Women's All-Round Harnesses Group Test

Many climbers are all-rounders, so there's a need for harnesses that can do a bit of everything too. From trad crags and mountain multi-pitch, to sport and indoor climbing, to winter and Alpine, if you are only buying one harness to cover every base then it needs to be a solid all-rounder.

Women make up an ever-growing proportion of the climbing community, and choice in women's-specific equipment is also increasing. Following on from our men's all-round harness group test in 2016, it seemed high time to do a women's-specific harness review.

Stacked up for falls tests at the wall  © UKC Gear
Stacked up for falls tests at the wall

Over Summer and Autumn 2018 a test team of different shapes and sizes put nine all-round female-fit harnesses through their paces. We have used them in different styles of climbing around Britain and in the Alps, methodically sat around hanging off gear and belays for prolonged periods of time, and took and caught whipper falls at the wall.

Naturally, there are fit differences between them that will best suit different users, and some climbers prioritise some features over others. We have therefore not awarded a best-in-test; ratings in different categories should make a quick comparison easy and we have shared our more extensive thoughts below. If you have any specific questions on anything else, the team would be happy to engage on the forum.

Fit and Comfort

Women generally have a longer rise (distance between waistbelt and leg loops) than men, and most women's harnesses are cut to accommodate this. However, body shape will have a huge effect on which harness fits best and is most comfortable for you. If you are straighter cut and/or have a shorter rise you might be just as comfortable (and have more colour options!) in a unisex/men's harness. For those with a bigger hip-to-waist ratio and/or long rise and/or what one tester termed "more generous thighs", you might need a bit more length, shaping or padding in certain places.

We have learnt a lot over the course of this test. For instance, leg loops are important. If you're pushing yourself and taking falls or just planning to do multi-pitch abseiling and belaying, they can often be the biting point for generous and firm thighs alike. Women also tend to have a lower centre of gravity, so a women's harness may consider this weight distribution for the position in which you end up 'sitting' on the leg loops after a fall, on abseil or on a hanging belay.

Nell heading out for a day on the Petite Aiguille Verte in the Mammut Ophir Speedfit  © UKC Gear
Nell heading out for a day on the Petite Aiguille Verte in the Mammut Ophir Speedfit

Sophie testing at Burbage South  © UKC Gear
Sophie testing at Burbage South

Sizing as a whole is a bit of a mystery, so consultation of size tables (and ideally, trying before you buy) is essential, as is ensuring that there is enough adjustable range on both the waist and legs to account for weight loss and gain as well as layering. (For a first-hand account of the dangers of a wrong-sized harness, it's worth reading this blog by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk– Ed).

We're not convinced that any brand has totally thrown away the rulebook and built a women's-specific harness ground-up (if you're bored, try comparing them side by side with the men's equivalent model shots), but the Edelrid offering here really does provide a unique option in terms of padding, shaping and support, while the Beal and Mammut harnesses we've looked at offer a wide range of fit adjustment to accommodate different body shapes.

Key points we have looked at here include:

  • Adjustable legs to accommodate everything from summer shorts to thick winter layers
  • Level of padding/shaping/support for comfy abseiling, hanging belays and bobbing around on sport climbs
  • A fit that you can happily walk in (think Cuillin Ridge, mountaineering, or a long walk off)
  • Fit against different body types

Roisin and Zoe with the CT and DMM at a glowering Bamford  © UKC Gear
Roisin and Zoe with the CT and DMM at a glowering Bamford

Ali and Rebecca team testing at Subluminal, Swanage  © Ben Bishop
Ali and Rebecca team testing at Subluminal, Swanage
© Ben Bishop

Features

Features we considered were:

  • Number of gear loops and their profile, positioning and capacity (for big sea cliff and mountain trad racks)
  • Attachment points for ice screw clips
  • Detachment options for leg loops for pee breaks
  • Hardware (especially buckles) and added perks such as reinforced abrasion points etc

While objectively some harnesses have more or fewer loops, how they are distributed is a matter of subjective personal preference and how you rack. If you want a good all-round spread, the DMM or Petzl might suit. If you are fine with shallower gear loops, the Black Diamond, Mammut and Edelweiss cut a lot of weight by keeping them streamlined. If symmetry of loops is critical, the Edelweiss, CT and Beal all have double buckles. If you need better winter options, the Arc'Teryx and Black Diamond have more ice clipper slots. If you like your rack pushed forward towards the hips, some harnesses will do this better than others. Ditto, the choice between flat vs 'loopy' shape, overlapping vs non-overlapping and moulded vs unstructured loops. If you are interested in winter options, none of these harnesses are easy to get on over crampons, but some are easy to get over boots and seven have some form of ice clipper points (two have four). Buckles and the leg loop dropping system also both proved to be emotive issues!


