If you’re new to the world of rock climbing, you may have heard the terms “safety harness” and “climbing harness” used interchangeably. However, these two types of harnesses serve different purposes and are not interchangeable.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the differences between a safety harness and a climbing harness, their respective features, and why it’s important to choose the right one for your activity. What’s the point of this guide? Well, when it comes to outdoor activities, safety should always be a top priority.
So let’s jump right in and start differentiating.
What is a Safety Harness?
A safety harness, also known as a fall arrest harness, is designed to protect workers from falls during construction, maintenance, and other activities performed at heights. These harnesses typically have a full-body design, with straps and buckles that secure around the chest, waist, and legs.
The harness is attached to a lanyard or lifeline that is anchored to a sturdy structure, such as a building or a tree.
What is a Climbing Harness?
A climbing harness, on the other hand, is designed specifically for rock climbing and mountaineering. These harnesses are designed to support the climber’s weight and allow for freedom of movement while ascending and descending rock faces.
Climbing harnesses typically have a waist belt and leg loops, which are adjustable to ensure a snug and secure fit. They also have gear loops, where climbers can attach carabiners and other equipment.
Differences in Design and Purpose
While both safety and climbing harnesses serve to protect the wearer, they have different designs and purposes. A safety harness is designed to arrest a fall, which means it needs to be able to distribute the weight of the wearer across their entire body. This is why safety harnesses have a full-body design, with straps that secure around the chest, waist, and legs.
A climbing harness, on the other hand, is designed to support the wearer’s weight while they climb. It doesn’t need to distribute the weight in the same way as a safety harness, which is why it typically has a more minimalist design with a waist belt and leg loops.
Features of a Safety Harness
Safety harnesses are designed to keep the wearer safe in the event of a fall. They typically have the following features:
- Full-body design with straps that secure around the chest, waist, and legs.
- D-ring or other attachment point for a lanyard or lifeline.
- Adjustable straps and buckles to ensure a snug and secure fit.
- Padded shoulder and leg straps for added comfort.
Features of a Climbing Harness
Climbing harnesses are designed to provide support and freedom of movement while climbing. They typically have the following features:
- Waist belt and leg loops that are adjustable to ensure a snug and secure fit.
- Gear loops for attaching carabiners and other equipment.
- Padded waist belt and leg loops for added comfort.
- Haul loop for attaching a rope during rappelling.
Choosing the Right Harness for Your Activity
Choosing the right harness for your activity is crucial for your safety and comfort. If you’re doing construction or maintenance work at heights, a safety harness is the right choice. Look for a harness with a full-body design and attachment points for a lanyard or lifeline.
If you’re going rock climbing or mountaineering, a climbing harness is the better choice. Look for a harness with a waist belt and leg loops that are adjustable to ensure a snug and secure fit. The gear loops are also essential for carrying carabiners, quickdraws, and other equipment that you’ll need on the climb.
It’s also important to consider the type of climbing you’ll be doing. Sport climbing, trad climbing, and alpine climbing all have different equipment requirements, and your harness choice should reflect that. If you’re not sure which harness to choose, consult with an experienced climber or a professional gear fitter.
Maintenance and Care
Proper maintenance and care of your harness are essential for its longevity and your safety. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and storing your harness. Avoid exposing it to chemicals, extreme temperatures, or sharp objects, as this can damage the harness.
Inspect your harness before each use for signs of wear and tear, such as frayed straps or buckles that are not securely fastened. If you notice any damage, do not use the harness and replace it immediately.
Related: Types Of Rock Climbing Harnesses
Q: Can I use a climbing harness for construction work?
No, climbing harnesses are not designed for use in construction work. They do not have a full-body design or attachment points for a lanyard or lifeline, which are necessary for fall protection in construction work.
Q: Can I use a safety harness for rock climbing?
While you technically can use a safety harness for rock climbing, it’s not recommended. Safety harnesses are designed for fall protection and are not optimized for the range of motion and comfort required for rock climbing.
Q: How do I know if my harness fits properly?
Your harness should fit snugly around your waist and legs without being uncomfortably tight. The leg loops should fit snugly around your thighs without restricting movement. If you can fit more than two fingers between the harness and your body, it’s too loose.
Q: How often should I replace my harness?
The lifespan of a harness varies depending on its usage and care. It’s recommended to replace your harness every 3-5 years, or sooner if there is visible damage or signs of wear and tear.
A safety harness and a climbing harness may look similar at first glance, but they serve different purposes and have distinct designs. When choosing a harness, it’s important to consider your activity and select the appropriate harness for your needs.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and care, and inspect your harness before each use for signs of wear and tear. With the right harness and proper care, you can enjoy your outdoor activities with confidence and safety.