Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: Arc'teryx climbing harness

I've been a rock-climber, off and on, for almost 20 years, in the indoor-wall sense, but have been a boulderer and a scrambler for my whole life. If there is a tree I want to be up it. If there is a cliff-face, I want to go down it. If there is a second story patio, well, you can fill in the rest ... Whilst I was at uni, with my first real job giving me a taste of financial independence, I saw a piece of kit that has been with me since then, and has literally been a life-saver. This is my climbing harness, by Arc'teryx.
Like a lot of my gear, it seems that this particular model has been superseded but don't let that daunt you, it doesn't bother me.

Lets have a look at what goes into a climbing harness. There are three main components; a reinforced padded waist-belt, leg loops and a connecting loop. The waist-belt is sometimes called a "swami-belt" and in this case, features a wide padded belt, which is surrounded by a webbing band, stitched heavily, and buckles to one side of the middle. Like a Riggers Belt, it has a wide loop sewn into it, through which the connecting loop is found. A series of plasicised loops around the back and sides act as attachment points for accessories. The leg-loops have retention tapes that attached to the beck of the belt and in this case, another heavy webbing loop is found at the back.

The leg-loops are similar to the waist-belt, in that they are padded and reinforced, and feature a tear-drop shape, rather than a full circle, as in climbing when your body's weight is supported by these three belts, cutting off blood supply, or restricting movement is a real hazard. The leg-loops run up, through the connecting loop and form a continuous belt supporting both your legs. I think I may have outgrown this particular harness, as whilst it still does up securely, the padding no longer quite meets in the middle as it did when I was a gaunt student and I have filled out into my more mature body. I'm still confident in its ability to do what I need it to, but I think if i get back into regular climbing, I'll need to find myself a new harness.

I will however be looking at the new Arc'teryx range to furnish myself with, as this is a belt I have put to the test, and bounced back to tell the tale. At the very least, it will remain in my preparedness kit, along with rope, carabiners and a figure 8 descender, for times when I need to get up there, get down there, or stay right where I am. Few things give me as much sense of security as well made climbing gear when my life is on the line. Literally.

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