A harness is the piece of equipment that allows us climbers to be comfortably connected to the safety system. All modern harnesses consist of one hip belt and two leg loops. Both leg loops are connected to the hip belt via the belay loop (located on the front side of the harness) and 2 bungee straps on the back. The belay loop looks like a thick flat ring which loops through one noose of the hip belt and a second noose that is part of the leg loops. Most standard harnesses have at least four gear loops that are stitched around the hip belt for carrying gear.
Features and Functions:
The purpose of the harness is to attach the climber to the safety system such as, rope, anchor or belay/rappel device. The harness went through a series of major modifications in climbing history and has gotten more durable and comfortable with higher functionality
Is the part of the harness that wraps around our hips and has to sit right above the hip bone. Hip belts mostly vary in thickness and cushion material. Some more basic harnesses have just a nylon webbing as a hip belt whereas more high-end models are thick and cushioned for more comfort. Hip belts are adjustable via a buckle.
The part of the harness where carabiners are clipped to in order to belay or rappel. The belay loop is a full-strength-part of the harness, which means it is rated for any climbing related weight and force. Be aware that it is not recommended to attach any rope/nylon equipment to the belay loop since wear and tear is much quicker through nylon on nylon friction.
3. Auto-lock Buckle
Most recent harness models have an auto-locking buckle that locks immediately in position where pulled. Other, mostly older models have a double back-up buckle, which needs to be double threaded in order to be locked in position. It is very important to distinguish both types since a double back-up buckle in non-locking mode looks very similar to an auto-locking buckle. Most harnesses that need to be double backed have a little “danger” written on the buckle. As long as you are able to see it you are not locked and not safe. And as soon as you double thread it you cannot see the “danger” anymore and you are double-backed and safe.
4. Gear Loop
Gear loops are for equipment storage only! They are sewn along the waist belt and standard harnesses usually have at least 4 of them. The more gear you plan to carry the bigger you want your gear loops to be. Some big wall type harnesses even have up to 8 gear loops that provide enough space for an extensive amount of gear. In very few cases, gear loops are rated for body weight usage in order to avoid fatal accidents with ignorant climbers who mistaken it with the belay loop or tie-in loops. GEAR ONLY!
5. Haul Loop
Haul loops come in handy when trailing a rope or storing your shoes on a multi-pitch climb. However, it is an extra feature and not an essential part of the harness. Many harnesses are not even equipped with a haul loop.
6. Bungee Straps
Bungee straps are very functional and increase the comfort level of the harness. Their primary function is to keep the leg loops from sagging down. With most harnesses they are adjustable. Climber’s want their bungee strap to be just before tight when they fully lift up their leg. Bungee straps are non-weight bearing parts of the harness.
7. Leg Loops
A very essential part of the harness. In the evolution of the climbing harness, leg loops were actually later added. They guarantee a higher level of comfort and safety for climbers (while being lowered, rappelling, hanging belay, etc.) through better weight distribution amongst leg loops and waist belt. The “Swami Belt” is the predecessor of our modern day harness and was mainly used in the 60’s and 70’s. A typical Swami only consists of one waist belt. Two leg loops – one for each leg. Some harnesses have non-adjustable leg loops and some are adjustable. In case they are adjustable they have either an auto-locking buckle or a double back up system as described above.
The two major functions are:
- Keeping the hip belt from being pulled upwards towards the climber’s chest/armpits
- Distribution of bodyweight on more contact points (hips and both legs rather than just hips)
8. Two Tie-in Loops
This is where the climber/harness is attached to all nylon/polyester climbing material such as, ropes and slings. With most harnesses both nooses are reinforced through extra webbing or plastic pieces which are minimizing wear and tear through nylon friction that is created during tie in’s and off’s.
Most important things to know about harnesses:
- Hip belt, leg loops, carabineer/belay loop and leg loops/hip belt nooses are always full strength features of any harness
- Distinguish between auto-locking and double back-up buckle and know how both systems lock in
- Only clip metal gear (carabineers) to your carabineer/belay loop
- Use your hip belt and leg loops nooses for tying in with your ropes or slings (nylon material)