Counting every gram of weight carried used to be predominantly an obsession of alpine climbers, often in the case of Brits (and other northern Europeans) the result of having gone to Chamonix and watched far too many French, Italian and Swiss climbers come flying past us with tiny backpacks, while we slogged slowly upwards with heavy 50 ltr rucksack full of stuff that all seemed vital when we packed it.
But I think I’m far from alone now in realising that having lighter gear can make most climbing more pleasant even if saving some weight isn’t going to be the make or break issue on getting up some route on your local crags. Whether it is reducing you pack weight on a two hour walk-in to a high Scottish or Welsh mountain crag, or just being able to grab a little bag of 30 metres of thin single rope and light rack for an afterwork session bagging routes on a gritstone edge; lighter and more compact gear is great. If you are not in the fortunate position of having a couple harnesses and sets of quickdraws for different types of climbing, then of course midweight all-rounders will probably be your best bet, but if two items of gear look like they will both do the job well, these days I generally go for the lighter option.
The Edelrid Leaf harness really is rather light yet, as I’ve found out over the last couple of months, still very usable for all my UK cragging needs.
In size medium the Leaf weighs 310 grams, this is only 10 grams more than the Petzl Hirundos and BD Ozone, the lightweight sports rigs offered by those companies. On the other hand the RRP of £65 for the Leaf is less than those models, and looking online you can easily find it for even less than that, so the Leaf is by no means an expensive harness. Despite this, the slimline laminated construction of the Leaf means to me it most resembles Arcteryx’s line of harnesses.
Interestingly, although with fixed leg loops (there is a small adjustable elastic section meaning you can slightly loosen or tighten them but they don’t open) and four medium sized gear loops, the Leaf most resembles a classic “sport climbing harness” - like the Hirundos and the Ozone - but on their website Edelrid describes it as a “lightweight alpine harness with minimal pack size for top performances at the crag”. This is a little confusing, I’m not completely sure what makes the Leaf an “alpine harness”, I wouldn’t be able to put it on over crampons for example, it does though have two ice clipper slots on it suggesting the designers were indeed thinking about climbs needing 10 or 12 quickdraws.
Edelrid’s description is also spot on about the harness packing up very small, completely the opposite of the Edelrid Orion harness that I reviewed a couple of summers ago. The Orion is something of a monster in comparison to the lithe Leaf. Its very wide waist and leg loops, make it one of the most comfortable harnesses to hang in that I have tried but also means it is rather hard to pack down and takes up a lot of space in a small pack. This is very much not a problem with the Leaf - it folds up into a rather small package.
My one criticism of the Orion was that with only four gear loops distributing a big trad rack onto them is a squash and the same could be said of the Leaf, but perhaps I’m just getting used to it because I found it less of an issue than before. Yes, for some 40 metre pitches in Pembroke - four krabs of wires, 15 quickdraws, a bunch of cams, hexes and even some tricams - it was a bit busy on the racks, particularly early on before much had been placed. Personally rather than just a little tab at the back that will hold one small krab - for a chalkbag maybe? - I’d prefer a fifth rack to hold my prussiks, nut key and belay device.
But having said that, the Leaf was great for my first Pembroke visit, comfy enough on those long abseils in and even for a couple of semi-hanging belays. Despite being slim, the waist and leg loops are firm and perfectly comfortable for your average cragging use. I reckon I’ve done about 40 routes wearing the Leaf now including plenty of “classic” grit thrutch-fests (Roof Route and Hollyash Crack at Burbage South and North respectively spring to mind for some ‘get your thigh in’-type action). You can see the harness has had some use but beyond some dirt and superficial furring on the nylon edge trim, there is little to show for those battles. The Leaf seems a well constructed harness that will last as long as you would expect a harness too, despite its low weight.
Overall, I think the Leaf is nice. I do wish the Euro and the North American brands would put a proper fifth gear loops onto their harnesses but I’m sure they have their reasons not to, even if it would suit me and my predominantly trad climbing needs. The harness is comfy and does what I want a harness to do, while weighing very little and packing up compactly - a case where, for once, less really is more.
What Edelrid Say:
The Leaf is a lightweight also a laminated construction alpine harness with minimal pack size for top performances at the crag.
- Laminate construction provides perfect load and pressure distribution despite the very small pack size
- Maximized comfort with 3D mesh padding and rounded edging
- Comfort and security with a 15mm Slide buckle for the waistbelt
- Tie in point with textile abrasion protector includes a wear indicator. In the event of excessive wear a red thread will become visible providing a warning that precaution must be taken
- Anatomically-shaped leg loops with adjustable elastic straps
- 2 symmetric gear loops at the front for easy clipping and unclipping
- 2 flexible rear gear loops to reduce pressure when wearing a backpack
- Chalk bag loop and 2 attachment options for ice screw clip
MORE INFO: Edelrid Website