Black Diamond Solution Guide trad climbing harness

Trad Climbing Armor: Black Diamond Solution Guide Harness Review

The Black Diamond Solution Guide Harness offers support, comfort, and extreme durability in a trad-specific harness.

Climbing brands usually reserve advanced technology in a harness design for high-end sport climbers. As such, these svelte models continue to get lighter, sleeker, and more minimalist.

But when Black Diamond released its trad-oriented Solution Guide Harness last fall, it gave it both tech and materials on par with its sport climbing models. I’ve been testing a sample since its release on multipitch granite in Colorado and single-pitch granite in Texas.

In short: The Black Diamond Solution Guide Harness ($100 for men and women) is well-appointed and extraordinarily durable. It focuses on the needs of trad climbers vying for long multipitch objectives and utilizes materials and technologies to improve comfort and durability.

Black Diamond Solution Guide Harness

Fit and Feel

When I initially put my hands on the Solution Guide, the first word that came to mind was “burly.”

This harness feels stout. The rough texture and stiffness of the SuperFabric used on the exterior felt like armor, and the 3.25-inch-wide waist belt and 3-inch-wide leg loops announced the harness was ready for long days of work.

Black Diamond Solution Guide trad climbing harness mens and womens
Men’s (left) and women’s (right)

Frankly, it had the opposite feel of the harnesses I more commonly test — dainty, flyweight harnesses made to sprint up steep clip ups in a manner of minutes.

Yet all the durable construction and working-class manners didn’t come with a considerable weight penalty. The Solution Guide sample hit the scales at a verified 14 ounces. By comparison, the other trad-oriented harness I was testing, like the Metolius Safe Tech All-Around, tipped the scales at 18 ounces.

Donning the Solution Guide for the first time proved the fit was correct for my 6′ tall, 168-pound frame in climbing jeans. When I tightened the aluminum speed buckle around my 32-inch waist, the harness centered up correctly and the rise felt generous, but not overly so.

The non-adjustable leg loops felt appropriate for my 22.5-inch thighs in climbing jeans and also incorporated a metal clip to drop the loops.

I could feel the stiffness of the SuperFabric on my body, especially in contrast to high-end sport climbing harnesses. But combined with the width of the waist and leg loops, it felt correct for the job: supportive for long days carrying a full array of trad gear on its five gear loops.

Technology

The primary performer in the Solution Guide Harness is SuperFabric. I was familiar with the material from testing motorcycle apparel.

High-end brands apply SuperFabric to surfaces that generally hit the ground first in a crash: shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. And it has always survived my slides on both dirt and tarmac with nothing but surface scratches.

In addition to the SuperFabric, Black Diamond also employed its Fusion Comfort Technology in the Solution Guide. Three strands of triple-weave webbing in the waist belt and leg loops, along with an EVA foam insert, are all encased in a stretchy, woven laminate shell.

This construction technique allows the webbing strands to distribute load and pressure across a larger surface area, with less weight and bulk compared to more straightforward methods.

Black Diamond Solution Guide Harness Review

Comfort and Functionality

The four pressure-molded gear loops and single cord gear loop on the back carried the entirety of my overkill single rack and anchoring supplies outside of my longer runners. The width of the waist loop, combined with the materials and structure, supported the weight of all this gear effectively.

Best of all, the top of the waist loop didn’t roll or suffer concentrated pressure points. At first, I was aware of how extensive and stiff the leg loops were, thanks to my time in softer, minimal sport climbing harnesses. But once climbing began, I ceased to notice.

I appreciated the extra gear loop in the back; it held all the things not required for leading and reduced clutter on the remaining gear loops. A cordelette, lockers, belay device, knife, and other non-essentials logically ended up there.

Epic Abrasion Test

crack climbing trad climbing

Once set, I put the abrasion resistance to the test on the unforgiving, sharp granite of my home trad climbing area in Texas.

My crack climbing style is what you’d expect from a sport climber: terrible. My first lead back from a long-term knee injury was on a multipitch granite route in Colorado, which exponentially magnified my lack of proper crack technique.

This less-than-wise plan resulted in plenty of time hanging in the harness, calming fears, and generally contemplating why I was climbing trad.

These hang-dogging sessions proved the comfort of the Solution Guide. The generous surface area of the waist and leg loops combined with the Fusion Comfort Technology to keep my contact points within the harness happy — even if my mind remained anxious.

Back south, the ugly crack groveling continued. On a single-pitch hand crack, a section opened up into a cavity large enough to crawl into sideways. Instead of extending proper hand and foot jamming, my sport climbing brain reverted to off-width techniques.

With my belayer laughing, I managed to inchworm my way to the top of the route. My shirt and pants gained new holes, and brand-new cams that remained on the gear loops amassed deep scratches.

But the Solution Guide emerged unscathed. And because SuperFabric also covers the tie-in points, I suspect they will never wear through.

The woven inner lining of the Solution Guide has an open texture, and because temperatures during testing remained mild, the Colorado summer and Texas winter didn’t stress breathability much. Still, I suspect the sheer surface area and armored exterior will inhibit the harness’s breathability somewhere when the temperatures and humidity get high.

Conclusions

For long pitches and prolonged days on multipitch trad, the Black Diamond Solution Guide is an excellent choice. The generous dimensions of the waist and leg loops, the Fusion Comfort Technology, and the full array of gear loops tend to the demands of big trad.

Over time, the Solution Guide did soften a bit, but it’s still stiffer than my other harnesses. Overall, I think that’s a good thing for the requirements of multipitch trad. And the armor supplied by SuperFabric ensures a long tenure, even on sporty types like me who struggle up cracks with immense effort and zero style.

Seiji Ishii
By

Seiji Ishii has enjoyed a lifetime of outdoor adventure and sports, from participant and competitor to coach and trainer, and finally as an editorial contributor. His interests have spanned cycling, climbing, motorcycling, backpacking, trail running, and the training involved for all of it. He has also designed outdoor and off-road motorcycling gear. He lives in a wildlife refuge in Wimberley, Texas, with his daughter, itinerant dirt bags, a dog, and a cat. Read more of his musings at seijisays.com.

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