A climbing harness can quite literally save your life. From top roping in the gym to remote alpine expeditions, harnesses are an essential part of every climber’s kit.
Just like running or cycling, climbing is divided up into many different subdisciplines and activities. Though all of these disciplines consist of moving upward on steep terrain, they’re each unique and require different kinds of gear.
The ideal harness for a sport climber probably won’t be the best choice for an ice climber or aid climber. Similarly, the best harness for a beginner may not meet the needs of a more experienced climber.
On this list of the best climbing harnesses of 2023, we’ve included our favorites in a wide variety of categories. From novice climbers to trad masters, our list will include an option that suits your climbing needs.
At the end of the list, we’ve also included a comprehensive buyer’s guide that breaks down all of the factors you should consider when looking for the right climbing harness along with a chart for easy comparison.
The Best Climbing Harnesses of 2023
- Best Overall Climbing Harness: Petzl Sama & Selena
- Best Budget Climbing Harness: Edelrid Moe
- Best Sport Climbing Harness: Wild Country Mosquito Harness
- Best Trad and Multi-pitch Climbing Harness: Black Diamond Solution Guide
- Best Big-Wall and Aid Climbing Harness: Misty Mountain Titan
- Best Lightweight Mountaineering Harness: Blue Ice Choucas Light
Petzl Sama & Selena
- Weight 14.8 oz. (medium)
- Best for Sport climbing, top-roping, all-around use
- Key features Highly padded waist and leg loops
- On the heavier side
- Not the most breathable
- Weight 11.5 oz. (medium)
- Best for All-around climbing (sport, trad, ice, etc.)
- Key features Center Fit technology (adjustable belay loop positioning), ice clipper slots
- Customizable fit
- Not very breathable
Wild Country Mosquito
- Weight 9.2 oz (medium)
- Best for Redpointing sport routes
- Key features Lightweight gear loops, breathable waist loop
- Relatively comfortable
- Minimal storage space on gear loops
Black Diamond Solution Guide
- Weight 14 oz. (medium)
- Best for Trad climbing
- Key features Fifth gear loop for extra gear, abrasion-resistant “Super Fabric"
- Lots of gear storage for trad climbing
- Good value
- Lacks ice clipper slots
Misty Mountain Titan
- Weight 22.4 oz. (medium)
- Best for Big-wall climbing, route development
- Key features Six gear loops, rated haul loop, dual belay loops, removable leg loops
- Highly supportive
- Not ideal for free climbing
Blue Ice Choucas Light
- Weight 3.1 oz. (medium)
- Best for Mountaineering
- Key features Ice clipper slots, two small gear loops, detachable leg loops
- Extremely light
- Uncomfortable for prolonged hanging
- Minimal gear storage
Metolius Safe Tech All-Around Harness
- Weight 1 lb. 2 oz. (medium)
- Best for Trad and big wall climbing
- Key features Dual belay loops, weight-bearing belay loops
- Extra belay loop comes in handy in certain multi pitch situations
Climbing Harness Comparison Chart
|Harness||Weight||Best for||Key Features|
|Petzl Sama||14.6 oz.||Sport climbing, top-roping, all-around use||Highly padded waist and leg loops|
|Petzl Selena||14.8 oz.||Sport climbing, top-roping, all-around use||Highly padded waist and leg loops|
|Edelrid Moe||11.5 oz.||All-around climbing (sport, trad, ice, etc.)||Center Fit technology (adjustable belay loop positioning), ice clipper slots|
|Wild Country Mosquito||9.2 oz.||Redpointing sport routes||Lightweight gear loops, breathable waist loop|
|Black Diamond Solution Guide||14 oz.||Trad climbing||Fifth gear loop for extra gear, abrasion-resistant “Super Fabric”|
|Misty Mountain Titan||1 lb., 8.4 oz.||Big wall climbing, route development||Six gear loops, rated haul loop, dual belay loops, removable leg loops|
|Blue Ice Choucas Light||3.1 oz.||Mountaineering||Two zippered front pockets, zippered thigh pocket|
|Metolius Safe Tech Harness||1 lb., 2 oz.||Trad and big wall climbing||Dual belay loops, weight-bearing belay loops|
Why You Should Trust Us
To gather this list of the best climbing harnesses, the GearJunkie team put dozens of models through months of active testing and close observation.
While we made sure to test established models from major brands such as Black Diamond and Petzl, we also tested harnesses from smaller up-and-coming brands. We looked at popular long-standing models and 2023 season newcomers with equal discerning attention. With every harness, we assessed comfort, weight, durability, gear storage, and overall value.
Much of the testing took place on the crags near Salt Lake City, Utah, and Lander, Wyoming — from sharp limestone sport routes to slick granite multi pitch. We sport climbed in the gym and loaded harnesses down with triple racks in Indian Creek. We also tested harnesses on the big walls of Yosemite Valley.
