Let’s say you plan on just mountaineering and will not do much rappelling. In this case a quality seat harness (One that is CE certified and UIAA battle tested, like the Calidris by Petzl) may just be the ticket. Instead, let’s say you plan on doing a lot of climbing, caving or specialty stunts. You will need something a little bit more comfortable and a little more “full body”, since you will be utilizing the harness more often than not.
You may have a higher pain threshold than most people! Regardless, why go through any pain when you can avoid it completely? Grab a harness that will give you complete comfort and that will discourage any and all discomfort. Comfort has a direct correlation to safety. If you are comfortable you will be more cognisant of your surroundings and you will be that much more safer. You will be able to accomplish longer hang times before your body and mind become burnt-out. Fatigue on pitch is extremely dangerous and one of the leading causes of fatalities for climbers and rappellers.
Long periods of unequipped hanging will lead to joint pain, blood pressure and pooling elevations numbness and temporary paralysis. If someone in your group gets injured, it will be on you to carry that person to safety. If you are not strapped in a harness, the load can be too daunting of a task and may lead to more injuries! Depending on your rig, hanging may only be comfortable for a few seconds (with no harness or one not suited for the pitch) upwards to an hour( if you are well equipped with the right harness).
We will now list harnesses from least to most intricate with practicality in mind for each. Keep in mind, technologies change daily as do standards. We will explain which have been tried and true and which have become obsolete. So:
- Fireman’s Harness or Pompier:
At this point, these harnesses are only consider to be belts at this point and should not be used when climbing or rappelling because they tend to throw the person around since the legs and arms are the appendages that need the most attention when controlling balance. The rappeler will feel bottom heavy which can be detrimental when You will not feel any comfort with the Fireman’s harness, but it will reduce the load on the rappeler/climber. Also, it is really easy for the Fireman’s harness not to fit properly unless you customize one out. The last thing you want is for the belt to slip off under the arms, plunging down to the ground! They are not comfortable and we do not recommend for long pitches whatsoever. If you find yourself having to use one for emergencies, we advise you to try and use it as a seat instead of putting it around your waste. Here is how it is done:
- Figure-8 Harness:
These can actually be made fairly easily by the user but are usually not as comfortable as a makeshift harness. To make an F8 harness, make a small loop with two pieces of webbing or two seperate lines you have in your gear (this won’t be comfortable, FYI). Take the loop and slide it over both your legs around the crotch area. Take a carabiner and clip onto both loops. Make sure it fits well. If it doesn’t redo the harness until you accomplish zero slack in the mid-region. The last thing you want is to flip over during a pitch and slip out from one of the loops because it wasn’t tight enough. The makeshift ones you will tend to make will not have enough padding on the focus areas (behind your legs, back, etc.) we suggest purchasing one, as there are a few excellent brands that make excellent half-body figure-8’s. Petzl, CMC and Black Diamond to name a few. Check the review part of this article for our top choices.
- Diaper Swiss Harness:
Running away with another makeshift idea, the webbing strands would just need to be a little longer than for your F8 rig. Measure your hip line and take about 3x that amount of webbing, forming it into a coil, then fastening or locking that coil using a buckle. Take the loop you and make and link it to an anchor. Bounce up and down to test before actually using. In order to wear: 1. make sure you take it around your back and bring a portion of the loop around your right and left side. You will notice it will begin to look like a diaper (assuming you know what a diaper looks like). 2. Take all three loops and use a biner to link them all from side to middle then side again. Make sure it feels form fitted. If you are having trouble with getting it snug, try twisting one of the coils you hooked onto the biner until it feels snug enough then link back onto the biner. You may also want to try creating two extra coils by taking the coil you created between the legs around two upper coils. You would then link extra coils onto the biner.
If you are making your own harness, make sure to use ONLY tough durable materials such as nylon or poly Dacron. Avoid using natural materials such as hemp or cotton because they can decay pretty quickly and do not withstand quick rappel stops as well, which can spell disaster when you are out on your pitch. Avoid any weaker materials synthetics for obvious reasons such as your ability to produce a product that hasn’t been CE certified or tested. We advise to purchase a CE harness for reassurance. Safety is everything in rappelling and climbing.
