January 24, 2022

How Should a Climbing Harness Fit? (Consider 5 Things)

by Brad

It is essential to know the dimensions of a climbing harness before you purchase one.

The size of a harness is measured in inches and centimeters.

A general rule of thumb is that if you are 5 feet or taller, then you should be using a harness size M or L.

If you are under 5 feet, then an S-type climbing harness will work best for you.

The following are some standard measurements for different types of full-body climbing harnesses:

  • A youth climbing harness usually measures from 12 to 16 inches around the chest and from 34 to 38 centimeters around the hips.
  • An intermediate-sized harness will measure from 16 to 20 inches around the chest, measuring between 38 and 42 centimeters around the hips.
  • The largest size, which is often used by professional climbers, measures from 20 to 24 inches around the chest and will be up to 48 centimeters around the hips.

Table of Contents
How Should a Climbing Harness Fit
How Should a Climbing Harness Fit?

A brief history of the climbing harnesses

The first recorded use of a climbing harness was by the Austrian mountaineer Christian Almer in 1858.

It was a simple design made from leather and rope.

The modern-day climbing harness is a complex piece of equipment with many parts.

The materials used to make it include metal, plastic, and nylon.

A Dutch climber from the late nineteenth century named Jeanne Immink is primarily credited with the invention of the climbing harness as a climbing safety device.

Immink’s harnesses weren’t much like those used today.

In addition to the first modern harnesses, Troll made some of the first climbing nuts, rappelling rope descenders, and slings.

In Yosemite, climbers began adapting swami belts for greater comfort and versatility.

Stitching eventually replaced the knots, and the modern harness we use today was born. 

How Should a Climbing Harness Fit?

Harness should be fit enough that it holds you without slipping.

It should not put high pressure on your pressure points or body organs.

You can check the size of the loops around the legs with your fingers.

They can fit four fingers parallel to each other.

You have loose loops if you can fit more than four fingers inside while wearing it.

It is a short answer to the question of how should your climbing harness fit.

You will get details in this article.

Harness Fit Guidelines

There are many parts of a harness. You can use different parts to fit it around your body.

It is hard to find a perfect fit if you do not follow a size adjustment plan.

Experts have compiled guidelines to help you adjust the harness.

There are guidelines for each part of the harness.

You can start with waistband fitting and finalize the process with the hang test.

1. Waistband Fitting

  1. You can start the waistband fitting process by finding your waist size. It is also known as the circumference of the waist.
  2. There are different harness brands. Every brand has different sizes. You can find the perfect size for your waist by checking many brands.
  3. The best method to know you selected the right size is to try the harness. You can put the harness on your waist a little above your hip area to check the size suitability. You will get the best result by checking the size physically.
  4. The waistband should not slide down. You can prevent it from sliding down by adjusting the waistband size. It should not make you uncomfortable by putting pressure on your internal organs.

2. Rise Strap Fitting

Rise straps are essential to the harnesses because they connect the leg loops and waistbands from the back side.

It is better to find a harness with an adjustable rise strap to ensure a perfect fit.

  1. Check your movement after adjusting the waistband and leg loops. You can go to the rise strap management if these parts are not restricting your movement.
  2. You can adjust the waistband and leg loops if there is movement restriction.
  3. You need to test the rise strap on a climbing wall as you will not get accurate results on the ground.
  4. The harness should hold you in the sitting position. If the harness does not do it, you must make adjustments or look for other brands.

3. Leg Loop Fitting

Leg loops provide extra protection during climbing because they ensure you do not fall upside down.

Leg loops also prevent you from sliding down from the harness.

There is no specific size for the leg loops because you can adjust them according to your comfort and protection requirements.

  1. You can measure your leg circumference to start the process.
  2. You can check the harness size guide to ensure it will fit your legs.
  3. Adjusting the waistband before leg loop fitting will give you better results.
  4. You may face movement restrictions if you do not adjust leg loops perfectly. Leg straps may hinder your movement if you put them in the lower position. You may also loosen the leg loops if they restrict your movement.

4. The Hang Test

The final decision for the harness size and brand comes from the hang test.

You can find a hanging location in the harness stores.

Many stores have facilities to do the hand test with the harness.

The harness should fit comfortably and not allow more than a fist-sized object to pass between your body and the harness.

You may need to get a smaller size if there is more space.

5. Where What You Intend to Wear While Climbing

Climbers may need to wear specific clothes in some mountains due to the extreme weather.

A person climbing an ice sheet can wear heavy clothing to insulate his body from cold.

