Mountaineering Harness vs. Climbing Harness

Mountain climbing is an interesting activity that is bound to get your flight hormone released especially when in steep terrains or when you have to hang from a rope.

There is no telling the number of bullet prayers that can be released or the gory thoughts that will undoubtedly fill your mind.

Obliterating the adrenaline rush is next to impossible, but with a good harness, you can work the heights without the fear of getting hurt.

To which end there are different types of harnesses made with features that work well with the different climbing styles.

When we talk about climbing harnesses there are many categories and mountaineering is one of them, other types of climbing harnesses, therefore, include the trad harnesses, the ice harness, the alpine, and sport or gym harnesses.

So the above have specifications that have to be adhered to, for example, the gym or sport harnesses don’t need a lot of gear loops when compared to the trad harnesses.

Mountaineering and climbing harness, what’s the difference?

There isn’t much difference between the mountaineering and climbing harness, during climbing a climber moves fast with minimal weight, climbing harnesses should at least have a haul loop at the back, more than 4 gear loops and adjustable leg loops that have incorporated the use of a buckle.

With all the above features incorporated in a climbing harness, you need to ensure that it is low profile so that it doesn’t cause discomfort when you carry your backpack.

Mountaineering harnesses, on the other hand, are characteristic of less padding, and few gear loops. Since you will be going up on a mountain there are times that you may need to answer the natures call, or add a few layers of clothes.

To this end, it would be best if the harness had adjustable leg loops for ease in performing the above functions.

The anatomy of an effective climbing harness?

Mountaineering Harness

The Rear risers

If you take a good look at your leg loops, you will discover that they have some type of elastic webbing that joins your harness to the leg loops from the back.

The risers can be attached or detached via the incorporated plastic buckle, and could thus release the leg loops and still stay connected to the waist belt. The feature enables climbers to free their legs when they need to change their legwear or go for a short call.

The ice clipper slots

For those individuals who love working the heights during winter, they can benefit from this addition.  

Important to note is that you will not be able to find the ice clipper slots in ice harnesses and that is why you should get the multi-purpose climbing harness because they have incorporated the slots that can be used for the karabiners thus granting you easy access to the ice screws.

The Belay loop 

The main purpose of a belay loop is for belaying a climbing companion; the belay is a very sensitive feature and should always be checked for signs of giving up.

While on a harness the belay is vertically positioned, enabling the karabiner and the belay plate to move in the relevant direction during belaying.

The Haul Loop

When you turn your harness at the back, you will realize that it has incorporated a small attachment, the feature is necessary for rope trailing as you climb the mountain.

They, however, double up as gear loops and can, therefore, be used to hang other climbing equipment like the chalk bags.

The waist belt

When it comes to a climbing harness the waist belt has to feature a balance of both comfort and safety.

And as it sits on your waist it has to feature some form of padding, but this also depends on the style of climbing, because some of the waist belts are made with less padding to minimize weight.

A climbing waist belt should thus be able to spread the weight, should be breathable and feature an external durable material.

The leg loops

A climbing harness should have leg loops that are adjustable to enable the climber to adjust it, as he or she deems fit.

Some leg loops are seamless and taped to offer maximum comfort but the final decision lies with you.

The Gear Loops

Around your waistband, you will notice that the gear loops have been placed at intervals, and are characteristic of loops made of a tough cord.

There function is to help you carry the necessary climbing gear up the mountain. Now, the number of loops in your harness is normally determined by your style of climbing, if you are sport climbing then they will be less, compared to when you are trad climbing.

The buckles

Buckles are a safety feature on the harness, and one of the things that you should triple check before you start climbing.

Buckles, therefore, come in two types, the automatic and manual buckle, the former facilitates quick and easy adjustment.

They are also found on the leg loops, and given the style of climbing it would be best if they were adjustable, to offer a snug fit upon layers of clothing.

If you spot a climbing harness without a buckle then know that it is used for indoor or sport climbing and it’s not that it doesn’t have a buckle, instead, it has incorporated a stretchable material.

Types of climbing harness

The ice harness

Mountaineering Harness vs. Climbing Harness

Climbing an ice mountain is no joke and it would, therefore, be convenient if the harness was constructed with enough gear loops for the task.

To this end, you should check to ensure you’re your harness has at least 4 or more gear loops for the ice tools. Clipper slots are also a necessary addition and this will come in handy when you need a place to attach the ice clippers for the tools and screws.

The leg loops need to be adjustable via the use of buckles so that a climber can achieve a snug fit even with the layers of thick clothing.

An injury on your lower back or waist can render you incapacitated when it comes to ice climbing, what’s more, is that if you strain your back too much then you risk developing pain in your lower back.

