Neither are light, but if you're kitting out a smaller kid then this full body harness and dual-rated helmet from Petzl are a comfy and well-fitting combo.
OUISTITI harness - £55
For smaller children, who may lack the hips to safely fit a sit harness, a full body harness is a sensible alternative. Traditionally these seemed to have been designed to put kids off climbing for life: uncomfy, restrictive, and with minimal padding, they'd often emerge from the rucksack a mass of tangled webbing. Some newer models are a big improvement.
Petzl's OUISTITI is a good example (it's French for marmoset; we've just been calling it the blue one).
Shaped as if it was actually meant to fit a small wriggly child, it is comfy (I'm told), well padded, and easily adjustable. A number of its features are particularly good: the firm but forgiving padding; the rear loop for a safety leash; the position of the adjustment buckles out of a child's reach; and the surprise addition of gear loops (maybe she'll want to try seconding something one day rather than just top-roping). It has proved a hit with our eldest, Daisy. My only criticism is the relatively high weight.
A one size fits all model for kids up to 30kg, the OUISTITI has a waist range of 58-70cm, and leg loops that fit thighs between 32-40cm. As a relatively small and slight 7-year-old, our Daisy is in about the middle of its range, and I'd estimate has at least a couple of years' growing room to go - at which stage she may have graduated to a sit harness anyway. Our youngest, age 5, fits fine in the OUISTITI too, so it has quite a wide age range. You don't want to be buying a new harness every time the kids go up a shoe size.
Putting it on
The OUISTITI seems less inclined to get twisted than some full-body harnesses - or even some adult harnesses come to that. If it comes out of your bag tangled, just grab the rear tie-in loop, give it a shake and it falls into shape. Putting it on is intuitive enough that it can be done unsupervised - it'd be pretty difficult to don incorrectly.
Adjustment is via four chunky auto-locking buckles. This is an adult's job; the buckles are sensibly located in the small of the back, to keep them out of the way of the action, and so that smaller children won't be able to fiddle with them. The straps are smooth-running, and the tails are held neatly under elastic retainers.
First you tighten the shoulder straps, which run down into the waist belt and so serve as the main point of size adjustment for both the child's height and their waist size. Fine tuning is then done with the lower two buckles, which connect down to the back of the waist. Some kid's harnesses have fewer buckles, but I think the OUISTITI's four-strap arrangement allows for a wide range of sizes and gives you a lot of fine tuning. The one thing it lacks is leg buckles (unlike, say, the DMM Tom Kitten), but although the fixed-size leg loops are loose on our girls we've not found that an issue.
Coloured green so that it stands out, the main tie-in point is reasuringly robust, and seems to have been positioned well, so that the knot isn't up in the child's face and so they can sit back comfortably when being lowered but still remain very safely upright. The OUISTITI does not have to be tied into the rope in order to remain fastened at the front, so the child can carry on wearing it when it's not their turn to climb.
The second, orange, reinforced loop at the rear is not for tying in, but serves a very useful function when you're unroped and still want a bit of safety. On easier scrambling ground, a lanyard clipped in here allows you to keep a tight rein on the child like a dog on a lead. This proved ideal on a father-daughter day out on the Elie Chain Walk where, for most parties, a rope would be overkill.
At 450g (Petzl say 410g) the OUISTITI is heavier than many adult harnesses; but then there is a lot of material in it. A similar model with a similar size range, the Fraggle II from Edelrid (see our review) is just 350g. There's a little more padding on the OUISTITI, and lots more metalwork - four chunky buckles and a couple of metal eyelets. To be fair we're not doing long mountain routes, or redpointing hard sport climbs, or indeed doing anything for which 100g one way or the other is going to make a material difference. My only concern would be if the weight bothered the wearer - and as yet we've heard no complaints.
There's a lot of padding on this harness, so all the key potential pressure points (shoulders; waist/lower back; legs) are well cushioned. It's a firm but forgiving closed cell foam, with a breathable mesh inner for comfort. We've been out on some warm days, and there has been no moaning about being sweaty. The waist belt seems particularly good, being broad for support and comfort but sculpted to fit the body closely and allow for all the necessary bending and twisting.
Freedom of movement seems unhindered in the OUISTITI, and I think it's a sign of its comfort that it is not immediately shrugged off as soon as she's back down on the ground.
One last thing worth noting: Where the load bearing webbing runs over the padding, fabric covers have been added on top. These serve no safety or structural function, but just help keep things neat. At a couple of points these sheets are beginning to pull out from their stitching. As yet the harness has seen only light use, so this is a little disappointing.
An excellent kid's harness at a fair price, with enough size range to guarantee several years of growing room.
Designed for children weighing less than 30kg, the OUISTITI harness is especially easy to put on and adjust. It does not require a connector to be fastened, and the adjustment system is difficult for a child to access. The perforated foam structure and the front tie-in point favor comfort while climbing. The rear attachment point allows the child to be connected for other specific activities.