If you are on a rescue team, you may want to stitch the harness onto your pant leg. That can make for easy access through your fly hole or over-top your pant waist. Before stitching, make sure that it is positioned in such a way to give you optimal balance. Use Nomex thread since it is resistant to fire-like temperatures, especially if you are on a fire rescue team! If you buy it commercially, there are suppliers that will stitch it on for you.
How do I make an Air Assault Army Harness?
One makeshift harness we use in a lot of our rigs is the double overhand half hitch, used in tactical army assault campaigns. To make this harness:
- Take 11-13ft of nylon at 1/3 to 5/8 ” diameter
- Take the middle portion of the rope around your back and retrieve the ends of the line up front
- Create coils in the loops (2 of them) . You will know you did it right when form the double overhand knot secure on your waist line, and it feels fitted!
- Move the ends up and through your legs and and wind them around your hip line, channelling them through the waist coil you created
- Fasten the left coiled end with a square knot
- Make sure to secure the coil with a half hitch knot, then take the knots and put them away in your pocket (same side as where the knot is coiled, so in this case your left pocket)
You will not achieve much comfort using this harness but it will save your life in short distance pitches. Be sure that the square hitch is fastened properly. The best part of this rig is that you can link the carabiner to the front in order to keep track of it. You can also attach it to the sides or on the waist loop on the back side if you want to try the Aussie rappel. Typically The biner is linked to the overhand and rope on top of it to be utilized as a descender.
Again, we advise on grabbing a CE certified harness that meets the national standards as well as international, especially when you are new at both climbing and rappelling. They come in different shapes sizes and prices so you will be able to find one that suits you no matter what your budget is. For reassurance, ask the retailer or others that may have experience using the harness you pick out.
Ask if it is comfortable for the type of rappelling or climbing you plan on doing. Make sure you are certain that the type you go with is fall-out proof! Also make sure it is easy to maneuver in and out of. Further, make sure that the biner attachment point is towards your center of gravity around the waist line. You will have way better balance with the harness focaled near the middle part of your body. You will know the harness fits well if you can stretch out sideways without your body spinning downwards out of control.
How should I keep my body positioned while climbing?
When you find yourself in need to climb (whether you are intentionally climbing or climbing back up a rappel pitch) it is crucial to keep the body upright with a little bit of a slant! If you are having trouble try moving the attachment point a little more vertical on your body. This can easily be done with a chest harness,(Petzl is our #1 choice for chest harnesses) as it intrinsically will move the attachment focus higher on the body.
Whether you create a makeshift chest harness or purchase one is up to you. Most chest harnesses are made the same way, with a webbing sling flexed into a F-8, as the center of the Figure 8 is located on the rappeller’s back-center. Then, while putting each arm through each of the loops the harness is worn like a book bag, with the shoulder straps crossed around the shoulders.
You should never rely on your harness to leverage ALL of the body weight! That load can lead to the user slipping out of it! The harness should be utilized as a balancer. We recommend attaching your chest harness to a seat harness in full body fashion! That will give you a much better handle on the balance factor. Do not try and be a hero and carry someone (possibly an injured climber) using solely a chest harness. You will have trouble staying in control, which can spell doom for the both of you.
How do I incorporate a descender safely to my harness?
This is an important one! Try to avoid rigging your descender at chest level because you will run the risk of losing control as you lower yourself to the next station. Rather, rig the descender at seat level closer to your center of gravity! You will thank us when you don’t get thrown around like a rag doll!
How do I rig my body harness?
When you are setting up your harness, do not just tie off your line to the seat harness, only to then channel it through the chest harness biner. If you do that and you take a fall, your torso may jut up on your crotch! You can break your back if your rig is setup this way. Make sure to link the seat and chest pieces together, forming a body harness. Use a sling to do this, making the chest piece the shock absorber.
How should I position an injured rappeler/climber?
When you are normally rappelling or climbing, you should stay upright! However, when you are dealing with someone who is in pain or unconscious, make sure to get them facing horizontally so that blood flow is cut off to the brain. So for these instances, make sure the injured party has his/her rig setup so that they can quickly go from upright to supine!
How long will my harness last me?
Studies have shown that the webbing on most harnesses will lose upwards of 35% of their strength after 95-110 days that they are used. Factors like UV light, air pollution, temperature elevations, abrasion and load can, overtime, put a damper on your harness. So, just like rope, you will need to replace after about 4 years of use, on average. If you have the unfortunate experience of falling out of your harness, replace immediately. Do not take any chances on your life, it is not worth the savings!
