Which harnesses for ice climbing are best?
As you transition into the ice-climbing season, it’s important to exchange your gear. Store your trad rack somewhere safe for the winter and hang up your rock climbing harness along with it. Since an ice climbing rack is widely different from a trad rack, the type of harness you wear must be different as well.
If you’re looking for a durable ice climbing harness that will last years and keep you safe, check out the top choice for ice climbing and mountaineering: the CAMP USAAlpine Flash Harness.
What to know before you buy a harness for ice climbing
Know your harness
If you’re familiar with any type of climbing, then you likely know your way around a basic climbing harness. While ice climbing harnesses are unique, they resemble other harnesses in many ways. They have a belt for your waist that’s adjustable for proper fit. They have two leg loops connected with a springy cord. Your ice climbing harness should also include a belay loop to connect the waistband and leg loop. There should also be two smaller loops — called tie points — at the top and bottom of the belay loop. The belay loops and tie points are where you attach your climbing system. Lastly, there are ice tool clipper slots at the waist area of your harness. While some ice climbing harnesses have additional features, these are the necessities.
Learn how to wear your harness
Your ice climbing harness should fit snug around your waist and above your hips. One leg goes in each of the leg loops, and those loops must remain slightly loose. The gear loops on your harness should point downward, not upside down or tangled in the rest of your harness. Make sure nothing is twisted, tangled or knotted. The belay loop, tie points and ice tool clipper slots should be within easy reach and in their appropriate places. A tangled, improperly worn harness puts your safety at serious risk.
Proper ice harness care
Caring for your ice climbing harness helps it last longer and keep you safe during a climb. All climbing personal protective equipment should be treated carefully and protected from damage. Always clean and fully dry your ice climbing harness for storage. Store it dry and out of direct sunlight. Keep it away from harmful chemicals or corrosive agents such as bleach. If your harness ever gets in contact with seawater, wash it gently without any cleaning agents. Never attempt to modify your harness since you could end up making it unsafe for use.
What to look for in a quality harness for ice climbing
Your harness should have a minimum of two belay loops, two tie point loops and two ice tool clipper slots. These are a necessity to a proper ice climbing harness. The best harnesses are made with additional loops to carry extra gear. Specialized belts can include additional plastic or webbed loops in case you want to transport more items as you climb. Keep in mind that these extra loops should not be used as any type of anchor and are simply a means for carrying extra equipment.
While an ice climbing harness may not be entirely comfortable, it should fit well without pinching or coming loose. The best way to test the fit of a harness is to put some weight into it. Hang into your harness if possible to check that the waistband and leg loops fit your body well. A harness for ice climbing should fit snug but not too tight. You should not be able to slip out of it unless you loosen the waistband. Shorten or tighten the elastic bands attached to the leg loops to find your ideal fit.
Ice climbing harnesses are engineered with safety as the priority. When you purchase a harness, it should have passed strict testing. Depending on where you climb and where you purchase your harness, different standards may be used to evaluate the equipment. Regardless of where your harness is tested, the quality safety standards should be up to par. Never purchase an ice climbing harness that has not passed appropriate safety testing.
How much you can expect to spend on a harness for ice climbing
When it comes to ice climbing safety, don’t cut corners just to save some money. The best harnesses for ice climbing are between $50-$90.
Harness for ice climbing FAQ
How should an ice climbing harness fit?
A. A proper ice climbing harness will be snug above your waist so that you cannot pull it down. The adjustable buckle should not be maxed out. Ideally, it will be about midway through its range. The leg loops should fit so that you can place a flat hand between your leg and the loop.
How often do ice climbing harnesses fail?
A. Ice climbing harnesses don’t fail if they’ve been regularly tested and cared for. An inspected harness that’s well-maintained will easily last 1-3 years. Harnesses kept in the best shape should not be trusted longer than 10 years.
What are the best harnesses for ice climbing to buy?
Top harness for ice climbing
What you need to know: This lightweight, compact harness is perfect for both alpine climbing enthusiasts and beginner ice climbers.
What you’ll love: You get massive storage possibilities with this harness. Enjoy the five gear loops and four ice tool slots. With auto-lock buckles at your waist and legs, you get trustworthy security. As a bonus, this harness is hydrophobic.
What you should consider: Some users say this harness runs small.
Where to buy: Sold by Backcountry
Top harness for ice climbing for the money
What you need to know: With two ice clipper slots and four gear loops, this affordable, versatile harness may quickly become your favorite climbing companion.
What you’ll love: With angled front gear loops to make storage easier and a rear accessory loop to carry water or extra shoes, you can pack all you need with this ice climbing harness. Enjoy ultimate mobility and soft foam for comfortable belaying and convenient climbing.
What you should consider: This harness is not quite as lightweight as some of its competition.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: If you want a harness to help you feel at home and cozy on ice, then go with this organized harness with Fusion Comfort Technology.
What you’ll love: When well packed, this harness takes up less space than an orange, so there’s no reason not to take it along on adventure trips. With hydrophobic fibers, you can trust it to repel snow and melting ice during a climb.
What you should consider: Some users find this particular harness uncomfortable, especially during long climbs.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Abbey Ryan writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.