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Published Mar. 15, 2021

In life, you’re bound to face a few roadblocks that you must surmount to find success — but few are as literal as when scaling the side of a cliff. Rock climbing is a time-honored way to challenge yourself and grow both personally and physically. Sure, you might not be living out the plot of Vertical Limit, but since it takes only 48 feet for a fall to be lethal, a quality harness is important no matter what. Maybe you’re on track to long-haul it up K2, but even if you’re starting with a lower-key adventure like Mount Hood, you need the right equipment. A harness supports your body and balances your weight, tethering you to safety while you ascend and descend. To actually work, it must be comfortable, fit properly, and, above all else, be secure.

We’ve tracked down the best rock climbing harnesses around to make it easy for you to find the perfect fit. Let’s get to it.

If you’re looking to break into the world of rock climbing, the Black Diamond Momentum Harness is a fantastic place to start. Coming complete with everything you need to take up the sport, it includes a sturdy rock climbing harness, carabiner, and belaying supplies. The set even features climbing chalk to help you keep a grip on the rock surfaces. Working for both indoor and outdoor climbing situations, it is capable of supporting substantial weight. The harness comes in a whole host of sizes, so you can easily find one to fit properly. Since there are four separate loops, it is really secure, but it’s also very important to choose the correct size. Provided you consult the sizing chart prior to pulling the trigger, this harness is a great way to go. Whether you’re exploring an indoor climbing wall or planning to haul yourself up a cliff face, this harness is worth bringing along.

If you are working within a budget, the Weanas Thicken Rock Climbing Harness is worth a look. Despite coming at a friendly price point, this harness is sturdy and powerful. Capable of supporting up to 650 pounds, it can withstand an impact force of 22 kilonewtons. It is structured to spread out your weight evenly, keeping you comfortable while you climb. It is built to keep you agile, avoiding restriction of your motion, yet also giving the support you need. The adjustable design fits well on all waist sizes (between 20 and 46 inches). With multiple support loops, the padded interior of this harness lends support, making it well-suited for longer rides. Though it isn’t suited for indoor climbing, the buckle structure makes it a terrific candidate for outdoor climbs.

The AmazeFan Rock Climbing Harness is built with a focus on safety, with all aspects of its structure designed to support a lot of weight. It can handle climbers up to 650 pounds without strain. Plus, since it features a padded waist belt, it is gentle on the skin. Since chafing can result from awkwardly fitting straps, the added support is really helpful. In terms of the loops, it connects through reinforced attachments that won’t tear or fray even when under stress. A one-size-fits-all model, this harness can adjust to accommodate adults with waists between 30 and 53 inches. So long as your legs are between 19 and 30 inches, the harness should fit properly. Certified for use both indoors and outdoors, this harness is one of the most versatile selections out there. With everything from lumbar support to durable materials, it has everything you could want from a harness.

For experienced climbers looking to take the next step, the X Xben Professional Climbing Harness is a quality option. It focuses less on the comfort features, with limited padding built into the structure. However, what it lacks in the cushion, it makes up for in tensile strength. Capable of supporting up to 650 pounds, the breaking force of this harness is an impressive 15 kilonewtons. Since the impact force increases as you climb higher (due to the factor of gravity), this harness lets you climb to impressive heights. It is made to fit any waist between just under 20 inches and just over 51 inches. Everything from the legs to the main belt is adjustable, making this rock climbing harness very secure. Featuring a belay loop at a spot meant to distribute weight evenly, this climbing harness is great for serious climbers.

Particularly for those with a taste for adventure, the Oumers Rock Climbing Harness is a handy piece of equipment to have around. It works for practical everyday purposes like cutting tree branches yet performs excellently during rock climbing and rappelling. A half-body design, this protective harness is able to support up to 650 pounds. The tensile strength extends to a full 15 kilonewtons, letting you climb in safety and comfort. With user-friendly adjustable straps, this harness is easy to control so that you can focus on the climb. All parts are made out of high-grade polymer, built to withstand wear and tear, prevent frays, and limit risk. A secure option for those of all experience levels, this harness makes rock climbing safer.

Why should you trust us

The most common types of rock climbing harnesses

Keeping yourself secure while you’re climbing involves selecting the right equipment. Every ascent is unique — even if you are going up the same route twice, ice and rock shift. When you’re out on that cliff, the last thing you want is to worry about your safety — all your attention should be on the climb. Picking out the right harness is the first step. 

Sports harnesses

This type of harness is meant for indoor use, mainly on rock climbing walls you can find in the gym. These are usually fairly basic and, because you won’t be climbing very high, it doesn’t need as much tensile strength. Usually, this results in a thin belay and only two gear loops. 