Therefore, a good harness should feature extra lumbar padding, so that your lower back and waist can remain stable. Mountain climbers know that they need to carry a second rope, so ensure that your harness has been made with a haul loop.

Sport harnesses

Climbing Harness

Gym harnesses are minimally weighted to enable the climber to move fast, and a buckle at the waist belt is mandatory whether automatic or manual.

The belay loop should be made of thin material to minimize the weight, and since you won’t be carrying a lot of stuff on your climbing mission, two gear loops should suffice.

The leg loops of a gym harness mostly focus on aesthetics, first because the activity does not involve wearing of any bulky clothing so they rarely include a buckle.

The materials incorporated in the construction of the leg loops are, therefore, stretchable to fit different size users.

Mountaineering harness

 Climbing Harness

Mountaineering harnesses must have easy to operate features, and light in weight. The maximum number of gear loops is 4 or less, this is to enable you to carry your backpack without disturbance from the waist harness.

The haul loop is a must and the belay loop should be thin, except for some harnesses where they are rarely included and the climbers have to rappel or belay from leg loop or the waist belt.

The leg loops and waist belt would function effectively if they incorporated an automatic buckle, but that is not to say that a manual buckle isn’t as effective.

Traditional harnesses

Maybe besides trad climbing, there should be an indication that says experts only, traditional climbing is not for amateurs unless you are a risk-taker.

And given the complexity of the mission, your harness should have more than 4 gear loops, as you will be taking a lot of gear up with you.

The intensity of the process calls for extra lumbar padding so that your waist and lower back can remain stable.

The leg loops unlike the ones used in a gym harness should feature buckles, the automatic ones would be best, but if you can only find manual you are still good to go. A haul loop is a necessity in this process to help with the second rope.

Big wall harnesses

Mountaineering Harness

Big wall climbing is not very different from trad climbing, you will, therefore, need a harness with more than six gear loops, for gear that will assist you in climbing.

Extra-wide padding at the waist belt is necessary because you are going to be climbing for many hours and you should thus be comfortable, and the belay loops should at least be two.

Canyoneering harness

Mountaineering Harness vs. Climbing Harness

A canyoneering harness is not very common, though it is used; now the reason why there is interest in this harness is because of how people behave on the glass walk of the Grand Canyon.

Now if you want to crack your ribs and see proof that mountaineering is not for the faint-hearted then find a video clip of people on the grand canyon or rather make a historic visit and test to see if you have what it takes to work the heights.

And if you decide to visit the place, you can then get a canyoneering harness that is characteristic of thick padding to counter the frequent rubbing against the rock. The harness usually has a single tie in with extra seat protection complete with waterproof materials. 

The Adjama Climbing Harness Review

Climbing Harness

The Adjama is a multi-pitch, trad climbing, and mountaineering harness, the waist belt, and the leg loops have been padded for comfort and since it is meant for use on long climbs, it has incorporated adjustable leg loops.

The gear loops on the harness have been evenly spread to allow easy and fast access to climbing gear.

Most important is that the Adjama harness has used the Endoframe technology around the waist area, which encourages excellent weight distribution and for effectiveness, the harness is also compatible with the Caritool Evo tool holder that enables climbers to organize climbing gear for easy storing and sorting.


  • Comes in different sizes
  • The harness is comfortable and durable
  • Comes at an affordable price
  • Convenient for both indoor and ice climbing


  • The leg loops tend to sit a bit high for large individuals

The black diamond Zone Harness

Mountaineering Harness vs. Climbing Harness

The black diamond zone harness features some of the latest technology; for starters, it has incorporated the fusion comfort technology, which offers comfort when a climber is hanging.

The waist belt features a speed buckle adjustment, a feature that makes it easy for the climbers to quickly adjust their harnesses.

What’s more, is that it has incorporated four gear loops that are convenient when transporting climbing gear.


  • Made of lightweight durable material
  • Incorporated the fusion comfort technology thus enhances comfort
  • Comes at a fair price
  • Convenient for both the gym and outdoor climbing


  • Releasing the waist loop is a bit hard

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What should I wear to the indoor climbing session?

The idea here is that you should find something that you can comfortably stretch in, avoid bulky clothes that may not be comfortable with a harness on top.

Remember that a gym harness doesn’t have buckles but stretchable material, so choose your clothes wisely.

Must I wear climbing shoes?

The idea behind wearing climbing shoes is traction, a rubber sole will enable you to stand on climbing holds. You could also put on your climbing socks to prevent hot spots, sweating and smelly feet.

Which type of harness is the best?

Just like any other product manufacturers that have been in the industry for long tend to have the best innovative products, however, there are also new companies that outdo the older companies.

With regard to the best harness, it all depends on your climbing style; different harnesses cater to different climbing needs.