Every person I know that used the Arc’teryx AR-395a loved it. Combine this with great versatility and features, and we couldn’t help but choose it our top pick as the best climbing harness the money can buy. While it isn’t as padded as other harnesses, the AR-395a makes up for it with its “Warp Strength” design, which evenly disperses the load across the whole harness.
Overall, the AR-395a is by far the lowest profile harness we tested. An advantage of this design is that this harness is so thin that it disappears from thought as you’re crushing your latest project. It is one of the most versatile harnesses we reviewed and excelled at everything except super extended periods of hanging.
The biggest downside to this harness is definitely the steep price point. At $160, you could buy two discipline-specific harnesses (instead of an all-arounder like the 395a) and still have some cash left over to treat yourself at the end of a long climbing day.
Pick up the Arc’teryx AR-395a if you want a harness that you’ll love hanging and climbing in. The gear loops are easy to use and super adjustable since you can reverse the rigid plastic if you like. Although it’s the most expensive product in our review, this sleek harness is sure to turn heads and keep you crushing routes all days long.
How Comfortable is It?
The Arc’teryx AR-395a was one of the most comfortable harnesses for belaying and standing around at the crag. The supple construction of the waist contours to your body and vanishes from thought. This harness is so thin, it’s very easy to forget you’re wearing it when standing or climbing. However, it didn’t receive a perfect score because some reviews complained about a lack of breathability. While we didn’t find it as sweaty as the Metolius Safe Tech All-Around, it also didn’t feel as breathable as harnesses with mesh on the sides like the Mammut Ophir 3 Slide. The AR-395a also features the widest waist of any in the review. If sweaty harnesses are a big issue for you, you might prefer one that’s narrower and has more mesh. Other than that, the standing comfort was superb.
The Warp Strength Technology Arc’teryx uses in this harness is similar to Black Diamond’s Kinetic Core Technology. Both attempt to evenly distribute the load onto the entire surface of the waist and leg loops. Traditional harnesses distribute the load by padding a relatively narrow strip of webbing. Split webbing designs use two pieces of webbing along the edges of the harness with foam in between. Meanwhile, the Kinetic Core and Warp Strength technologies feature fibers that are spread across the entire width of the waist belt and leg loops, thus distributing the load evenly.
Arc’teryx believes in this technological advancement so much that they’ve done away with padding altogether. Black Diamond harnesses with this design still have a bit of padding. Which is better? It’s tough to say. Some of our testers preferred hanging in the Arc’teryx AR-395a over the Black Diamond Chaos while others liked the additional padding in the Chaos.
Serious climbers use and love both harnesses, so at the end of the day the best harness for you probably comes down to which one fits you the best (or who your sponsor is). Stepping back from new harness technologies, the Metolius Safe Tech All Around uses a traditional webbing and padding design that was much heavier than the AR-395a, but was also more comfortable. Taken as a whole, we give our Editors’ Choice winner a 7/10 for hanging comfort.
Though new harnesses trade padding for new webbing tech, we still find that the most comfortable harnesses are usually those with the most padding.
The R300 was the last Arc’teryx harness we tested. Our chief complaint was that the leg loops tended to fold in on themselves both developing a permanent crease and pinching our legs. In this way, the harness was too flimsy. At the same time, some people complained that the upper edge of the waist was too stiff and cut in especially if they were on the heavier side.
Arc’teryx seems to have addressed these two issues with the new AR-395a. The new model has diamond patterned reinforcements that help keep the harness from folding but still doesn’t make the harness feel stiff. Arc’teryx also softened the edge to reduce the cutting effect. After completing our hanging tests, we feel like these improvements did add hanging comfort over the R300. For shirtless climbing, two of our testers liked hanging in the AR-395a more than the Chaos.
In the Women’s Climbing Harness Review, the women’s version of this harness received a hanging comfort score of 5/10 with the chief complaint focused on pinching of the leg loops. Of all the guys who climbed in this harness and hung in it, only one complained of leg loop pinching. We chalk this discrepancy to the differences in men’s and women’s body types. A similar thing can be seen when comparing the Petzl Sama (mens) with the Luna (women’s version). Our male testers found the Sama pretty comfortable while the Luna wasn’t suited to a women’s physique.
One thing that we learned during our testing process is that comfort isn’t as cut and dry as we’d like. A harness that is super comfortable for one climber wasn’t as comfortable for another.
If you frequent big walls, consider checking out our Big Wall Harness review for harnesses designed specifically for that purpose.