Many climbing harnesses are designed for a specific climbing discipline. During our testing, we aimed to use harnesses for their intended use and judge their quality accordingly. For example, we used the Black Diamond Solution Guide for trad climbing and compared it to other styles in its class.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Climbing Harness
Before you purchase a climbing harness, it’s important to understand your needs as a climber.
Different harnesses are designed for different climbing applications. While any harness made by a reputable manufacturer is built to keep you safe, a carefully selected harness will offer much more than basic safety.
It’s important to select a harness designed for the kind of climbing you plan to do. For example, heavily padded harnesses are great for aid climbers or route developers, but they will be too heavy and bulky for casual sport climbing.
Similarly, a harness with tons of gear loops may be a good choice for big-wall trad climbing, but it may not be necessary for ski mountaineering. Our list of recommendations includes various types of harnesses, and our buyer’s guide can help you understand the differences between them.
Entry-Level and All-Around Harnesses
Climbing harnesses designed for all-around use are the most beginner-friendly. Instead of specializing in one specific discipline, all-around harnesses include features that apply broadly to multiple climbing styles.
For beginner climbers, these harnesses are a comfortable and affordable tool that allows for the exploration of different kinds of climbing. On this list, we recommend the Edelrid Moe and the Petzl Sama/Selena as excellent entry-level options.
While these models aren’t ultralight or packed with high-tech features, they’re perfect for top-roping at the gym, learning to lead outside, or venturing up your first multipitch route.
Harnesses built for sport climbing are lightweight, low profile, and performance-oriented. All-around harnesses can absolutely be used for sport climbing too. However, they tend to be bulkier and heavier than most experienced sport climbers prefer.
Because harness weight is a consideration for this climbing discipline, sport climbing harnesses tend to have minimal metal buckles and fixed leg loops. Also, sport climbing harnesses commonly feature split webbing construction instead of a single piece of webbing covered in bulky foam.
Gear storage is not a major priority for sport climbing harnesses, and they usually come with either two or four scaled-down gear loops.
High-end sport harnesses should be considered a specialty piece of gear. They’re great for redpoint burns and projecting, but we don’t recommend them to climbers seeking versatility. The harnesses we recommend in this category is the Petzl Sama and the Wild Country Mosquito.
Trad climbers regularly carry a hefty rack of cams, nuts, and other gear via the gear loops on their harnesses. Compared to an entry-level or sport climbing harness, trad-specific models tend to have at least four large gear loops.
Whether you’re single-pitch cragging or multipitching, trad climbing often involves physical climbing techniques including crack climbing and chimneying. A trad harness should be durable enough to hold up to these rugged sub-disciplines.
Because trad climbing commonly does involve multipitch routes, you’ll also want a model comfortable enough for all-day use. While sitting in a hanging belay, you’ll be glad to have wide and well-padded waist and leg loops.
A rear haul loop is a helpful feature too. Even if you don’t use it to haul a load, it can be a great place to clip a water bottle or a pair of approach shoes. On this list, the trad climbing harnesses we recommend are the Black Diamond Solution Guide and the Metolius Safe Tech Trad.
Alpine climbing often involves long approaches, long multipitch routes, tricky protection, and less-than-ideal rock quality. An alpine climbing harness offers most of the same features as a trad climbing harness. The key difference is that alpine harnesses typically include features geared toward glacier travel and ice/mixed climbing.
In addition to at least four large gear loops, alpine harnesses usually have ice clipper slots, which are helpful for carrying ice screws. When traveling in the alpine, you’ll likely experience severe temperature fluctuations in a single day. Adjustable leg loops can expand to accommodate additional lower body layers when necessary.
Most alpine climbers aim to move light and fast, so many harnesses in this category are streamlined and packable. On our list, the best alpine harness is the Blue Ice Choucas.
Big-wall climbing harnesses are all about comfort, gear storage, and support. For most people, big wall climbing is a slow and laborious process that involves a whole lot of hanging around in a harness.
Compared to any other type of harness, the waist and leg loops on a big wall model are extremely padded and burly. A true big wall harness has two belay loops, at least four large gear loops, and a load-bearing haul loop.
Though these beefy harnesses aren’t ideal for other styles of climbing, they’re an essential item for slogging up the wall in true big-wall style. On this list, we recommend the Misty Mountain Titan for big-wall climbing.
Of all the categories of climbing harnesses, mountaineering models are the most lightweight. Most of the time, mountaineering involves lots of walking, hiking, and low-angle climbing on snow and ice. For this reason, these harnesses need to be comfortable for walking in and also need to be easy to put on and take off.
