This is the sixth Friedrichshafen OutDoor Show report.
Previous articles in this series include: Best In Gear: Friedrichshafen OutDoor Show 2010 by Sarah Stirling, OutDoor Show 2010 - ROPES and OutDoor Show 2010 - CLIMBING HARDWARE by Mick Ryan, OutDoor Show 2010 - TECHNICAL JACKETS by Sarah Stirling and Freidrichshafen: the gleaming temple of outdoor consumerism by Jim Titt.
In this article Mick Ryan looks at the latest offerings in climbing harnesses:
Across the outdoor industry the Light Is Right philosophy has become the gospel for modern outdoor gear, aided by new materials and innovations in the design process that allow gear to be stripped down to its most basic whilst still performing. It's not just a fad, the lighter you go, the more you can do and you can perform better. Lighter means faster which means less fatigue and increased safety.
From the hills to the mountains and crags, we can walk and climb unencumbered.
This is being seen clearly in climbing hardware where weight isn't an issue anymore. A full rack used to pull your harness down below your hips, now with lightweight gear you can carry more if need be and if you do happen to fall there are no excuses for not having placed the right piece to protect you - because you can surely carry it up with you. Across the board, from nuts to cams and on to carabiners, everything has been shaved of excess weight without any loss in strength.
Standard carabiners, due to such innovations as wire gates, hot forging and I-beam construction, have been whittled down from in excess of 50g to, in many cases below 30g. Screwgates used to weigh up to 250g, now you can get screwgates that weigh just above 40g. Cams similarly have seen a considerable drop in weight, up to 50% in some cases compared to earlier designs, with camming devices now weighing between 50 and 300g.
Lightweight Slimmed Down Harnesses
In the last several years harnesses have seen a similar drop in weight. The first sit harnesses were basically a belt and leg loops made out of webbing - like alpine harnesses today and the Whillans harness (see photo below) of yesterday. To this simple design was added padding for comfort, an array of metal buckles for adjustment, multiple gear loops, rear elastic loops that join the leg loops to the waist belt and in some cases a haul line loop. Harnesses got bulky and complicated, and sometimes uncomfortable.
What climbing companies have done recently is to integrate the webbing waist belt with the padding either by using new materials - BD's Kinetic Core Construction - and/or by splitting the webbing - Arc'teryx's WARP Strength Technology, Petzl's FRAME Technology, Edelrid's laminate technology, Mammut's split webbing technology and C.A.M.P's edge-load construction..
Essentially the load is spread across the waistbelt and legloops and the harness is comfortable if you fall or sit in it. Material - bulky padding - has been eliminated so reducing the weight of the harness but without compromising comfort and strength. The lightest harnesses now range between 180 and 400g, whereas they used to be twice that - some still are. Again strength is not compromised and all these harnesses conform to UIAA standards (UIAA 105). Add in better ergonomic design, quite often breathability to reduce hot spots and sweating, and it is clear that harness design has improved.
Before we have a look at some of the latest offerings I just like to offer my opinion; get fixed leg loops, not adjustable ones, most of the manufacturers have a fixed leg loop harnesses. The simpler a harness is, the easier it is to get on, it will feel better, it's lighter, and you will find that you that you don't actually need adjustable leg loops even if wearing bulky pants. But hey! That's just my opinion and preference. And boys, try wearing your harness round your waist rather than your hips.
Also included below are some notes on women's harnesses, how to look after your harnesses and when to retire it - remember if your harness is over 5 years old you need to replace it.
Three years ago Arc'teryx introduced a neat set of harnesses that utilised their own Warp Strength® Technology, where the vertical "weft" fibres from a piece of ¾" webbing are removed, leaving only the horizontal "warp" fibres which is them wrapped in a face fabric: breathable mesh fabric on the inside and Schoeller stretch softshell fabric on the outside. The result was a range of light, bulk-free, supple, comfortable and strong harnesses - at a price of course, they ranged from £80 to £130.
For 2011 the range has been updated. Arc'teryx say that the new harnesses are:
'Wider, lighter, and more comfortable, every harness in the S11 collection features a new self-locking anodized buckle, new conical leg shape for greater hanging comfort, new face fabrics, new tie-in points, redesigned wider swami shape for more support and comfort, and new drop-seat elastic – resulting in a harness that conforms to the user's unique body shape and moves lightly with the climber to bestow a liberating sensation of wearing nothing at all.'
Available in 2011 are:
A big wall harness the B-360a retailing at £150.
A 220g sport climbing harness the S-220 LT at £80.
And the R-320a has been upgraded and goes for £120.
