be no problems with it, except, perhaps, that it fits uncomfortably.

Different manufacturers offer a variety of options optimized for different disciplines. Conventionally, they can be divided into subspec:

Harness for sports rock climbing

For sport climbing

- these harnesses are usually very light and do not have many loops/shelves for hanging equipment. Often found without buckles on the leg loops, since there is no need to adjust the size depending on the amount of clothing. The leg and waist straps are not very wide for lighter weight and greater freedom of movement. This type of harness is ideal for climbing walls and rock climbing in warm weather

Harness for trad climbing and mountaineering

For traditional climbing and mountaineering

– a universal solution for many disciplines. This type of harness always has buckles to adjust the leg loops. Four or more shelves for hanging equipment and wider girths on the waist and legs for comfortable hanging. Often there are two buckles on the waist belt for easy adjustment. Such systems are used in traditional mountaineering, on multi-pitch routes, for training on rocks and on climbing walls

Harness for walls/long routes

For big wall climbing

- these harnesses are usually equipped with a very wide and soft lining. Features a reinforced loop on the back for attaching a loose rope

Harness for rope parks and via ferrata

For rope parks and via ferrata

– do not have extensions on the waist and legs (since there is no need to hang for a long time). The focus is on minimal weight and maximum range of motion. Very easy and quick to adjust to different body types. They have a wide range of sizes. Convenient to use for rope parks, on simple climbs, and canyoning

Harness for ski tour and high altitude climbs

For high altitude mountaineering or ski touring

- these harnesses are not designed to hang, so they have no padding at all. As a rule, they are very light and compact, taking up very little space when folded. Can be put on and taken off without unfastening skis or crampons. In addition, the leg loops are very wide, so you can wear thick pants underneath


Chest harness

Chest harness

Used in addition to the seat harness

The chest harness is designed to prevent a person from turning over during a fall. Normally, adults (especially women), has the center of gravity approximately at the level of the navel. Thus, the likelihood of falling head down during a fall is very low.
However, there are situations when the center of gravity shifts, for example, if a climber is wearing a heavy backpack or a person is not very athletic. Children also have an elevated center of gravity due to physiological characteristics. It is recommended to be used in conjunction with a seat harness to insure children and adults with unathletic build


Full body harness 

This type is mainly used in mountaineering on difficult technical routes, in industrial climbing (works on altitude) and in rope parks. In sport climbing practically not used, since the hanging position is very inconvenient

Full body harness for works at height

For work at height

– heavy systems have wide seals for comfortable hanging. This type of harness is characterized by the presence of several attachment points to the rope (3 or 5) - for correct positioning of the worker

Kids full harness

Children's full body harness


– especially relevant for children under 6-7 years old. Children of this age have a higher center of gravity and less pronounced hips than adults. These facts are worth paying attention to when choosing a harness for your chil

Full body harness

For technical mountaineering

- until recently, some climbers preferred just such harnesses on difficult ascents. It can be uncomfortable to hang inside, but the harness prevents from tipping over during a fall. Shoulder straps prevent the harness from slipping when carrying more equipment. In case of deep and severe falls, it distributes the load on the spine more evenly. Often such harnesses are used in rope parks, where participants do not have special skills

Using the descriptions above, you may find it easier to make the right choice of harness. However, it is worth noting that even within these groups, models from different manufacturers may differ in details. For example, you should also pay attention to:

- Material - breathable or not

- Number of buckles and material of their manufacture. Ultimately, this affects the weight of the entire harness

- Buckle type: classic or quick-adjustable

- Weight and volume in the package – this is very important for high-altitude climbing

- Women's or unisex. Women's harnesses are equipped with a longer safety ring and a different shape of the waist belt

Once you have decided on the type of harness, choose the correct size. As a general rule, the palm should be placed between the body, thigh and leg loop. The belt is worn above the pelvic bone. Buckles should not block the attachment point, but should be able to be adjusted to suit your clothing.
The harness should fit snugly, but not pinch your legs; the belt should fit comfortably to your lower back. When tightening the buckles, there should be sufficient reserve (residue) of the straps for safe use.

Сlimber's library

 Q. Anchoring on rocks with stoppers
 Q. Care and maintenance of climbing gear
 Q. All about carabiners  Q. Day hike checklist
 Q. How to choose climbing harness?  Q. Winter camping: main rules
 Q. Climbing shoes: types, features and use
 Q. Avalanche safety by Alexey Raspopov
 Q. Descenders and belay devices
 Q. Khan Tengri Peak history: first ascent
 Q. How to choose mountain boots  Q. Talgar Peak 5017m climber's checklist