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 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.