How do I make a Swiss seat harness?
If you like to make things yourself or you are really strapped for cash but are still wanting to keep your lifestyle in the outdoors going, then here is the way to make your own makeshift Swiss seat:
- Buy 2-4inch nylon or Dacron webbing. The length should be about 2.5 to 4x your hip measurement. The webbing itself should be able to handle loads of 7k-9k lbs.
- Get your hands on about 4 descending rings. If your plan is to actually make the harness, grab some heavy duty carpet thread. Make sure that it is also made of either nylon or polyester. Strength in the thread is the key to your success. Make sure the webbing is a high contrasting color with the carpet thread so that you can easily notice any abrasions to each.
- You want to sew the ends to handle the thickness of the webbing cleanly. A knot would really get in the way so avoid tying off.
- Sew the descending rings on the webbing, and without coiling into a mess, lap each end while using clothespins to temporarily hold them in place.
- To adjust for custom fitting, get your legs into the harness and take the lapped pins off. Tug on the ends to fasten the harness as securely and snugly as you need. Don’t squeeze too tight! Place the lapped pins back and indicate with a marking pen where you will sew together.
- Begin to sew forward and back again, the full length of the webbed lap strip, making sure to go with the grain so you don’t mistakenly cut or shred and so that the threads tighten against the fibers.
- Stitch up all the way in order to create a tough joint that feels impossible to penetrate. Keep the webbing uncovered so you do not weaken it.
- Polyester thread is recommended because it does well against UV rays and we have found it to be easier to sew with a machine.
- Test your new harness by clipping it onto an anchor and bounce as high as you can over and over while wearing it.
- Remember, the descender rings will share in the load, and don’t worry if one fails. You’ll have the others backing up one another. Rings are made to withstand 4k lbs + and up and any cracking that happens will happen way before any major disaster strikes. You will know what to do if that time ever comes and you will have backups in place!
The CMC Helix is our absolute favorite overall harness for its lightweight comfort and safety attributes. Quick connect buckles are really easy to use for both the seat and shoulders. You have quick connect The harness carries two certifications FNPA 1983 as well as the UL Class. We love the oversized D rings around the waist. You also have the D rings at the Sternum. This harness also has bent positioning rings that come angled, so you have the option to have them facing outwards or facing inwards to keep them out of the way when you are not using.
We love the loops, they come in really handy and work well with carabiners (Not much clunking noise!) On the higher back, the X strap Dorsal Attachment point can be stowed inside the pouch when you are not using. The fall arrest indicator on the back straps will save your life as it did with one of our team members. The leg loops are able to be pushed up and down the leg to position correctly for the climber/rappeler. Gear loops on the shoulders are a nice touch for adding additional gear to your rig, although we do not use them much.
Improvements: This Harness is not the cheapest on the market but it is worth every penny in terms of value and quality. At 6.2 lbs, you will hard pressed to find one that is as comfortable and as versatile for climbing/rappelling. The three quick release buckles makes it so easy to put on and take off! You will love this harness, period!
You will feel hard-pressed to find a harness with as many attachment points as the Tac-Scape utilizes. This harness was designed with LE, military and tactical users in mind but is now made to the public in custom fashion. We got a hold of this harness and man does it blow away most of the competition. It is lighter then than it looks and comes with 5 points of attachment. Also, this harness utilizes 2 Shoulder D rings and comes with the the 3D Eva contour pads for the waist line and shoulders!
We love knowing that the harness is made with the most durable of webbing at 7000+lbs of strength. We’ve tested this harness on many of our canyon pitches and it is no wonder that the manufacturer, Fusion Climb, states that the harness exceeds every industry standard. We very much concur with their proclamations on this bad boy, as it definitely exceeds the ANSI Z359.1 requirement in our eyes
Improvements: We would like it if the price was a little bit lower but we really can’t find a reason for a reduction because these harness has no flaws. It is only 5.7 pounds when used full body. You can use this harness as an every-day recreational on all your rappelling and climbing pitches. It looks great, feels great and can be adjusted to fit anyone! Pick one up with no hesitation
The Volt features easy fit design that we absolutely love! It seems to really keep it’s contour shape and really makes donning and doffing extremely quick and easy. The fast connect buckles on the waist and leg straps work really well and the latches are of great quality! The seat was made with the intention of managing long periods of use at a time. It attaches to the harness very easily.