Most of these harnesses incorporate either an automatic or double waist buckle, making it easier to take off and put on. Generally, these don’t include leg adjustment components. Instead, they will feature an elastic material that’s more forgiving. Because of the design, these are only suited for practice climbs and should not be used outdoors. 

Traditional harnesses

These harnesses have been on the market for quite some time, and referred to colloquially as trad harnesses. Meant for sporting activities, it optimizes the space while remaining comfortable. Featuring adjustable loops for the legs that are controlled with buckles, you can find them with either double back or manual attachments. 

You can spot one of these harnesses through its four (or more) loops, meant to accommodate all your climbing gear. They also feature more cushioning to support you while spending long periods in the harness. While there is a haul loop for extra rope and lumbar support, these are not sufficient for more advanced climbs. 

Mountaineering harnesses 

The ideal rock climbing harnesses are sturdy and supportive, meant to facilitate even the most advanced excursions. They are designed to be light and adjustable, letting you focus on the climb. There will be four (or fewer) loops so you can streamline your gear without interfering with a climbing pack. 

Made out of relatively thin fabric, these harnesses are easy to wear for long periods though are quick to take off during breaks. Typically, they will incorporate a smaller belay loop to reduce your weight and incorporate a supplemental loop for extra rope. Though this type is meant for heavy-duty climbs, you still must check the weight threshold and breakaway force. 

What to look for when buying a rock climbing harness

When it comes time to assess the merit of your rock climbing harness, there are a few important things to suss out. First, figure out where you are planning to climb and ensure that you get a harness of the right type. It’s better to start small and work your way up to that K2 climb, but even the most basic models must have these features:

  • Gear loops: This is the part of the climbing harness to which you attach your gear via carabiners. Look both at the number of gear loops and the position, as this will indicate how bulky the harness becomes when you’re fully equipped. Typically, harnesses with at least four gear loops are better for rock climbing. 
  • Structural support: The main structure of the harness consists of a central waist belt that connects to leg loops. Together, they support you during the climb by distributing your weight evenly across the harness. The thicker the material, the more comfortable it will be to wear. Keep an eye out for adjustable straps, since these are designed for outdoor climbing.
  • Weight threshold: This is an essential component of any rock climbing harness since it is the measurement of how much it can support. Most models are designed to support at least 650 pounds. It is a matter of both the design and material used in construction. Check the specifications and be sure that the harness is certified for rock climbing.
  • Breakaway force: Though the goal is not to fall, it is always a risk associated with climbing. Because of gravity, the amount of force amplifies the further you fall. The end result is the force placed on the harness. The breakaway force is a measurement of how much impact it can handle before breaking. Usually, it is between 15 and 25 kilonewtons. For more advanced climbs, look for models on the higher end of this spectrum. 

Why do you need a rock climbing harness?

It is impractical (and unsafe) to rock climb without a harness. Sure, some people free climb, but that takes years of experience, not to mention specific terrain. A harness supports your weight during the climb by spreading it out evenly. This prevents strain on the climbing equipment without limiting your range of motion.

Though you can rent climbing harnesses at some spots, getting your own ensures that it meets your specific needs in terms of terrain and size. When you pick a high-quality option (like the models on this list), you can ensure that you are well-equipped to handle a climb whenever the opportunity presents itself. Even if you’re only a casual rock climber, having your own harness offers a lot of benefits, including: 

  • Properly designed harnesses offer substantial lumbar support to keep your back comfortable while you climb. 
  • A good harness keeps you safe while you climb, whether it’s indoors, on a mountain face, or on an ice shelf. 
  • Storage is enhanced by models with more gear loops, letting you store extra rope and climbing chalk. 
  • Picking a quality harness enhances durability especially since, unlike rentals, you are in full control of the wear and tear.
  • When your rock climbing harness fits properly, it lets you climb more comfortably since it limits chafing on the legs. 
  • A rock-climbing harness gives you a full range of motion while you climb, letting you reach new heights without causing your body strain. 

Pricing ranges for rock climbing harness

  • Under $50: If you are new to the sport of rock climbing, you can get a good starter harness in this price range. The more basic design is meant for shorter climbs that usually take place indoors. 
  • Over $50: Those planning to climb outside should look at this price range. Typically, these are padded, have lumbar support, and are geared towards longer ascents.

How we chose our top picks

The path to finding the best rock climbing harnesses involved tracking down reliable sources about the sport. We researched the different types of ascents, ranging from indoor rock walls to mountain faces, and sought out harnesses that work in a variety of settings. Armed with these details, we generated a shortlist of candidates. From there, we looked at the design, materials, and features of each option before finalizing a list of the top climbing harnesses for any budget.  Rock climbing is all about knowing and challenging your limits and this article is designed to help you find the tools you need to achieve this goal

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