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Harnesses are frankly a strange bit of kit. Buy one you like and you'll never think twice about it, but if you end up with one you're not so keen on, you suddenly realise how much difference tiny details can make. I was chatting to a friend of mine (who has done a huge amount of climbing), about gear, and he reckoned that the only bits of kit that really makes a difference to your climbing is what is on your hands and your feet. In other words, rock boots matter because they are actually in contact with a route, ditto axes and crampons for winter routes, but all other kit is just detail. I agree to the extent that only things in contact with the route help you to climb it, but one fumble with an ice screw, one drop of that cam you need for the crux, and one uncomfortable hanging belay makes you realise how much a misplaced gear loop, or poorly designed buckle system on a harness can make.
The Summit is designed as a versatile all rounder, aimed potentially at people who own one harness for everything, and are more concerned about the harness being functional and comfortable than super light. If you prefer cruising up long routes, and have a lot of days where you'll wear the harness all day, then this is for you. The Eclipse meanwhile is also a versatile bit of kit, and is aimed as an all rounder, but is a slightly lighter, simpler option than the Summit, slightly more suited to more technical routes or shorter days. Ultimately either would work just fine as a “one harness for everything” climber, but I promised to be pedantic, so here goes...
The Eclipse was first up, and first impressions were good. Plenty of gear loops, a simple buckle system and a decent compromise between weight and comfort judging by the size and amount of padding in the waistband and leg loops. The little details have also been taken care of, with easily detachable straps linking the back of the leg loops with the waistband, meaning that it's easy to pull the harness down and do your “business” whilst clipped in to a belay, and a nice, compact haul loop. Having done minimal hauling in my climbing career (like most people I suspect), I normally use the loop to keep my rescue kit such as prussics and pulleys on, and on both harnesses the loop is a perfect size – big enough, but not so big that you could ever snag it on anything.
As far as faults with the Eclpise go, it initially seems that the spare section of waistband (which has been generated from tightening the harness) doesn’t sit quite right. However, it turns out that there are 2 small elastic loops to house the spare waistband, so just don’t forget to look for them like I did! In the photo below you can see the excess waist band, and also the top of the elastic loop on the inside front of the waistband, this is where you must tuck in any excess. Make sure when fitting the harness before you buy that your excees 'tail' will tuck away neatly, otherwise you might need a different size. Also the Eclipse doesn't have anywhere for ice clippers (or “Caritools” as Petzl's version is called) to go, which given that it is an all rounder seems odd. On most harnesses ou can still attach ice clippers without any specific features designed for the job, but there isn't room for them between or in front of the Eclipse gear loops. Overall, a good option for trad climbing and long rock routes, but possibly not a true all rounder.
The Summit is clearly an all rounder, and this is obvious from the second you pick it up. A dual adjust waist band, plenty of material around the back of the harness for increased comfort, and no less than 7 gear loops. The comfort of the Summit is clear as soon as you put it on, and the 2 buckles on the waist band, plus one on each leg mean that you can get it “just so” in a matter of seconds, making it great for changing layers without taking your harness off. The back of the waistband is also really comfortable, so hanging belays and long abseils were about as pleasant as these things ever can be.
The Summit also features space for a couple of ice clippers, but oddly enough the loops for this are underneath the front gear loops. There is also an additional, round gear loop between the front two loops on either side. (Again, this is hard to describe so I've added a photo to demonstrate.) This all means that whilst the gear loops are fine when used on their own, the ice clipper can't really be used when there is any gear on the front loops. Similarly, the round gear loop above the main ones isn't serving a clear purpose, although on alpine routes I ended up using it to store my ice axe when I didn't need it, and this worked well.
Overall, I thought that the comfort of both the Summit and Eclipse makes them good all rounders for long rock climbs and lower grade winter routes, but the slight issue with gear storage could mean that the Summit is a harness for cruising all day rather than pushing your grade.
What Wild Country Say:
Fully featured, light, with a standout style and precise fit, the Eclipse is a versatile adventure orientated harness. Cleverly contoured to enhance movement, with our light and supportive 'Load Spread Technology' webbing inside, it's comfortable over long periods even fully racked up. Designed for long days out in summer or winter well proven Ziplock buckles give precise and slick adjustment on both waist and legs. Five well positioned new moulded gear loops give plenty of racking for big day out and a neat haul loop should come in useful too.
A supremely comfortable, durable adventure orientated all rounder. Trad, multi-pitch, winter, alpine, sport.
Features: 'Load Spread Technology' laminate belt and leg loops, DWC500 durable outer, 20mm Ziplock buckle waist, 16mm Ziplock leg loops, Five moulded gear racks, 'Batwing' belt shaping, 16mm 22kn Belay loop, Haul loop. Three sizes S, M, L.
You can see the rest of our new harness range here.
And you can see a short video with James Pearson showcasing the new Wild Country harnesses below.
About Charlie Boscoe
Charlie Boscoe is a skier and climber based in Chamonix. His popular blog on Chamonix climbing conditions is: chamconditions.blogspot.co.uk. He and his partner, Sharon Wray create and run expeditions to the Himalayas, Andes, Alps and Atlas Mountains, and offer bespoke expedition planning. See his website: www.mountainworldltd.com.
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