The dorsal, side D rings and sternal attachment points are optimally positioned and are made from a stiff webbing that helps decrease the load as opposed to having metal D rings that add to the load. The Petzl Volt is anatomically designed for a close fit wear but at the same time giving you excellent movement as you move down or up the pitch.
The Volt is lightweight and breathable as it is constructed with light mesh and webbing that is thinner than usual. Easy to adjust to perfect fitting. The slide slots are constructed to remove pressure points for even weight allotment. Many tower harnesses don’t have this feature! We like the storage system on the shoulder straps that do a great job at holding up your lanyards.
In the event you start to drop inadvertenly, the system releases the connectors and the shock absorbers deploy immediately! You will also find fall indicators on the sternal and dorsal connections. This harness exceeds the ANSIz359 compliance code. We are huge fans of this harness for both rappelling and climbing!
Improvements: None. at 4.4lbs this lightweight harness will guide you on your rappelling and climbing journeys with ease. Looks good and feels even better.
7| Petzl Volt OXan Triact
The Volt with Oxan Triact-Carabiner is really the Petzl Volt LT on steroids! The Oxan Triact locks are perfectly positioned for your carabiners. At a sudden drop, The Ventral and Tear MGO connectors release at 3Kn like a shock pack would. We also love the stowing capabilities of this harness!
This harness carries with it three Certifications: CE EN 361, CE EN 358, EAC, CSA C72AFA and is made to take on fully rated loads of 5000lbs between your yellow loops and D Rings.
Improvements: The tether attachments can be positioned in an easier to access location. Besides that this is arguably the best full body harness on the market today. It is also not as lightweight as the LT but at 5lbs you won’t notice a difference.
We love this canyoneering harness by Petzl! It comes with a nice shoulder pack to carry and store away on your gear wall when you aren't using it. Going through tight slot canyons can really ruin your equipment and clothing because of the rough nature of sandstone so it is important to have a harness that can handle these types of conditions.
We love the big seat construction, it is sooooo comfortable, especially for the average to more heavy set climbers such as myself! It is made with nylon with an additional polyester webbing layer for added comfort that is totally non-absorbent. The design is made with free-hanging around waterfalls, and cradles your legs and butt. It is made to wear with any clothing but works even better with a wet suit when you canyoning near a body of water. We love that it works well protecting your gear as well.
It utilizes a very nice long hip belt which comes in very handy. The seat can easily be removed when you remove the waist belt strap. The strap goes into the loops so it doesn't come undone easily via the sewn tab. The pull-tight lever makes it real easy adjusting the harness. The single ring on the backside is for your biners and BRD's to latch onto. We love how it sits high so you can easily access all the components of it while rappelling. The gear loops are massive and are reinforced with nylon tubing that protects the loops themselves.
Improvements: If you are lanky, the seat tends to bunch up in the back. This is not a big issue but definitely something to keep in mind. You will need to replace after 50-100 uses because of the nature of canyoneering.
The Sequoia by Petzl is not just the best arborist seat harness available. It can also be used in most applications when rappelling and climbing recreational pitches! We love the semi-rigid back pad which gives you both comfort and security. The ventilation slots are great for both spur or rope climbing. The fast three fasteners are excellent, and each fastener has its own latch so even if two fastners get jammed down you will still be in good shape. The elastic cords in the back can be set and adjusted for comfort.
The accessory slots on this harness are plentiful. Each cord is rated at 10kg each so you can link pretty much any piece of gear to them and they will hold with ease! The webbing slots are rated at 15kg for larger carry tools. Add to that, the harness packs heavier duty webbings for even bigger items! The bungee cord is a nice touch if you want to carry around a first aid kit which we highly recommend doing.
The leg loops are fully adjustable and will rotate in the strap so you can custom position them to your preference. The leg loops also have catches for extra webbing if you need to add more to your rig. The angle ranges you can achieve with this harness is almost limitless.
Improvements: We would have liked to have the D-rings implore more adjustability. They may be positioned a little too far in for bigger climbers and you really can't do much about it for size stability. Make sure you get the correct size. If you are bigger size person (36inch wasit +) you will want to get the size two and then wear bulkier pants if need be. We've noticed that on a hip thrust, you can get your carabiner caught on the D ring. Be aware of this but its not a big issue. May scare the bejeezus out of you 🙂
Petzl has totally revamped this saddle for wider leg loop adjustments and sewn stitched webbing! The older model did not have these capabilities. Rest assured, you will love this seat harness!
