A great rappelling harness for anyone beginning to rappel or with intermediate experience is absolutely essential. Like most rappelling and climbing gear you don’t want to skimp on quality and support when looking for the right harness. A great rappelling harness should be durable, adjustable, comfortable, and provide gear loops to carry all the extra equipment needed to climb or rappel down a cliff.
So let’s say you want to keep it basic and just tie a harness using a static rope. Is this feasible yes and you can read more about that on the post 3 Great Tips on How to Rappel with Just a Rope. Doing this is not really practical or safe and should be used only in emergencies.
When planning to rappel frequently a great rappelling harness is a must! I personally recommend the Black Diamond Momentum. This harness is meant to be strapped safely around your waist and legs. It has been sewn and designed to provide the support needed in a rappel with its
Rappelling Harness Segments
The following is a basic breakdown of all the parts of a quality rappelling harness. By understanding the equipment and all its parts you will be able to identify what is the best harness for you, how to properly and safely use it, and gain greater insight in the type of harness that will best suit your rappelling needs.
- Waist Belt and Buckle – Straps around the waist and the buckle can be adjusted to fit various sizes and individual needs. Provides some extra padding for added support and comfort. The waist belt is made of strengthened materials to hold significant weight. The buckle is off center to not rub or interfere with rope tie-in in the front of the harness.
- Gear Loops – Gear loops are attached to the side of the waist belt and are intended to only carry smaller gear such as carabiners, chalk bag, etc. These loops cannot support significant body weight and were not created for any load bearing. NEVER clip into the gear loops to an anchor because you may find yourself descending much faster than expected due to the loop breaking. As explained, if used beyond it’s normal design it can place the abseiler in significant danger.
- Leg Loops – The legs will be fitted into each of its loops. Both leg loops include adjustable straps and are intended to create further control and safety. Along with the waist belt these loops provide added security, firmly connect both waist and leg, and create additional support and stability.
- Belay and Tie-in Loops – Belay loop has been made with the strongest material to be load bearing. It is the strongest point of the harness. The belay loop connects to both tie-in loops (tie-in loops are located on the front of the waistbelt and connected between both leg loops). The belay loop is located at the front of the harness and has been tested to support substantial weight. This loop will be used to clip into your rappel rope.
- Haul Loop – The haul loop is located on the back of the waistbelt and is meant to attach additional gear such as another rope or haul line. NEVER use these as a load bearing loop as it could lead to serious injury or death.
A typical rappel harness is made to be light, comfortable, and provides more accessories to maximize the space needed for the activity of rappelling. A quality rappel harness, like the Black Diamond Momentum, should be engineered and tested to sustain massive weight and force thus providing you greater peace of mind during the descent.
Testing The Harness
Like a new pair of shoes it is important to quickly test and try on the rappel harness once purchased. You want to adjust it to fit your specific needs so that it is comfortable and conforms to your body. Try to go to a climbing gym and get it worn it. Climb up and belay down. If it feels not quite right adjust the legs and waist until it fits well and you know what will work for you.
Another idea would be to attach to a rope and get a foot or two off of the ground. Even this small technique can quickly identify changes that may need to be made. Once everything is in the proper order and you have practiced wearing the harness correctly and have received guidance from a trained professional on how to use the harness and its associated parts you are now ready to take it on your next outdoor rappel.
Recommended Rappelling Harness
With so many items to consider when making a selection, let me share a little more on the importance of a great rappelling harness and the harness that I personally recommend for rappelling. I want to help you make an informed decision where you can see the primary features and specifications this harness includes and how this harness has been constructed to meet the needs of both new or intermediate abseilers.
In my research and testing I have found that the Black Diamond Momentum Harness meets and exceeds any standards set for a rappelling harness. It is tough enough for the job of descending down a shear wall and is reinforced to sustain any significant scrapes, wear, debris, or grime for an extended period of time.
Most importantly it is a HIGH QUALITY product at a great price for anyone just getting into rappelling. The Black Diamond Momentum harness can be dually worn for both climbing and rappelling at indoor facilities or outdoors. It is extremely durable and the waist belt is made using material that consists of Dual Core Construction technology which maximizes comfort and support for the user.
The Black Diamond Momentum’s performance is versatile because it uses specialty supportive foam (known as CLPE Foam if you want to get technical) and an abrasion-resistant nylon shell. Just check out the breakdown of the material in the following image. This material is a beast to say the least.
Easily Adjustable Leg and Waist Straps
This specific harness has two leg loops and a waist belt that are easily customized for your specific needs. You will slide your legs through each leg lop and slide the belt around the waist. A great feature on this harness is that it includes a “Patent-pending trakFIT adjustment for easy leg loop customization” which makes it a breeze to fit just right.
No buckles included, just a simple slider to tighten or loosen the straps. This eliminates any time wasted just to get the harness on. Every precious minute you have gives you another minute to rappel. I am starting to feel like Gollum from Lord of the Rings where he screams, “My Precious!” It is so true for me because I want to use all the time I can to have fun. Black Diamond says it best that this harness “delivers a time-saving design for all styles of climbing.” Just know that it is intended that the leg loops and waist belts are fitted snug to the body.
Once fitted and secured, test out the Black Diamond Momentum harness by grabbing and pulling it in various directions. Tug it extra hard to test if the harness feels loose on any part of your body. If everything is snug and secure then you are good to go.
Gear and Belay Loops
The Black Diamond Momentum Harness has four pressure-molded gear loops. That may seem like a lot but if you climb up and intend to rappel back down these loops will be heavily used for carabiners and other devices. These loops are also recommended to be used for holding a chalk bag with chalk. There is nothing worse that having sweaty palms while rappelling. Use chalk if at any time in your rappel your hands feel moist and you need to dry them up to provide a more firm grip on the static rappel rope.
The belay loop located in the front of the harness will be used to attach your ATC and Lock Carabiner. The ATC is used to feed the rope through to rappel yourself down in a controlled manner.
The Black Diamond Momentum Harness offers several different size options to choose from. When selecting a specific size, many buyers have commented on buying a size slightly bigger if they felt they were on the border of specific size ranges. For example, if the size being determined is somewhere between a medium and large I would say to choose the larger size. Both the leg and waist straps can be adjusted down to fit if needed.
Another reason to select a size larger that what would be typical will be due to the type of clothing being worn when rappelling. If you are wearing jeans or anything that is similar in thickness you may want to accommodate for this and get a slightly larger size. If you are very comfortable in your specific size and have tighter or thinner fitting pants and shirts than feel free to select the size that you assume will meet your needs.
The Black Diamond Momentum (Amazon link) offers various sizes to select from to fit most sizes and physical needs. It is designed to withstand adverse conditions that that will be crossed when recreational rappelling. This harness can compete extremely well against other more expensive brands and harness products because of the Black Diamond Momentum’s high quality and superior price. This is a great harness that will last a long time through extensive uses and adverse conditions.