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Climbing Harnesses

Years ago climbers secured themselves to the rope by wrapping the rope around their bodies and tying a bowline-on-a-coil. While this technique is still a viable way of attaching to a rope, the practice is no longer encouraged because of the increased possibility of injury from a fall. The bowline-on-a-coil is best left for low-angle climbing or an emergency situation where harness material is unavailable.

Modern Harnesses

Climbers today can select from a wide range of manufactured harnesses. Fitted properly, the harness should ride high on the hips and have snug leg loops to better distribute the force of a fall to the entire pelvis. This type of harness, referred to as a seat harness, provides a comfortable seat for rappelling.

  • Any harness selected should have one very important feature—a double-passed buckle. This is a saety standard that requires the waist belt to be passed over and back through the main buckle a second time. At least 2 inches of the strap should remain after double-passing the buckle.
  • Another desirable feature on a harness is adjustable leg loops, which allows a snug fit regardless of the number of layers of clothing worn.
  • Equipment loops are desirable for carrying pieces of climbing equipment.
  • The full body harness incorporates a chest harness with a seat harness. This type of harness has a higher tie-in point and greatly reduces the chance of flipping backward during a fall. This is the only type of harness that is approved by the UIAA. While these harnesses are safer, they do present several disadvantages—they are more expensive, are more restrictive, and increase the difficulty of adding or removing clothing. Most mountaineers prefer to incorporate a separate chest harness with their seat harness when warranted.
  • A separate chest harness can be purchased from a manufacturer, or a field-expedient version can be made from either two runners or a long piece of webbing. Either chest harness is then attached to the seat harness with a carabiner and a length of webbing or cord.
  • For safety purposes always follow the manufacturer's directions for tying-in
Climbing Harnesses

Climbing Harnesses


The Climber's Bible