ProView-Edelrid Smith Harness
Harnesses, much like climbing shoes, have a massive variation in style and specialization, whether it be minimalist style for a difficult sport climb attempt, or heavily cushioned for an aid climber or route developer who will be hanging in space for hours at a time.
The Edelrid Smith harness is one designed to cover several different aspects of the sport, but let’s look at the technical details before evaluating its performance. To start, this is a very lightweight harness, weighing only 340 grams (that’s about 11 oz for those not versed in metric). It also packs down very tightly, taking up next to no space at the top of my climbing pack. A streamlined design is what allows this harness to stay so light – the leg loops are fixed, so there are no additional buckles aside from one pre-doubled back buckle on the waist. It sports four gear loops, which can all be weighed down decently well with hardware before becoming uncomfortable. There is no full-strength haul loop, but there is a small attachment point for a chalkbag at the back of the waist.
So where does this harness shine? First, as a lightweight, full-size sport climbing harness. There are many ultralight harnesses on the market, but many sacrifice certain features to keep down weight – for example, reducing the number of gear loops. The fixed gear loops on the Smith can hold a decent amount of weight; I’ll feel comfortable with up to 20 draws attached, or 10 draws and a very basic trad arrangement of cams and nuts for mixed climbing. The fit of the fixed leg loops is also a high point with this harness; regardless of whether I’m wearing shorts in summer or multiple layers in winter, the elastic portion of the leg loops stretch and well to accommodate a wide range of clothing, and therefore a wide range of climbing weather conditions. The material for the harness body is thin and tightly- woven, and while it feels stiff in the hand, the harness becomes unnoticeably comfortable while climbing. I’ve taken a good share of falls in the Smith, and it’s felt solid for both long falls and tight catches.
What could be improved? The biggest detraction I find is that the single buckle on the waist tightens in towards the tie-in point; so if you have to tighten the harness significantly to get a good fit, you are going to be left with a tail that is facing towards the center of the harness. While it is possible to re-thread it back through the tail clip so it stays out of the way, it seems like a weird design choice. This is only really apparent if you are on the cusp between sizes (for example, if a small is too tiny and a medium fits well when cinched down). The lack of a full-strength haul loop is always a trade off, as it adds weight and is not necessary for all climbers. If you expect to be able to haul up heavy buckets of holds indoors, you’ll probably not be doing it off this harness.
That said, there is no harness that will please all the people all the time. If you are a climber looking for one harness that can handle the majority of climbing situations, the Smith is an ideal buy. It climbs well, carries a standard amount of weight well,and is comfortable to both hang around and fall in. For sport climbing, single-pitch trad, or for a climber wanting to transition between climbing indoors and outdoors, you won’t find much better than the Smith.
Mike Kimmel is an Outdoor Prolink gear reviewer who prefers to spend his time on the wall.