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Black Diamond airNET Harness Review

© Rob Greenwood

In 2019 we published our Lightweight Sport Climbing Harness Group Test. Within it there was a range of harnesses of different fit, features and performance. This selection weighed between 240-400g and came in at £47.50 - £140 (quite a price range!).

The airNET - for better or worse - excels on both counts, insofar as it represents the bottom end of the weight scale at around 230g, but the top end of the price scale with an RRP of £150. It is undoubtedly a highly specialist product, designed with Adam Ondra's Olympic hopes in mind, but what does that mean for mere mortals?

The airNET Harness: designed for Adam Ondra in the Olympics, put to use by Rob Greenwood a post apocalyptic wasteland  © UKC Gear
The airNET Harness: designed for Adam Ondra in the Olympics, put to use by Rob Greenwood a post apocalyptic wasteland
© UKC Gear

Functionality

So the airNET harness is light, damn light, and this miniscule weight (I make it 230g for the men's size M) undoubtedly makes it suitable for competition climbing, but also for hard redpoints, where each gram matters. One issue with making things lighter is that there is often a sacrifice to both comfort and durability, but with the airNET Black Diamond seem to have managed something quite remarkable, insofar as the harness is not only impressively hard wearing but is also extremely comfortable too. As such, it's a harness you could quite easily hang around in for a while whilst working routes, without fear of your legs falling off before being lowered to the ground.

All that said, this isn't realistically a harness that you'd be taking out trad climbing, unless of course you were climbing/headpointing something very specific. This is mainly down to the rear gear loops, which are really there as a 'just in case' due to their lightweight nature.

To recap, this really is a Competition and a Sport Climbing specialist where weight matters, but it also has the added advantage of being impressively comfortable and durable. But also quite expensive!

The airNET during a good mileage session at the Chee Dale Cornice  © UKC Gear
The airNET during a good mileage session at the Chee Dale Cornice
© UKC Gear

Comfortable irrespective of whether you're working or onsighting a route  © UKC Gear
Comfortable irrespective of whether you're working or onsighting a route
© UKC Gear

Fit and Comfort

The airNET comes in both a Men's and a Women's model, which can be quite rare for top end harnesses. The model on review here is the men's, but UKC Team Member Rachael Crewesmith got the lowdown on the women's sizing when she met up with Kolin Powick - Black Diamond's Climbing Category Manager - last year. You can hear more about it, and the rest of the harness in the following video:

Features

The feature that grabs everyone's attention on the airNET is the infinity weave belay loop, which - as the name suggests - doesn't feature a single stitch in sight. This has the benefit of a) looking cool b) not having a single wear point and c) not jolting when clipping in direct to quickdraws whilst working routes (i.e. where the draw catches, then pings off the back tacks). This is potentially solving a fairly subtle problem, which may or may not be an actual problem, but it's a cool piece of innovation and will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows whilst you're out at the crag.

The actual feature which impacts the product's performance isn't the infinity weave belay loop though, it is the harnesses' airnet construction. The fishnet webbing inner provides the harness with its strength and load distribution, which means that when you fall or weight the harness it isn't just going through a single point - it's criss-crossing through the entire harness. Due to its open construction it is extremely breathable, which should - depending on your own special levels of personal sweatiness - keep you drier than you might be otherwise (although personally, I find contact alone to be enough to cause sweating - surely it's not just me?).

The magical 'Infinity Weave' belay loop, without a single bar tack in sight  © UKC Gear
The magical 'Infinity Weave' belay loop, without a single bar tack in sight
© UKC Gear

The airNET technology provides plenty of gaps through which moisture can escape  © UKC Gear
The airNET technology provides plenty of gaps through which moisture can escape
© UKC Gear

The front gear loops are real deal 'designed to be used' gear loops, which have capacity for a lot of quickdraws. The rear gear loops are designed more just so that they're there if you need them, but are easily removable if you don't, hence are constructed using a lightweight webbing. That said, having used these they aren't as bad as they may sound. Yes, they're designed to be light, but providing you're just using a few of quickdraws they're fine to use - any more and things tend to clump together, but again this isn't a huge problem as the size of the quickdraws you tend to use whilst sport climbing is quite large (it's not like in trad where you need to pick things out quite precisely).

Everything fits neatly into place  © UKC Gear
Everything fits neatly into place
© UKC Gear

Plenty of room for quickdraws  © UKC Gear
Plenty of room for quickdraws
© UKC Gear

Summary

At £150 this isn't a cheap harness, but within the category of extremely lightweight, high performance harnesses the airNET sits proud in its place at the top, not just in terms of price, but in terms of its actual weight, its comfort, durability and features. Whilst I didn't use it in any Comps myself, I can see the airNET being used as my standard sport climbing harness for many years to come. Yes, it isn't for everyone, but it doesn't pretend to be either - it's designed to be the absolute best for the absolute best - and if that's what you're after (irrespective of whether or not you are indeed the best) then the airNET's credentials make it a strong contender as a specialist sport or competition climbing harness.

Black Diamond say:

Developed in collaboration with BD Athlete Adam Ondra, the airNET is a cutting-edge harness that features our patented airNET Technology—an ultra-breathable fabric for high-end performance sport climbing that distributes loads evenly across the "net" during falls. The airNET also includes a patented Infinity Loop for belaying, which is durable, low profile, and eliminates the dreaded belay-loop-shift when dogging a route and the belay loop seam catches. At a svelte 235 grams (men's medium) we've included two pressure molded gear loops in the front while keeping the rear gear loops low-profile webbing—a request from Ondra who had cut the back gear loops from his competition harnesses to save weight and reduce bulk. Black Dynex lower and upper tie-in points are durable and light, and the seamless, taped edges of the waistbelt and leg-loops proved next-to-skin comfort during intense redpoints.

airnet prod shot

  • Sizes: XS-L (men's and women's models)
  • Weight: 230g (men's size M); 227g (women's)

For more info see blackdiamondequipment.com



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18 Aug

How did you find this compares to the Petzl Sitta, Rob? I am considering replacing my Sitta and was going to go for a like for like replacement but had seen the BD option and was tempted. My only gripe with the Sitta is that I find the leg loops taper a little quickly so longer belay stints can sometimes get slightly more uncomfortable than with a chunkier harness. It's fantastic to climb in though. Do you know if the BD is any different in that regard? Also, how does sizing compare?

Hi Rob,

I’m on holiday at the moment so can’t comment with any degree of certainty; however, I’d be more than happy to have a closer look when I’m back on the 31st August.

Theres obviously a lot of common ground between the airNET and the Sitta, but I thought the airNET won through in terms of its durability. When it came to comfort I’m not sure I had the same problem with the Sitta, but such is the nature of fit - everyone is different.

When it comes to sizing I was a medium in both the airNET and the Sitta, so would definitely recommend giving both a go.

Good luck!

18 Aug

Thanks!


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