Lightweight Sport Climbing Harnesses
For a dedicated sport climbing harness you will want something light, comfortable and fairly simple. In this group test the UKC team go through some of the best lightweight sport harnesses on offer.
You need comfort, freedom of movement and NOT the penalty of excessive weight!
On a recent trip to the Dolomites I took Black Diamond's new Chaos Harness. I had already used it on a variety of UK trad and sport routes but was keen test it on some bigger walls. The Chaos is Black Diamond's flagship super-comfy, do-all rock-climbing harness and the model has been around for a little while in various guises.
This particular (and latest) version has four gear loops, fixed leg loops and pre-threaded waist buckle. It also uses some new technology. Kinetic Core Construction™ boasts technology found in NASA's space suits! It's manufactured from a triple laminate with a liquid crystal polymer that features extreme tensile strength. Impressive stuff indeed!
Black Diamond explain:
"The traditional manufacture of climbing harnesses from webbing plus padding was completely replaced with the new KC2 technology. Our process employs several liquid crystal polymer fibres (LCP) distributed evenly along the horizontal axis in the harness core. Those are the load-carrying components. They are laminated between two light taffeta layers and hardened. This construction allows distributing loads over the entire structure of the harness so no more thick padding is needed. Only a light nylon upper and a pleasantly breathable space-mesh lining serve as a cover for the KC2 construction. The LCP/taffeta layers change into normal webbing at the front and allow a normal closure system with a speed adjust buckle. Further details are four ergonomic gear loops made of form-pressed PE tube with an internally reinforced nylon webbing."
Well, first and foremost it is comfortable, very comfortable. Hanging stances on Gogarth's Main Cliff or the North Face of the Cima Grande were as comfortable as I could have hoped for, as was repeated dogging of sport projects. The waist belt spreads the load effectively and I didn't notice fatigue in a particular area after long hanging belays. Secondly it allows decent freedom of movement and doesn't feel restrictive when climbing. My favourite harnesses are generally the ones that you forget you are wearing and this came close without sacrificing comfort.
One word about the fit. All of my previous harnesses from Black Diamond have been in a size small. The first Chaos I tried in a small proved to be too small! The waist was fine but the leg loops were far too neat. I was concerned that I'd turned into a porker so I tried on my old Phoenix (in small) and the fit on this was perfect! So the upshot of this is that I opted for a medium. The fit is fine but the waist is fully cinched up and the leg loops are bordering on loose, although the elastic is doing its job! So, no weight loss for me, I'll have to carry on with the cakes! I asked Kathi Krause at Black Diamond about the fit of the new harnesses and she conceded that it was probably a little neater than on previous models. It's always worth trying these things on in your local store if possible.
The Chaos is also comfortable in warm conditions and the fabrics do a reasonable job of getting rid of sweat. The four gear loops are well placed and give sufficient room for an enormous rack. The slightly squared off shape holds gear in place and I didn't have any problem with gear slipping round the back on steep ground or forward on slabs, where it can sometimes get in the way. The loops also hold there shape well under load.
Finally the harness has a rear clip in loop which is useful on awkward stances meaning that you can clip in to the belay points and be supported from behind. The fabric is also proving to be pretty tough, having endured arduous backing and footing up Dolomite chimneys, as well as rough grit in the Aire valley.
This is a great all-round rock climbing harness. It is comfortable, well made, reasonably light and offers great freedom of movement. It also has sufficient gear loops for all your trad gear. It doesn't have adjustable leg loops or ice-clipper slots so isn't an all-round mountaineering harness, but it more than fits the purpose that it's designed for.
Our premier all-day, trad climbing harness, the Chaos is designed to offer even more comfort and features by using Kinetic Core Construction.
Weight: 400 g, 14 oz (size M)
See this product at the The Depot Climbing Centre shop