Removable leg loops are a great feature for ski mountaineering specifically. Because falling is generally not a safe option in a mountaineering setting, these harnesses are not padded to comfortably cushion a fall. Sure, these harnesses can safely catch you, but it isn’t going to feel good.
Minimalism is the name of the game with mountaineering harnesses, and they tend to be less expensive than more feature-packed styles. On this list, the mountaineering harness we recommend is the Blue Ice Choucas.
Parts of a Climbing Harness
The basic parts of every climbing harness are the waist loop, leg loops, belay loop, and gear loops. Every harness on our list includes these fundamental features, no matter which climbing discipline it’s designed for. Beyond the essentials, harnesses may also have additional features such as a haul loop and ice clipper slots.
Waist and Leg Loops
The waist loop of a climbing harness should fit snugly around your waist and sit just above your hip bones. Most waist loops can be adjusted using a system of webbing and buckles. Many harnesses come with a similar buckle adjustment system on each leg loop.
Harnesses with fixed leg loops are usually built for high-end sport climbing. It’s very important that your waist and leg loops fit properly, and we recommend trying a harness on before purchasing.
The belay loop is made of very strong nylon or Dyneema webbing and connects the waist loop to the leg loops. While belaying or rappelling, this loop is used to attach yourself to the rope and the greater climbing system.
Lightweight harnesses for sport climbing or mountaineering will have thinner belay loops, while all-around and trad climbing harnesses will have thicker loops. Many big-wall harnesses, like the Misty Mountain Titan, include two belay loops for extra versatility. Because your belay loop is a key part of the climbing system, you should check it regularly for wear.
Every harness will include at least two gear loops where you can conveniently hang items including quickdraws, cams, a jacket, a water bottle, and so on. The more gear-intensive and technical the climbing, the more gear loops you’ll need.
A harness with fewer than four gear loops is a specialty item and is probably designed for high-end sport climbing or mountaineering. Most all-around and entry-level harnesses come with four gear loops, which is plenty for gym climbing and single-pitch climbing.
For multipitch climbing, the addition of a fifth gear loop or haul loop is often useful. Big wall climbing requires lots of gear, and many big-wall harnesses have more than four gear loops.
A haul loop is a small attachment point located at the back of a climbing harness. This feature is not necessary for gym climbing or single-pitch climbing.
For multipitch or big-wall climbing, look for a haul loop rated to full strength so you can use it to haul heavy loads. While actively climbing, a haul loop can be a convenient place to store an extra layer or a water bottle.
Ice Clipper Slots
Harnesses with ice clipper slots are specifically designed for ice climbing. They’re primarily used to carry ice screws.
Materials and Construction
As of 2023, climbing harnesses have evolved into lightweight, comfortable, and exceptionally strong pieces of gear. Still, as new materials and technology come to the forefront, harnesses continue to improve. In today’s market, there are two primary types of harness construction: foam and split webbing.
Foam harnesses are built on a single piece of high-strength webbing embedded in layers of cushy foam. While the webbing gives this kind of harness its load-bearing ability, the foam provides support and comfort.
A well-constructed foam harness effectively disperses your weight while falling or hanging. Foam offers ample padding, and it is still the standard for harnesses built for comfort, including most entry-level and big-wall harnesses. On this list, the Petzl Sama and Selena are great foam harnesses.
However, foam and webbing construction does have some disadvantages. Foam is an insulator and does not breathe well. In warm weather, these harnesses can feel hot and sweaty.
Foam also wears out over time, and the more you climb in it, the less comfortable it will become. For experienced sport and trad climbers, foam harnesses are no longer the best option on the market.
Split Webbing Harnesses
Though foam and webbing harnesses have been the standard for several decades, more and more climbers are turning to split webbing harnesses.
Instead of a single piece of webbing covered by foam, split webbing harnesses feature a web-like matrix of high-strength materials. By spreading out the load-bearing materials, these harnesses are able to distribute pressure more evenly.
On split webbing harnesses, very little padding is required to create a comfortable fit. Split webbing harnesses tend to last longer than foam options, and many climbers find they offer a comfort advantage too.
The tradeoff is split webbing harnesses are considerably more expensive. However, split webbing is clearly the future of harness technology, and many of our favorite harnesses fit into this category. The Black Diamond Solution Guide is a high-quality split webbing harness.
It’s very important that your climbing harness is properly fitted. Ultimately, the best way to find a good fit is to try a harness on before purchasing. Every harness and every person has a unique shape and dimensions, and the process of identifying the perfect match can involve some trial and error.
A properly fitted harness will feel snug and sit just above the hips. The harness should be tight but not uncomfortably so. It’s okay to be able to fit a finger or two between your body and the harness.
