Rappelling is a popular activity where you descend a rocky surface in a controlled manner using a specially made harness. It’s also used in training for emergencies by firemen and rescue personnel. If you are interested in trying out rappelling but don’t know how to pick a rappelling harness, then this article will help you find the right gear.
Why Do You Want a Good Rappelling Harness?
Similar to rock climbing, rappelling requires proper training, skill, concentration, and a high level of awareness to do it as safely as possible. The harness can make all the difference between you successfully descending a rocky surface and ending up in the hospital. Two main factors that define a good rappelling harness are:
Quality – The harness needs to be made from durable and strong material that can withstand your body weight easily. Most manufacturers use polyester to make harnesses, as it is more durable than other materials. It also doesn’t absorb water and is safe to use even if it’s wet. Some companies make more flexible nylon harnesses, but they absorb water and may end up getting weaker over time.
Comfort – Comfort is also essential to look for when you buy a harness. If you are descending a large rocky surface, the last thing you want is to get uncomfortable. It might cause you to shift your body and accidentally lose your footing.
Different Parts of a Rappelling Harness
The rappelling harness consists of numerous parts and connects your body to the climbing rope. Understating these parts and how they work is very important to improve your rappelling skills. Here are the essential parts of a rappelling harness.
1) Waist Belt – This is the thick part of webbing that goes around your waist when you put on the harness. Most waist belts are sewn and padded to ensure that you remain comfortable even if you have to hang in the harness for a long time.
2) Leg Loops – Leg loops are the wide padded loops that wrap around your upper thighs. These, along with the waist belt, help to distribute your weight correctly, lend stability, comfort, and protection while rappelling down any surface.
3) Belay Loop – This one is one of the strongest points on a harness and connects the leg loops to the waist belt. It also connects the rappel rope to the harness.
4) Buckle – Harnesses usually have either 1 or 2 buckles on the front of the waist belt. To ensure that they are properly fixed to the waist belt, the buckles are usually threaded twice. They are also positioned a bit off-center so that they don’t interfere with the rope.
5) Gear Loops – These are attached to the sides of the belt and are designed to carry useful items such as carabiners, chalk bags, and so on. Some harnesses come with two gear loops, whereas others come with four loops. For outdoor use, harnesses with four gear loops are preferred.
6) Haul Loop – This loop is positioned on the back of the waist belt and is used for carrying a second rope. It’s mostly required when you are climbing big surfaces and walls. The haul loop should never be used as a load-bearing loop as it won’t be able to support heavy objects.
How to Pick the Best Rappelling Harness for You?
There are a few critical aspects to look at when buying a rappelling harness. They are:
1) Material – Only buy harnesses that are made out of strong, durable materials. Nylon and polyester are two of the most popular materials used in rappelling harnesses. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Nylon is soft and flexible, whereas polyester is more rigid.
2) Size – Size is an important parameter to consider as a smaller-sized rappelling harness might end up crushing your legs, whereas a bigger harness might not be able to hold you securely. You must try them out and see before buying them because you always wear the harness on top of your clothes.
3) Condition – Never buy a used harness no matter how attractive the price is. The smallest of issues can result in very serious consequences. Before buying new harnesses, you need to check it for any rips, low-quality stitching and flimsy construction.
4) Features – Depending on your purpose, you can pick a feature-heavy harness or a normal rappelling harness. If you are planning to do some ice climbing, then you need to look for a harness that comes with ice clipper slots. You can also choose the ones that come with 4 plus gear loops to carry extra gear.
Top Pick for Rappelling Harness
Now that you know what to look for in a harness, it’s time to get the best one for you. Out top pick would be the Petzl Sama harness.
The Petzl Sama harness can be found on Amazon and is manufactured by what of the top brands in the climbing and rappelling market. It’s the best overall harness from a quality, comfort and value stand point.
In addition to it’s high marks in comfort and safety it also has a few great features including gear loops on either side and a low profile that allows it to move well.
The only complaints that we have about this harness is that it’s a little heavier then a lot of the others. Plus it doesn’t have adjustable leg loops. If you need adjustable leg loops, you will want to check out the EDELRID Jay III Climbing Harness which also ranks high on our list.
Types of Harnesses
There are different types of harnesses out there that fit for different purposes.
1) Gym Harnesses – These harnesses are meant for indoor use. These are easy to put on and are quite light too. They usually come with only 2 gear loops, thin belay loop and relatively lesser adjustment buckles on the leg loops.
2) Traditional Harnesses – These are your run-of-the-mill harnesses packed with adjustment buckles, 4 or more gear loops, good padding and a haul loop. They are meant for outdoor use and are designed to be relatively light, comfortable and very durable.
3) Ice Harnesses – These are similar to traditional harnesses except for a few features. They come with ice clipper slots and are designed to cope with the harsh winter conditions.
4) Alpine Harnesses – These are relatively lightweight and have great versatility. They usually come with 4 or fewer gear loops to reduce weight and are made up of thin but durable materials.
5) Specialized Harnesses – These specialized harnesses are built for different purposes ranging from canyoneering, competitions, wall climbing, rescue operations and so on. These harnesses are built for specific purposes and might vary in design and features.
6) Women’s Harnesses – Women’s harnesses are specifically designed for their physique with unique fit and characteristics such as shaped waist belt, increased rise and a reduced leg to waist ratio.
Rappelling Harness Summary
Buying the right rappelling harness won’t be an easy task as there are so many different choices available for purchase.
Before you buy one, it’s very important to do your research. Only buy from reputed brands that are known for consistently creating quality products. Visit different websites and go through customer testimonials.
Don’t try to cut corners when it comes to spending money. Safety and comfort are a necessity when it comes to harnesses and is definitely worth the extra cash.