Rock climbing is a fun activity that can be dangerous if you don’t have a properly fitted climbing harness. We hope our guide helped you understand how to fit and test a climbing harness. A climbing harness can be expensive but we recommend thinking of it as investing in your safety. Having good rock climbing gear will enhance the experience and help you to climb safely.
The paragraphs below will help you learn how to put on and test the best climbing harness. While this information may apply to your harness, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions to verify you are being safe. This is a beginner-focused article but we think it will help you understand how to fit and test climbing harnesses.
How to put on a Climbing Harness
- Get the climbing harness and make sure the harness straps are loose enough for you to fit both legs into the loops.
- Next, put your legs into the harness loops and make sure the leg loops aren’t crossing. The belay loop shouldn’t be twisted and the waistbelt shouldn’t be upside down. In the end, the belay loop should face the front of the harness.
- Fasten the waist belt slightly above your belly–button and make sure it’s above your hips so you are secure while climbing.
- There should be no room for you to put more than 2–fingers in between your waist and the harness. I would make sure that the buckle is doubled back as well.
- A properly–fitted harness should have the ability to adjust to being bigger or smaller. A harness that is at the end of its range of adjustability isn’t unsafe but it will be difficult to slip in or out of and it may limit the harness’s versatility.
- Next, adjust the leg loops. However, some harnesses don’t have the adjustable leg loop functionality so those use a piece of elastic to allow the leg loop to stretch.
- The exact position of the leg loops isn’t as important as the waistbelt because it is more a matter of comfort than safety. Just be sure that the loops allow mobility and don’t pinch or restrict blood flow. Placing the leg loops close to the groin and having a 2–finger gap in slack between the loop and my leg works best in my opinion.
- To an extent, the tighter the leg loops are, the more snug and comfortable you will be while hanging freely, even though the range of movement can be restricted. Oppositely, looser leg loops allow for more mobility and motion but are not as comfortable while being suspended in mid-air. Just know that the harness is very safe in either case, so you will need to decide between mobility and comfort.
- Lastly, just make sure that the buckles on each loop are doubled back.
- It’s time to test your harness now!
4 Steps for Testing a Harness
- It is almost impossible to tell how comfortable a climbing harness will be if you haven’t climbed in it. When you climb in it, you can understand how mobile your legs will be and what it feels like to be in a dead hang. When the harness is holding you in mid-air, it should feel relatively comfortable and be easy for you to sit upright (like a chair).
- A comfortable climbing waist belt shouldn’t shift or move excessively while you climb. If it does then you need to tighten the belt until the shifting stops. The harness should also be comfortable and not feel like it’s digging into your skin. When it does this, it can leave bruises, scratches, or even restrict blood flow. If there are any noticeable points of pressure when climbing with your harness, then you may want to switch and use a different harness. You can also test for shifting by attempting to pull the waist belt down over your hips. A good safe climbing harness won’t let you do this. When you are testing harnesses at a gym or store, ask to hang from a rope and slowly invert yourself to test the harness for slippage. If you are completely upside down, the harness shouldn’t let you fall through.
- If you feel as though you are using too much of your core and abs to keep yourself upright, then you may need to adjust the rise of the climbing harness. Each leg loop has an elastic strap on the back that can be adjusted in length. Shortening the rise should help you to sit upright in the harness without using too much of your core. If adjusting this doesn’t help then we suggest just trying a different harness.
- Everybody is different so not every harness will fit perfectly. There are a lot of harness styles though, so just be willing to try on a few different models to see which works best for you.
If you want to read more helpful guides like this, head over to backcountry-gear.com.
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