Overall Summary

Make and model

Ratings

Black Diamond

Technician - Women's

Price: £80

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

60%

Features

80%

Weight

90%

Build quality

90%

Value

80%

Overall

Mammut

Ophir Speedfit Women's

Price: £55

Best in Test Good Value Large

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

80%

Weight

90%

Build quality

70%

Value

100%

Overall

Edelweiss

Scorpion-2

Price: £60

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

60%

Weight

70%

Build quality

50%

Value

60%

Overall

Arc'Teryx

AR-385a

Price: £120

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

80%

Features

90%

Weight

70%

Build quality

100%

Value

50%

Overall

Edelrid

Solaris

Price: £100

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

90%

Features

90%

Weight

50%

Build quality

100%

Value

60%

Overall

Climbing Technology

Anthea

Price: £54.95

Fit and comfort

70%

Features

80%

Weight

70%

Build quality

50%

Value

80%

Overall

Beal

Venus Soft

Price: £60

Fit and comfort

100%

Features

40%

Weight

90%

Build quality

80%

Value

80%

Overall

DMM

Venture

Price: £69

Fit and comfort

50%

Features

80%

Weight

90%

Build quality

60%

Value

70%

Overall

Petzl

Luna

Price: £72

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Fit and comfort

90%

Features

80%

Weight

60%

Build quality

90%

Value

80%

Overall

Black Diamond Technician Women's £80

A true all-rounder in terms of features, the Technician is a slimline, lightweight and durable harness which is suited to technical performance climbing and has proved the best in the test for Alpine/mountaineering. This does come with some downsides. It is fiddly to adjust, and while it was comfortable for all testers in winter clothing, the leg loops might cut a bit in lighter layers. At £80 it is pricy, but is definitely built to last.

photo
Black Diamond Technician on test at Cratcliffe
© Paul Evans

Fit and Comfort

With subtle colours and one of the thinner waistbelts in the test (a tiny bit thicker than the Beal), the Black Diamond Technician is a good combination of lightweight and tough. Once you are in it, the fit is good with a long rise, but those with bigger hips may find getting in and out is quite hard as the strap is quite short. We found the leg loops were relatively narrow in proportion to the waist - many testers wore the harness on the smallest waist size, but with leg loops well extended. This is also a harness that fits best higher on the actual waist, rather than 'just above the hips'.

In terms of comfort, the Technician's waistbelt is wicking and moves well, but doesn't have much women's-specific anatomical padding. Again, your body shape will determine how comfortable this is - some testers found it dug in a bit when bringing up a second on multipitch trad. In particular it feels like there is less extensive and lower volume leg loop padding than other harnesses in the test so it's possibly not the harness to be taking project falls or long hanging belays in. (Interestingly, a recent Black Diamond article reported that their lab testing had determined that leg loops take 70 to 80 percent of the load in a fall – Ed.) This is not a problem in winter layers, where we found that the Technician was extremely comfortable and you would often forget it was there.

Four ice clipper slots and 'kicked-out' gear loop profile  © UKC Gear
Four ice clipper slots and 'kicked-out' gear loop profile

The Technician has a lightweight yet supportive waistbelt and good racking capacity  © UKC Gear
The Technician has a lightweight yet supportive waistbelt and good racking capacity

Features

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large Feature-wise, the Technician is undoubtedly the best winter harness in the test. It has four secure ice tool slots towards the front of the harness and pack-compatible loops which hang below the waistbelt - good for chimneying and squirming in winter mountaineering. Four shallow moulded gear loops with a kicked-out profile are complemented by a large fifth cord loop and a belay plate tab, giving good racking capacity.

We enjoyed using this harness for all forms of climbing, but had a couple on minor observations. In our experience, the 'speed buckles' are not speedy. The waist buckle in particular is fiddly to loosen as you have to separate the metalwork and lift, which on one hand means it is definitely not going anywhere/going to slacken off under the load of a heavy rack, but also makes it very difficult to adjust in gloves and cinching causes wear on the strap. There is also quite a shallow hook on an elastic loop for the leg loop bungees, which could be easily knocked out if you are the kind of climber who tends to bum slide on the down-climb - not unsafe, but a bit annoying!