Kissloves may not be as big a name as Petzl or CMC but this full body harness packs a punch to meet most of your rappelling and climbing needs. The nylon webbing is quick dry so you can use this harness on your water pitches. The hybrid padding throughout keeps you extra comfortable. This is one of the more inexpensive yet versatile full body harnesses available.
The Kissloves FB is 4850lb + Load capacitive and CE certifiable. We absolutely love how lightweight it is. Here are some other advantages of this FB harness:
- The leg straps have a nice elasticity to them to aid with leg fatigue and larger build climbers
- Very cost effective in terms of versatility and comfort
- An added D(Delta) ring to lock in more carabiners and belays in place
- Universal in fitting. You can adjust to any sizing you need.
- Great for rappelling, spur climbing /arborist, rock climbing
- Very sturdy
Improvements: The D rings cannot be adjusted and are positioned at the top side of the loops. No other issues especially at this price point
We can’t say enough about the Momentum by Black Diamond. We’ve used this in pitches down in Moab . We love the value with this saddle. We love that the main buckle is permanently doubled back and sewn really well. All you need to do is pull on it and you are good to go.
The leg loops are extremely comfortable and easy to on and off. We love the elastic finish on the leg loops which act to keep the loops up high on the thigh. They keep the loops nice and snug. The waist fits universal. The gear loops are molded on the waist and will stick out by default and make for easy linking for your carabiners or draws on.
On the back of the saddle, the haul loop comes in handy if you are doing long pitching climbing. It is stout so you can link most other pieces of gear to it and you should be ok.
Improvements: Since the leg loops stay nice and snug we find it hard to layer up underneath. It gets tight as far as the leg loops for bigger climbers and is not fully adjustable. The elastic around the leg loops will cause your legs to sweat on long belays.
The Black Diamond’s Momentum seat harness is truly hard to beat! Would have loved if the leg loops were fully adjustable but you can’t ask for it all at this price point. All in all a great saddle.
This CMC Rescue 202407 is one of the more simpler seat harnesses out there that can really help along your rappelling journey. It is made with tactical and rescue pitches in mind but works well as an everyday seat harness.
The Rescue is a one-size-fits most build that is sleeker and more low profile than your average seat harness. It is locks in fairly snug. Some of the pro’s of this harness are:
- Employs silent connectors at the front of the waist band for a solid attachment point
- The leg loops and waist are of 1-3/4” construct webbing
- D3 fabric throughout the leg loops which are pretty comfortable
- Comes with a tactical pouch that you can remove when you aren’t using
- Easy to inspect because of the gray contrasting stitching
- Can hold Prusiks and Purcells
- top flap is made of velcro with an attachment tunnel is used for connecting your harness to a chest piece
Improvements: For the simplicity of its characteristics, you really can’t pinpoint any major issues besides the fact that it is less versatile than other seat harnesses. We would use the Rescue for mostly dry pitch rappelling or climbing. Great overall build!
You won’t find a more serviceable seat harness as with the Adjama. From rappel sport, track, ice, and mountaineering, this is one of the more versatile saddles you will find. It really does well in an Alpine environment. The ENDFRAME tech is when the load bearing is split between the the nylon fibers within the structure from the inside into dual load so you get more support that way
The Adjama comes complete with leg loop loop adjustment to where you can take the harness off or back on over skis or crampons. The gear loops are extremely flexible and do not carry much bulk. That way the waist loop does not interfere when the rappeler is carrying gear. However, even then sometimes they do. The climber in the waist belt has myriad range of uses!
This harness can be used independently from other chest harnesses. We love the adjustable leg loops so you can wear different layers for cold/warm layers. The waist belt and leg loops align well. We love the adjustable rise and a drop seat. It has a Dyneema nylon blend for the tie end points which is excellent for durability and life. The lower bridge tie in has (intended) red exposed fibers that will indicate when the wear has become too much, which means you would throw it away and buy another.
Improvements: The only real issue we have with this harness is that sometimes the gear loops will. There is nowhere to stow the loops or tuck them away! Excellent for recreational rappellers and climbers alike. You will be very happy with it