Information for consumers on the design, use,
maintenance and lmitations of

1.  Harness Designs
2.  Harness Fit
3.  Harness Selection
4.  Tying In
5.  Inspection of Harness

 Harness Designs
A HARNESS forms the vital link between the climber, the rope, and the rest of the protection chain. Beyond this primary purpose, a harness can provide a place to rack gear and serve as a belay seat when required. An understanding of the design, fit, selection, and care of climbing harnesses is crucial to reducing the risks associated with climbing.
Climbing harnesses come in three basic designs: diaper style, waistbelt/leg loop combinations, and full body. Diaper style and waistbelt/leg loop style are sometimes called ďsitĒ or ďseatĒ harnesses.

Diaper harnesses:
Diaper Harnesses have a waistbelt and a webbing loop which is pulled through the crotch from behind to form the leg loops. Diaper harnesses allow the leg loops to adjust several inches, so they may be worn either in winter over thick clothing or in summer with lighter clothing. Most diaper harnesses are further suited for winter and alpine use because the leg loops can be released while the independent waistbelt remains securely tied to the rope. This makes clothing changes or heeding the call of nature easier and safer. Diaper harnesses may or may not have padding.

Harnesses with a waistbelt/leg loop combination
are the most common and usually the most comfortable harnesses. They consist of two pieces: a waistbelt with a buckle closure and leg loops. Separate components allow the harness to ride correctly and comfortably allowing both rear and front rises to be adjusted. Most waistbelts and leg loops are padded for comfort.

Chest harnesses
are good for supplying additional support to a waistbelt/leg loop harness when it is needed-for example, ascending or rappelling while wearing a pack. They should not be used for leading, as a high tie in point may lead to whiplash of the spine and/or difficulties breathing while hanging due to constriction of the diaphragm.

Full body harnesses:
are designed for use with children and anyone whose body shape will not allow a waist harness to function properly.
These harnesses incorporate chest,back and shoulder support to make up for the lack of an anchor point at the hips. Most children need this style harness until age 10.
Most harnesses must be buckled a very specific way in order to be secure. Be certain that you follow the instructions to buckle correctly every time.

 Harness Fit
Even the most carefully designed and cushioned harness wonít be comfortable if it is too big or too small, nor will it be secure. If a harness is too tight, it will restrict movement and/or pinch. A loose harness slips, chafes, and, in an inverted fall, the climber could slip out of it.
When fitting your harness wear the clothing in which you intend to climb. If this isnít convenient make sure you empty your pants pockets, remove belts, and untuck shirts or sweaters before trying on a harness.

All harnesses: should sit snugly above the hip bones and be impossible to pull down. Be aggressive when trying to pull down the harness and be realistic about your waistline. If you cannot get the harness to stay above your hip bones, use a full body harness until your waistline works with a pelvic style harness. If you cannot keep your harness above your hips, it will not hold you in the event of an inverted fall. Be sure that it is not so tight that it interferes with your breathing.

Diaper harnesses: usually adjust by several inches in the legs, so fitting the waistbelt is your primary concern. All diaper harnesses buckle at the waist, so follow the above sizing instructions for buckled waistbelts.

Be especially careful when fitting a seat harness: If sized too large these harnesses can slide up onto your lower ribs, compressing your diaphragm and leaving you gasping for air. When worn too small they can compress your hips and legs, reducing mobility. You should have a minimum of one inch and a maximum of two inches between the tie-in loops.

 Harness Selection
Multipurpose:Used for every climbing function, from sport routes to multipitch free routes, most people climb in a multipurpose harness. Top-end designs have belay/rappel loops, racking systems with at least three well-placed gear loops, offset buckles on the waistbelts, adjustable or elasticized rear risers, full padding, and weigh about one pound.

Sport/Competition: These harnesses are lightweight and allow great maneuverability. Most harnesses of this type have minimal frills, are made from narrow webbing and are scantily padded.

Big-wall / Aid: Here, comfort should be your main guide. You spend a lot of time belaying on wall climbs, so a belay/rappel loop is a necessity. Racking loops help prevent overly heavy shoulder slings. Harnesses with trim, uncluttered tie-in areas make attaching daisy chains easier.

Alpine: In alpine climbing, weight and simplicity are everything. Most alpine harnesses take an asceticís approach by doing without heavy frills, such as padding. However, some have padded waistbelts, allowing for cross-over into rock climbing. Adjustable, removable leg loops allow you to put on the harness while wearing crampons or skis, or remain tied to the rope when you attend to nature or change layers of clothing.

 Tying In
Check to see that the waistbelt is above your hips and that the webbing has been threaded through the buckle.

Thread the rope through all tie-in points. Never tie in to the belay/rappel loop, equipment loops, or rear haul loop. Do not double (or coil) the rope through the tie-in points, as the friction generated will cause premature weare. Do not use the rear haul loop as an anchor point.

Develop a system for putting on and tying into your harness. For example, put on your harness, buckle the waist loop, thread the rope through all tie-in points, complete the knot, and back it up in the same sequence every time to avoid errors. Concentrate on what youíre doing - donít be distracted by a conversation with your partner and forget to finish your knot.

Finally, check the buckle and knots on your harness and your partnerís harness frequently while climbing and belaying to make sure they are properly secure.

 Inspection of Harness
Retire a harness when it shows visible signs of wear such as fading or abrasion or after it has held a severe fall. Over time, the webbing will get fuzzy at the tie-in points. This is OK. Be suspicious, though, of wear to the stitching or excessive wear to the tie-in points.

Protect your harness from direct sunlight and heat and from nylon-damaging substances such as acids, alkalis, oxidizing agents, and bleach. Hand wash a dirty harness in cool water with a mild soap. Allow it to dry in a shaded area.

Check your harness periodically to make sure the stitching is intact. A harness should last about two years under normal weekend use. You can extend the life of your harness by working the rope back through the tie-in points gently when untying - forceful pulling causes these points to abrade quickly.

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