Black Diamond Technician Women's product shot  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L (women) and S, M, L, XL (men)
  • Weight: 396g (M)
  • Women's-specific rise and fit
  • Lightweight, quick-drying waistbelt with Fusion Comfort Technology offers superior comfort and range of motion
  • Adjustable leg loops
  • Four pressure-molded gear loops with rear fifth loop
  • Four Ice Clipper slots
  • Speed buckles on waistbelt and leg loops
  • Adjustable releasable elastic risers
  • Rear haul loop
  • Price: £80

Black Diamond say:

A four-season workhorse for any climb on your hit list, the Technician features adjustable leg loops and offers durable performance for those with a passion for all things vertical.

For more info see: blackdiamondequipment.com

Mammut Ophir Women's Speedfit £55

A neat, lightweight four-season harness with a good set of features and some cool tricks to keep it streamlined, the Ophir Speedfit is great value for money. Just plan your pee breaks accordingly…

Good gear distribution across loops on the Mammut Ophir Speedfit  © UKC Gear
Good gear distribution across loops on the Mammut Ophir Speedfit

Fit and Comfort

The Ophir Speedfit's unique selling point is an integrated 'Fast Adjust' system on the leg loops, providing quick and easy re-sizing with no flappy straps to get in the way. The waistbelt is a normal buckle system with two elasticated loops to tuck in the strap to the side, and the buckles themselves are strong, neat and easy to operate in gloves. This meant we were able to swap the harness between testers quickly and achieve a good fit for everyone. The range of the leg loops doesn't seem as large as the range of the waist adjustment, so when sizing, if you are substantial of thigh or intend to use the harness in winter, it is worth checking you have enough expansion room for extra layers.

The Speedfit has an average level of support and cushioning. This isn't the most comfortable harness in the test, but the combination of waistbelt shaping and ventilated foam padding performed well for testers of all shapes. For those with larger legs, the webbing exposed by expanding the leg loops could cut in a bit, but on the whole the harness moved well for all types of climbing/approach.

Reinforced tie-in point, neat buckle adjustments and belay loop wear indicator  © UKC Gear
Reinforced tie-in point, neat buckle adjustments and belay loop wear indicator

Speedfit buckles allow fast adjustment of leg loops and remove flappy straps  © UKC Gear
Speedfit buckles allow fast adjustment of leg loops and remove flappy straps

Best in Test Good Value Large Features

The Ophir Speedfit scores well on features. Four moulded non-overlapping gear loops spread your rack well, though do not hold quite as much as other harnesses in the test - something to bear in mind on gear-heavy trad routes. With a single buckle waistbelt adjustment, the gear loop spacing is designed to be symmetrical on mid-range, therefore can be a bit skewed, but not as much as the DMM Venture. Tough fabric and two ice clipper points were useful on test in the Alps, and would be welcome for Scottish winter too.

There are lots of nice touches on the Speedfit, with a wear indicator on the belay loop, reinforced bottom tie-in point and rated (4kN) haul loop, in addition to a cord clip loop in the centre back of the waistbelt. The one downside to this harness (and it might be a fairly major one for some) is that the leg loops cannot be dropped, so a pee might be a rather involved or risky affair if you are big walling, on a tiny belay ledge or winter climbing.

Mammut Ophir Speedfit Women's product shot  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L (women) and XS, S, M, L, XL (men)
  • Weight: 357g (M)
  • Special two-part webbing construction ensures maximum comfort
  • Innovative Fast Adjust system to adjust width of leg loops
  • Patented abrasion protection thanks to synthetic material on tie-in loops
  • 4 gear loops
  • 2 loops to attach an ice-screw carabiner
  • Extremely strong (4 kN) haul loop
  • Price: £55

Mammut say:

The new Speedfit adjustment system allows you to adjust the width of the leg loops within seconds: simply slide the Speedfit buckle along the load-bearing webbing until the harness fits perfectly. This novel adjustment system solves the tiresome problem of ends of webbing that stick out and get in the way. Thanks to the Mammut® two-part webbing technology and geometry specifically tailored to the female anatomy, the Ophir Speedfit Women also offers optimal comfort, extremely high breathability and maximum freedom of movement for climbing in the gym, out on the rocks or in alpine terrain.

For more info see: mammut.com

Edelweiss Scorpion-2 Lady £60

Though the Scorpion-2 is very much a sport harness, its gear loops perform credibly in single and multi-pitch trad. We had concerns about its durability on rougher rock and for mountaineering but it is light, easily adjustable, comfortable and attractive. The bottom line is that compared to other harnesses of a similar price, we feel you might get more for your money elsewhere.

