So what works on the Renegade? Well just about everything else.
The padding on both the waist belt and leg loops is firm and supportive whilst remaining light and un-bulky. The leg loops in particular are much firmer than on the harness I was using previously and this makes the Renegade much better for hanging in for any length of time. Of course if you are hanging in it for really long periods – I was cleaning cracks and scrubbing lichen off a soon-to-be new route yesterday for about an hour – you will be glad to get back to the ground, so don't think it provides unending armchair comfort, but it is just much better than many other harnesses that I've used.
The idea of having the waist-padding floating on the webbing of the waist-belt is a simple act of design genius. You get all the advantages of a double buckle harness – gear loops and padding always perfectly centralised, meaning all season versatility – with out the added weight and sewing complexity of two buckles. It is such an elegant and obvious solution to the problem you wonder why every harness isn't made that way. The buckles are low profile zip-lock style. For summer use I don't fully undo them at all, just tighten and go, but they fully open with ease meaning you could put the harness on over skis or crampons easily enough. Excess webbing on the waist and legs tucks neatly away behind elastic loops.
Seven gear loops seemed a lot at first, but split a big trad rack perfectly. No longer on my right side do I have to put my shortest draws and three krabs of wires all on one gear loop. Now my wires sit spaciously on one loop whilst twelve quickdraws can be split easily between the other two behind. Small cams go on the front rack on the left, bigger cams on the middle loop, and then I still have the third loop further back on left for hexes, tricams or whatever additional kit I might want on a long routes. The seventh loop, at the back in the middle, takes a belay device, prussiks, shunt etc. with ease.
There has been a historical tendency for harnesses designed by continental-European companies to have minimal racking reflecting the greater prevalence of sports climbing. British harnesses have more often had plentiful gear loops for trad-racks. American harnesses, most notably Black Diamond, tend to have only four racks and a full strength haul loop at the back.
I've always thought this a bit odd as the U.S. has a thriving trad culture, with much bigger cliffs than we do, and although you can clip a belay plate and pussiks onto a haul loop, it is not nearly as convenient as a fifth gear loop. But BD makes well designed gear and they don't add bells and whistles for the sake of it, so many American climbers must regularly use a haul line system and need the haul loop. The Renegade doesn't have this feature, so of course that could be seen as a big disadvantage if you need one. But I suspect this really just reflects the main markets of the different manufacturers: DMM is a British firm who are predominantly thinking of the needs of the generic British climber when designing products and very few people use trail lines on this side of the Atlantic.
At 485 grams for a medium the Renegade is not heavy at all for a fully adjustable, well featured harness. My Black Diamond Alpine Bod, for many years the ultimate in lightweight harness design, weighs 395 grams, but from now on I'll take the Renegade for anything but the most lightweight mountain trips. The less than 100 grams weight penalty over the Bod is little to pay in return for the considerable comfort gains. Of course, in a similar vein to the haul loop comment above, the Renegade isn't super skinny sport climbing rig and there are much lighter harnesses out there but just don't expect them to be as comfortable or as versatile as the Renegade.
In the last year Arctryx's new range of harnesses using their “warp” technology (spreading the fibres of the webbing out to produce the padding of harness whilst still also providing its strength) have set a new technological highpoint in harness design, allowing them to shave another 100+ grams of the weight of a harness. Black Diamond are going to be producing a range of similar harnesses next year. This may well be the technology of the next decade of harness design, but it isn't a completely proven concept yet. But if this is the future, then the Renegade can be seen as one of the high points of the current harness technologies and manufacturing.
Slim, lean, comfortable and able to carry the biggest of racks; the Renegade is simply a superbly designed and produced piece of climbing equipment. If you want a fully adjustable rig with loads of racking, for everything from single-pitch cragging through to serious, big winter routes, the Renegade is probably as good as you are currently going to get.
Features (from the DMM website):
Toby Archer, based in Finland, works as a researcher specialising in terrorism and political Islam for an international affairs think-tank. "Climbing keeps me from getting too depressed by these sort of things." He blogs about both at Light from the North. He is part of the UKClimbing.com Gear Review Team. His comment on the US presidential elections was "My 2.5 yr-old son has insisted that he wants a go wearing my "Obama-Biden 08" badge. My wife has now got him shouting 'yes we can!' and I think I am about to explode with pride at the overall cuteness of it all!"
See this product at the Cold Mountain Kit shop