We’ve updated our women’s climbing harness review by taking eight of the most popular and innovative models on the market today and comparing them side-by-side while clipping quickdraws, placing trad gear, and – of course- taking plenty of falls! We evaluated these products based on how comfortable they were to stand and hang in and how well their different discipline-specific features performed.
We also rated them according to mobility, adjustability, and versatility. After taking a lot of measurements and trying them on as many different body types as we could, we’re here to help you figure out which is the best harness to fit your needs and figure. Keep reading to see how these different products rated in our testing, and which ones were our overall favorites.
Best Overall Women’s Climbing Harness: CAMP Supernova
While other women’s models are male designs tweaked to better suit a woman’s anatomy, the Camp Supernova was built with a women’s form in mind, resulting in one of the most comfortable climbing harnesses that we tested, with lots of excellent features. This harness is lightweight and mobile, and never feels constraining when climbing or hanging out at the crag.
Our two main dislikes with this harness were the durability of the material, the leg loops wear out quickly, and the waistbelt closure. If you are traditional climbing and scraping against rough rock often, we’d recommend our Top Pick instead. The closure is on the right, unlike other harnesses. This might be a deal-breaker for some, but for us, it was another unique feature of the Supernova.
Best Budget Harness: Black Diamond Primrose
The Black Diamond Primrose is the latest version of the Primrose AL and Primrose SA (our previous Best Buy winner) models, and this harness took the award for Best Buy again.
Best for Trad and Ice Climbing: Black Diamond Lotus
If your climbing dreams are full of winter days in Ouray, spring days in Indian Creek, summers in Maple Canyon and fall days in Yosemite, the Black Diamond Lotus has your name written all over it. Designed as an all-around model for those Jill-of-All-Trades climbers, the Lotus is an outstanding harness that will fit the bill for any type of climbing. It comes with four ice clipper slots for multiple racking options, wide gear loops to hold a rack of cams or quickdraws, a 12 kN haul loop and an extra 6-inch long loop to hold all the other multi-pitch necessities. One of its best features? The “Bombshell” abrasion resistant patches, which are placed in high-wear areas. If you’re tired of blowing out harnesses because you can’t stop yourself from worming up another squeeze chimney, invest in the Lotus and you won’t be disappointed.
Best Women’s Climbing Harness – Table of Contents
Types of Rock Climbing Harnesses
There are many different harness options available: some are aimed at specific styles of climbing, some are made for all-around use, and some are designed just for women.
If you hadn’t noticed yet, men and women tend to have very different body shapes. A women’s specific design will have a longer rise (the distance between the leg loops and the waistbelt) to accommodate for the fact that on average, women tend to wear the waistbelt on their actual waists, and not their hip bones as a man does.
A women’s specific design will usually have slightly larger legs than a men’s version relative to the waistbelt length. This is to accommodate the “average” woman, who tend to have larger legs relative to their waist size in comparison to men. We say “tend” a lot when talking about body shapes, because there is a lot of variability in women’s hip and thigh areas, much more so than for men.
So for example, the size small women’s Arc’teryx AR-385a has a 27-29 inch waist belt and 21-22.5 inch leg loops. The Arc’teryx AR-395a men’s version size x-small has a similar 27-29 inch waistbelt but 19-21 inch leg loops.
Typically, manufacturers make female versions of their popular male designs. Black Diamond has about twelve different models in their lineup, with “female” options for six of them. Petzl has eight different models, two of which have a women’s version, and Camp offers a staggering sixteen choices, but only one for the ladies.
With so many more options to choose from on the men’s side compared to the women’s, it is worth determining whether or not you even need a women’s model, to begin with.
Sport climbing harness are designed with weight and mobility in mind. They tend to skimp on padding and extra features like haul loops in favor of decreasing weight and maximizing breathability. A sport climbing specific model is a good choice if clipping bolts, and/or gym climbing, is the only type of climbing that you will do. However, they don’t tend to be very comfortable to hang in, so if you are deep into project mode (or your climbing partner is and you will be belaying them for hours as they perfect their beta), you’d be better off with an all-around model or something with beefier padding so that you stay comfortable.
Some of the sport specific models that we tested were the Mammut Zephira, Mammut Ophira, Petzl Selena and the Black Diamond Siren.
Sport climbing models are typically lightweight and maximize mobility and breathability.
Harnesses designed with traditional climbing in mind usually have larger gear loops and more options for carrying extras, like a loop to clip an extra rope into, and perhaps even a second loop in the back for a flashlight, extra layer, or descent shoes, etc.
They typically have more padding than a sport climbing model, and some, like the Black Diamond Lotus are made with more durable materials or extra abrasion resistant padding to increase longevity. While trad climbing, you’re more likely to be scraping your legs and waist against the rock, so it’s more important to prioritize beefy materials.
Traditional climbing models will have large gear loops for easy racking rear haul loops and should be comfortable to wear on all day routes and at hanging belays. The Black Diamond Lotus was our Top Pick for Trad and Ice Climbing.
Ice climbing requires a few specific features: slots that your ice tool holders can fit into, as well as adjustable leg loops that will fit over heavier pants and thermal layers. Many of the all-around models have these extra features so that you don’t need to buy a separate harness if you only ice climb occasionally or for part of the year. The models with slots for ice clippers are Camp Supernova, Black Diamond Lotus, Arc’teryx AR-385a, Petzl Luna and Petzl Selena.