Heading up the Old Redoubt, Berry Head in the Scorpion-2  © Kayak Sherpa
Heading up the Old Redoubt, Berry Head in the Scorpion-2
© Kayak Sherpa

Fit and Comfort

The Edelweiss Scorpion-2 is one of three harnesses in the test that have buckles either side on the waistbelt, allowing full adjustment for fit and the chance to maintain a centred rack. The leg loops also have neat double slide buckles that allow quick and easy adjustment without the weight of full metal buckles. It comes in two sizes which fit most testers, though if you have a small waist but a long rise, you may find yourself slightly between the two sizes. It is also worth noting that the size guide measurements for this harness are for hips and legs, rather than waist and legs on the rest of the group.

The light padding is well placed, and something about the cut of the leg loops fits really well, meaning they are comfortable and unnoticeable when climbing, walking or hanging. However, the lightweight feel comes with its disadvantages. The outer layer of fabric feels a little on the flimsy side, and took quite a beating on the leg loops both on grit and granite. It sounds ridiculous, but this harness was also the most dirty by the end of testing, picking up mud from every belay ledge we ever sat on. If you're buying it for the colour (and most of us loved the colour), be warned!

Two buckle adjustments on each side of the waist and legs keeps the harness centred on the hips  © UKC Gear
Two buckle adjustments on each side of the waist and legs keeps the harness centred on the hips

The gear loops are quite shallow, but a rigid 'kicked out' profile keeps gear racked evenly  © UKC Gear
The gear loops are quite shallow, but a rigid 'kicked out' profile keeps gear racked evenly

Features

The features on the Scorpion-2 are relatively lightweight, but considering it is designed for sport climbing, that's not surprising! With four shallow moulded gear loops, it racks up surprisingly well, holding a double rack in a flat spaced profile, kicked out away from the body. Aside from this, there is a small rear chalk bag loop. There are no ice clipper slots. The leg loop clips are a little shallow, but they don't interfere with the gear loops and unhook and stay hooked respectively when required.

Edelweiss Scorpion-2 Lady product shot  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: 1, 2 (women) and 1, 2 (men)
  • Weight: 406g (2)
  • Lightweight materials
  • Fully adjustable with twin buckle system on waistbelt and leg loops
  • 4 moulded gear loops
  • Rear chalk bag loop
  • Price: £60

Edelweiss say:

The Lady's version of the SCORPION-2 is a 2 buckle harness which combines sleek construction and supportive comfort thanks to its perfect mapping of dedicated padding. Fitted with four gear holders and made of high-quality materials it is both technically advanced and elegant: a great choice for modern sport climbing.

For more info see: edelweissropes.co.uk

Arc'Teryx AR-385a £120

One of the better engineered harnesses in the test, the AR-385a is a true four-season performance option with great detailing that comes in a wide range of sizes. Its lightweight feel makes it equally suitable for sport climbing and scrambling. It is also the most expensive harness in the test, so unless you are ready to make a high-end investment, price point may be a limiting factor.

Arc'Teryx AR-385a at Gaeta, Abruzzi  © UKC Gear
Arc'Teryx AR-385a at Gaeta, Abruzzi

Fit and Comfort

Arc'Teryx's proprietary 'Warp Strength Technology' means the AR-385a looks and feels very different to other harnesses in the test - a thin but very wide waistbelt spreads pressure over a large surface area.

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

The edges have also been softened, ensuring that there is little dig, even when heavily loaded. It is also breathable and very supportive across the lower back, fitting most testers ergonomically. However, for those of us with larger hips, it tended to gape a little when carrying a full rack – without any bulk to the structure to support the weight and only one adjustment point at the front, it couldn't maintain full contact, decreasing support and comfort a bit. The leg loops are broad and spread pressure when hanging and falling much better than older Arc'Teryx models did.

Fit is good, and an unrivalled five sizes (XS-XL) combined with a good range of adjustability means that you have an increased chance of finding a size where you sit in the middle of the harness' adjustable range (and are thus able to change your layering and manage weight fluctuations without compromising safety or fit). Some testers found the leg loops slightly small in proportion to the waist size though.

The Arc'Teryx AR-385a has a teeny tiny pack size  © UKC Gear
The Arc'Teryx AR-385a has a teeny tiny pack size

You can really rack it up, although this can cause the wide waistband to lose contact   © UKC Gear
You can really rack it up, although this can cause the wide waistband to lose contact

Features

The details are impressive. The four plastic-moulded non-overlapping gear loops are large and distribute gear evenly with loops seated equally forward on both sides. The fifth rear loop extends capacity giving belay plate/anchor sling options, and four well-positioned ice holster slots offer full winter functionality. If we were to be picky, the moulding could kick out a bit further as until held out by volume of gear it can be possible to accidentally clip your shirt alongside the loop. The straps are easy to adjust with easy flow through the buckles, so glove compatible. The single point hook to drop leg loops does the trick. Indeed, "drop legs to allow for bathroom breaks" was deemed important enough to make it onto the official product features list! It also packs down very small.

