When the original Petzl Hirundos came out it was an iconic piece of kit: super-light, super-colourful and worn (primarily) by super-humans. It was the forerunner in a new generation of lightweight harnesses. Since then it has undergone two updates: one moving that funky green over to an equally funky orange (the Hirundos Ultralight) and the other into it’s current, vastly changed/updated, version (it’s still orange though…).
Since the release of the original the lightweight harness market has grown substantially, both in terms of an increase in the number of competitors in the marketplace and the number of people using them. Originally it was the preserve of the sport climbing elite, whereas nowadays things have opened significantly: I’ve seen people using superlight harnesses trad climbing in Pembroke, the Peak and North Wales; winter climbing in Scotland and the Alps; and where before they were the preserve of the mintory they’re now just a standard piece of kit…
Being blessed/cursed with a large set of legs I had always shied away from fixed leg loop harnesses, as getting a good fit for both waist and legs can be a problem. What I found with the Hirundos was not only did the leg loops accommodate my chunky thighs, but that the elasticated webbing around the front provided a nice ‘snug’ feel. I also suspect if you have the opposite issue and have nice, light, set of sport climbers legs then this same webbing would prevent that feeling of bagginess.
The waitstbelt is constructed using Fuseframe Technology, which - in practical terms - means that it is significantly more comfortable and supportive than it’s predecessor. Throughout the review process I wore this on everything from onsight attempts to long-term redpoint projects, hence hung around in it for quite some time (too much time perhaps?) and the end result of a more lasting comfort is noticeable. Because the Hirundos features quite a thin/moulded foam it has worn in very well, as one concern I've had with some harnesses of late is the obvious signs of where the internal tape having rubbed against the waistbelt or where fatter foam has splayed out above and below (which is a minor cosmetic issue, but potentially a major durability issue). Not so with the Hirundos: it features compact comfort that is built to last. The tapered nature of the waist belt also contours nicely around the body, another feature that adds to the long term comfort during extended use.
In total the Hirundos features four gear loops, two caritool/ice clipper slots, and a small rear loop for…well…whatever you can fit in it really (it’s meant for hauling).
My initial impressions of the gear loops were that the front two were perfect, they were stiff and held gear well (be that a set of wires and a few camming devices or 8 x sport quickdraws for your latest project). The rear set were something of a disappointment in comparison, being soft, flimsy and quite awkward to use. Originally I had assumed this was to save weight, but upon further research found it was actually down to making it more comfortable to wear with a backpack. On the one hand this is great for winter/alpine climbers, but on the other it doesn’t really help trad climbers wanting a more robust set of gear loops for their numerous quickdraws.
The rear 'haul loop' also distracts from the harnesses appeal to a more traditional market, as although you can fit a belay plate + screwgate to it, it's a bit fiddly and far from ideal. Still, this is a lightweight harness - that's what it's primary focus is - hence weight savings have to be made. If you're looking for more trad features such as larger, stiffer, and gear loops then my recommendation would be to look elsewhere.
The change in construction has meant that not only has there been an increase in comfort, but there has also been a decrease in weight.
Coming in at 280g (Medium) it is still exceptionally competitive weight wise within the modern market, but all the more so considering it's comfort. With many other lightweight products there are two features that are the first to go during the design process: the first is comfort (through the removal of padding) and the second is - often inadvertantly - durability (simply because there's so little material and what is used is more fragile).
For those of an environmental disposition it's worth knowing that the harness is constructed using bluesign fabric. Over the past few years this appears to have been a growing trend amongst a number of manufacturers and it would be nice to see this continue in years to come.
One other point I feel I should raise in light of Es Tressider's review/feedback of the previous version of the Hirundos (published on UKC back in 2010), is that this updated version does have detachable buckles for the leg loop retainers. For those who haven't read it, the predecessor's 'toilet system (for number 2s or girls without she-wees) was a little fiddly to manage with gloves on'. May I reassure you all that after extensive testing I can inform you that this is not so with the current model...
The Hirundos is lightweight harness that is both comfortable and built to last. Weight-wise it is still at the top of it's game and with an RRP of £80 it is actually quite price competitive compared to other harnesses in the category, which are now reaching into the £100+ (ouch...). From a trad climbers perspective the two rear gear loops let it down due to their soft nature, but for sport climbers and mountaineers this is less of an issue - particuarly considering how good the front two are.
What Petzl say about the Hirundos:
High-end lightweight and comfortable harness designed for performance climbing.
The HIRUNDOS harness is a high-end model, ideal for sport and alpine climbing. The FUSEFRAME Technology construction produces a slim, clean, lightweight design that offers excellent comfort. This harness is equipped with four equipment loops for optimal equipment organization, and has a DoubleBack HD buckle for quick waistbelt adjustment.
Sizes: XS - XL