The leg loops should sit semi-snugly around your mid-thigh. It’s good to maintain a little wiggle room in your leg loops, as they can cut off circulation if they are too tight. While all harnesses include adjustable waist loops, not all include adjustable leg loops.
If you plan to climb in alpine conditions where you’ll need to change your lower body layers often, adjustable and/or removable leg loops are a must. Leg loops come with thin elastic straps that attach to the waist loop along the backside of the thighs. These are often releasable for easy bathroom breaks.
Depending on what kind of climbing you do — and how often you do it — a harness can last anywhere from a few months to multiple years. Because sport climbing tends to involve less contact between your harness and the rock, sport harnesses can be relatively thin.
Trad and aid climbing involve techniques such as offwidth and chimneying, which require direct contact between your body and the rock. Most trad and aid harnesses are made from burly materials. For example, the Black Diamond Solution Guide is built with an extra abrasion-resistant outer material.
Though the ultralight innovations sweeping the climbing market are exciting, it’s important to remember lighter materials do generally come with a decrease in durability. If you choose to buy a super low-profile model, you should also be aware it probably won’t last as long as more robust options.
When to Retire Your Harness
Just like a climbing rope, a harness should be regularly inspected for signs of wear. Pay extra attention to the weight-bearing components, including the tie-in points, belay loop, waist loop, and leg loops. Look carefully for fraying, fuzziness, or any signs of abrasions. The belay loop or tie-in points are usually the first parts of a harness to wear out.
If you’re not sure whether your harness needs to be retired, look up the manufacturer’s instructions for care and maintenance. Generally, we advise conservative decisions regarding whether a harness is still safe to use. If you have doubts about the condition of your harness, purchase a replacement.
Whether you’re wearing it or hauling it in your pack, you’re going to spend a lot of time carrying your harness around. Lightweight harnesses are generally associated with increased performance.
For entry-level climbers, weight is not as important as comfort. However, for climbers working to push themselves and improve — especially in the sport climbing discipline — minimal weight is preferred.
Though lightweight harnesses work great for sport climbing and mountaineering, other disciplines call for something a little heavier. Big wall harnesses with their numerous gear loops and maximal comfort are rightfully heavy.
On this list, we’ve included incredibly light harnesses like the Wild Country Mosquito, which weighs 9.2 ounces. On the other end of the spectrum, we also recommend the thick and burly Misty Mountain Titan, which weighs a whopping 22.4 ounces.
Climbing harnesses vary significantly in price, and it’s a good idea to determine your budget as you shop around. Generally, entry-level and all-around harnesses are the most affordable, and good options are available for around $60.
Mountaineering harnesses tend to be on the cheaper side too, as they’re minimal and don’t boast fancy features or elaborate construction. On the more expensive end of the spectrum, top-of-the-line sport climbing harnesses can cost well over $150.
Men’s and Women’s Harnesses
While some harnesses are designed specifically for men or women, many styles on the market are not labeled as such. On this list, the Petzl Sama and Selena are examples of two harnesses essentially the same in terms of materials and features, but each caters to a specific gender.
Compared to men’s harnesses, women’s styles often have a longer rise between the waist loop and leg loops as well as other minor differences. On this list, there are also multiple harness options that are not gender-specific, including the Wild Country Mosquito.
The best climbing harness is the one that suits your current and future needs as a climber. If you’re just starting out, look for a harness that fits well and feels comfortable, as comfort is the top priority for beginners.
There are many types of climbing and many kinds of climbers. Choosing the perfect harness may require some patience and trial and error.
Like all load-bearing climbing gear, harnesses are rated and certified to hold a certain force, measured in kilonewtons (kN). To make a long explanation about forces and materials short, climbing harnesses are plenty strong to handle various climbing scenarios, including falls.
All climbers should be aware only certain parts of the harness are certified. In climbing systems, we rely on the strength of the belay loop, tie-in points, and waist loop. Some harnesses, like the Metolius Safe Tech, also include rated haul loops and gear loops.
A worn-out harness can lose its strength, and it’s important to routinely check your harness and other climbing gear for signs of wear.
Depending on the type and frequency of use, climbing harnesses can last anywhere from a few months to multiple years. Generally, harnesses with more durable materials and a bulkier build will last longer than ultralight and low-profile options, though many factors make it difficult to predict the lifespan of a climbing harness.
We consider all of the harnesses on this list to offer an appropriate amount of comfort for their intended application. With that said, most climbing harnesses are not as comfortable as a pair of sweatpants — it’s usually a relief to remove your harness at the end of a climbing session.
On this list, some harnesses, including the Misty Mountain Titan, are built for comfort and offer more support while hanging or belaying. Other options, like the ultralight Wild Country Mosquito, are less padded and quickly become uncomfortable while sitting or hanging.
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