Arc'Teryx AR-385a product shot

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL (women) Men's equivalent is the AR-395a
  • Weight: 406g (M)
  • Adjustable leg loops allow for a precise fit that tailors the harness to your size and accommodates variable layers needed when using one harness for all disciplines of climbing.
  • Longer belay loop accommodates a women's differential between waist and leg loops.
  • Warp Strength Technology™ equally distributes weight across the swami for enduring comfort, and the waistband is constructed with a softer edge to eliminate cutting and binding.
  • Burly™ Double Weave material is strong and flexible, laminated elastic webbing in the adjustable leg loops extends rebound life and the easy access drop legs allow for bathroom breaks without taking the harness off.
  • 4 gear loops and rear belay plate/chalk bag loop.
  • Small pack size.
  • Price: £120

Arc'Teryx say:

Exceptionally versatile adjustable leg women's specific harness that excels for sport, trad, alpine, mixed or ice climbing. The AR-385a elevates performance, comfort and versatility.

For more info see: arcteryx.com

Edelrid Solaris £100

Of all the harnesses on test, the Solaris is truly the most "women's-specific" – respect to the design team who have clearly thought about accommodating different body shapes. The Solaris is definitely worth trying if all-day comfort is a priority, if you are likely to be hanging around or especially if your shape means that a standard straight-up harness doesn't fit well. At £100, it is not cheap, but this is a case of vorsprung durch technik engineering, and it seems fair that that comes at a price.

Testing the Solaris at Higgar Tor  © Emma Flaherty
Testing the Solaris at Higgar Tor
© Emma Flaherty

Structured, padded and super wide waistbelt and leg loops spread load and give maximum support. Vents give breathability.  © UKC Gear
Structured, padded and super wide waistbelt and leg loops spread load and give maximum support. Vents give breathability.

Fit and comfort

Without doubt the Edelrid Solaris is the most comfortable harness in the group test. The waistbelt and leg loops are structured, vented, padded and super wide, giving great support and spreading pressure across a large area to ensure there is no biting into your thighs, waistband rolling or cutting into your hips when carrying a huge rack. It is also highly breathable and was the harness of choice for taking falls, hanging, and belaying in - ideal for long mountain days and big walls. The flipside was that the wide leg loops are sometimes noticeable when climbing, for instance when wearing thinner trousers or shorts and/or trying to make some big, sportier leg moves. Its size and bulk mean it is also harder to pack than the rest of the testing group and there's no escaping its weight at nearly half a kilogram.

Fit was good across testers, with the unique double strap system allowing the waistbelt to be easily adjusted to fit different shapes eg. small waist/wide hips, then neatly clipping away to the side. This allows good contact across the wide waistbelt even when heavily laden, unlike the Arc-Teryx AR-385a. The leg loops also accommodate a wide range of sizes, and a long belay loop combined with Edelrid's special leg loop 'bridge' gives a deep waist-to-leg drop. (Nb. It is worth noting that this harness sizes large, so either try before you buy, or make a detailed reading of the Edelrid size charts and err on the smaller side.)

Plastic abrasion protector and leg loop bridge are just part of the build quality  © UKC Gear
Plastic abrasion protector and leg loop bridge are just part of the build quality

Four gear loops hold a full double rack, but sit a little further back than we liked  © UKC Gear
Four gear loops hold a full double rack, but sit a little further back than we liked

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large Features

The Solaris has four large, stiff, deep, non-overlapping gear loops, all angled to push your gear forwards. However we've found that the loops all feel quite far back, meaning you generally have to reach round behind you to get gear. The more you extend the waistbelt, the further back they go. Despite this, carrying capacity is good, and the loops can accommodate a full double rack. There are also two ice screw clips cleverly worked into the webbing design, and a chalk bag clip. As with the Mammut Ophir Speedfit, the plastic abrasion protector on the bottom tie-in point is a great feature that gives extra durability, though the top tie-in point is on the tight side when using double ropes. Leg loops are easily dropped from a single hook which attaches to various points in the webbing.

Edelrid Solaris  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: XS, S, M (women) Men's equivalent is the Orion
  • Weight: 499g (S)
  • Dual webbing straps with 10 mm Slide Block buckles allow adjustment to fit all hip shapes
  • Longer leg loop bridge enables optimal positioning above the hip bones for full comfort whether climbing or hanging
  • 3D-Vent Technology: excellent fit and wear comfort via 3D construction, pressure distribution and air permeability
  • Abrasion protector for extra durability at tie-in point
  • 4 symmetric fixed gear loops, 2 attachment options for ice screw clips, chalk bag loop
  • Adjustable leg loops with elasticated mesh inserts for optimal and flexibility
  • Price: £100

Edelrid say:

Our fully-adjustable Solaris women's harness is specially designed to fit the female anatomy.