True to its “AR” designation, the Arc’teryx AR-395a is an all-around versatile harness. The gear loops on this one are huge, and it was easy to fit 12 draws on the front loops and 9 on the back. Compared with 9 draws on front loops of the BD Chaos and 8 on the back, this is a lot of gear hanging real estate.
If you’re picky about the orientation of your gear loops, you’ll appreciate that this was the only harness in the review to feature reversible gear loops. The shaped loops are angled so that carabiners ride at the front of the loop. But, if you’d like your draws or gear further back, just switch them around so that the gear falls to the back of the loop. We reversed a loop once, and while it is doable, this process is neither easy nor quick. Most climbers will probably just switch them once or leave them the way they are. Changing them often would be difficult and might break the little plastic attachment. If you use the harness primarily for alpine climbing or mountaineering, you can remove the plastic from the gear loops completely for use with a backpack leaving just a thin piece of nylon. Combined with the thin profile of this harness, this is definitely the most comfortable harness to wear with a backpack.
The plastic on the gear loops is removable and reversible. This is a great feature if you are picky about the orientation of your gear loops or want to remove them for alpine climbing with a backpack. In the bottom right photo, you can see that the two plastic pieces can be positioned wherever you like so as to not create a hot spot under your hip belt.
Four ice clipper slots help keep your screws organized and handy. The rear “haul loop” is wide and makes a fantastic place for the stuff you want to keep out of the way on multi-pitch climbs. It’s great for approach shoes, an insulated jacket, or your belay device and lockers.
Hands down, this was the most mobile harness we tested. The waist and legs contour seamlessly to the body without feeling restrictive. Reaching, leaning, high stepping, and twisting are effortless in this harness. An interesting design change Arc’teryx made in this harness since its R300 predecessor is that the leg loop attachments aren’t sewn directly to the leg loops. Rather, the two are connected via a chain-like joint. We can’t say this made a huge difference, but it does seem to add slightly more flexibility and may be a contributing factor that helped this be the most mobile harness in the review. The flexible and thin construction throughout the harness moves with you and flexes with every reach. We used this harness while backcountry skiing to see if it got in the way – it didn’t.
This is a fantastic do-it-all harness that requires little to no compromise. We wouldn’t hesitate to use this harnesses for done-in-a-day alpine ascents, multi-pitch climbs, sport climbing, single pitch cragging, or training at the gym.
With that said, it does all this at a hefty price point. You could buy a super comfortable Metolius Safe Tech for long bouts of hanging and a Petzl Sama for sport and alpine for the same price as the AR-395a and have an even more versatile setup. Also, you’d have an extra harness to loan out to take a friend climbing.
With three buckles, you can adjust for extra layers as necessary. Like the Mammut Opir 3 Slide, Arc’teryx slightly offset the right gear loop. This is a nice touch as it makes getting a good fit easier than single buckle harnesses that have gear loops centered relative to the smallest end of the size range. Centering the gear loops closer to the middle of the range ensures a smaller margin of error for most users. We don’t recommend buying a harness without trying the fit in person, but not everyone has the luxury of living in a town with a gear shop. Offset gear loops help make fitting a harness online easier. It’s likely that you won’t ever notice the +-1.5 inch difference in gear loop position. The most adjustable harness in this review is the Petzl Corax. With its dual waist buckles, you can always align the belay loop and gear loops perfectly.
The Arc’teryx AR-395a harness excels at pretty much everything. A more padded harness is probably better for extended hanging, but for general use and the occasional hanging belay, this harness performed admirably. This is the highest scoring harness in the review making it a true all-around contender and the clear winner of our best climbing harness review. Whether you climb with draws, a rack, screws, or an auto belay at the gym, this harness is a great pick if you’re willing to pay the price.
When buying a Ferrari, do you really ask the value question? Considering the fact that many other harnesses in this review are a fraction of the price and can certainly be used anywhere this harness can be used, the AR-395a is a terrible value. Then again, a Toyota Camry is a great value with better gas mileage and a much cheaper price tag than a Ferrari. Both cars have airbags and are street safe, but wouldn’t you rather have the Ferrari if money wasn’t an option? Buy the AR-395a if you want a fantastic do-it-all harness. Buy two different harnesses if you want an even more versatile harness quiver at a cheaper price.
We love the Arc’teryx AR-395a and chose it as our best overall harness, but most of our reviews love their relatively cheap harnesses nearly as much. Once you get past the steep price tag, the AR-395a is a true all-around contender offering high performance across all our metrics. If you love to climb everything in sight, this harness will take you there. If this was the only harness in our closet, we wouldn’t complain one bit.