Black Diamond Aura, Ozone and Chaos
The Ozone and the Aura are built using Kinetic Core Construction and are serious sport climbing harnesses. Light with a clean design. The Ozone will be £79.99 and the Aura £79.99. What's Kinetic Core Construction? It's a technology found in NASA's space suits; a triple laminate with a liquid crystal polymer that features extreme tensile strength.
The Chaos is an all-day, trad climbing harness, comfortable and also uses Kinetic Core Construction. Price £89.99.
Most manufacturers say 5 years of normal use, then get rid of it. If you are using your harness every weekend, consider replacing your it after two years. Harnesses range in price from £40 to £140, that works out at between £8 and £28 a year. A good investment for a piece of kit that is of great importance in the safety chain.
C.A.M.P Air CR 3, the Stratos and the Jasper CR 3
C.A.M.P came out with a neat harness last year, the lightweight C.A.M.P Air. This year a new Air harness has been unveiled, the Air CR 3 – an adjustable leg loop harness for high-level mountaineering, ice climbing and multi-pitch routes; it's light, 289g, has a waistbelt with padding and edge-load construction which is perforated for ventilation; the inside of the waistbelt and leg loops have soft mesh polyester for quick drying of sweat and humidity. 4 gear loops with Hub attachment loops. SRP £64.99 (available Feb)
Also new is the Stratos – again with adjustable leg loops and with a new binding system for load distribution to increase comfort in a fall or while suspended. Lightweight perforated fabric and padding ensuring good ventilation; 4 gear loops 350g
Also available next year is The Jasper CR 3 at £64.99 next year. (available Feb).
The Puma, DMM's first female specific climbing harness, has similar styling and features to the popular unisex Renegade harness, but it has some very subtle changes in sizing and ratios of dimensions to ensure the best possible female fit.
Full details at this UKC Product News
SOME HARNESS INFORMATION
Women's bodies are different to men's and this is significant when choosing a harness. Women generally have a smaller waist to leg loop size (leg loop to waistbelt ratio) and are longer from waist to thigh (the rise is longer proportionally). They also have hips! Women also wear their harness on their waist whilst men wear them on the hip. Most harness manufacturers now produce women's harnesses. Oh and if you are pregnant, no need to stop climbing, wear a full body harness.
WEAR - Looking After your Harness.
Always check your harness before you climb for frayed stitching, cuts or other forms of damage. Keep away from chemicals and store away from light - nylon strength reduces on exposure to u/v and chemicals will catastrophically damage your harness.
How long will my harness last?
Most manufacturers say 5 years of normal use, then get rid of it. If you are using your harness every weekend, consider replacing your it after two years. Harnesses range in price from £40 to £140, that works out at between £8 and £28 a year. A good investment for a piece of kit that is of great importance in the safety chain. Buy the best you can and possibly have two harnesses.
The Edelrid Creed is a fully adjustable harness, made with Edelrid's laminate technology, it incorporates a triad system leg loops and has Hytrel protected tie in loop and the new, tiny leg loop 'Easy-Glider' buckle. Even though it is adjustable with buckles they are not intrusive and for someone like me who prefers fixed leg loops this is a good compromise.
Also, the E-Turn (see diagram) feeds the end of the harness into a 'tunnel' creating a complete circle of the waist band, this makes the front of the harness lightweight and bulk free, a simple idea that seems to work.
Weight 380g, Size S, M, L. Colours Sahara (orange)/pebbles (silver) and night (black)/pebbles (silver). Retail £72
Mammut Zephir and Ophir
Two harnesses from Mammut.
Zephir Harness [M]; Zephira [W]; SRP £100: A lightweight sport climbing harness weighing 250g. The Zephir has a modern, sporty design. Comfort and breathability is enhanced by patent pending split webbing technology. The webbing used to create the hip belt and leg loops is split during the weaving process which enables a large mesh ventilation opening and weight distribution across two areas instead of the normal one. Includes a patented protector to help prevent abrasion of tie-in loops; functional drop seat buckle; two over-moulded gear loops; two lightweight gear loops, aluminium slide-bloc buckle, dyneema belay loop.
The pictured harness on the left is the Ophira - SRP - £50
Wild Country Syncro
The new Syncro is a traditional looking beefy harness with a makeover. It has four buckle adjustable fit, loads of carrying capacity and has plenty of padding. Features include: a Double Ziplock waist, Ziplock legs, Seven gear loops, 25kN Belay loop, 15kN haul loop, Wear Indicator, 'Batwing' belt shaping, Drop seat, comes in a Mesh bag.