petzl kid climbing harness

First Look: Petzl ‘Macchu’ Kid Climbing Harness System

Kids are natural climbers. When mine started to scramble up the hallway door jamb at home I knew they were ready to hit the gym. But kids have different anatomy than adults, and they need different gear — they are disproportionately top-heavy and have narrow hips, meaning children climbing in adult harnesses are prone to flipping over in a fall.

petzl kid climbing harness

For this reason, it’s important that small children use a body harness, as it raises their center of gravity when climbing with a rope. It’s unfortunate that a lot of body harnesses are like climbing into a cat’s cradle, leaving a wreckage of webbing trailing out of every buckle.

When I saw Petzl’s form-fitting Macchu harness and Body shoulder strap I knew my kids needed to test it out. Here’s our first look.

petzl kid climbing harness system


The Gear: Petzl Macchu Harness and Body Shoulder Strap (available now; $80 for the package).

Where to test It: Climbing gyms and crags (top-roping).

Made For: Preschoolers to junior climbers.

Boring But Important: It’s critical that we differentiate the two items here: The Macchu is a seat harness; the Body is a chest harness that raises the child’s center of gravity when paired with a seat harness. The Body should never be used by itself.

Seat Harness: The Macchu is a mini version of a model in Petzl’s adult harness line. It has a padded waist and leg loops, gear loops, and dual front buckles. A double-webbing design spreads the load over the straps rather than focusing it over a single band. Its ergonomic cut is wider on the sides, narrower in the front and back.

Shoulder Harness: The Body is a simple vest with adjustable, double-back shoulder straps. The backside is padded for a comfortable fit. Two tie-in points on front feed the rope to the harness and help keep a child upright in a fall. (The Body is sold separately; if you own a child’s seat harness from another brand, I’d recommend purchasing the Body to balance a current harness.)

Rope Up: To tie in, the rope feeds down through the pairing Body loops and through the two tie-in points on the seat harness, then it ties off above the Body in a figure-eight knot.

Killer! The Macchu is a simple step-in harness and you wear the Body component like a vest. Easy and streamlined on and off. I appreciated the color-emphasized belay loop, which makes it easy for the child to learn how to proof their own rope work.

climbing harness

Flaw: Petzl includes clear and simple graphics in its printed instructions, but I wish they were also printed on the harness. In the least, arrows printed on the Body could help guide which way is up.

First Impressions: Fitting my boy into the Macchu and Body received all sorts of attention. The managers at the gym whispered the merits of upgrading their rental fleet. Other climbers prodded about its specs. It’s a noticeably streamlined system for a kid harness.

Fit & Function: Paired with the Body, the system is form-fitting and secure. I expect to see several copycats over the next few years. My kid could climb freely and safely, and the setup was quick and easy at the base of the climb.

Grow With Your Kid: The Macchu is a high-end children’s seat harness with all the requisite double-backs, gear loops, and padding you need. The two front buckles ensure the harness can always be centered, capable of growing with the child. Indeed, the Macchu grows with your child and their experience — even after they outgrow the Body, the seat harness should usher children into their early ropegun days.

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–Steve Graepel is a contributing editor based in Idaho. Our “First Look” column highlights new gear arrivals at