An all-around model should be able to transition easily from sport to trad and perhaps even ice and alpine. Padded and adjustable leg loops, rear loop for clipping on an extra rope, and large gear loops are all features we look for on an all-around version. Sometimes these are billed as entry-level models for people new to the sport who haven’t dedicated themselves to one sub-discipline yet and want to try a bit of everything.
All-around models will not be as lightweight as sport-specific ones, but will typically have more padding for comfortable all-day wear. The all-around models that we tested include the Black Diamond Primrose and Lotus, Camp Supernova, Arc’teryx AR-385a and Petzl Luna.
If you fancy going vertical camping on some Yosemite granite walls this summer, you are going to want a beefier and more padded climbing harness than your typical traditional or all-around model. While we didn’t test any big wall specific versions in this review, you can check out our review of Big Wall models for more information on those types. Unfortunately, the big wall market is pretty small to begin with, and the number of ladies participating in that sport is even smaller, so there aren’t very many women’s options out there.
From my personal experience, both Misty Mountain and Yates Climbing Equipment offer excellent big wall options with the ability to customize (for example, Yates sold our lead tester their Yates Shield Harness in a size small waistbelt but with medium leg loops to accommodate for her “female” waist to leg ratio).
How We Chose
If you plan on using your climbing harness for alpine style missions, where you are doing more hiking and scrambling than hanging, you’ll want to consider this metric first, over hanging comfort.
We particularly like the Black Diamond Siren for comfort while standing up: the waistbelt is only two inches wide and we could basically forget we were wearing it.
We tested whether we could easily walk in the different models, with or without a pack on, if it pinched us anywhere, and whether we felt constrained by it, or if we barely noticed that it was on.
The Black Diamond Siren topped our ratings for standing comfort. This lightweight harness was unrestricting and easy to leave on all day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very comfortable to hang in.
Also great on were the Mammut Zephira, Arc’teryx AR-385a, and our best harness winner, Camp Supernova. These models are also very easy to wear under a pack, particularly the AR-385a thanks to its thin “tape” design. If you plan on using your harness for alpine style missions, where you are doing more hiking and scrambling than hanging, you’ll want to consider this metric first.
We evaluated hanging comfort by both in-the-field testing while working a route and/or belaying someone who was. We also set up a free-hanging test in our living room. We clipped ourselves into a secure point in the ceiling and hung out for ten minutes, or longer if we could stand it.
The Camp Supernova and Black Diamond Lotus and Primrose were our favorites for hanging comfort, thanks either to a wide waistbelt like on the Supernova, or more padding on the Black Diamond models.
Some of our least favorite designs were the Black Diamond Siren and Arc’teryx AR-385a. The two-inch waistbelt on the Siren (which made it rank high for standing comfort) offers little in the way of support when hanging, and while the four-inch wide waistbelt on the AR-385a does offer a lot of support, the thin leg loops dug into the backs of our thighs and made hanging very uncomfortable.
Whether you’re sussing out the beta on your next project (or belaying someone who is) we tend to spend a lot of time hanging out in our harnesses and should choose a model that is relatively comfortable to do so.
The Petzl Luna was designed for ice climbing and mountaineering, yet our testers found that the slots for ice tool holders were too far to the rear and not easily accessible. There was also only one slot on each side as opposed to two on each side on the Black Diamond Lotus and Arc’teryx AR-385a, which limited our racking options. So for this reason, Petzl Luna received a lower score in this metric.
Another model that scored poorly in this metric was the Mammut Zephira. This lightweight option was designed for sport climbing; its front gear loops are oversized and can accommodate ten quickdraws, which is a good thing.
They are also plastic and angled forward, which is fine if you are only climbing slabs, but as soon as the angle steepens it actually works as a reverse ramp, sending the quickdraws to the back of the loop and far out of reach, resulting in some frustrating clips and a low score for the Zephira.
There were several models whose features we did like: our best harness for Trad and Ice Climbing, the Black Diamond Lotus, and our best overall women harness winner, the Camp Supernova. Both of these models had design features that made them stand out from the rest of the pack. The BD Lotus has wide, plastic-covered gear loops that stick out from the waistbelt for easy clipping and unclipping. It has a rear haul loop rated to 12 kN, and an extra loop in the back for clipping on those extras that you need on long days, like a headlamp, extra layer, or a pair of descent shoes. It has four slots for ice clippers which gives you more options for racking your screws forward or back depending on your preference, or for having an extra clip in point for your tools.
The slots were also tighter and cut into the climbing harness, which kept our ice clippers more secure than the Petzl Luna or Arc’teryx AR-385a slots (which are sewn to the outside). Black Diamond has also covered the outside of the leg loops and back of the waistbelt with its “Bombshell” abrasion patches, which are supposed to be 20 times more durable than nylon alone and should help to increase the longevity of this climbing harness, particularly in those spots that get a lot of wear when hip scumming in a corner or thrutching up a desperate chimney, and other “fun” traddy moves.
On the Camp Supernova, we really liked the flat back on the waistbelt and lack of buckles, which is also good for chimneying; the deep gear loops also hold ample camming devices or quickdraws. We also like Camp’s unique “No Twist” belay loop. Instead of fussing with an anti-cross-loading carabiner, you just load a regular carabiner through the slot in the loop, and it will hold it in the preferred long-axis orientation when catching a fall.