- One size, up to 30kg
- Waist belt: 58-70cm
- Leg loops: 32-40cm
- Weight: 450g (our weight)
- Easy to put on and adjust
- Semi-rigid structure is color-coded (gray foam interior and blue exterior) for easy donning
- Comfortable to wear on the ground or when suspended
- Quilted closed-cell foam structure on the leg loops, positioning waistbelt and shoulder straps
- Front tie-in point is reinforced and lower, for greater comfort when climbing, particularly during descents
- DOUBLEBACK buckles are out of reach of the child
- Front tie-in point is color-coded green, for climbing
- Dorsal attachment point is color-coded orange for other situations
For more info see petzl.com
PICCHU helmet - £42
Rated for both climbing and cycling, the PICCHU is a versatile and very robust kid's helmet with excellent all-round head protection. The fit is good and the size adjustment simple, but it is bulky and comparatively heavy.
Construction and rating
Combining an ABS shell with an expanded polystyrene liner, this is a hybrid design along similar lines to the adult's BOREO (see our review). The hard shell takes the knocks and protects the softer inner, while the polystyrene soaks up the force of an impact. Since the impact-absorbing lining covers the whole inside of the helmet, it provides more side and rear protection than models that feature polystyrene only in the crown. Petzl have made the helmet low at the back of the head too, so protection is really the name of the game here. Thanks to this construction the PICCHU is rated as suitable for both climbing (CE EN 12492, UIAA) and cycling (CE EN 1078). Our kids already have cycle helmets, but I can still see this dual rating coming in useful when going on holiday with only a finite amount of boot space or luggage allowance.
Fit and cradle
The cradle is a scaled-down version of Petzl's standard design, a combination of plastic headband and slimline webbing straps. The flexible plastic cradle fits closely around the sides and rear of the head, and adjusts for size with a simple catch mechanism. This is easy to adjust, even on a distracted child, while the position of the headband on the back of the head can be altered a little by sliding it up or down the straps. On our testers the whole thing gives a secure fit, with minimal slipping or wobbling. Removable cushions add a bit of comfort at the forehead and crown (tip: don't remove the front pad, it's a faff to re-fit).
Size and weight
At 333g the PICCHU is heavy for a kid's helmet (one alternative model, the Edelrid Shield II, weighs 250g). Even the larger sized adult's BOREO, a similarly robust-feeling EPS/EPP model, weighs less; the adult's SIROCCO, meanwhile, is about half its weight. This seems quite a lot of mass for a small neck to support; I'd be concerned about that if Daisy was wearing it all day every day, but she only climbs occasionally and as yet the weight is not something she has commented on. The bonus is that this is a very robust-feeling helmet, and perhaps it needs to be to take the abuse dished out by children. It has been sat on and dropped, scraped and bashed, and so far has just a few very minor marks on the shell to show for it.
Size-wise it's pretty large, particularly in terms of width, and our smaller children do look a bit like mushrooms. It's the depth of the walls that makes the difference here, with about 2.5cm thickness of polystyrene all round, plus the shell. The fact that it has the bulk of a bike helmet is no surprise, given that this is partly what it is.
Vents and torch clips
A series of holes add a bit of air flow, though it has to be said that I've seen children's helmets (both climbing and cycling) with more vents. Since we mostly climb in Scotland the ventilation isn't a big worry, but on hot sunny days I do think it's likely to be quite sweaty in the PICCHU. Torch clips are provided, and though we as a family are a long way off any scenario in which the kids will need to mount a headtorch it doesn't hurt to be able to. Last, and least: stickers. The PICCHU comes with a sheet of them so that kids can customise their own. Since these are reflective, they also serve a functional purpose.
The PICCHU is notably heavier than some kids' helmets, but its robustness and its double rating (for both climbing and cycling) are big plus points.
The PICCHU children's helmet is designed for rock climbing and cycling. It is very light and comfortable and constructed for durability. A sheet of retro-reflective stickers allows the helmet to be personalized while enhancing visibility.
- One size: 48-54cm
- Weight: 333g (our weight)
- Climbing (CE EN 12492, UIAA)
- European cycling (CE EN 1078)
For more info see petzl.com
- Specifically sized for children between the ages of 3 and 8
- Carries Petzl's TOP AND SIDE PROTECTION product label
- Head-covering design for reinforced protection against lateral, front and rear impact
- Durable ABS shell and expanded polystyrene liner
- Side openings for ventilation
- Adjustable chinstrap, nape height and headband for a comfortable fit
- Narrow polyester webbing straps offer improved comfort
- Headlamp can be attached using the four optimally placed clips
- Foam is removable and washable
- Sheet of retro-reflective stickers allows the helmet to be personalized, while enhancing visibility