To find out more visit the Edelrid website.

Climbing Technology Anthea £54.95

Though there doesn't seem to be any ground-breaking technology at work here, the Anthea (many eyes were rolled at the name) should fit most body types. It is not the most comfortable or 'engineered' of harnesses, but its gear loops set it apart from the rest of the test, and as a true all-rounder for entry to mid-level trad/winter/mountaineering/sport it provides a good option for a modest price. The bright non-pink pop colours also meant it was often the first harness picked out by the testing group.

Roisin takes the CT Anthea for a spin at Bamford  © Ben Bishop
Roisin takes the CT Anthea for a spin at Bamford
© Ben Bishop

Fit and comfort

Though the CT Anthea looks a little bit bulky, it moves well while climbing and can be adjusted to be comfortable for a wide range of body types. Testers liked the two-buckle adjustment which ensures gear loops are equidistant from centre, regardless of how many layers you are wearing, though sometimes the padding of the waistbelt ends doesn't stay under the buckles. The fit on all testers was adequate, with the reasonably wide waistbelt and leg loops 'padding out' any potential discomfort, meaning it performed well in hanging, falling and catching tests. If you like good support on your lower back, this is one of two harnesses (with the Edelrid Solaris) that gives good padding and support in this region. The mesh interior is comfortable and wicks to a point, but isn't the most breathable in hot conditions such as those this July! The rise worked for all testers and the waist-to-leg ratio seems reasonable.

Two buckles = easy adjustment, though the padding doesn't always sit under them  © UKC Gear
Two buckles = easy adjustment, though the padding doesn't always sit under them

Six gear loops, two ice holster slots and a chalk bag loop = serious carrying power  © UKC Gear
Six gear loops, two ice holster slots and a chalk bag loop = serious carrying power

Features

The standout feature on the Anthea is that it has six – yes that's right, six – gear loops, plus mini loop for chalk bag. The front four are of average size, stiff, non-overlapping and front tapered, allowing a good distribution of gear. The rear two are smaller (2-3 krabs max), but ideal for carrying anchor sling, shoes, prussiks and a jacket. The loops are quite thick, so if you have something small to clip to it (like a nut tool with small integrated krab) it might be a bit of a fiddle getting it on and off - normal ones are fine. There are also ice holster slots, which sit nicely between the front two loops. Tough plastic buckle clips resist wear while allowing quick leg loop movement for pee breaks. Being picky, the belay loop seems less substantial than other harnesses in the test, but the tie-in points are reassuringly solid so we weren't worried.

Climbing Technology Anthea product shot  © Climbing Technology

  • Sizes: XS-S, M-L, L-XL (women) Men's equivalent is the Wall
  • Weight: 396g (M-L)
  • Ergonomic waist belt with no pressure points and leg loops with a T-shaped structure that ensure excellent fit and freedom in the movements;
  • Comfortable mesh3D interior, that ensures excellent breathability and quick drying;
  • 4 new adjustable buckles in light alloy, for fast adjustment and an optimum adaptation to the body in various activities (mountaineering, climbing, ice climbing, etc.);
  • 4 large tapered gear loops for a better allocation of the equipment, and an extra 2 small gear loops (only one on size XS-S) located on the back for placing accessories and two slots to accommodate the carrying-tools carabiners or hammer holster plus rear loop for chalk bag.
  • Price: £54.95

Climbing Technology say:

Harness for women, lightweight and versatile, with a shape specifically designed for women's physique. Designed for mountaineering and ice climbing/ New design ensures a superior distribution of the load and excellent comfort during suspension.

For more info see: climbingtechnology.com

Beal Venus Soft £60

Yes, its name may sound like a shaving product, and it does have some pink bits. Plus, if you love the colours, you can also buy a matching belay device and locking karabiner… The Venus Soft is a lightweight, adjustable and all-day comfortable harness that genuinely fits women of all shapes and sizes and provides good value for money. It is definitely worth serious consideration, especially if you tend to rack your trad pro upfront (so would use the unmoulded rear loops for quickdraws and slings) and/or don't need ice clipper slots. However, this would not be a great choice for winter, or multi-pitch trad, so despite its many plus points the Venus Soft is less of an all-rounder than most of the models on review.

