Climbing harnesses are designed in a variety of weights, sizes and thicknesses, but all share common characteristics and parts. Climbing harnesses are specifically rated for strength and to hold a certain amount of weight. Only strength-rated harnesses should be used for climbing, and if any part is not fully functional, a new harness should be purchased.
Leg loops are the adjustable loops which a person's legs fit through. They should rest on the upper thighs. Most leg loops are padded for comfort when putting your full weight in the harness. The straps on the leg loops should be double backed through the buckles for safety.
The waist belt is the largest part of the harness. It's generally padded and should rest somewhere around a person's navel. The main adjustable strap should be double backed through the large buckle for safety. The waist belt should adjust to the correct sized waist of the climber with Velcro as well.
The belay loop is a very important part of the harness. This is where a belay device such as an ATC is attached with a carabiner or where the rope is fed through for tying into the rope with a double figure-eight knot.
Most harnesses are made with gear loops, but not all are created equal. Some are formed plastic which are easier to rack rock or ice protection on. Others are made of webbing and bend with the weight of any gear attached. Which kind is used is personal preference.
There should be three main buckles on a harness: the main buckle and the two smaller buckles on the leg loops. All straps should be double backed through the buckles before climbing begins, and the straps should be long enough that they have at least a few inches of tail after being double backed.
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.