You do not need the same clothes for the mountains in a hot climate.

You can wear the harness with the clothing you want to wear during climbing.

It will give you a better size estimate.

A change in clothing type may require adjustments to the harness.

You may have to buy a different band in some situations.

Climbing Harness Fit FAQ

What is a climbing harness made of?

A climbing harness is made up of two main components: a waist belt and leg loops.

The waist belt is the most important part of the harness because it distributes the force across the back, hips, and legs.

The leg loops are placed around each leg in order to help distribute weight evenly.

The material used for a harness can vary depending on what type of climbing you are doing.

For example, if you are rock climbing, you would use a lightweight material like nylon webbing, specifically, Nylon 66, or polyester because it will not stretch when under pressure from your body weight.

If you are mountaineering, you will use thicker materials that can withstand more strain from rocks and ice than nylon or polyester.

How do I choose a harness that fits me well?

If you are a newbie to the world of harnessing, choosing the right one for you can be a daunting task.

It is important to understand the different types of harnesses and how they work before making your purchase.

Harnesses come in different types:

  • Harnesses that have handles on both sides.
  • Harnesses with handles on one side only.
  • Harnesses with handles at both front and back.

How does the body fit into a climbing harness?

The body fits into a climbing harness in two different ways: it can be attached to the torso, or it can be attached to the waist and the tights.

The first option is more common among beginners because it’s easier to attach and detach, but it doesn’t provide as much support.

How tight does the climbing harness need to be?

Ideally, your harness should fit around your hips snugly enough to prevent sliding down yet loose enough to prevent hot spots or pressure points.

When fitted correctly, leg loops should fit between your leg and up to four fingers (flat).

However, they should be loose enough to allow a full range of motion.

Do climbing harnesses stretch?

A climbing harness doesn’t stretch, but it feels much looser when you weigh it.

If it’s already loose, it will feel looser when you use it.

You might lose weight too.

How do you know if your climbing harness fits?

The harness waist belts should fit around your Iliac Crest and not pull down.

Buckles should be adjusted halfway through their range and not maxed out at either end.

Leg loops should be comfortable but not too tight.

How do I know if my climbing harness is too small?

When the harness is too small, a small amount of tail will stick out past the buckle, so when winter arrives, and you are bundled up in a warm jacket, the harness won’t be loose enough to fit over your winter layers.

Is my climbing harness too big?

You can check if your harness is too big by sticking your hand in between your body and the harness, making a fist, and then pulling your fist out.

Your harness should also be within an inch or two of your navel.

How much weight can a climbing harness hold?

For a rock-climbing harness to be certified by the UIAA, it must hold a minimum of 15kN of force (or 3,300 lbs of force) at the belay loop and 10kN (or 2,200 lbs of force) at the waistbelt.

Due to their dynamic nature, climbing harnesses are rated for force rather than weight.

How is an ideal harness designed?

An ideal harness is designed for the specific activity it is meant for.

For example, a climbing harness is designed to be attached to a rope and allow the user to climb.

It should also be comfortable and durable.

An ideal harness can also be used in different ways than its original intended use.

For example, a climbing harness can also be used as an emergency life-saving device by attaching it to a pole in order to rappel down a cliff or mountain.

Harnesses come in different shapes and sizes, depending on their intended use.

This includes backpacks, waist belts, chest straps, leg loops, etcetera.

How to put on a fall protection harness?

Fall protection harnesses are designed to provide protection from falls in a safe and controlled manner.

They are also designed to be easy to use so that anyone can put them on in a matter of seconds. Here is our article on how to put a climbing harness.

Some fall protection harnesses come with instructions that tell you how to put them on, while others require you to watch a video or read the instructions online before using them.

For the best understanding of how to put a fall protection harness, we suggest watching the following video.

YouTube video

What are the different types of climbing harnesses?

There are a wide variety of harness types that vary in terms of their design, materials, and intended use.

  • Gym/Sport harnesses. These harnesses are stripped down for ultralight, fast travel. They are suitable for outdoor and indoor sports routines.
  • Mountaineering/alpine harnesses. These harnesses are suitable for all seasons. They have adjustable leg loops and are super lightweight.
  • Trad (traditional) harnesses. The gear required for trad climbing is generally larger and heavier than what is required for sport climbing. Hence, a trad harness maximizes space while still being relatively light and comfortable.
  • Specialized harnesses. These harnesses are created for other types of climbing – big wall, full-body, rescue, and competition.
  • Mixed and ice harnesses: These harnesses are specially designed to deal with winter conditions.

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About the author 

Brad

Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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