The wide waistband and leg loops makes the Beal Venus Soft a comfortable option for hanging, abseiling and belaying  © Paul Evans
The wide waistband and leg loops makes the Beal Venus Soft a comfortable option for hanging, abseiling and belaying
© Paul Evans

Fit and Comfort

'Web Core Technology' puts the Beal Venus Soft halfway between the Arc'Teryx AR-385a and the more conventional structured and padded harnesses. It is indeed soft. Four layers (nylon, webbing, foam and mesh) create a broad yet thin surface given a little structure by light stitching that moves well with your body while climbing or walking. It is tougher and more resilient than it looks too.

All testers found the harness extremely comfortable, with good material coverage on leg loops and a well-shaped waistbelt meaning it distributed force well in fall, abseil and hanging tests. We were cynical about there being only two sizes available, but with buckles both sides of the waistbelt and on each leg loop (admittedly the latter are a little fiddly) and a good rise, there really is a lot of room for manoeuvre while maintaining a centred rack. We found the leg loops slightly small in proportion to the waist, so check the extension range if you have power thighs!

Two buckles allow the harness to be centred on the hips at any size and keep the gear loops equally forward  © UKC Gear
Two buckles allow the harness to be centred on the hips at any size and keep the gear loops equally forward

The Venus Soft has the deepest gear loops in the test, but the unstructured rear ones bunch gear up a bit  © UKC Gear
The Venus Soft has the deepest gear loops in the test, but the unstructured rear ones bunch gear up a bit

Features

The Venus Soft has four huge, deep gear loops. The front two are moulded and forward angled, so you can keep a lot of your rack up front in easy reach. These are deeper than we are used to, so gear hangs a bit further down and with short thighs could get in the way a bit. Being both deep and unmoulded, the rear gear loops can fall victim to some bunching - if you've selected the wrong piece of gear and want to return it in place, it might not be so easy. A small rear belay plate/chalk bag loop completes the set-up, and not having much in centre back means it works well with a pack. There are two hooking leg loop bungees. There are no ice slots and feature-wise the Venus Soft feels more like a sport/comfort trad harness rather than an all-rounder.

Beal Venus Soft product shot  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: 1, 2 (women) Men's equivalent is the Shadow Soft
  • Weight: 363g (2)
  • High levels of comfort thanks to the Web-Core soft concept.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • 4 gear loops.
  • Price: £60

Beal say:

Lightweight adjustable harness which can be adapted to suit all feminine figures thanks to its two sizes and Dynamic- Fit (Black Diamond licence) leg loop adjustment system. Like the REBEL SOFT, it benefits from the latest Web-Core soft technology which provides exceptional levels of comfort thanks to optimal pressure distribution on hips and thighs.

Read more on: sport.beal-planet.com

DMM Venture £69

It was really hard to score this one so go with the description over the numbers! Bascially, if it fits you, the DMM Venture is a really great harness - lightweight, comfortable, adaptable to all disciplines, capable of carrying a large rack and at a decent price. However, we found fit to be hit and miss, more so than with any other harness in the test.

The DMM Venture takes the toughness test at Curbar  © UKC Gear
The DMM Venture takes the toughness test at Curbar

Fit and Comfort

Ventilated fabric with zoned padding makes the DMM Venture a really breathable and comfortable harness, which moves well. The leg loops are cut generously and easily adjust to accommodate layering. The rise from leg loops to waist is also generous, effected by a seriously long belay loop. In terms of fit, the shaping of the waistbelt isn't that different to the men's Mithril, so there can be a bit of a 'fit thing' and it is much more likely to be comfortable if you are straighter around the hips. Women with other body shapes might struggle, and would be advised to try before they buy. The foamy layer closest to your body can also feel a little plastic-y/sweaty if your layers don't aid quick wicking, but the 'outside' of the harness is tough and well built.

Features

The Venture is a fully-featured harness with four large gear loops, one smaller (but fully-loadable) rear one and two ice clip slots. The main gear loops are non-overlapping and of a profile that spreads your rack really intuitively. However, with any single buckle harness, there is a likelihood that adjustment of the waistbelt can make your gear loops sit a bit asymmetrically. This was pretty obvious in the Venture, where testers found that it was very hard to have the harness straight. The gear loops become even more skewed as you expand the waistbelt and this could be a bit annoying with a large rack. (Notably, other DMM models such as the Vixen and Puma 2 make use of a 'floating' waistbelt to counter this.)

The Venture can sometimes be straight at the front...  © UKC Gear
The Venture can sometimes be straight at the front...

...wonky at the back (but with great racking!)  © UKC Gear
...wonky at the back (but with great racking!)

