Whilst it may sound a somewhat bleak assessment, the best harnesses are the ones you don't notice. If they're uncomfortable, you notice; if the gear loops buckle under the weight of your gear, you notice; if the sides collapse when it's cinched up, you notice; if it wears before its time, you notice. The Beal Phantom proves this maxim, and there's very little bad to say about it. It's comfortable, has worn well, has gear loops that can carry plenty of gear (of all things?!), and comes in at a good price. Where's the drawback?
The Phantom is pitched as being "a lightweight and compact harness for high level sport climbing". Whilst the statement describes what it is, and some of what it can do, it arguably undersells a far more versatile product. It's been my go-to harness throughout 2021 both for sport and trad, although I've been doing neither at a particularly high level.
At 325g in Medium it's light, but not super light, and if I was sport climbing at the highest levels I'd be tempted towards something lighter; however, where the Phantom succeeds - at least in my eyes - is being pretty good at everything. For sport, it's light enough - and robust enough - to take repeated sessioning of routes (if you're serious) or just a lot of low key mileage (if you're a little less serious). As such, it achieves a good balance that should be attractive to a broad range of climbers, irrespective of whether or not they're operating in the 4s, 5s or 6s, 7s or 8s.
On the trad side of things, it's got four proper, reinforced gear loops that are robust enough to take a decent sized rack. I've tested this out with up to two sets of cams, a double set of wires, and fourteen quickdraws, which was definitely snug - particularly at the front end - but not so full it made it hard to find whatever I was looking for. The fact the gear loops didn't buckle under this weight is always a good sign, as softer gear loops that sag often lead to everything clumping in the middle, making things really awkward to get (and put back in place after). The Phantom also features a micro-sized gear loop and/or haul loop on the back of the harness. This is undoubtedly minimalist, but is enough to fit your belay device and a couple of screwgates. I've certainly found it infinitely preferable to have something rather than nothing, as having your belay device amongst your quickdraws always feels cluttered, and the presence of a small gear loop helps keep it out of the way.
Fit and Comfort
The Phantom is constructed using a laser cut webbing, which is designed to contour around the body. Within this there are two layers: a wicking material on the inside and a recycled ripstop polyester on the outer. There isn't any 'padding' per se, but there doesn't need to be, as the comfort comes from the fact that the webbing itself distributes the load evenly. As a result its support comes from the width of the webbing rather than a single tape running inside it. The result, even though it's impressively light, is an extremely comfortable harness.
Within the outer there are a few holes which are (I assume) there to improve breathability, but the effectiveness of features like this is always hard to judge objectively. From previous experience, if it's warm and you're wearing a harness you tend to get quite sweaty. Some have ways to mitigate this, and Beal have found their solution in the form of several small holes, but I suspect that the difference it makes is minimal.
On the lower half, the Phantom features fixed leg loops. As someone who has larger legs this is sometimes a concern, as you obviously don't get the same ability to tweak the fit that you do with adjustable legs; however, this feels like it's become less and less of a problem now that brands are using slightly broader leg loops, with elastic to keep them snug to your leg. This allows for a wide range of leg sizes to fit within them and also has a much nicer feel than an adjustable leg harness, which can sometimes feel a little restrictive in comparison.
In terms of sizing, I fit the same size as my standard clothing size. There are four sizes available, but sadly no women's model.
Given the Phantom's relatively minimalist nature, there isn't a great deal more to add.
Like many brands these days, Beal have added further reinforcement around the tie-in point, which alongside the ripstop material used throughout the outer should help with durability. It's certainly showing no signs of wear after the last few months of use (and we've been up some pretty dusty chimneys and awkward corners wearing it!).
The final 'feature' isn't technically a feature, but is undoubtedly a factor for many, and that's price. At £69 it's extremely competitive, considering what you're getting, and that should make it an attractive option for those looking at something good, but on a budget.
The Phantom's clean, simple and functional design makes it ideal for both sport and trad. It's light, but not super light, and is durable enough to take the knocks courtesy of its ripstop outer. Whilst it's pitched as being a harness for high end sport climbers, it's actually far more versatile, and is well suited to a broad range of climbers and activities, including both sport and trad. The fact that it's easy on the wallet makes it all the more attractive, and I can find very little fault in it.
What Beal say:
- Lightweight and compact harness for high level sport climbing.
- Highly breathable thanks to multiple ventilated areas around the waist belt and leg loops.
- With its minimalistic design, it combines all of BEAL's know-how.
- It benefits from the latest Web-Core technology which provides exceptional levels of comfort thanks to optimal pressure distribution on hips and thighs.
- 4 gear loops and a rear ring make up a particularly multifunctional harness.