Your climbing harness is a key piece of equipment for top rope rock, lead and sport climbing. The right harness for your type of climbing can improve both performance and safety.
Simple maintenance will help prolong the life of your harness
Protect it from the elements. Keep it in a moderate temperature. When finished climbing, clean and inspect it. Cleaning with water should be sufficient. If you need to get out difficult stains or dirt and tiny rock grains, use a mild soap. Rinse the harness thoroughly to get the soap completely out of the nylon fibers. Let your harness dry in open air shaded from the sun before packing it back into its storage bag.
Extend usable service of the harness
Inspect your Climbing Harness. Look for signs of wear. Pay special attention to the stitching and tie-in points. When you see visible signs of wear, fading, scratches which tear the weave, or after it has held an extreme fall it's time to get a new one. After your harness has dried, inspect it for signs of wear and tear and fraying at all the seams. Signs of wear will show up better when the harness is clean and dry. Fraying will stand up as shown in the picture. Look carefully at the stitching and seams. Tug gently on the seams and anchor points to make sure they are secure and don't feel loose.
Storage for the harness. Put it someplace protected from sunlight, moisture or humidity, and in moderate temperatures. Exposure to these elements will cause the nylon and seams to degrade. Do not store it in the same closet or shed with paint, thinners, chlorine, bleach, acid or any oxidizing material. Vapors from these chemicals will also degrade the strength of your harness. Before climbing, check again for fraying or loose seams.
Factors to consider when choosing a climbing harness:
- Material: Harnesses are made from a variety of materials: Nylon and nylon webbing; ballistic nylon, closed cell foam with mesh lining; evazote 50 foam, ballistic nylon, microfleece; 7-mm closed-cell foam and 3-D mesh; chyri span with wall mesh, mini diamond ripstop; 600D Polyester; 1050D Ballistics nylon -- each material type compliments the type of climbing harness
- Adjustability: Adjustable or fixed loops for legs are a feature that help ensure good fit and comfort. The adjustability of leg loops adds weight and bulk which may not be desirable for high end competition climbing. Sport climbers may prefer the added comfort and fit at the expense of the small weight and bulk of buckles and straps.
- Gear Attachment: Most harnesses have some type of way to hang gear, Quickdraw, carabiner, Belay Device or runners. Usually they have 3 to 5 attachment points. They are made of molded rubber/plastic or woven nylon.
- Recommend Use: Harnesses are built with features which compliment the type of climbing your will be doing. Sport, trad, ice, competition, mixed climbing have different requirements, so the type of harness to use should have features best suited for the type of climbing. The manufacturer recommends a use. Of course that doesn't limit use in another aspect of climbing, it simply means the harness has features which are more likely to be advantageous for that type of climbing.
- Padding: Most rock climbing harnesses come with foam padding for the waist band and legs. The padding in these areas is well worth any extra cost. A wide waist band, especially in the back is also important. The purpose of the harness is to distribute the force of a fall to many points. The wider the waist band, the better the force is distributed. If the waist belt is too wide it will get in your way while making moves. The back of the waist belt should be firm and stiff. Legs should be secured by adjustable straps. Wider webbing provides more comfort. A comfortable width of leg webbing for an average weight person is 2 inches or about 5 cm or greater. A narrow webbing, less than 2" or 5 cm, will be less comfortable - and may cut off the circulation in your leg if you are left hanging too long. However, the thicker webbing may hinder freedom of movement.
- Weight: Harnesses vary in weight from very light three quarters of a pound to a pound and a half (300 grams to 600 grams). Weight is a tradeoff of features and comfort. Padding, gear attachments, and buckles add weight; however if you need a very light weight, lean harness for competitions or highly technical climbing and don't need the additional features, many are available.