As usual with DMM hardware, the three adjustment buckles are compact and robust. However, we are ambivalent about the leg loop bungees. On one hand, two separate clips are less obtrusive than centrally tethered straps, but there is just something about the positioning (under the back gear loops) which makes them harder to find under gear, and in use this meant that a couple of testers accidentally clipped gear on them when racking up/seconding.

DMM Venture product shot  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes XS, S, M, L (women) Men's equivalent is the Mithril
  • Weight: 361g (S)
  • Lightweight construction gives lightness, flexibility and small pack size
  • Women's specific shape helps you find the perfect fit
  • Fully adjustable for use with a variety of layering systems
  • Five gear loops for versatile racking options
  • Ventilated padding for comfort and breathability in hot environments
  • Price: £69

DMM say:

The Venture delivers lightweight performance without compromising comfort. Streamlined construction gives small pack size and low weight. Adjustable leg loops give good fit with different layering systems, allowing the Venture to switch between summer and winter climbing with ease.Five gear loops and two Vault slots give versatile racking options for summer and winter climbing. Whatever environment you climb in, The Venture won't hold you back.

For more info see: dmmclimbing.com

Petzl Luna £72

The Luna is a very well-made, comfortable harness with good gear loops at a reasonable price. It is extremely comfortable for certain body shapes, and even if you haven't found previous Petzl models fit you, this one is worth a try. If your plans involve ice tools, be prepared to buy Petzl's clipper or rack on your normal gear loops.

The Petal Luna is very comfortable, even when the photo angle isn't!  © Sophie Whyte one-handed belay shots
The Petal Luna is very comfortable, even when the photo angle isn't!
© Sophie Whyte one-handed belay shots

Fit and Comfort

Recently remodelled, the Petzl Luna is a comfortable harness which combines medium padding and contour to improve pressure distribution. The Luna has a longer rise than before, meaning that it could be fitted comfortably to all testers, including a number who had not been able to wear older Petzl models. However, its contours still provide maximum comfort to those with smaller hips and a shorter rise, and indeed these testers found it the most comfortable harness for hanging, keeping them comfortably upright without any pressure points. The leg loops are easily adjusted to accommodate layers, but it was harder to size for testers with big legs but a small waist, a common female body shape. Though it is one of the heavier harnesses in the test, it doesn't feel particularly bulky or restrict mobility, and it is robust and supportive.

The new Luna has a longer rise, but is most comfortable for straighter hips  © UKC Gear
The new Luna has a longer rise, but is most comfortable for straighter hips

Excellent racking options and two clip buckle leg loop bungees  © UKC Gear
Excellent racking options and two clip buckle leg loop bungees

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large Features

Since the last iteration of the Luna, Petzl have made a few changes to the features too. This includes adding a fifth full-sized gear loop alongside two moulded front loops and two back loops, giving good gear distribution when racked for multipitch trad. This is especially helpful for those who have small waists who would normally struggle for racking space on the waistbelt. We like how this loop is staggered slightly higher (sewn into the top edge of the waistbelt), which keeps heavy bulky belay equipment and shoes centred weight-wise, and stops them dangling low and banging into your legs. There is also a small accessory loop for a trail line and two clipped leg loop bungees rather than a single-point hook as before. The Luna doesn't have slots for ice clippers, but instead relies on Petzl's own Caritool EVO holder which clips around the waistband – worth bearing in mind if you are looking at four-season options.

Petal Luna product shot  © UKC Gear

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L (women) Men's equivalent is the Adjama
  • Weight: 452g (M)
  • waistbelt is contoured to conform to the lower back
  • longer rise ensures better placement on the hips
  • leg loop to waistbelt proportions suited to a female physique
  • leg loops adjust with DOUBLEBACK buckles, to adapt to different body shapes and seasonal clothing
  • padded waistbelt and leg loops
  • wide waistbelt provides comfortable positioning
  • ENDOFRAME Technology construction allows excellent weight distribution
  • two very large rigid equipment loops in front for transporting a lot of gear and for easy clipping and unclipping of carabiners
  • two rear equipment loops are flexible, for bringing gear to the front and for comfort when carrying a backpack
  • one large center rear equipment loop for carrying belay station gear, shoes or special equipment
  • compatible with the CARITOOL EVO tool holder
  • one rear loop for trail line
  • Price: £72

Petzl say:

The LUNA harness is tailored to a woman's physique. Designed for technical mountaineering, trad climbing or multi-pitch climbing, the harness is equipped with adjustable leg loops to adapt to all climbers, in any season. The padded leg loops and waistbelt ensure maximum comfort without hindering freedom of movement. The five equipment loops carry all the equipment required for progression on ice or rock, and make it easily accessible during the activity.

For more info see: petzl.com

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