How to Use a Climbing Harness

How to Use a Climbing Harness
Climbing harnesses enable a person to climb on rock or ice or traverse glacial terrain in a safe manner. If you are using a climbing harness for the first time, there are a few things to be aware of, including the most important and basic task of putting it on properly.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Climbing harness Climbing rope
  • Climbing harness
  • Climbing rope
Step 1
Unhook all of the buckles on the harness; there is one on each leg loop and one around the waist belt. This is done first so that you aren't fussing with loosening the loops while trying to step into them. Make sure that the harness is facing the correct way, with the belay loop in front of you, and buckle the waist belt around you before tightening the leg loops. The waist belt of a climbing harness should rest just above your hip bones and be tight enough that you wouldn't slip out if upside down, but not so tight as to be uncomfortable.
Step 2
Buckle the two leg loops. Feed the webbing straps through the buckles and tighten them to a comfortable, but not too loose, setting. Double-back all buckles on the harness. Do this by refeeding the webbing through the buckles, back over itself in the other direction. This is an added security measure.
Step 3
Use the belay loop for tying your figure eight knot when tying in for a top-rope climb or lead climb. The belay loop is also where the rope and a belay device such as an ATC and carabiners will be hooked on. Do not hook the rope to any other part of the harness.
Step 4
Rack your protection, such as nuts, chocks, cams or ice screws on the gear loops on the sides of your harness. Some harnesses are made with stiff plastic loops that protrude out slightly and some are made of plastic-coated fabric and are droopier, but both can be used for racking. The order in which you rack your gear is up to you but many climbers organize protection by size.
Step 5
Sit back into your harness when rappelling like it is a bucket seat. Lean into the waist belt and leg loops with your feet flat on the wall in front of you as you lower yourself down by feeding the rope through your belay device at the front loop on your harness.
Step 6
Use your harness as a way to carry some of your rock or ice protection and as a backup device in case you fall, but do not rely on your harness to climb. In other words do not sit back in your harness unless you are rappelling or belaying a partner.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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