To provide a clear overview of the different types of harness and demonstrate what the different features mean in practice, four climbers describe here what they want from their harnesses. As they are all interested in different types of climbing, we feel that this helps to illustrate the distinctions between the different types of climbing harnesses.



Marius is interested in the big summits. He travels to high peaks all over the world, both in summer and in winter. For this reason, he has a very adjustable harness that fits no matter how many layers he's wearing. He's less interested in classic rock climbing, although still enjoys scrambling up alpine ridges. As a mountaineer, his routes involve glacier crossings and exposed sections. Marius rarely needs to take a fall and seldom ends up hanging on a rope in his harness, so he prefers to wear a lightweight harness that gives him maximum comfort. He doesn't need extra padding – it would only get in the way on the long sections that don't involve climbing. As Marius usually carries a backpack, he makes sure that his harness has flexible gear loops at the back. He knows from experience that stiff gear loops rub under backpacks and can cause uncomfortable pressure points.

Marius prefers harnesses either with a laminated construction or made solely of webbing with three buckles and four gear loops. And those rear gear loops have to be flexible.


During the winter months, Mary loves to get out and climb. Training at the wall was just never enough. When she discovered ice climbing, she was immediately hooked. Ever since, she's been climbing steep frozen water ice and the occasional north face with mixed winter rock and ice routes. Mary says that her winter climbing improves her summer sport climbing and vice versa. For ice climbing, she wants a harness that provides a good combination of hanging comfort and freedom of movement. In addition, she says adjustable leg loops are a must, to allow a perfect fit even when she's wearing a warm base layer under her alpine pants. As ice climbing involves carrying ice screws as well as quickdraws, she needs a harness that will accept ice screw clips.

Mary bought a 3D-Vent harness with three buckles, four gear loops and ice screw clip attachment points.


Felix is a competent, passionate and ambitious climber. He's climbed all over the world. "Your own limits are there to be tested," that's his motto. He's no stranger to taking big falls in alpine terrain and climbing a long way above his protection. This means that he needs a very robust harness that can cope with regular punishment. Yet he still wants a harness that gives him maximum freedom of movement so that he can climb at his limit. His harness needs to be comfortable to hang in and have enough gear loops to carry a big rack. As Felix enjoys climbs in colder conditions in alpine terrain, he wants a harness with semi-adjustable leg loops that will still fit if he is wearing thicker clothing.

Felix uses a laminated construction sit harness with one buckle and semi-adjustable leg loops and four gear loops. He also considered a 3D-Vent harness.


As a child, Monica used to go on holiday to the Alps with her family. She started to get bored with just hiking and so did her brothers and sisters. Then Monica discovered via ferratas. She went to a specialist outdoor shop to seek advice about which harness she needed. The sales personnel told her that it made sense to choose a comfortable harness that she could still wear while walking longer distances without it rubbing. In the shop, they also explained that ideally you shouldn't fall on a via ferrata and that the harness and via ferrata set were there for the worst-case scenario. In addition, she was told that it's better to wear a chest harness if you are climbing with a backpack.

As a result, Monica purchased a comfortable webbing sit harness with good padding, three buckles, four gear loops and movable waist belt. She also decided to buy a chest harness to go with it.

Not all climbing harnesses are the same - depending on the terrain you want to climb, the requirements differ greatly. We have described in the first part of this article what you need to know about harnesses for mountaineering, ice climbing, alpine climbing, and via ferratas. But what do I have to take into consideration for a harness for sport climbing in toprope, lead climbing or competition? And how do I find out what size I need? We answer these questions here in the second part.



Daniel first discovered climbing at a friend's birthday party at a climbing wall. He and his mates enjoyed it so much that they have been climbing regularly ever since. In the meantime, they are now starting to move from top roping to leading. They say that they want a lightweight harness that gives them full freedom of movement and allows them to hang comfortably when trying out new routes. As they are not leading much yet, gear loops are mainly used to secure belay devices when they are climbing. And seeing as they climb indoors and wear more or less the same type of clothes all year round, their harnesses don't need adjustable leg loops.

Daniel chose a harness with padded webbing, one buckle and two gear loops.


Chris is an ambitious sport climber and lives for his climbing. When he was younger he trained with the German Alpine Club (DAV) youth teams. He enjoys pushing his limits. Onsight ascents or redpoints are his main objective. To afford him every possible advantage, he prefers to use lightweight, minimalist harnesses. Good fit and maximum freedom of movement are important – he wants a harness that allows him to master the hardest, most acrobatic moves. Chris says that his own arness fits so well, he "can hardly feel it". As Chris carries quickdraws only and no other equipment, he only needs a limited number of gear loops. This also allows a few more grams to be saved.

His harness of choice has a load-bearing edge binding construction, no buckles and just two gear loops, one at either side – it's also particularly lightweight.


Snug or baggy? Secure or restrictive? We've looked at how harnesses are made and the requirements for different types of climbing. However, finding a harness that fits well is probably the most important factor. Not only will it hold you securely in a fall, it will also provide day-long comfort. Most harnesses come in a range of sizes. To get the right fit, it's worth taking a note of your measurements:


  • Waist size;
  • upper thigh

and for full-body harnesses,

  • your chest size and
  • torso length.

See below an example of measurments of a climbing harness:

Knowing these measurements will mean that you start from the right point when choosing a harness in an outdoor shop. Please note: There are also differences in sizes from different manufacturers. The same as with clothes or footwear, the design or cut of a harness makes a big difference to the fit.

perfect fitting harness should fit snugly at the waist so that it can't slide down over your hips. Make sure that the gear loops are pointing down to the ground and that the tie-in loop and leg loops are not twisted. Please see the illustrations below for how to put on a harness correctly.

Although most harnesses are designed to be used by both male and female climbers, this often involves a compromise. This is why we make some of our harnesses with a men's specific or a women's specific fit. Our women's harnesses have a more curved waist belt as the angle that the hip bones sit at is different to that of men. In addition, women's legs are slightly larger relative to their waists compared to men, so women's harnesses require different waist-to-leg ratios. Also, the rise – the distance between the legs and waist – of women's waists tends to be longer, so there is more distance between where the leg loops sit and where the waist belt fits, i.e. the tie-in loop is longer.

For maximum comfort while hanging the leg loops and the waist belt should neither be too narrow nor too wide. This is why, if you plan to buy a harness without adjustable legs loops, you should make sure it fits perfectly. Once the leg loops are tight, it should be possible to fit a flat hand between them and your body. The same applies to the waist belt. If it is too slack it will make sitting in the harness and taking or holding a fall uncomfortable.

A good vendor will have somewhere for you to test out harnesses in practice, by sitting and hanging in them. This is the best way to check that a harness fits properly before you buy it and start climbing in it.