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All You Need to Know About a Harness

Geethanjali Jujjavarapu

Last updated: 08-05-2023

Harnesses are a common part of modern climbing gear and their key function is to ensure that the climber is safely secured to the rope or the safety system. They consist of two leg loops and one hip belt. The leg loops are attached to the hip belt with two bungee straps and a belay loop. In the event of a fall, a harness helps distribute the impact evenly across the body and reduce the possibility of a serious injury, thus making them an indispensable part of climbing gear. 

In this article, we delve into the specifics of a harness, its parts, functions and also provide a quick guide to making a harness from a rope in the absence of an actual harness. 


Different Types of Harness

Traditional Harnesses: As compared to sport climbing, traditional climbing involves the use of more gear. A traditional harness is more comfortable and relatively lightweight while maximising on space. Common features of a traditional harness include thick and durable padding, extra lumbar padding, adjustable leg loops that come with buckles, four or more gear loops and a haul loop. 

Ice and Mixed Harnesses: These are similar to traditional harnesses but designed to be more durable in conditions involving ice and snow. 

Alpine and Mountaineering Harnesses: These kinds of harnesses are made to suit and endure all weather conditions. They are typically made of thin material and thin belay loop in order to reduce weight and make it more easy to wear with a backpack.


Parts of a Harness


All You Need to Know About a Harness


Waist Belt: Sitting a little above the hip bone, the waist belt wraps around our hips and can be adjusted with the help of a buckle. Different levels of thickness and cushion material can be found on the waist belt depending on the price range. 

Belay Loop: The belay loop is where the carabiners are attached to allow a climber to rappel or belay. This is considered the strongest part of the harness. It is important to remember that nothing should be tied around a belay loop, including ot her nylon rope, sling or daisy chain, which could cause quicker wear and tear. 

Gear Loop: These are purely for gear storage and should not be mistaken with a belay loop. Standard harnesses typically have 4 gear loops which are attached to the waist belt. One will need bigger gear loops for more equipment.

Buckle: This consists of one or two pieces of metal which allow for manual or automatic double-back respectively. This buckle is located a little to the side on the waist belt to prevent conflict with a rope tie-in. 

Haul Loop: A loop made from stitched webbing that is used for attaching a haul line or a second rope. It is located at the back of a harness. This loop is not designed for carrying load.

Bungee Straps: These are adjustable straps that keep the leg loops from sagging down and add to the level of comfort.Similar to the haul loop, they are not designed to carry load.

Leg Loops: These are made with different kinds of materials and are padded to increase the comfort level for the climber. They distribute the weight better between the leg loops and the waist belt, thus offering better safety.

Tie-in Points: These are two strong loops attached to the belay loop. All rope, webbing and cord should be attached through the tie-in points, both above and below. This results in increased redundancy and better distributes the wear.


Functions of a Harness

The primary function of a harness is to distribute the impact of a fall across the body to avoid the risk of a serious injury. It acts as a safety mechanism for climbers by ensuring that they are securely connected to the rope.


Cleaning and Storing a Harness

  • In the event that the harness gathered dirt, simply rinse it in water. If this does not completely clean the harness, rinse it in warm water and add a mild soap to it. Dry the harness in a place away from direct sunlight.
  • Carry the harness in the bag supplied with it and keep it away from sharp and corrosive substances. 
  • Store the harness in a dry space that is away from sunlight and other contaminants. Ensure that the harness is fully dry before storing it.


How to Make a Harness from a Rope in the Absence of an Actual Harness?

One can make a harness from a rope in the event that an actual harness is unavailable. For this, it is important to know the basics of climbing knots. 

Please keep in mind that the following steps involve tying a bowline knot for the right leg first and therefore requires the right end of the rope to be shorter and the left end to be longer in order to extend it into a waist belt.

  • Wrap one end of the rope around your right upper thigh, just below your rear, and bring it forward.


All You Need to Know About a Harness


  • Make a small loop with the right end and push the end into the loop.


  • Take the right end and bring it beneath the left end of the rope.


  • Now bring the same end back above the left end and push it back into the loop.


  • Pull both ends of the rope to create a secure knot.


All You Need to Know About a Harness


  • Now take the left end of the rope and wrap it around your left upper thigh and bring it forward.


  • Make a loop with the end that has been brought forward and push the end into the loop.


  • The same end will first go under the end that is wrapped around the thigh and then from above it.


  • Push the end back into the loop and tighten by pulling the ends in the opposite directions.


All You Need to Know About a Harness


  • Take the long left end of the rope around your back and into the rope that forms a crosspiece between both your legs. Do this 3-4 times to create ample support for your body.


All You Need to Know About a Harness

All You Need to Know About a Harness


  • The last wrap does not go into the crosspiece and is instead connected to the short end of the first bowline that was tied on the right leg.


All You Need to Know About a Harness


  • Tie sturdy knots between the two pieces of rope mentioned above. Ensure that the rope harness does not constrict your movement.


All You Need to Know About a Harness


  • Your harness is ready and you can clip a carabiner on it for further use.


All You Need to Know About a Harness


We hope that the above information answers basic and technical queries you might have about climbing harnesses along with how you can prepare a makeshift harness using a rope. Should you have any further questions, our team is always happy to help!

Geethanjali Jujjavarapu

Lawyer by education, Geethanjali loves travelling and documenting her travels through photographs an Read more

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